There are a number of observations that can be drawn from the widespread, escalating riots in the United States, sparked by the death of an unarmed African American, George Floyd, while in police custody in Minneapolis, which have now erupted in over 40 cities in 23 states, and at least five people have been killed so far in the protests, with over 5,600 protesters arrested.
The most conspicuous observation is the double standards of some Americans in addressing the Hong Kong riots compared with their own now ravaging America. One typical tweeter widely circulated on WhatsApp is that of a Rev Patrick Mahoney, @revmahoney, who earlier commented on Hong Kong, saying: “I am so deeply touched by the courage and passion of the Hong Kong protesters. As they risk all to stand for freedom; the US and the world must stand with them”, and now on the US riots, “My heart is very heavy this morning as I am watching events in Minneapolis. Violence is NEVER the answer, even following the most horrific acts of injustice and racism!” So, to some Americans, violence is not the answer in US, but it is acceptable in Hong Kong!
The same double standards are repeated by Washington politicians and various public figures. They have been praising the Hong Kong rioters as “freedom fighters” all along and turning a blind eye to the violence, vandalism and open flouting of the law here. Yet when riots erupted in their own backyard, US President Donald Trump promptly described the protesters as “rioters”, “radical left anarchists” and “thugs,” and threatened to send in the military, and warning: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts”. He further threatened the protesters, “They would be greeted with the most vicious dogs and ominous weapons!” As more than one American politician and commentator have since cautioned, Trump is just pouring gasoline on the roiling riots. Trump referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole” countries.
And US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once described the violent protests in Hong Kong “a beautiful sight to behold”. One would wonder if she is now enjoying the “beautiful sight” of the Washington riots from her window!
Meanwhile, the US media seemed to be reporting from the same playbook. They described Hong Kong police firing tear gas as “an outrage”, but they see nothing out of the ordinary when American cops are doing the same. They turned a blind eye to the indiscriminate violence the “blackshirts” and their supporters perpetrated against fellow citizens who do not share their political agenda, their citywide arson, and vandalism in Hong Kong, but exclaimed “OMG” to the same in US. They abhor the possibility of the mainland military police, especially the People’s Liberation Army, sending in troops to help quell the unrest, yet they complain and say, “What takes the National Guard so long to come!”
The US media seemed to be reporting from the same playbook. They described Hong Kong police firing tear gas as “an outrage”, but they see nothing out of the ordinary when American cops are doing the same
The second is that the riots appeared to be spontaneous; people just came out voluntarily to protest against injustice and racial inequality in the US. Whereas in Hong Kong, it is clearly initiated by a central command, somewhere, in view of the impressive logistics behind it. In the last 11 months of protests in Hong Kong, we could see unlimited quantities of helmets, face masks, water bottles and even medical kits readily available at the scene. To facilitate the participants’ escape, they have also prepared white T-shirts and untraceable Octopus cards to allow them to depart quickly from the scene of the crime. For those who are hurt or caught, they have both the medical team and legal team ready to render the necessary assistance. By all accounts, the rioters are “battle-ready”. And they have a sophisticated communication system to coordinate the many facets of their operation. For weaponry, they have created factories manufacturing gasoline bombs and even explosives to supply their front-line “warriors”. All these clearly suggest that there is a powerful mastermind behind Hong Kong’s unrest.
It should be noted that the American protesters are not restricted to black people. Many white people have joined their ranks. We also see massive support protests in many other countries, notably the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and Canada. This means that this has become an international issue and there is a universal concern over social injustice and racial discrimination in the US. Perhaps the United Nations Security Council should hold an emergency meeting to make the US accountable!
The third is the severe enforcement action taken. Once the riots reach a critical stage, many states have no hesitation declaring a state of emergency and calling in the quasi-military National Guard troops to assist, and more than 25 cities in 16 states have imposed curfews. Police are much less restrained. We saw them shooting lots of rubber bullets, and in one incident, police cars ramming into a crowd of protesters, knocking many down. They are also tough on media reporters, with a CNN reporter arrested without justifiable cause and a Reuters reporter shot by a police rubber bullet even though he had clearly identified himself visually and vocally, and a riot police officer charged his shield at a BBC cameraman. Imagine the outcry from the Western media if Hong Kong police did the same to a protester here!
Now that the whole world has witnessed how American authorities, who claimed to be the “champion of human rights protection”, are handling their riots, there are a few things Hong Kong can learn from it. Firstly, the SAR government should no longer be afraid to impose curfews to suppress future riots in Hong Kong if the situation warrants it. Secondly, the mainland paramilitary police, Wu Jing (not the PLA), can quite rightly be invited to assist if necessary, which would certainly create a strong deterrent effect. The current proposed national security law for Hong Kong should include such provisions. Thirdly, our prosecutors and judges should learn from the case of two young sisters from the Catskills, who were immediately charged with attempted murder and other offenses for throwing Molotov cocktails at a police car. In Hong Kong, it would take many months for our public prosecutors to lay charges in a similar incident with a less-serious offense, and our kind judges would describe these rioters throwing gasoline bombs as “brilliant youngsters” and let them off with a probation order!
When we see Hong Kong youngsters waving US flags in public protests, I just wonder what they truly know about the real state of America today. The country has clearly demonstrated its inability to govern itself properly. It has degenerated into a nation where the billionaires can openly loot the country while 40 million have lost their jobs. It is a country found greatly wanting in its ability to cope with the coronavirus pandemic and causing over 100,000 deaths so far, with a lot more to be expected in an inevitable second wave. It is a country full of injustice and racial inequality. The entire country is now on fire and yet the government is busy agitating against other countries like Russia, Iran, Venezuela and China, and imposing sanctions on Hong Kong, one of its best trading partners! Its leader is desperately trying to find a scapegoat for his abysmal failures. In short, our young protesters are fools to admire a country that has seen better days, but is now falling apart!
The author is an adjunct professor of HKU Space and council member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS