Above photo: Police detain protesters as they march down the street during a solidarity rally for George Floyd, Saturday, May 30, 2020, in New York. Protests were held throughout the city over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. AP Photo/Wong Maye-E.
Why The US Ruling Class Loves Hong Kong Protests But Hates The Minneapolis-Led Rebellion.
The protests in Hong Kong are led by an assortment of US-backed proxies who have separation from China as their principal goal.
“In Hong Kong, the US sees not a war for ‘democracy’ but rather a key battleground for its larger hybrid war against China.”
The rebellions in Hong Kong and Minneapolis have received vastly different responses from the U.S. ruling class. In Minneapolis, masses of people took to the streets on May 26th to express their outrage over the police murder of George Floyd and the many Black Americans who have shared a similar fate. The rebellion quickly spread to cities across the country with corporations, police stations, and even the CNN headquarters in Atlanta, GA all facing some form of property destruction. Since June of 2019, Hong Kong protestors have held regular demonstrations to demand “democracy” and autonomy from China. The protests have once again picked up momentum after the National People’s Congress, China’s highest legislative body, pushed forward new national security legislation that will enforce Article 23 of the Basic Law which prohibits secessionist or separatist political activity.
Protestors in Hong Kong have been treated with honor from the corporate media in stark contrast to the homegrown uprisings occurring in U.S. cities. The New York Times and the rest of the corporate media have parroted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s alarm that Hong Kong is being usurped by China’s central government and losing its Western-style freedoms. A brief scan of CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post’s coverage of the Hong Kong protests reads as a sympathetic tragedy of a people under siege from a tyrannical government. The protestors are described as defying “crackdowns” and resisting an unjust authority. Of course, none of these outlets have taken much time to investigate exactly what the Hong Kong protests seek to achieve.
“Protestors in Hong Kong have been treated with honor from the corporate media in stark contrast to the homegrown uprisings.”
Behind demands for universal suffrage and amnesty for detained protestors lies an agenda that works quite well for the United States and its imperial allies. The protests in Hong Kong are led by an assortment of U.S.-backed proxies who have separation from China as their principle goal. One of the biggest donors of the protests, Jimmy Lai, is called the Rupert Murdoch of Asia and owns a large tabloid media corporation, Apple Daily. In 2012, Lai’s publication likened pregnant Chinese women to “locusts” invading Hong Kong . Lai poured millions of his own dollars into the 2014 precursor to the current unrest otherwise known as the “Occupy Central” protests. He has repeatedly called for the Trump administration to intervene in Hong Kong and has received a platform in The New York Times and other corporate media outlets to communicate his nativist and rightwing demand for the U.S. to privilege “Hong Kongers” and punish China.
Jimmy Lai is joined by Freedom House award winners Joshua Wong and Martin Lee to round out the most prominent faces of Hong Kong’s “pro-democracy” leadership. Martin Lee is the chairperson of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party. Lee possesses close ties to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), having won the organization’s Democracy Award in 1997. The NED is a non-profit front organization of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and is principally funded by the U.S. Congress. The NED has generously provided tens of millions of U.S. dollars to a coalition of pro-independence organizations. The impact of U.S.-support on the ideological and class character of the Hong Kong protests is not difficult to discern. Protestors regularly wave the regalia of the Union Jack and the American flag as they clamor for the U.S. to “liberate” them from China . The NED-backed unrest in Hong Kong has also received solidarity from members of the neo-Nazi paramilitary organization Azov Battalion , which in 2014 helped engineer the violent overthrow of the government of Ukraine with extensive U.S. support.
“Protestors regularly wave the regalia of the Union Jack and the American flag.”
In many ways, the Hong Kong protests have more in common with U.S. police departments than the protestors in the U.S. seeking justice for George Floyd. Hong Kong protestors have used xenophobia and violence against elderly citizens and anyone considered to be sympathetic to mainland China. During weekend protests beginning on May 30th, videos surfaced in cities across the country that showed how U.S. police routinely wield the deadly stick of white supremacy to kill Black Americans such as George Floyd and then run over, shoot, and arrest journalists and activists present at the protests. Hong Kong protestors possess a distinct nativist ideology that aligns with the racist underpinnings of the U.S. national security state. Police departments protect the U.S.’ racist corporate order and lobby for policies such as the 1033 program that provides weaponry, coordination, and training directly from the Pentagon. Hong Kong protestors have successfully lobbied U.S. Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019. The bill allows the U.S. to sanction Chinese leaders and assets accused of getting in the way of the underlying aim of the Hong Kong protests to completely sever the former colony from China under the guise of Western-style “democracy.”
There is thus no shortage of reasons why the U.S. ruling class loves the protests in Hong Kong but desperately wants to stifle the rebellion against police brutality occurring in the United States. Neoliberal war hawks such as Susan Rice have once again raised the specter of Russian interference and its potential influence over people in the U.S. standing up to police violence. Rightwing elements in the U.S. have accused protestors of being backed by billionaire George Soros . Donald Trump has labeled Antifa a terrorist organization and threatened to unilaterally deploy the U.S. military to crush the protests. The “outside agitators” narrative possesses a long-standing racist and anti-communist history in the U.S. that gained prominence when the Communist Party was accused of infiltrating Black American communities to subvert the fascist order of Jim Crow. The real “outside agitators” are the undercover cops, spooks, and white nationalist organizations working to sew chaos within the uprising to justify the criminalization and demonization of the masses in the streets.
“Hong Kong protestors possess a distinct nativist ideology that aligns with the racist underpinnings of the U.S. national security state.”
Perhaps no better word can summarize the current situation for U.S. imperialism at this juncture in history than crisis. The U.S. ruling class has thrown its full weight behind the protests in Hong Kong to undermine China. But China’s new national security legislation is geared toward curbing the foreign-backed influence of protestors and nothing short of U.S. military intervention can stop China from asserting the right to self-determination over its own territory. The U.S. ruling class’ response to the protests over George Floyd’s death is filled not only with a natural hatred toward any sign of popular unrest but also with deep confusion. Massive anger over the killing of Floyd has roots in hundreds of years of settler colonial and racist terror and is only buttressed by a pandemic-induced economic crisis worse than the Great Depression. The U.S. ruling class desperately wants to suppress the protests entirely but has been confronted with the prospect that only a nation-wide massacre can do the job. As the Trump administration and its military spooks coordinate with police departments to figure out the most effective means to repress the protests, the corporate media has feigned lukewarm support for “peaceful” demonstrations while condemning any “violence” against private property.
On May 31st, CNN ran a loop of protestors in Philadelphia robbing corporations and burning police vehicles. That same day, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joined the chorus of condemnations against protestors destroying “their own house.” Ruling class hatred toward private property destruction negates the fact that when the U.S. emerged from its war of independence from the Union Jack, Black people were the literal property of the slave-owning class. Trillions worth in wealth was stolen from free Black labor to build the U.S.’ capitalist infrastructure. A violent, racist state apparatus was erected to maintain this arrangement.
“The U.S. ruling class desperately wants to suppress the protests entirely.”
Of course, the U.S. ruling class has always expressed much more concern about the condition of private property and capital than the condition of Black life. History tells us that the U.S. exists on a foundation of a centuries-long racist war to prevent Black freedom. The American road to Ferguson’s uprising in 2014, Baltimore’s uprising in 2015, and Minnesota’s uprising in 2020 were paved with the blood of millions of Black lives that were killed in slave rebellions, Jim Crow lynch mobs, and COINTELPRO’s operations to subvert the Black liberation movement. The U.S. remains very much engaged in a racist war against Black America, which explains why the cops, media outlets, and all sections of the ruling order share a similar hatred toward the Minneapolis-led uprising.
In Hong Kong, the U.S. sees not a war for “democracy” but rather a key battleground for its larger hybrid war against China. China has been deemed the biggest threat to the U.S.’ economic and military interests abroad just as the specter of Black freedom has always been the biggest threat to U.S. “national security” at home. The NED-backed movement in Hong Kong is not without precedent. The NED has spent billions of U.S. dollars supporting rightwing and terroristic forces in Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Korea to name just a few. In a word, the U.S. ruling class loves any unrest that its soft power apparatus can control and direct toward its own geopolitical aims.
“The U.S. remains very much engaged in a racist war against Black America.”
Protests of police brutality offer no such opportunity. In fact, Floyd’s death triggered a popular response that only exacerbates the broader crisis of legitimacy facing U.S. imperial hegemony worldwide. China and Iran, often the target of Western criticism for being “authoritarian regimes,” could not help but condemn the utter hypocrisy of the United States’ human rights agenda. COVID-19 and the economic collapse that followed has further exposed American capitalism to be a system with nothing left to offer workers but austerity and war. China came out of the pandemic with even more reason to be confident about its domestic and international leadership in the face of U.S. decline. White supremacy, economic crisis, and imperial stagnation has created a perfect storm for rebellion and has sown the seeds of uncertainty within the ruling class. What comes next is a question that must be seized by the masses. Anyone who claims to stand for peace, justice, and liberation should suspect foul play when the U.S. ruling class shows love to a protest movement abroad given how this same ruling class treats the genuine outcry of the Black masses and their allies against the mass incarceration regime right here in the belly of the beast.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News–From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @spiritofho, and on Youtube at The Left Lens with Danny Haiphong.