‘Fight for Hong Kong’, ‘Stand with Hong Kong’, ‘Liberate Hong Kong’, these are the slogans of the Hong Kongese protesting for over four months now. The row started with the Fugitive Bill that would allow China to extradite its criminals from Hong Kong’s soil to its own and ‘allegedly’ treat them inhumanly – to which Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive postponed the bill indefinitely. Since then the demands have extended to resignation of Lam and universal suffrage in the election of the Legislative Council and Chief Executive, which is currently done by a 1,200-member Election Committee that is largely pro-China.
The fact that how the US and the UK are so genuinely interested in Hong Kong’s freedom, when they never lay an ear on the rights of the Rohingya in Myanmar or the Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir – urges us to review the geopolitics that surrounds Hong Kong.
China has constantly alleged ‘foreign interference’ in the organization of the protests. Last month China warned Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs, when he had stressed the need for ‘a fully independent investigation into recent events.’ President Trump too, has repeatedly asked China to be patient with the protestors, recently he suggested that China’s Xi should have a personal meeting with the protestors. The fact that how the US and the UK are so genuinely interested in Hong Kong’s freedom, when they never lay an ear on the rights of the Rohingya in Myanmar or the Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir – urges us to review the geopolitics that surrounds Hong Kong.
In 1997, when Britain finally signed ‘the cession of the islands’, it was maintained that Hong Kong will remain independent in matters concerning trade, export and economic control, under a ‘one country, two systems’ principle until 2047.
As a backgrounder, we should realize that Hong Kong is one of the many Chinese port cities that were captured by colonial Britain and France in the 1800s. This era is remembered as the Century of Humiliation in China, wherein several Chinese lands were extorted through a series of ‘unequal treaties’, of which the Treaty of Nanking gave Hong Kong away to Britain in 1842.
In 1997, when Britain finally signed ‘the cession of the islands’, it was maintained that Hong Kong will remain independent in matters concerning trade, export and economic control, under a ‘one country, two systems’ principle until 2047. The US made similar trade agreements with Hong Kong at that time with the leaving occupier government called the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.
One should recall that before this, President Nixon’s visit to China in 1971 had created the reversal of trade barriers that had impeded China’s progress since its independence. By the 1990’s, China’s economy had grown to half the size of the US economy. China’s dependence on the US as its largest trading partner and the fact that Hong Kong is the world’s leading international financial centers, (which according to Economic Freedom of the World Index, has the highest degree of economic freedom in the world, and which makes it a global center for investments and funds transfers – and because China did not want to destabilize this transfer system) – it signed the 1997 agreement – knowing at heart that Hong Kong was in essence one of its own province.
Coming back to the present situation, an Extradition Agreement is nothing new for Hong Kong, as it already has extradition treaties with 30 other countries around the world. The Bill is a much needed one, especially, when the economically free zone attracts all sorts of foreigners, reaching its soil for business and fun, potentially making it a center of crime as well as of commerce. The plea against China, however, was allegedly based on its ‘deeply flawed justice system’ wherein ‘arbitrary detention, unfair trials and torture are a norm’. Such a huge propaganda and the ensuing protests, just against China, do ring a bell as to ‘why China?’.
China’s swiftly becoming a military and an economic power is not a hidden truth – and the US desperately looking for another American Century, tends to reciprocate this emergence of China. For this, the US has been amplifying tensions in the South China Sea with skirmishes and deployments of warships; things like new arms’ deals with Taiwan; strengthening India in the QUAD to suppress Chinese interests; and pitching Vietnam and Philippines against China have all meant to tighten China’s strategic compass. All this, and Trump suddenly ignited the Trade War as an effort to reverse global profits from syphoning into China. China’s growing presence in Africa, South America and the EU, are all being labeled as colonial acts and debt traps.
With China’s booming global presence, and the multiplex confrontations between China and the Western powers – it is readable that for the US, Hong Kong was not about freedoms and securities of the people – but about striking China right at its heels.
So, the US involvement in the protests indeed calls for inquiry. And the clue of the presence of the Heritage Foundation and National Endowment for Democracy in Hong Kong, immediately rings a bell, as their orchestration can be found behind so many revolutions and springs in the passing decade. In 1991, A. Weinstein, founder of NED, told the Washington Post ‘NED funds, coordinates and weaponizes nongovernmental organizations and social organizations with the capacity to put tens of thousands of misdirected, idealistic and alienated youth on the streets’.
In early July, Jimmy Lai, self-proclaimed ‘head of opposition media’ met with Trump’s administration officials, Bolton, Pence, Pompeo, Ted Cruz and others in Washington – after which protesters have been using US and British Union Jack flags and carrying ‘Help us Trump’ slogans. All this, urges one to think if this movement is indigenous at all?
There is no doubt that the people of Hong Kong have the democratic right to their own sovereign will, and that the passage of several decades has only solidified their separate identity. Yet it would be incomprehensible that Hong Kong would seek affiliation with friends that are thousands of miles away, in opposition to an adjacent, world’s strongest economy, that knits it in the Han family – just when the whole Pacific had rejected integration in Obama’s Trans Pacific Partnership – and even when China is ready to give concessions, and is unwilling to draw in with military might, like a western power would do.
Nor would it be understandable that after being colonized for 155years, and under Britain’s suppressive rule as late as 1997, Hong Kongers would be genuinely wanting to embrace the company of their old masters, or answering their call against their own brethren.
Though China has been sending warnings of possible martial law, curfew and military intervention, yet the protests keep intensifying. If the US is indeed funding these protests, it must be opting to escalate them to the point when China’s patience would break, and US would get the chance to magnify its military presence around China – dragging the world towards a global war.
Aneela Shahzad is a geopolitical analyst who frequently writes for Express Tribune and Daily Pakistan Global. She serves as an editor at Maritime Study Forum.