All of these protests and riots are not about anti-extradition laws, the five “demands” and livelihood issues; it goes much, much deeper: independence.
Hong Kong has always been admired and envied for its freewheeling capitalism, low-tax system, success in free trade, entrepreneurial spirit, its “can-do” spirit and hardworking workforce. It has been the backbone of China’s ability to reshape itself into a modern world leader, offering services to all and sundry, much to the chagrin of the United States. For once, the US was playing second fiddle on the world stage, a situation that could not be tolerated.
Within the US machinery is an elaborate device operating under the State Department known as USAID. With an annual budget of some US$40 billion, it offers humanitarian aid to distressed countries and provides funding for the US ambition for “world democracy”, including breaking down communism in China. For this, it has allocated US$18.5 million, approved by the US Congress.
Due to its broad areas of responsibilities, USAID delegates much of its activities, one of which is the National Endowment for Development (NED) for direct contact with its target often through another affiliate, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), supported by US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic Party in Congress.
The rioters became agents provocateurs to force the government to seek help from the People’s Liberation Army, knowing full well that such an action would draw the ire of the international community
Because Hong Kong is a city in China, it has been and continues to be a major focus of NED attention, through the activities of the NDI. The first NDI survey mission to Hong Kong was in March 1997, prior to Hong Kong’s return to China, to assess the political environment and identify possibilities for NDI programming in the territory. By 2002, the NDI had set up its first field office in Hong Kong, and, during the next five years, NDI made contact with several political parties and think tanks. By 2007, it had consolidated its activities, focusing on reports from local partners which allowed them to frame debates and public opinion polls on political reform, consistently focused on issues contrary to the city’s mandated political reform framework.
In 1982, in a major foreign policy address delivered at Westminster Palace before the British Parliament, president Ronald Reagan announced the creation of a US entity that would foster liberal ideology, market economy (neoliberalism), and US-styled “democracy”.
With money from this “entity”, the Agency of International Development (USAID) recommended the establishment of a bipartisan body, the NED. By 1983, the new organization was created, and the CIA had a new way to channel funds for activities in countries who did not agree with US policy.
“A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” said NED co-founder Allen Weinstein in 1991. Nothing has changed.
During the past decade, NED has sunk more than US$20 million into Hong Kong’s so-called democracy movement. But in reality, it has been infiltrating universities and student groups to rile against communism and China and to accept American ways. For example, money had been pouring into the University of Hong Kong’s Center for Comparative Studies, of which professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, one of the initiators of the illegal “Occupy Central” movement, was a board member. Tai was later convicted and jailed for incitement. The 2012 NED annual report, commenting on a US$460,000 grant to Hong Kong, said the money was to “foster awareness regarding Hong Kong’s political institutions and constitutional reform process and to develop the capacity of citizens — particularly university students — to more effectively participate in the public debate on political reform. NDI will work with civil society organizations on parliamentary monitoring, a survey, and development of an internet portal, allowing students and citizens to explore possible reforms leading to universal suffrage.”
Tai took up-and-coming activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung into his fold and because of his poster-boy looks, Wong became the international favorite of activists. His picture appeared on Time Magazine cover and soon he was the darling of pro-democracy lobbyists worldwide. But, he went against his mentor Tai in 2014 and orchestrated the 79-day “Umbrella Movement” involving some 80,000 students, ahead of Tai’s planned “Occupy Central”. This later turned into riots and many people were arrested and jailed for incitement.
Through student movements, such as Demosisto (led by Wong), Scholarism and others, the NED/NDI had penetrated the entire education system in Hong Kong — from primary schools to universities. The seeds of dissent had been sown. But putting dissent into action required training which came in the form of the Oslo Freedom Forum, a US-based activist group financed, in part, by the Norwegian government. The BBC produced an in-depth documentary on the operations of the forum on how it trained dissidents through protests and riots. The documentary also highlighted training between Wong and his forum mentor meeting “on an hourly basis”.
To consolidate the US involvement in the movement, anti-China factions — former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, barrister Martin Lee Chu-ming, and Joshua Wong — were invited to Washington to brief Pelosi, Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then-national security adviser John Bolton and others. Chris Yeung, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) also attended some of these meetings.
According to US political journalist, Sara Flounders, the HKJA, the Hong Kong Human Rights Movement, the Hong Kong Solidarity Centre, the Civic Party, Labour Party, Hong Kong Democratic Party, the Hong Kong Federation of Students and the Civil Human Rights Front are all in the pocket of the NED/NDI. The front is affiliated with almost all “pan-democratic” camps in Hong Kong, including 48 NGOs and political groups. It has organized most of the protests and riots in the last three months.
When the so-called extradition bill was launched, rumors rapidly spread throughout the community that anyone who spoke out against China could be extradited and face trial on the mainland. Nothing could be further from the truth, but the city was struck with fear. Mass protests took place, initially in a peaceful manner. The NED plan was working, but the next stage was to come: riots.
The rioters became agents provocateurs to force the government to seek help from the People’s Liberation Army, knowing full well that such an action would draw the ire of the international community. The government sought to open a dialogue with the rioters, but this was rejected until all of its five demands — withdrawal of the extradition bill, withdrawal of all charges against the rioters, no protest charges related to rioting be made, a commission of inquiry, and introduction of universal suffrage — were met. The government met the first demand and withdrew the extradition bill, but it is impossible to meet all of these demands. The government has no say what the charges the prosecution may bring, nor can it drop all charges, nor can it hold a commission of inquiry while the protests continue, and universal suffrage is still on the table. The protesters know this and care naught for their demands. Their war cry is “freedom”, freedom from China. They want to break the system to pave the way for independence, which will not be tolerated by Hong Kong and mainland authorities.
By joining the “pro-democracy” camp in the Legislative Council (led by Claudia Mo Man-ching) in refusing to have a dialogue with the government, they are prolonging their riotous activities by bringing mayhem to the streets of Hong Kong and killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
The author is a former chief information officer of the HKSAR government, media and PR consultant, and veteran journalist.