Rebellion in Hong Kong spreads

January 21, 2020

From the January-February 2020 issue of News & Letters

by Bob McGuire

On New Year’s Day, a million people took to the streets in Hong Kong in what began as a legal march that police shortly thereafter banned and attacked, arresting over 400. Marchers called for Hong Kong to “resist tyranny, join a union” as a weapon against the Beijing-controlled Legislative Council and the capitalists dominating Hong Kong’s economy who are dependent upon China’s private capitalist production under Communist Party rule.

Protest in Hong Kong on Dec. 8, 2019. Photo: Doctor Ho.

The Hong Kong workers’ general strikes, initiated during the eight months of mass resistance to Beijing’s attacks on Hong Kong’s autonomy, were carried out in spite of the obstruction of the Beijing-linked Federation of Trade Unions. Marchers insisted: “Five demands, not one less.” Millions in the streets finally secured withdrawal of the extradition bill that could hand “enemies of the state” over to the injustice system in China, the issue that began the uprising.

But government intransigence and 7,000 arrests along with police brutality forced demands for withdrawing the label of “riot,” which triggers draconian punishments under an old British colonial law. Demonstrators demanded amnesty for marchers and investigation of the police for its beating, maiming and shooting protesters.

The fifth demand, for universal suffrage, is spotlighted by the September 2020 elections for the Legislative Council. Beijing controls the Council because so many seats are indirectly selected by limited constituencies. But in November 2019 elections, the pro-Beijing party lost control of 17 of the 18 District Councils. Candidates sympathetic to the Occupy movement won more than 80% of the positions. Repression has firmed up opposition to the government under Carrie Lam, and has even led to calls for formal independence from China.


Then, on Dec. 22, the Occupy Movement marched in solidarity with Uyghurs who are under concentration camp conditions in “autonomous” Xinjiang. Officials there have waged campaigns even against Uyghurs not locked up in camps for displaying or hiding Muslim religious symbols or elements of their culture. A campaign for Han (ethnic Chinese) Party cadres to rape Uyghur women whose husbands are locked up brings back the ugly reality of Serbs using rape of Bosnian women as an act of war and of genocide in the 1990s.

The Hong Kong revolt has inspired solidarity around the world, even at great risk in the neighboring province of Guangdong. Activists in Taiwan, also under threat from China’s claims and its armed presence in the South China Sea, expressed their solidarity with the slogan “TAIWAN WITH HONG KONG.”

The timing of China’s ruler Xi Jinping’s New Year’s Day invitation to Taiwan to accept reunification with China—under the same “one country, two systems” autonomy as Hong Kong since it was freed from British colonialism in 1997—made it a naked threat. The people of Taiwan have seen how bloody the attacks on democracy marchers have been under that kind of “autonomy.” Police have continued to use tear gas, “non-lethal” projectiles and live ammo against the millions of demonstrators and have arrested over 7,000, while criminal gangs have been employed for wholesale beatings, all under the shadow of China’s army massed just across the border.


Voters in Taiwan’s elections on Jan. 11 weathered a flood of fake news from China-controlled media outlets and military threats from China, including a naval show of strength in the Taiwan Strait. They still overwhelmingly re-elected President Tsai Ing-wen 57% to 38% over the candidate of the KMT, which long opposed the Communists, but is now backed by China.

Maintaining independence is dangerous, as China has laid claim to any territory that ever sent a mission of tribute to the Emperor, including Tibet and Xinjiang. But the population of Taiwan have solidarized with the opposition to the imperial ambitions of China’s state-capitalist regime.

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