It’s been a summer of unrest in Hong Kong, and the Western mainstream press has been in uproar providing non-stop coverage of what they’ve described as a “pro-democracy movement fighting for freedom” against the repressive Chinese government.
Since March, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets each week, clashing with police and security forces, escalating into a fight over who should control Hong Kong’s future.
The protests erupted over a proposed amendment to an extradition treaty between Hong Kong, Macau, China and Taiwan.
Hong Kongers feared that the new treaty would allow the Chinese government to arrest and imprison dissidents or whomever from Hong Kong the government deems a threat, effectively ending freedom of expression. Hong Kong has been a haven for many anti-Beijing dissidents and political figures and many felt the proposed law would dilute the island city’s already limited independence.
Protest leader Joshua Wong conveyed the movement’s five core demands, which include:
Just this week, Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam withdrew the extradition bill that ignited the protests to begin with. But it seems now that the demonstrators are just getting started.
And if you’ve been following the mainstream corporate media coverage, it seems like the media are just getting started too.
We’re talking about the same media that have gone silent on the hundreds of thousands of non-violent Yellow Vest protesters in France who have been demonstrating against corruption, inequality and neoliberalism for almost a year. This same media have rushed to cover and even applaud the demonstrations in Hong Kong.
Indeed, much of the protest appears to be geared towards a Western audience.
Protesters are openly calling on the United States to intervene and liberate Hong Kong as they wave the stars and stripes of the American flag. Meanwhile, others broke into the Hong Kong state legislature and hung the colonial United Kingdom flag — a reference to the era before 1997 when the British directly controlled the island as a colony.
Perhaps what’s more bizarre is that protesters have been seen waving Pepe the Frog flags, a symbol of the Alt-Right.
Hong Kong protesters fly high Pepe the Frog Flag. LMAO pic.twitter.com/cD0dRm5wwy
— Carl Zha (@CarlZha) August 10, 2019
This message is getting right to the heart of America’s regime-change hawks, receiving the blessings of none other than Marco Rubio, John Bolton, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo and even President Donald Trump — the same bloodthirsty avatars of war under the current administration that have been openly destabilizing Venezuela by pouring in millions to prop up a right-wing insurgency.
And what’s already taking place in Hong Kong is looking all too familiar, which begs the question: Does Washington have any influence over the protest movement in Hong Kong, whether directly or indirectly?
A closer look actually gives us a clear answer — that the West has more to do with this movement than it would like us to know. It’s the ugly face of Washington’s long-standing foreign policy directed at destabilizing one of its long-standing economic foes: China.
Today regime change is achieved through front organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy, or NED, that influences thought and culture through covert means.
Washington uses the NED as a “soft power” tool to influence and interfere in the politics and society of foreign countries in order to bring about governments that are conducive to the interests of big business. The NED does this under the guise of being a charitable organization promoting democracy and human rights.
The idea is to create a buffer, 3rd-party organization to distance the U.S. government from funding political parties and groups and organizing regime-change operations.
The NED was founded in 1983, following a series of scandals that exposed the CIA’s blood-soaked covert actions against foreign governments that resisted U.S. economic and political bullying.
In 1986, NED President Carl Gershman told the New York Times, “It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA. We saw that in the Sixties, and that’s why it has been discontinued.”
One of the NED’s founders, Allen Weinstein, was more blunt. He told the Washington Post, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”
In recent years, the NED has trained, supported and funded demonstrations and regime-change ops in Venezuela, Ukraine and Nicaragua, designed to look like grassroots uprisings.
It’s not surprising considering the NED’s board of directors includes two infamous war criminals: Elliott Abrams, who helped funnel weapons and funds to right-wing contras in Nicaragua that terrorized civilians through torture, rape and murder, then tried to cover up these war crimes; and Victoria Nuland, who directed the U.S. policy in Ukraine to fund and arm a right-wing insurgency that engineered the overthrow the democratically elected government — an insurgency that has committed countless war crimes against civilians.
Destabilizing China carries forward this global mission.
Before the Hong Kong protests erupted, NED President Gershman called China a “resurgent despotic regime tightening repression internally and expanding its power globally,” claiming that “democracy is under threat” and we must “come to its defense.”
Since 2014, the year of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Protests, the NED has (officially) poured over $29 million into the island city or the mainland in order to “identify new avenues for democracy and political reform.” That’s according to the NED’s website.
But as the organization has already formally identified the Chinese government as despotic and a threat to democracy, this means that the money is, de facto, supporting groups to undermine that government. And as MintPress has reported, much of the money went to the very groups that organized the latest protests.
The man described in the media as the “face of the Hong Kong protests” is Joshua Wong, a young activist who came to attention during the 2014 Umbrella Revolution demonstrations against the Chinese government.
Wong is almost universally described in corporate media as a “pro-democracy leader” or “freedom campaigner.” But if Wong loves democracy so much, why does he continually meet with Florida Senator Marco Rubio, one of the chief architects of regime change against Latin American countries? And why does the political party he founded maintain such a close relationship with the NED?
Another leader of the movement is media mogul Jimmy Lai, whom the New York Times and Wall Street Journal called “the Rupert Murdoch of Asia.” A devotee and close friend of late American libertarian economist Milton Friedman, Lai funded the 2014 Umbrella Revolution and has used his media empire to push a strong anti-China message that promotes disturbing xenophobia.
Lai’s Apple Daily newspaper depicted mainland Chinese people as an invasion of locusts infecting Hong Kong.
Lai has met with senior White House officials, including notorious warmonger and coup-plotter John Bolton, who organized regime-change attempts in Venezuela, pushes for nuclear war with Iran, and has been called a chief “architect of the Iraq War.”
Meanwhile, American diplomat Julie Eadeh was recently photographed in a meeting with other leaders of the Hong Kong protests.
Imagine for a second if a Russian or Iranian diplomat or politician had been seen meeting with the Standing Rock or Occupy Wall Street protesters! The movement’s credibility would have been finished and it would have been international news.
But unlike at Standing Rock or Occupy Wall Street, Hong Kong protesters have resorted to violent tactics where they’re seen on camera attacking and detaining journalists and medical staff. They even intentionally tried to provoke security services into responding with violence — though unlike in the Yellow Vests protests, nobody among the protesters has been killed — by throwing Molotov cocktails, shutting down streets and attacking drivers, in what the New York Times describes as “aggressive non-violence.”
All of this is strongly reminiscent of the tactics used by other NED-backed protest groups in Venezuela, Ukraine and Nicaragua.
It is hard not to root for any people embracing activism and taking to the streets to assert or protect democratic rights — in fact, it’s inspiring. It’s even harder not to support protests when the target is a powerful nation with a traditional anti-democratic bent.
Indeed, this view and the halo bestowed by the corporate media have many in the U.S. asking why the people here, outraged at the depravity and authoritarian behavior of Donald Trump and his regime, haven’t emulated the Hong Kong protesters and taken to the streets of America.
That is the danger of a reductionist and simplistic media lens. The Hong Kong situation is far from black and white and not exactly David and Goliath.
As in other indirect global confrontations — whether in Venezuela, Libya, Ukraine, Syria or any country that doesn’t kowtow to Western economic interests — there are powerful forces behind the lines, geopolitical agendas at play, plenty of unwitting pawns, and a very manipulative corporate media that will do whatever it can to pull at the heartstrings to get you onboard the “humanitarian intervention” war machine that could make any peacenik end up supporting a war agenda.
So before that happens to the best of us, we have to ask: Can people like Joshua Wong and Jimmy Lai really be trusted to lead a democratic uprising?
Thousands of Hong Kong residents, many motivated by genuine grievances, are being led by actors with their own agendas and affiliations, actors who are closely connected with foreign governments and intelligence services.
This reality warrants, at the least, a careful parsing, caution about a rush to judgment, and more than a grain of salt.
Feature photo | United States flags are reflected on glasses of a protester during a protest in Hong Kong, Sept. 8, 2019. Kin Cheung | AP
Mnar Muhawesh is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups.