I am sure most of you have heard of the riots convulsing Hong Kong. The Western media is only providing one point of view about these riots – heroic rioters fighting evil Communist dictatorship for freedom and democracy and sugar and spice and everything nice.
I urge you to think again. I don’t support these rioters. There’s really nothing to support. Further, as I hope to show in future pieces, the rioters absolutely do not have majority support. If you go against them, they beat you with clubs, fists and boots. They are destroying public property all over Hong Kong for no particularly good reason.
These are the children of the rich and the upper middle classes. The working class of Hong Kong, the poor, and older people are nowhere to be seen. Go talk to some of them and they will all tell you that they oppose these destructive riots.
If there was a referendum tomorrow on what the rioters want, it would lose. The rioters represent a significant group, but they are not a majority. They only have 35-40% support, and 60-65% of the people are against them.
Your average working class, poor, or older Hong Konger is a fairly conservative person. These silly riots go against traditional Chinese values. Sure, China is revolutionary, and that involves chaos and destruction, but since when are contras revolutionaries? Contras are never revolutionaries.
The young rioters think they are citizens of something called Hong Kong that is not a part of China. The silent majority with their more conservative values are proud to be what they have always considered themselves to be: citizens of China and heirs to its great civilization.
The rioters don’t get it. Hong Kong is not some separate thing. Hong Kong is part of China. It always was part of China. Sure, the British stole it for a while (during the Opium Wars to boot), but it was still part of China even then.
Hong Kong is now back to China where it has always been. The rioters are citizens of China, not some fake thing called Hong Kong. They obviously lack majority support in China proper, where recent polls show ~86% support for the Communist Party.
The CP runs China. Almost everyone in China supports the CP. I hate to tell people to love it or leave it, but if these kids don’t want to be part of China, perhaps they might wish to leave. Macao is right next door. And then there’s Taiwan. Or just calm down and quit being tools of the West.
I would like to add that a century of extreme anti-Communist propaganda is also driving these riots. Most Hong Kongers are extremely anti-Communist. Except now they live in a Communist country. Maybe it’s time they made some adjustments. You can only push a rock uphill for so long. At some point, even Sisyphus wears out and becomes just one more victim of the Law of Gravity. Maybe some causes are doomed from the start.
Hong Kong is losing to Mainland China. Its poverty rates are high; it suffers from corruption and savage capitalism. It is now the most expensive city on earth. People are frustrated, but paradoxically, they are blaming socialist Beijing for their problems instead of the legacy of British colonialism. ‘Across the line’, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing, Xiang and other cities are leaving Hong Kong behind in almost all fields.
When my dear friend and great concert pianist from Beijing, Yuan Sheng, used to live in New York, recording, giving concerts, and teaching at prestigious Manhattan School of Music, he told me that he used to cry at night:
“In the United States, they smear China. I felt hurt, defenseless.”
It is obvious that Beijing is booming: intellectually, artistically; in fact, in all fields of life.
Yuan’s friend, who returned from London and became a curator at the iconic “Big Egg” (the biggest opera house on earth), shared her thoughts with me:
“I used to sit in London, frustrated, dreaming about all those great musicians all over the world. Now they come to me. All of them want to perform in Beijing. This city can make you or break you. Without being hyperbolic, this is now one of the most important places on earth.
Just under one roof, in one single night, we can have a Russian opera company performing in our big halls, in another there is a Chinese opera, and there is a Bolivian folklore ensemble in the recital hall. And ours is only one of Beijing’s theatres.”
When Chinese artists and thinkers are fighting for the prime venues with their Western counterparts, it is usually Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen ‘against’ London, Paris, and New York. Hong Kong is ‘somewhere there’, behind, suddenly a backwater.
While Hong Kong University and the City University of Hong Kong used to be the best in China, many mainland institutions of higher learning, including Peking University and Tsinghua, are now producing many more cutting-edge creative thinkers.
I spoke at all of these schools and can confirm that the young people in Beijing and Shanghai are extremely hardworking and endlessly curious, while in Hong Kong, there is always that mildly arrogant air of exceptionalism and a lack of discipline.
It used to be that the so-called “Sea Turtles” (students who went abroad or to Hong Kong and then returned to Mainland China), were treated like celebrities, but now, it is much easier to get a job with Mainland China’s diplomas.
Recently, while filming the riots in Hong Kong, I was told by a receptionist at one of the major shopping plazas:
“We do not treat visitors from Mainland China well. And they lost interest in Hong Kong. Before, they used to come here to admire out wealth. Now, most of them are avoiding this place. What we have, they have too, and often better. If they travel, they’d rather go to Bangkok or Paris.”
These days, the contrast between Xiang, Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong is shocking. Mainland infrastructure is incomparably better. Public areas are vast, and cultural life much more advanced than in the former British colony.
While the Mainland Chinese cities have almost no extreme poverty (and by the end of 2020 will have zero), in Hong Kong, at least 20% are poor, and many simply cannot afford to live in their own city.
Hong Kong is the most expensive place on earth. Just to park a car in the city could easily cost over US $700 per month, and that’s just for working hours. Tiny apartments cost over a $1 million. Yet Salaries in Hong Kong are not higher than those in London, Paris, or Tokyo.
The city is run by an extreme capitalist system ‘planned’ by corrupt tycoons/developers. The obsolete British legal system here is clearly geared to protect the rich, not the majority. That was essentially why the “Extradition Bill” was proposed: to protect Hong Kong inhabitants from the unbridled, untouchable, as well as unelected de facto rulers. But after months of riots sponsored by the West, the Hong Kong administration scrambled the bill.
But there is also this ‘deal’ negotiated before Hong Kong was returned where it belongs – to China: “One Country, Two Systems”. It is an excellent contract for the turbo-capitalist magnates and for the pro-Western “activists”. And it is an extremely bad one for the average people of Hong Kong.
Young hooligans know very little about their city. I talked to them extensively during their first anti-Beijing riots in 2014, the so-called “Umbrella Revolution”.
Correctly, then and now, they have been frustrated about the declining standard of living and the difficulties of getting well-paid jobs and finding affordable housing. They told me there was no future for them and that their lives were going nowhere.
But quickly, their logic would collapse. While realizing what tremendous progress, optimism, and zeal could be observed in the People’s Republic of China under the leadership of the Communist Party, they still demanded more capitalism, the very thing which was actually ruining their territory. In 2014 and now, they are readily smeared the Communist Party.
Being raised on the shallow values of selfishness and egotism, they have now betrayed their own country, and have begun treasonous campaigns, urging foreign powers, including US and UK, to “liberate them”. All for a fleeting moment of fame, for a “selfie uprising”.
To liberate them from whom? China does not (unfortunately for Hong Kong) interfere in Hong Kong’s economic and social affairs. If anything, it builds new infrastructure, like the enormous bridge now connecting Hong Kong with Macau (a former Portuguese colony) and a high-speed train system linking Hong Kong with several cities in Mainland China.
The more restraint Beijing shows, the more it gets condemned by the rioters and Western media for ‘brutality’. As more subway stations and public property get destroyed by rioters, more sympathy flows for them from the German, US, and British right-wing politicians.
For decades, the British colonialists humiliated the people of Hong Kong while simultaneously turning their city into a brutal and by the Asian standards ruthless and fully business-oriented megalopolis. Now people are confused and frustrated. Many are asking, “Who am I?”
For Hong Kong, this is a difficult moment of soul-searching.
Even those who want to “go back to the UK” can hardly speak English. When asked why they were rioting, they mumble something about the democracy and freedom of the West, plus the evilness of Beijing. Brochures from obscure, extremist Japanese religious cults are distributed amongst the rioters.
It’s pure intellectual chaos. Rioters know nothing about Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela, and other countries which are being ruined by the West.
Leaders like Joshua Wong proudly collude with the Western embassies. To praise Chinese socialism publicly is now dangerous – people get beaten by the “pro-democracy” rioters, for such “crimes”.
Highly educated and overly-polite Singapore is literally sucking out hundreds of foreign companies from Hong Kong. Its people speak both English and Mandarin. In Hong Kong, the great majority speaks only Cantonese.
Many foreigners in Hong Kong are also relocating to Shanghai. Not only big businessmen: Shanghai is now full of European waiters.
Even tourism is down in Hong Kong, by 40%, according to the recent data.
Absurdly, the rioters want precisely what the Communist Party of China is providing: a real struggle against corruption, a determined attempt to solve housing crises, the creation of new jobs, and the provision of more public services. They want better education and generally a better life. They want “Shanghai or Beijing”, but they also say that they want to be a colony of the UK or a dependency of the USA.
They loosely define communist goals, and then they shout that they are against Communism. In short, politically speaking, they are very confused.
Clearly, the West is using Hong Kong to spoil this great moment.
After leaving Hong Kong, in Shanghai, I visited a brilliant socialist realism exhibition at the iconic, monumental China Art Museum. The country under the leadership of President Xi is once again confident, revolutionary, and increasingly socialist, to horror of declining West.
It is a proud nation with great, elegant cities constructed by the people, for the people, and with a progressively ecological countryside. Its scientific, intellectual ,and social achievements speak louder than words.
The contrast between Hong Kong and Shanghai is tremendous and growing.
But do not get me wrong: I like Hong Kong. I have more than 20 years of history with that old, neurotic, and spoiled lady. I can feel her pulse. I love old trams and ferries and out-of-the-way islands.
But Hong Kong’s charm lies in its decay.
Mainland China’s beauty is fresh. China is one of the oldest cultures on earth and one of the deepest. But it feels crisp, full of hope, and positive energy. Together with its closest ally, Russia, it is now working and fighting for the entire world; it is not selfish.
Hong Kong is fighting only for its vaguely defined uniqueness. Actually, it is not Hong Kong that is fighting, as most of people there want to be where they truly belong – in their beloved nation – China. It is a gang of kids with their face masks that is fighting. In brief: a relatively big group of pro-Western extremists whose leaders are putting their fame above the interests of the people.
Hong Kong has no “Big Egg”: no famous theatre where the greatest musicians are stunning the world. Its only art museum has been closed for reconstruction for years and will re-open only at the end of 2019. Its cultural life is shallow, even laughable, especially pathetic for the place that is branding itself “Asia’s World City”. There are no great discoveries made here. It is all business. Big, big business. And creeping decay.
Beijing could ‘liberate’ Hong Kong easily to give it purpose, pride, and future.
But young hooligans want to be liberated by Washington instead. They want to be recolonized by London. And they have not consulted their fellow citizens. That clearly reflects their idea about ‘democracy’. Not the “rule of the people” but the “rule of the West”.
Not only do they feel spite for their country, but they also scorn and intimidate their fellow citizens who only want to live meaningful lives based on Chinese values.
Andre Vltchek is philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He’s a creator of Vltchek’s World in Word and Images, and a writer that penned a number of books, including China and Ecological Civilization. He writes especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published.