China bars online images as Hong Kong explodes

Instagram has been blocked in mainland China since Sept. 28, in an evident attempt to stop images of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as street clashes entered their third day. Following repression of the massive Occupy Central demonstration, thousands of people have remained on the streets of Hong Kong, defying tear gas and ignoring orders to disperse. Overnight, riot police advanced on crowds who ignored official warnings that the demonstrations were illegal. In what can be read as a veiled threat, Hong Kong's chief executive CY Leung reassured the public that rumors the Chinese army might intervene are untrue. (Shanghaiist, Sept. 29; BBC News, Sept. 28)

What began as a student strike in support of a democratic election system exploded Sept. 26, as thousands gathered outside the Government Headquarters in Tamar. Around 200 protesters managed to breach the police cordon and climb into Civic Square, a former public protest zone that was sealed behind high security fences two months ago. The protesters in Civic Square held out overnight, but the next day riot police used pepper spray and made dozens of arrests—including the 17-year-old leader of student activist group Scholarism, Joshua Wong, who faces the serious charge of assualting an officer and was denied bail. By mid-afternoon the next day, the final protesters were removed by police, and more arrests made—including radical legislator "Longhair" Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats.

The protests were sparked by the decision handed down on Aug. 31 by the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, ruling out democratic elections in Hong Kong in 2017. Activists charge that this is a betrayal of a commitment to allow the territory's first-ever free elections by that year when Hong Kong was transferred to Chinese rule in 1997 after more than 150 years of British colonial administration. 

In July, the Chinese government issued a "white paper" stating that it has "comprehensive jurisdiction" over Hong Kong and that "the high degree of autonomy of [Hong Kong] is not an inherent power, but one that comes solely from the authorization by the central leadership." In the following month's Standing Committee decision, Hong Kong citizens will be allowed to vote for the chief executive, but the candidates will have to be approved by a special committee similar to the Beijing-appointed committee that currently appoints the chief executive.

Occupy Central repeatedly postponed following through on its threat to actually launch the occupation, with leaders Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Dr. Chan Kin-man coming under increasing pressure from young students. When the occupation was finally launched, leadership had effectively shifted to the Wong and the Scholarship movement. (New Bloom, Sept. 30; Vox, Sept. 28;, Sept. 27)

Organized labor has also got on board. At a Sept. 24 press conference, 25 Hong Kong social groups and unions, including the Confederation of Trade Unions, issued a statement in support for universal suffrage and the demands of the student strike then getting underway. The statement also criticized the "laissez-faire" economic policy that favors the business sector, resulting in an un-regulated labor market and the lack of social security. The statements said that the handover of Hong Kong to China "has changed nothing of the colonial system of favoring the rich. This is why, despite the social movement fighting for an improved pension system and for the regulating of work hours, the government continues to turn a deaf ear." (China Labour Net, Sept. 29)

  1. Conspiranoids to descend on Hong Kong

    Once again, users of China's micro-blog Sina Weibo are taking measures to outwit censors. After authorities banned the hashtags #OccupyCentral and #OccupyHongKong, they've taken to using #UmbrellaRevolution—inspired by protesters' use of umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas. (OccuWorld, KCSE)

    The Wall Street Journal's China Real Time blog reports that Hong Kong's pro-Beijing daily Wen Wei Po published an "expose" of Joshua Wong's supposed ties to the US government. The story asserts that "US forces" identified Wong’s potential three years ago, and have worked since then to cultivate him as a "political superstar." Evidence included Wong's supposed frequent meetings with US consulate personnel in Hong Kong and covert donations from Americans. The claims are based on photographs leaked by “netizens.” The story also said Wong’s family visited Macau in 2011 at the invitation of the US Chamber of Commerce, where they stayed at the "US-owned" Venetian Macao hotel.

    This is utterly predictable. Way back on June 23, Voice of Russia ran the inevitable headline "New wave of Hong Kong protests bears unsettling resemblance to US-inspired color revolutions." The same garbage we heard about the Arab Revolution. Spare us.

    1. Internet conspiranoids betray Hong Kong… of course

      The inevitable tsunami of bullshit from the Western "left" (sic) mounts against the Hong Kong protesters. A piece on TeleSur entitled "Wikileaks: HK Protests Linked to US Government" is suddenly all over my Facebook stream. Of course lefties go ga-ga whenever they see the word "Wikileaks," but there is simply nothing there. We are told that Wikileaks "tweeted that key figures behind the demonstrations are linked to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)." The "key figures" aren't named, and the word "linked" is not defined or any further fleshed out. The closest we get is this:

      A Wikileaks cable released September 4, 2008 from the American Consulate in Hong Kong to the Secretary of State offices of Condelezza Rice, refers to a US State Department funded project, The Hong Kong Transition Project.

      Whilst a cable dated July 2, 2009 discusses demonstration turnouts and how to make them more successful in the future. Whilst a 4 Jan 2010 cable from the American Consulate in Hong Kong to the offices of the Secretary of State looks at increasing the effectiveness of political messaging on future demonstrations.

      The cables aren't quoted, and zero evidence is provided that the current protests are in fact "linked" to the US government. Similar garbage can, of course, be seen on Counterpunch, which has deteriorated into a mouthpiece for odious dictatorships.

      This thinking is utterly un-Marxist. It views everything as a conspiracy and denies local social context. And it is hypocritical beyond all imagining. The same "leftist" idtios who gripe the loudest about control of the US electoral process by the duopoly betraying the Hong Kongers demanding effective suffrage? Among the many adjectives that come to mind, I'd include "racist."

      1. Internet conspiranoids betray Hong Kong… again

        The consistently odious (and ironically named) Global Research is the latest to triumphantly parrot the empty claims in China's People's Daily that "Louisa Greve, a director of the National Endowment forDemocracy of the US (NED), was already meeting with the key people from 'OccupyCentral' several months ago, to talk about the movement." That's really cute—this time it isn't just "key people," but "the" key people. Yet of course they aren't actually named! We are also told: "Three former U.S. consuls-general in Hong Kong recently united to publish an open lettercriticizing the nomination committee system for the Hong Kong chief executive. This simply made the political situation in Hong Kong even worse." As if demands for democracy are somehow delegitimized by being taken up by US diplomats, and as if those demands were only pressed because they had been taken up by US diplomats. Patheitc.

        Of course we are told that the Hong Kong protests are another attempt at a "color revolution," and that: "The results of Amreica's [sic] 'Color Revolutions' have hardly been a success. The 'Arabspring' turned to be an 'Arab winter' and Ukraine's 'street politics' have resulted insecession and conflict. There is little evidence of any real democracy in these countries,but the US turns a blind eye." First, calling these revolutions "America's" is deeply condescending to the Georgians, Ukrainians and Kyrgyz. Second, to hear CCP propagandists complainig that revolutions lead to chaos is wildly ironic to anyone who knows a little history.

        Global Research ran similar dribble a few days back, headlining that the Hong Kong protests were "scripted in Washington." It claims (with no documentation) that Benny Tai has met with the NED. Which is a meaningless claim even if true. Tai was essentially ousted as a movement leader by the protesters themselves for his timidity when the campaign began. He had threaetned repeatedly to launch Occupy Central, but never followed through. The activists finally got tired of waiting and went ahead and did it on their own. By the time Occupy Central was finally launched, he was no longer even calling the shots.

        So again, we want to know… Why do "leftists" continue to post garbage from Global Research and rally around odious dictatorships? No, really.

  2. Just asking

    Courageous Joshua Wong is 17 years old, and faces the prospect of a lengthy prison term. Are progressives in the West going to organize support for him, or spread the Chinese state media calumnies?

    1. Well, that question has been answered, hasn’t it?

      Count on Counterpunch and TeleSur to rally round the oppressors. Here we have a movement explicitly inspired by our own Occupy Wall Street, and it gets zero solidarity from "leftists" in the West? 

      Wake up, people.

      1. Oakland repression bad; Hong Kong repression good?

        This is too funny. Victor Gao, former translator for Deng Xiaoping and today seemingly a conservative wonk in China, is interviewed about the Hong Kong protests on All Things Considered. Citing the blocking of traffic, he says, "These are no longer peaceful demonstrations." And again implying that the protesters are all manipulated by ouside powers, he warns, "China does not yield to pressure from anyone." 

        Now back during Occupy Wall Street we heard identical garbage from American cops about how peaceful street blockades are not nonviolent, and called it out as an example of the ever-popular propaganda device of "words-mean-whatever-we-say-they-mean." But in Hong Kong, large segments of the American "left" (at least) are on the side of the cops.

        Too sad.

  3. New Yorkers support Hong Kong

    On Oct. 1, China's National Day, several hundred New Yorkers—overwhelmingly of Chinese descent, and many from Hong Kong—gathered in Times Square to support the Occupy Central movement. Attendees carried umbrellas in solidarity with the Hong Kong protesters, who have used umbrellas to protect from tear gas. Many also wore yellow ribbons, another symbol of the movement. The crowd repeatedly sang "Under a Vast Sky" by the Hong Kong band Beyond, which has become the anthem of the movement. Chants (in Chinese) included "Full suffrage, Hong Kong!" and "CY Leung, resign now!" Representatives from New York's Tibetan and Taiwanese activist communities were also on hand. The Hong Kong protests are now in their sixth day. See our photo essay.