The rebellion in Hong Kong is more complex and politically relevant than we may think, both nationally and internationally.
In the elections held on last September in the former British colony, as many as eight openly pro-independence representatives were elected who, at the first meeting, shouted hate phrases against the People’s Republic of China and expressed clear rejection of its specific sovereignty.
The “students” and the other participants in the protests immediately attacked police stations and then closed the main tunnel that connects the island of Hong Kong with the rest of the former British colony’s territory. Finally, in Wanchai’s Golden Bauhinia Square – a magnet for tourists from other parts of China – they spray-painted palaces and a statue with provocative statements such as “Heaven will destroy the Communist Party” and “Liberate Hong Kong”.
The operation, organization, stability and continuity of the rebellion, as well as the control and cohesion of its ranks, the elimination of undercovers, the military quality of the “students’ operation”, the excellent publicity and recruitment ability make us think that this rebellion is so well organized that it certainly has points of reference, sponsors and supporters abroad.
Who? Certainly, the United States – with its foundations for the globalization of democracy – which thinks of exploiting Hong Kong to destabilize China, especially given the proximity of Shenzen, one of the largest developing areas of Chinese economy and technology that could easily be “infected” by the rebellion.
Certainly, China’s current dilemma about its next military reaction and its impact on the world public is already a serious damage to Chinese national and foreign policy.
The United States has every interest in causing at least China’s global defamation before and after the Hong Kong rebellion, precisely pending the clash over duties and tariffs for the import and export of Chinese goods.
There is also Taiwan that, thanks to the large echo of the Hong Kong rebellion, is trying to publicize its idea of independence from China, as well as of reaction against China’s latest adverse actions against the Nationalist Island.
The countries interested in the destabilization of the link between Hong Kong and China may also include Japan, which is interested in weakening the Chinese strategic projection eastwards, and finally even Britain which – fallen prey to the retrodream characterizing the current phase of Brexit –could think of recovering the old colony or even merely taking revenge against China.
It all began with a major demonstration in late April against the extradition bill, which facilitated the transfer from Hong Kong to mainland China of Chinese people found guilty according to local regulations, as well as of Chinese criminals who could be protected by Hong Kong’s autonomy.
The rebellion has already forced Carrie Lam, the current Chief Executive and President of Hong Kong’ Special Administrative Region, to drop the extradition bill. But now it is too late to stop the rebellion.
One of the protesters’ objectives is also to “raise awareness” among the many Chinese tourists of their demands and claims, which have been magnified by the current crisis of the local economy.
Also the choice of this type of propaganda makes us think of an influence by Westerners. Indeed, a not casual influence.
Certainly one of the rebellion goals is also the attempt to radicalize and destabilize the Chinese areas on the border with the former British colony, which is the reason why President Xi Jinping has created a “cordon sanitaire” for the news coming from Hong Kong.
The longer the rebellion lasts, the more the goal – rather unrealistic but rational, considering the current political equilibria – is precisely that of “infecting” the most modern and productive areas of Southern China.
Overseas and in Asia, there are those who dream of even “disintegrating China”, by stirring up the major minorities present in the People’s Republic of China, and by destabilizing the centres of greatest industrial concentration in the South, as well as by infecting the areas of most difficult communication with the political Centre and with Beijing.
Three concurrent and simultaneous projects for destabilizing China, which have already been underway for some time.
With or without the Hong Kong rebellion, which – in any case – is currently strategic for the splitting up of the People’s Republic of China.
Otherwise, those who oppose the growth of China as a great power may think about strengthening the Islamist insurgency in Xinjiang and in Tibet or triggering another insurgency by one of the 56 recognized minorities of the People’s Republic of China, namely the Miao, the Dong, the Yao or the Koreans.
This is what really lies behind the idea of the “Hong Kong Nation” that is spreading among the leaders of the current rebellion.
The independence issue, however, still accounts for 20-25% of voters in the old British colony – and all this has nothing to do with “nostalgia” for Great Britain.
Hong Kong is an area of great importance for China: since the British takeover of the island in 1977, Beijing has always privileged relations with the powerful financial and industrial elites of Hong Kong.
Exactly in the phase of the Four Modernizations, this enabled China to actually have one of the major financial hubs in the world.
Goodness knows how important this was for the further and subsequent growth of China.
But the former British promontory is very important also from the geopolitical viewpoint.
Indeed, it is the fifth most important port in the world.
For years China has already been implementing the “Great Bay” project that will unite Hong Kong with China, both in fact and in law.
Moreover, there is already the project of putting Hong Kong in communication with Macau and Zhihai, but the promontory is also already a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and will hence play a remarkable role in the New Silk Road.
It should also be recalled that when control over Hong Kong returned to China in 1977, under Deng Xiaoping, the leader of the Four Modernizations (and of the repression of Tiananmen Square), the former British colony accounted for over a quarter of the GDP of the entire People’s Republic of China.
Hence the issue was not only strictly economic, but also strategic in nature.
For President Xi Jinping, however, the main issue is to avoid – both in Hong Kong and in China – what now appears to be an obvious “colour revolution”, similar to the Georgian and Ukrainian ones, and to the various Arab Springs that spread the jihadto a large part of the Maghreb region.
Currently the dilemma for China is radical and very hard to solve.
Should it come to terms and – as some Chinese leaders are envisaging – accept to meet some demands from the Hong Kong insurgents who, however, deeply hate China?
Or should it do the same as in Tiananmen Square? A likely, but still dangerous option – mainly for its international effects.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam will probably be held in power by China to avoid a new “election” by the Hong Kong Election Committee, a body of 12,000 members in a city of over 7 million people.
Moreover, 1.3 million of them live in deep poverty but, for the time being, the “rebellion” is entirely organized by the middle class – like the European protests of 1968, the best operation of destabilization in recent history that has many fathers.
Nevertheless, unlike the European protests of 1968, the Hong Kong rebellion still lacks official leaders. While, at the same time as the democratic and pro-Western “rebellion” is developing, the pro-China insurgency tries to invade the streets against the struggle of the “autonomists”.
We should not forget this part of the issue either.
The maximum pressure of the “rebels” will certainly last until October 1, the day on which the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China is celebrated.
In my opinion, this seems to be the key date beyond which a Chinese intervention could have the greatest political and economic impact.
After all, there are two real reasons underlying the autonomist and anti-Chinese “rebellion” in the city-State: the clear mistrust vis-à-vis China, on the one hand, and, on the other, the total distrust also vis-à-vis the current government in Hong Kong which is still – almost more than the Chinese power – the current objective of the civil war now underway.
China could still separate the two objectives of the rebels, thus sparking off a crisis in the local government and then reacting militarily against the rest of the “students”.
The rebels are aged 25, on average, and are equally distributed by gender.
Most of them come from the educated middle class, especially the part that already votes for the “pan-democratic” parties, those that have long been opposing the pro-Chinese government in Hong Kong.
The rebels even accuse the poor population of supporting China. According to them, the poor are not “true Hongkongers” – and this says a lot about the social nature of the rebellion.
The “movement” is also very decentralized. It publishes good magazines and it is even said that its cameras frighten the police.
None of the local universities, however, officially supports the “rebellion”.
There is not yet workers’ clear solidarity for the “rebellion” – not even by the many migrant workers.
For the current rebels in Hong Kong, the word “democracy” does not concern the creation of an electoral system with universal suffrage that, indeed, already exists – albeit to a limited extent – but it is a sort of universal “system”, without repression, restrictions and controls – and hence it will be difficult to face similar demands by simply extending political representation.
However, most of the citizens living in the city-peninsula still do not support the rebels – not even superficially.
With specific reference to the international support for the rebellion, certainly the United States views it favourably, but we should also mention the now known direct commitment of the NGO National Endowment for Democracy, linked to the CIA, while the Chinese press underlines that the bill that triggered the revolt was inevitable, otherwise the already judged and convicted Chinese criminals could have fled to Hong Kong, thus becoming untouchable.
Furthermore, seventy NGOs have already signed an open letter to stop the extradition bill, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Red Cross International.
Too many not to think badly. Moreover, the rebels’ slogans and messages seem to be produced with purely Western techniques and methods.
Many of them are already written in English, instead of Chinese, and Hong Kong has always been one of the main places of CIA’s action against China.
Moreover, the aforementioned NGO, namely National Endowment for Democracy, already operates mainly through the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Civic Party, the Labour Party and the Democratic Party of Hong Kong.
There is also the cryptocurrency created by an obscure supporter of the rebellion, who calls himself “Dr. Dragon”, who has recently devised a “coin” to be distributed among the rebels to encourage and fund their actions.
As already said, Taiwan is certainly endeavouring to influence the rebels in Kong Kong.
There is also the Chinese Triads’ presence during the repression of the rebellion in the various cities of Hong Kong.
The Triads are essential to understand the economy of both Hong Kong and Macau.
Hong Kong is the traditional home of China’s major criminal organizations.
For example, the 14K, Wo Shin Wo and Sun Yee On Triads are essential in the entire world crime economy.
There are over 50 minor Triads in Hong Kong. Every economic activity in the former British colony is subject to bribery.
The major legal and illegal activities controlled by the Triads are gambling, prostitution, drug trafficking and dealing, as well as the counterfeiting of all kinds of products, ranging from drugs to toys.
Nevertheless, there is an economic sector in Hong Kong that is almost entirely in the Triads’ hands, namely the movie industry – mainly the genre related to martial arts and pornography.
Probably it is not by chance that the “rebels” often quote the old films of Bruce Lee, who was born in San Francisco but died in Hong Kong, and was a decisive figure in the martial arts movie sector.
Macau is the world capital of gambling. The city has five times the players of Las Vegas.
Moreover, as is well known, gambling is the main channel for money laundering.
While in China and Hong Kong gambling is forbidden – at least officially – the huge crowd of Chinese players goes to Macau for gambling. Also 47% of government officials and executives of Chinese state-owned enterprises go there for gambling and this allows to possibly blackmail a significant number of Chinese (and Hong Kong) bureaucrats.
However, there are also strong ties between the Triads and the Chinese government.
The activity of finding important civilian and military technologies is often “commissioned” to the Triads by the Department of the Chinese Intelligence Services, namely the Guoangbu.
The Chinese espionage relating to the World Trade Organization (WTO) is often carried out by the Sun Ye On Triad.
As part of the mutual assistance relations with the Chinese government, the Triads control and repress much of the petty crime in both China and Hong Kong.
Therefore, in all likelihood, there will also be the collaboration of some Triads in the future Chinese repression of the “rebellion” in Hong Kong.
Giancarlo Elia Valori
Honorable de l’Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France
President of International World Group