[The Hong Kong revolt is a reform movement, not a revolution, and it has been sustained by its unmistakeable mass character. Those who claim, disingenuously, that it is triggered by foreign forces a la “Orange Revolution” or even some kind of revanchist reassertion of British colonialism are inventing a false picture while denying the class character of the revolt, the class character of Chinese capitalist-imperialism, and the class character of Hong Kong. The people have legitimate grievances, which are currently shaped and constrained by reformist leaders and by the lack of revolutionary leadership. This revolt will not be the trigger, today, for China-wide revolts against the capitalist regime in Beijing, though those revolts, especially by displaced peasants and massively exploited workers, are widespread and continuously growing against the counter-revolutionary post-Mao capitalist rule. The people of Hong Kong should be supported by internationalists, anti-imperialists, revolutionary proletarians, and democratic activists. The following detailed and lengthy reformist-focused article by Lawrence Wong examines the HK revolt and the conditions which gave rise to it — and its chances for “successful reform”. What the article does not address are the ways the struggles of today will congeal into revolutionary forces and strategies in the future. — Frontlines ed.]
October 6, 2014
by Lawrence Wong | Counterfire | Opinion
Lawrence Wong looks at the background, and prospects, for Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Revolution’
The scale, the size, and the vitality of the ‘umbrella’ revolution took every person, including the Hong Kong people themselves, by surprise. However, this does not mean that the protests and campaigns of civil disobedience were without precedent in the territory of Hong Kong.
The previous Chief Executive Tung Chee Wah was deposed through a mass campaign in 2003.There have been strikes, a notable docker’s strike, a threat to strike by Cathay Pacific cabin crew, a successful campaign against the change in the secondary school curriculum, and the recent mock plebiscite where 800,00 Hong Kong people voted for genuine democracy.
Every year, Hong Kong people come out, sometimes in tens of thousands and sometimes in hundreds of thousands, around June 4th to commemorate and to remember the fallen when Chinese people last stormed the gates of heaven twenty five years ago. Most of these protests have been successful, and have taken place in the ‘consultative’ period, prior to decisions being made. The mobilisations of Occupy Central, the mock plebiscite, the magnificent 500,000 demonstration on June 1 which was the closest Sunday to June 4th, took place within this by and large successful experience of struggle by Hong Kong people since 1997. Continue reading
Hong Kong has spent billions on buying weapons from Britain
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 October, 2014
[The ongoing protests in Hong Kong continue in waves of intensity, as the protest struggles for greater organized strength and programmatic unity, and as supporters of the Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y.Leung (a wealthy capitalist closely supported by the restored-capitalist/imperialist Beijing regime) continue to denounce the protests as a US/British plot. How it will develop, what changes it may bring, is yet to be seen. But in the meantime, C.Y. Leung who opposes the protester’s demand for more inclusive electoral reform, has let an underlying and unspoken issue come to the surface: the question of class, of bourgeois rule, and the role of the poor. While elections cannot solve the problem of capitalist ownership of the state, classes and class struggle cannot be hidden from any major political dispute between state powers and the resistance of the masses.. — Frontlines ed.]
As protests continue in the crowded city of Hong Kong, thousands of immigrants and low-income families live in tiny subdivided units, unable to afford sky-high rents. Meanwhile, leader Leung Chun-ying lives a lavish lifestyle in an upscale community.
Leung proved today that he is not a “man of the people”. Instead, he came off as an elitist out of touch with the realities of living in Hong Kong.
He said that open elections shouldn’t happen because “many poor” might end up dominating politics.
Leung gave the interview to the Financial Times, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal and reiterated his position that free elections were impossible:
“If it’s entirely a numbers game—numeric representation—then obviously you’d be talking to half the people in Hong Kong [that] earn less than US$1,800 a month. You would end up with that kind of politics and policies.”
Leung made millions in real estate and has the nickname “emperor of the working class.” Already he has been hung in effigy, depicted as Dracula, and openly told to go to hell during the protests in Hong Kong. Continue reading
[Since the rise of capitalism, it has been common for capitalist powers and allied-capitalist partners to blame internal protests, rebellions, and class struggles on external forces, always seeking to turn attention away from the miserable conditions created in those societies. And in more recent times, imperialists (and “anti-imperialists” who only oppose one side of competing imperialists) blame the instability in opposing camps on external meddling by the opposite number, whereas the meddlers usually come from all sides in proxy wars today, trying to exploit the ever-emerging resistance of oppressed and exploited people.
Today, the popular opposition in Hong Kong, which has never experienced “self-determination” (since their emergence from British colonial rule was at a time when only the arms of restored and exploitive Chinese capitalism were waiting to greet, and restrain, them–in a kind of formally-internal but neo-colonial comprador-relation) has brought unprecedented numbers into the streets.
Russia’s Putin, aligned with the Chinese capitalist-imperialist regime, is blaming the Hong Kong opposition on US meddling. Now various confused “left” forces will quote each other and support Putin’s view, and will try to make it appear that Chinese capitalist-imperialists are the victims of the US. And these new anti-US conspiratorial spinners have even claimed that the use of umbrellas in defense from pepper spray, and the use of cellphone social networking, are beyond the skills and imagination of Hong Kong youth, so they must have been instructed by the CIA! And while the US is undoubtedly encouraging its friends in Hong Kong, there is no evidence that they started this popular rebellion, or are shaping, leading, or controlling it in any way. See the following article by Dave Lindorff for another view on these rebellions.
Today, it is said that the protests are winding down. Perhaps, but it may be just getting a second wind, or summing things up in preparation for the next round of struggle. But the bottom line is, as Mao (whom China’s current rulers have worked to censor and turn into an empty icon) has said, “Wherever there is oppression, there follows resistance.” Support the struggles of the people of Hong Kong! — Frontlines ed.]
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Has the Left Libeled a Democracy Movement?
What’s Driving the Hong Kong Protests
by DAVE LINDORFF, CounterPunch, OCTOBER 06, 2014
A number of progressive and left-leaning writers in the US have jumped on a report by Wikileaks that the neo-con dominated National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and various other US-government linked organizations with a history of subversion and sowing discord abroad are operating in Hong Kong and on that basis are making the leap of “logic” that the democracy protests in Hong Kong must therefore be a creation of US policy-makers.
As a progressive, Chinese-fluent journalist who has spent years working in China and especially Hong Kong, and who has spent decades exposing the secret workings of US agencies and their network of fake NGOs in support of US empire, as well as their anti-democratic activities here in the US, I can understand why people might be suspicious, but I want to explain that Hong Kong is not Ukraine or even Venezuela or Brazil.
[As mentioned earlier, the Hong Kong protests against the Capitalist rulers of China, are focused on the semi-colonial relationship that Hong Kong has with Beijing ever since the HK break in formal colonial relations with Capitalist-Imperialist Britain. The following news article repeats the misstaken characterization of China as “Communist” even years after it restored capitalism and remained “Communist” in name only. — Frontlines ed.]
Hong Kong activists hold ‘umbrella protest’
ITV, 29 September 2014
Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong held an “umbrella protest” as police sprayed pepper spray at them.
After three days thousands of protesters would not be moved despite the Hong Kong government saying they were withdrawing riot police.
Thousands of pro-democracy protesters remain on the streets of Hong Kong after police used tear gas and batons in an attempt to disperse them yesterday.
At least 27 villagers in Shantou, Guangdong were detained by police on Saturday for allegedly inciting a two-day protest over the sale of their land and corruption.
Thousands of villagers from Liantang village clashed with hundreds of police and government officials on Friday and Saturday in front of the Shantou municipal government building.
They said village officials had sold their collective land and never shared the profits with villagers. The demonstrations ended on Saturday night and local public security officers took away 27 people on suspicion of spreading rumours or disturbing public order and causing trouble.
By MARTIN FACKLER, New York Times, May 1, 2013
TOKYO — China’s growing industrial might is likely to allow it to mount an increasingly formidable challenge to the military supremacy of the United States in the waters around China that include Japan and Taiwan, though it will probably seek to avoid an outright armed conflict, according to a detailed new report by a group of American researchers.
The report by the nine researchers, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the most likely outcome for the next two decades showed China narrowing the gap with the United States in military abilities, in areas including building aircraft carriers and stealth fighter jets. At the same time, the report, to be released Friday, said China’s economic interdependence with the United States and the rest of Asia would probably prevent it from becoming a full-blown, cold-war-style foe, or from using military force to try to drive the United States from the region.
One of the authors, Michael D. Swaine, an expert on Chinese defense policy, called the report one of the first attempts to predict the longer-term consequences of China’s rise for a region whose growing economic prosperity has been largely a result of the peace and stability brought by American military hegemony. He said one conclusion was that the appearance of a new rival meant that, for better or for worse, the current American-dominated status quo might not last much longer.
“We wanted to ask, how should the United States deal with this possibility?” said Mr. Swaine, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment, based in Washington. “Can the United States continue with business as usual in the western Pacific, or must it start thinking of alternative ways to reassure the region about security?” Continue reading
Cancer victim faces China land battle
The Yao home is the last one standing in the rubble of a vast development site in Changzhou, a Chinese “nail house”, the moniker earned for both their physical appearance and their owners’ stubborn resistance.
The former mathematics teacher is one of the few to make a stand against the devastating side effects of China’s breakneck urbanisation, which can see entire villages uprooted to make way for industry and housing developments — often with the help of corrupt officials and police.
“Everyone else has gone, fight by fight, tear by tear,” said the 75-year-old, breathing heavily in a bed at Changzhou People’s Number Two hospital, recovering from an operation on a stomach tumour.
“But I will never give up. It is an illegal development,” he added, raising his fists defiantly as aggressive security staff forced out his visitors.
Yao’s plight is typical of disputes over land expropriation that China’s then premier Wen Jiabao said last year “are still very serious and the people are still very concerned about them”.
China has passed a series of regulations in recent years to protect land rights, including outlawing the use of violence during evictions and stipulating market rate compensation must be paid to relocated residents.
But local officials often ignore the rules, say researchers and campaigners. Continue reading
21 February 2013
By Daniel Hurst, National Times
Chinese workers are now launching too many strikes and protests for authorities to suppress, according to a union dissident visiting Australia.
Chinese dissident Han Dongfang, who was expelled from the country 20 years ago, told the Australian Workers’ Union conference on the Gold Coast the new generation of Chinese workers were better educated and aspirational than their parents and no longer willing to accept exploitation.
He spoke of the 2010 strike at the Honda plant in Nanhai that secured 24 per cent pay rise and a promise of democratic union elections. Meanwhile, employees at a state-owned oil firm in the Maoist heartland of Yan’an staged protests and demanded talks with management after a push to cut job security and benefits.
Han Dongfang, who founded China’s first independent trade union during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, said many people may ask themselves why the Chinese government had allowed the workers’ movement to develop to the point where even state-owned enterprises had to listen to their employees.
But he said there were now simply too many strikes and worker protests to suppress. Continue reading
Few in the West are aware of the drama unfolding in today’s “epicenter of global labor unrest.” A scholar of China exposes its tumultuous labor politics and their lessons for the Left.
At the same time, Chinese workers are depicted as the pitiable victims of globalization, the guilty conscience of First World consumers. Passive and exploited toilers, they suffer stoically for our iPhones and bathtowels. And only we can save them, by absorbing their torrent of exports, or campaigning benevolently for their humane treatment at the hands of “our” multinationals.
For parts of the rich-world left, the moral of these opposing narratives is that here, in our own societies, labor resistance is consigned to history’s dustbin. Such resistance is, first of all, perverse and decadent. What entitles pampered Northern workers, with their “First World problems,” to make material demands on a system that already offers them such abundance furnished by the wretched of the earth? And in any case, resistance against so formidable a competitive threat must surely be futile.
By depicting Chinese workers as Others – as abject subalterns or competitive antagonists – this tableau wildly miscasts the reality of labor in today’s China. Far from triumphant victors, Chinese workers are facing the same brutal competitive pressures as workers in the West, often at the hands of the same capitalists. More importantly, it is hardly their stoicism that distinguishes them from us.
Today, the Chinese working class is fighting. More than thirty years into the Communist Party’s project of market reform, China is undeniably the epicenter of global labor unrest. While there are no official statistics, it is certain that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of strikes take place each year. All of them are wildcat strikes – there is no such thing as a legal strike in China. So on a typical day anywhere from half a dozen to several dozen strikes are likely taking place. Continue reading
Nov 10, 2012 by TheRealNews
A discussion with Minqi Li:
New leadership committed to capitalism in China but will they be able to deal with coming global crisis?
by Shui Mui, China Left Review (Issue # 4) — (researcher, mainly focusing on migrant workers and labor-capital relations)
In March, 2009, I interviewed a Shenzhen based migrant workers’ rights activist. The interview helps us better comprehend the current conditions of migrant workers in China.
1. Workplace Injuries
A Hong Kong NGO put out a report (Arms and Legs), which discussed workplace injuries in China. At present in Shenzhen, many factories adopted new machinery equipped with infrared technologies, which could help prevent workers’ injuries. But that didn’t mean that older machinery left the Chinese scene altogether, it just moved inland. Still, Shenzhen’s rate of workplace injuries did not decrease, they only became more intense. Many 18-25 year old workers who just started working were injured in the first few days of work. This was because at many factories there was no training for newly hired workers.
Small factories owned by local investors are well below standard. When workplace injury related incidents occur, bosses frequently jump ship. Many workers’ injuries are not covered by regulations on the books that ensure workplace injury insurance. Electronics and shoe factories use a great amount of chemicals during production, without needed measures to prevent workplace poisoning. Smaller scale factories are especially weak in this area. Most of the workers in electronics factories are women, accounting for 70-80 percent of the workforce. Their work has a great impact on their reproductive systems, and the frequency of their falling ill is quite high. This is not only a problem for individual women workers, it also affects the next generation of offspring. One of the staff at University of Science and Engineering opened a battery factory where the majority of women workers fell ill to cadmium poisoning. One of these workers gave birth to an infant with a large black stripe on its body, which no one could explain. There have emerged many new chemicals used in factories are not covered by Chinese law. It’s estimate that in the next few years, rates of factory dust related lung disease will surge. This amounts to the end of the incubation period for diseases acquired since the process of economic liberalization began. Grinder’s disease, especially prevalent among miners, has already ended countless workers’ lives. Others with the disease are simply waiting to die.
Since the labor shortage that started in 2004, it should be noted that women workers are also finding it easier to secure jobs. Because women are regarded as more physically nimble, more obedient thanks to traditional culture in the countryside, much like previous generations of women workers in Korea, factory owners are predisposed to hiring them. Furthermore, if women workers look to fight for their rights, they typically have a much harder time than male counterparts. Continue reading
Living on Earth, 8 November, 2012
China’s efforts to grow its economy and its manufacturing base are meeting resistance as the country’s middle class burgeons. In Ningbo, a plan to build a petrochemical plant was beaten back by protesters in the street who say these plants are affecting their health.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Ningbo, China, recently in opposition to a petrochemical plant they feel is a danger to public health.
After three days of demonstrations, and clashes between protesters and the police, the government has called the project off — at least for now.
Ben Carlson, a journalist with the Global Post who lives in Hong Kong, said the protests started out as a series of smaller protests.
“By the time the weekend rolled around there were several thousand people in the streets,” he said. “There were reports of the protesters overturning cars, and the police arrested several of the demonstrators — that actually became one of the causes that people were demonstrating against later on.” Continue reading
Successful pollution protest shows China takes careful line with rising middle class
|GILLIAN WONG, Associated Press
October 29, 2012
NINGBO, China — A victory by protesters against the expansion of a chemical plant proves the new rule in China: The authoritarian government is scared of middle-class rebellion and will give in if the demonstrators’ aims are limited and not openly political.
It’s far from a revolution. China’s nascent middle class, the product of the past decade’s economic boom, is looking for better government, not a different one. They’re especially concerned about issues like health, education and property values and often resist the growth-at-all-costs model Beijing has pushed.
[Chinese police officers monitor residents gathered outside the city government office in Ningbo city in eastern China’s Zhejiang province Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. After three days of protests by thousands of citizens over pollution fears, a local Chinese government relented and agreed that the petrochemical factory would not be expanded, only to see the protests persist. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)]
The past week’s chemical-plant protests reached an unruly crescendo over the weekend, when thousands of people marched through prosperous Ningbo city, clashing with police at times. The city government gave in Sunday and agreed to halt the plant’s expansion.
Even so, the protesters did not back down, staying outside city government offices hours after the concession. About 200 protesters, many of them retirees, returned Monday to make sure the government keeps its word on the oil and ethylene refinery run by a subsidiary of Sinopec, the state-owned petrochemical giant.
“In yesterday’s protest, the ordinary people let their voices be heard,” a 40-year-old businessman who would give only his surname, Bao, said on the protest line Monday. Government officials, he said, “should say they are completely canceling the project. They should state clearly that they will stop doing these projects in Ningbo and the rest of China.” Continue reading