Global Radar Screen
Hong Kong Protesters’ Pro-West Slip Showing Amply
While it is quite understandable that people anywhere should find enslaving chains of any kind intolerable, what progressive opinion would least expect are attempted tie-ups between such sections seeking emancipation and the former Western colonial powers. Unfortunately, this is happening right now in Hong Kong, a former British colony.
The latest we hear is that Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters are currently taking their cause to the British consulate in Hong Kong, even singing ‘God Save the Queen’ and ‘Rule Britannia’. This is no subconscious bias for the former colonizers of the relatively small but vital South East Asian financial hub and entrepot city state. This is direct identification on the part of the protesters with the ‘Mother country’.
Cynics could not be faulted for wisecracking that the protesters are paving the way for the ‘Empire to Strike Back’ and that too at a new economic and military super power, China. Interestingly, a few days back pro-democracy protests were held opposite the US consulate in Hong Kong as well. While, the aspiration for democratic freedoms on the part of those peoples who consider themselves as subjugated should not be taken as an anomaly in the democratic world, the tendency on the part of the same sections to establish alliances with the foremost Western powers, while shunning linkages with those international actors seen as exercising veritable suzerainty over them, does provoke serious questions.
In other words, is China being rejected for the sake of the predominant powers of the West? If this is so, then, Hong Kong is changing one form of subjugation for another, unless Western patronage is not seen as constituting entrapping chains of any kind by the protesters. If the latter is the case, the ongoing revolt in Hong Kong should be seen as a Western-inspired one against China. Consequently, the protesters risk being branded as ‘Western agents’.
Meanwhile, China has done well not to unleash armed force to quell the protests so far, as was the case with the Tiananmen Square revolt a couple of decades ago, in the heart of China. The protesters of those days were calling for democratic freedoms and were seen by hard line opinion in China as ‘agents of the West’. By exercising restraint China has seized the moral high ground and emerged as a super power that is more inclined to use soft power and not so much hard power to resolve thorny issues of this kind. From the Chinese viewpoint, this is the way to go because Hong Kong is too precious an asset to be lost through the use of coercive power indiscreetly.
May be the Chinese authorities would consider introducing more political reforms in Hong Kong to meet the democratic aspirations of the protesting sections but the onus is on the dissidents to work out the parameters by themselves to forge a polity that is uniquely theirs. Failing which Hong Kong would be seen as a contemporary Western outpost in the ASEAN region, lacking a political identity of its own but subversive to the West. Needless to say, the protesters would qualify to be seen as Western lackeys. Besides, limitless Chinese flexibility cannot be counted on.
Hong Kong’s younger generations would do well to have a good look at those Southern states that experienced convulsive political and social change in the fire storm events that were euphemistically described as the ‘Arab Spring’. Needless to say, many of these countries are in no better condition than they were when the ‘Spring’ took hold.
Tunisia, which was the first country to experience the gusts of ‘Spring’ is in a parlous economic state today. It has done well to advance in the direction of a semblance of democracy but the new dispensation is precariously dependent on Western financial support. IMF assistance has come in exchange for austere economic programmes that result in increasing hardships for the people. Unemployment and high inflation are chronic blights.
The condition of Libya today, to take another example, speaks for itself. The West imagined it was liberating Libya from an oppressive ruler of the worst kind, but Libya is engulfed in the flames of civil war currently. The UN-backed regime in Tripoli is not recognized by all sections of the polity who are up in arms against the centre. Besides, almost all these ‘liberated’ countries are convulsed by violent identity politics.
Hong Kong is a far cry in every respect from the above countries of the South, but it needs to see that a firm foundation needs to be laid for enduring democratic development, in the event of it winning total political freedom. If not it would go the way of these turbulent Southern states. And the West would not be of much assistance in democratic development as the troubled states of the South graphically illustrate. The West is notorious for ‘going when the going is good’ following military and political interventions and Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are clinching evidence of this sad Western trait.
However, unless the turmoil in Hong Kong is contained by peaceful means, Hong Kong’s condition could turn out to be the most alarming of this clutch of troubled countries. This is on account of the hulking and overbearing presence of China. The possibility could never be ruled out of a Chinese military intervention in Hong Kong if Beijing perceives the West to be over-active in the entrepot state.
Thus, Hong Kong could degenerate into a flashpoint state in the ASEAN region. It could be a bone of ferocious contention between the West and China. Given that US-China relations are not at their best, the possibility of military tensions in South East Asia between the foremost military, economic and political heavyweights of the world cannot be ruled out. However, restraint and foresight on the part of all concerned could avert developments of perilous import.