By Wang Wenwen Source:Global Times
Police spray protesters with pepper spray during a demonstration over the killing of George Floyd by a policeman outside Minneapolis Third Police Precinct on May 27 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: AFP
When massive protests broke out in Hong Kong last year, senior US officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for China to respect the rights of protesters-turned rioters and listen to their demands.
Now less than a year has passed, mass protests took place all over the US. Have the US authorities respected the rights of these protesters and listened to their demands?
While they don’t, they are trying to glorify their actions, by smearing China, during the ongoing protests triggered by the tragic death of George Floyd. On Saturday, Pompeo released an accusatory press statement detailing the Communist Party of China (CPC)’s “exploitation” of the protests to “justify its authoritarian denial of basic human dignity.” He also criticized China for crushing the freedom of Chinese people such as “peaceful” protesters in Hong Kong.
But as a reporter who went to Hong Kong three times last year to extensively cover the protests, I would like to tell Pompeo, “If you open your eyes wide, you would see that the contrast could not be starker between the protests in your soil and in Hong Kong.”
While the protests in the US are all about racial discrimination, a deep-rooted problem within the US, those in Hong Kong were apparently commanded, helped or even funded by something or someone big and powerful behind the scenes, given the organization and variety of tactics protesters used and their “full gear”. What was notable was the gross interference by the US-led Western countries which were ideologically driven to find fault with China.
In this sense, the protests in Hong Kong had been exploited by these countries, especially the US, to gain an upper hand in their geostrategic competition with China. Last year, US President Donald Trump considered leveraging Hong Kong protests in trade talks with China. This year, he has taken action to eliminate special treatment for Hong Kong amid China’s national security legislation for Hong Kong, the ultimate target of which is China.
In the US, protesters stand with each other and voice their demand for racial equality. They want their own leaders to address this social woe. While in Hong Kong, protesters held American or UK flags to ask for support. Now they should realize – How could US politicians protect their rights when they erode the rights of their own citizens? If these Hong Kong protesters are not pawns in the China-US competition, what else can they be?
Now comes another stark contrast between US and Hong Kong protests I have observed – the way police and authorities reacted. It didn’t even take days before the US police forces used tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to crack down on protests. Described as non-lethal, some weapons can seriously injure, disable and even kill. Trump is proud of himself saying “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Some US senators even called for bringing in the troops.
On the contrary, the Hong Kong police who bore enormous pressure for being accused of using “excessive force and brutality” actually exercised utmost restraint. During last year’s protests, they warned protesters several times before firing tear gas, resorted to force only when social order was jeopardized and were forced to take out guns only when their lives were threatened. The police repeatedly told protesters that “Only when violence escalates, we upgrade force.” Unfortunately, Hong Kong protesters didn’t listen, and the acclaimed “peaceful” protests always ended up with riots, violence and destruction.
What is also alarming is that under Western media which control the world’s discourse power, rioters in Hong Kong were labeled as “freedom fighters,” and those who ruthlessly set fire to people who held different political views were nothing more than “protesters.” During Hong Kong protests, press freedom was guaranteed, despite Western media and some local media often shielding protesters and hindering law enforcement.
Nonetheless, it was reported that 192 arrests or attacks on journalists by the police in the US took place between May 26 and June 4, a manifestation of what freedom of the press in America has looked like.
By glorifying political naivety and violence of Hong Kong protesters, US politicians like Pompeo are using Hong Kong against China rather than really securing the rights of these protesters. For China, it is a matter of sovereignty, which means the Chinese central government has every right to safeguard its national interests. The smearing of China by Pompeo exactly reflects his incompetence and ignorance as a US secretary of state.