The Covid-19 pandemic has diverted attention away from many of the intractable problems around the world, exacerbated by the necessary limits on social gathering. This has taken the struggle for social justice from the streets to the internet. This can be seen an opportune time for authoritarian leaders to curb the rights of their citizens. President Xi Jinping of China has used this opportunity to try to extinguish the democratic impulse of the citizens of Hong Kong. This cynical political tactic is being met with strong opposition as witnessed by the immediate resistance from the various democratic formations.
This needless tragedy has been in play since March 2019 when the mainland proposed an extradition treaty with the Hong Kong. Images of resistance and the violence of the state were on our screens daily. The extradition bill was postponed but the demands of the citizens for an inquiry into the actions of the security forces have been ignored. Negotiations on the other key demands of the protesters and a commitment to the one nation and two systems have also been ignored. Instead the government of President Xi Jinping has ramped up its nationalist rhetoric and support base and is threatening to unleash its formidable military machine on the unarmed citizens of Hong Kong. One of the more disturbing sights was when the police in November last year laid siege on the protestors at the university. Images of the wanton use of tear gas, batons, terrified protestors and debris of their heavy-handed action was there for all to see. Did these repeated attacks dampen the democratic impulse of the people of Hong Kong? It did not as the local election held soon after delivered a landslide victory for the pro-democracy campaigners.
Given all that has unfolded so far, now it is time for working out a negotiated solution that takes into consideration the democratic needs of the citizens of Hong Kong based on their historically different judicial and political formations and democratic wishes. It will pave the way for a long-lasting solution both for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the people of Hong Kong. What follows are the reasons why.
As outlined above, the people of Hong Kong cannot be bullied into submission. If the Chinese government and its paramount leader wants to have stability in the region, negotiating with the pro-democracy forces would offer a clear-cut solution – anything else would be a recipe of more of the same.
History is a hard task master and sober guide if the demise of the Soviet Union provides us any guide. The Soviet Union went through from being a democracy of workers, peasants and soldiers to an authoritarian state, under the paranoid eye of Stalin. It devoured its own leaders and principles. In doing so it stifled the rights of the working people while paradoxically extolling their virtues. At the same time the state issued political edicts, one after the other supporting the rights of countries and minorities to self-determination; yet in its own backyard, they crushed the democratic and progressive aspirations of the Polish, Hungarian and Czechoslovakian masses. Pro imperialist governments gleefully exploited the situation to tarnish the real achievements of the Soviet Union.
These contradictions and lack of accountability and transparency coupled with the military incursion into Afghanistan weakened the regime and its moribund leadership. The Soviet Union despite its military might collapsed under its own contradictions leading to the triumphalism of neo-liberals everywhere.
China is the new Soviet Union. The economic policies led by the Communist Party of China (CCP) have lifted hundreds of millions of its people out of penury into the realm of the middle class. In doing so, it has projected a bright future for all its inhabitants. In tandem it has increased its military and economic clout internally as well as around the world.
It has done so with a toxic unitary nationalism that does not take account of the cultural, linguistic and religious rights of its diverse people. It has engaged in empire building and has created a totalitarian dictatorship on its own people. Any action by human rights activists and any critical political and cultural activity are deemed anti-Chinese and are brutally supressed. Its bullying action with its own neighbours, Taiwan and Hong Kong is worrying and provides factual political fodder for its opponents in the West. A major military build-up by both the Indian and Chinese armies is taking place simultaneously. President Xi Jinping has emphasised the importance of China’s military standing, by stating that the country’s defence forces need to up their preparedness for armed combat. In this light Hong Kong can be seen as the Achilles heel of China’s authoritarian political, security and economic apparatus.
Like the anti-Soviet rhetoric of yester year the hysteria agenda against China is on full display on certain section of the media and the LNP government down under. A government that has developed a draconian refugee policy is now on the record, welcoming political refugees from China! Whilst one cannot dispute the rights of human rights and labour activists, the Uighur people, Falun Gong, Tibetan political activists from seeking asylum in Australia; the government should also allow genuine refugees fleeing persecution and wars from all parts of the globe and not just single out China because it suits the geo-political aspiration of the American Empire.
This political decadent political praxis of the CCP is eerily reminiscent of the Soviet Union before it declined. The leadership of the Party is increasingly becoming authoritarian. The Chinese leader and the CCP need to learn from the experiences of the collapse in the nineties of the Soviet Union and the ‘socialist camp’.
So, instead of demonising their critics and those forces in Hong Kong who want to preserve their democratic rights as anti-Chinese, the CCP and its leadership need to learn from history. History shows that any short-term success a military solution will be able to achieve in crushing dissent will, like in the last century in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, be futile in the long term. It will only hasten the demise of the CCP. The wisest political step will be to take cognisance of the democratic needs of its citizens and accept and respect their democratic rights.
A negotiated settlement with the democratic forces in Hong Kong will serve the best interests of both China and Hong Kong. For at the end of the day an overwhelming military superiority cannot be sustained in the long term without the consent of the people, the party rules over. The CCP should not repeat the mistakes of the Soviet Union which self-immolated under the weight of its own political hubris.