Hong Kong’s democracy protests have grown larger over the past few weeks, leading to a confrontation in the streets last night, as reported by Reuters:
Hong Kong democracy protesters defied volleys of tear gas and police baton charges to stand firm in the centre of the global financial hub on Monday, one of the biggest political challenges for China since the Tiananmen Square crackdown 25 years ago.
The Communist government in Beijing made clear it would not tolerate dissent, and warned against any foreign interference as thousands of protesters massed for a fourth night in the free-wheeling, capitalist city of more than 7 million people.
“Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying defiantly told a news briefing in Beijing.
The unrest, the worst in Hong Kong since China resumed its rule over the former British colony in 1997, sent white clouds of gas wafting among some of the world’s most valuable office towers and shopping malls before riot police suddenly withdrew around lunchtime on Monday.
Tens of thousands of mostly student protesters are demanding full democracy and have called on the city’s leader Leung Chun-ying to step down.
The protesters have been referring to themselves as “Occupy Central,” although unlike the brief and unhappy “Occupy Wall Street” movement in the United States, these kids want less government and more freedom. The protesters have developed a habit of carrying umbrellas, which provide protection from the sun, rain, and pepper spray, so the movement has also been dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution.”
Organizers claim they’ve been able to put up to 80,000 people on the streets, their numbers bolstered by what Reuters describes as “tech-savvy students who have grown up with freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China.” The original cause of the protests was Beijing’s effort to control which candidates would appear on Hong Kong ballots – transforming the elections into a mere theatrical simulation of democracy – but it seems to have grown well beyond that. And since October 1 is a Chinese holiday, the liveliest demonstrations, and perhaps the most brutal crackdowns, are yet to come. Things have already gotten pretty rough, as International Business Times reports 41 injuries and 78 arrests.
Which puts China in a sticky situation, because Hong Kong’s financial sector is a delicate high-performance engine. Apprehension about political unrest could spook the markets, although Reuters notes that aside from banks closing down some branches in the area affected by the protests, the financial sector “more or less took the weekend’s unrest in their stride.” Tourism is down and travel alerts have been posted, however, and if things get uglier – perhaps including more sympathy strikes in support of the protesters – market operations could be adversely affected. The financial sector also won’t be pleased if China responds to the unrest by stripping Hong Kong of its special freedoms.
For a bit of comic relief, we turn to certain elements of the American Left, which are bizarrely asserting that Hong Kong students confronted by armed police are raising their hands in a gesture of solidarity with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, rather than following the time-honored practice of raising your hands to show that you’re not carrying weapons. No, seriously, there really is a push from American media liberals to link the Hong Kong protests to Ferguson. It’s not just one writer or outlet, although it seems to have started with a remarkable bit of idiot-bait at Vox.com, which published an article actually admitting there was no evidence to support its conclusions about halfway through. These click-bait articles are deliberately constructed on the theory that a large number of people will never read further than the opening paragraphs – it’s become an art form.
Actually, booster rockets have already been fired to achieve the second stage of stupidity, in which liberals duped by the unsubstantiated claims of other liberals have to backpedal and explain what they really meant when they said the Occupy Central folks were tipping their umbrellas to Ferguson. Even articles including quotes from Hong Kong protesters who say they’ve never heard of Ferguson have a way of looping back around to baseless speculation that “hands up, don’t shoot” was somehow burned into the human consciousness by the Ferguson riots, with such force that even if you think you’re not saluting Michael Brown cultists by putting up your paws, you actually kinda are.
Such is the power and obsessive focus of America’s left-wing meme smiths, who ride the Tides of Narrative to such heights that not only are the actual details of the shooting in Ferguson completely irrelevant, the meme is now a singularity that sucks in totally unrelated events from the other side of the world. The Left wants to make this event, and their political interpretation of it, into a major historical event – a kind of intellectual hyperlink in which every other story somehow flows back to the politics of Ferguson, which in turn have only a tenuous connection to the tragic event itself. Twitchy has an entertaining collection of sarcastic Tweets asserting that protesters from previous years and decades must have been psychically anticipating Ferguson by putting their hands up. I wouldn’t be surprised if young people in the years ahead really do come to believe that many other “hands up” protests from the late Aughts and early Teens were linked to Ferguson, as they lose track of which event happened first.
It’s all deeply unfair to the protesters of Hong Kong, who are up against a real oppressor, as well as the people of Ferguson, who are not well-served by the continuing unrest nourished by political profiteers for their own benefit. (National media largely lost interest in Ferguson after its political usefulness to Democrats expired, but there are still some ugly protests in the streets, with the latest riot sparked by police chief Thomas Jackson’s unwise decision to join a group of protesters who were calling for his resignation. None of this bodes well for the long-term job and investment future of that troubled town.) Actually, it does Americans a disservice to obfuscate what’s happening in the streets of Hong Kong, and why. American youth should listen to the eloquent testimony to democracy being offered in those streets.
Update: An amazing photo captures the scale of these Hong Kong protests like no other I’ve seen…