By Kumar David –
Hong Kong’s riotous protesters declare a Provisional Government; Counter-Revolution Raises its Head in HK
A smart Central Committee Member of the Mongolian Communist Party has warned for months that a colour-revolution in the style of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and its fragments, Georgia and Ukraine is brewing in Hong Kong (HK). The term is also used for the demise of the Soviet-Bloc in 1989-90. The comrade is right, despite my reservation that it is hard to imagine HK’s protesters being so naïve.The proclamation of a Hong Kong Provisional Government’s by the rebels on 4 October settles the matter; it signifies that a pre-planned counter-revolution has begun. Hundreds of extremists publicly pledged allegiance to a Manifesto in big gatherings at public places across the territory. There is internal dissension now, as some see the announcement as premature but this is only a holding tactic. The rebels will advance the HK independence demand after better preparing the ground. Then it will be a fight to the finish; either the PRC will be overthrown or the counter-revolution in the image of a “colour revolution” will be crushed; there is no space in between.
I have reproduced the Hong Kong Provisional Government’s (HK-PG) Manifesto issued by the rebels on 4 October in full in a separate box.
Why do I say the insurgents are naïve and why do I expect all, whether they support or regret the demise of the Soviet-Bloc and whether they support or condemn HK’s rebels, to agree? Because there is not a chance in hell HK-PG will survive; it will be snuffed out. The difference with the USSR is stark. The Soviet-Bloc was on the backfoot, its economy and finances foundering, its technology backward compared to the West, and most important the people hated the regimes. The opposite prevails in China. The economy has been booming for decades, hundreds of millions of people have been pulled out of poverty, technology is advancing albeit unevenly, and many more people in China want to keep the regime than overthrow it.
The HK imbroglio has turned the anger of the Chinese people incendiary. The demand is to crush HK’s declaration of independence and annulment of the One Country Two Systems (OCTS) accord, the Basic Law. The Beijing government will place its own credibility on the line with its people if it allows HK-PG to surface. Lankans can liken this to a Colombo government allowing an Eelam state to emerge in Jaffna town while military and economic power is astronomically skewed in favour of the centre. Beijing’s conundrum is like the plight of a Lankan government overwhelmed by a Sinhala backlash in analogous circumstances. This is not a fanciful analogy except that the scales are a thousand times different.
HK-PG is doomed and its leaders and ministers, if named, will be candidates for incarceration unless they flee HK since their actions will be deemed treasonous. Don’t treat this as Mid-Autumn madness. In a sense it is, but hundreds of HK youth who have been out on the streets rioting every weekend, pledged allegiance to HK-PG in public places and this is going to divide HK society ever more deeply. The numbers that align with HK-PG is only a small fraction of the population (50,000 is less than 1%) but it is large enough to cause massive disruption and hold all society to ransom. In 1971 and in 1989-90 a rebel contingent of equally small proportions did just that in Sri Lanka.
HK-PG has proclaimed itself the government and “dissolved” the existing HK government and verbally asserted its power over the public service. Now it has no option but issue “instructions” to the Hong Kong Police and “expel” the Chinese PLA garrison from “its sovereign territory”. When Police and PLA “mutiny” and “disobey the new government”, it will have to raise its own forces to subdue the “mutineers”. In simple words this depicts the onset of civil war except that it will never become a real war since HK-PG, in military terms, is a zero.
On 5 October the Mass Transit Railway network was closed down due to damage to facilities; since then it functions sporadically. Roads and tunnels are frequently closed, airport operations are disrupted and government offices attacked. Dozens of shopping malls have been trashed, small traders doing business with Mainland tourists set alight and employees of branches of Chinese banks in Hong Kong assaulted. This will be the pattern till the rioters are rounded up. Some democracy movement!
Those who have lived and loved Hong Kong can only plead that Beijing will see HK-PG as a nuisance that can be dealt with by mopping up rioters and without using tanks and troops. The 1988-89 insurrection or terrorist movement (choose your term) in Sri Lanka was armed, did not hesitate to commit a spate of murders and paralysed the government for months, but it did not set fire to shops, destroy public facilities and sabotage transport. The Hong Kong insurrection (it cannot be called a protest movement any longer) is not armed and does not kill its opponents, but things are developing fast and the scale of the insurrection could become larger. It may, but I hope not, fester into sporadic urban civil war. I am not sure whether “insurrection” is too strong a word and whether my fears are excessive; only time will tell.
A critical redline has been crossed; the Hong Kong Government has been “dissolved” and a Provisional Government “has taken office”. If HK-PG becomes at all effective, a state of dual power will come into being. Dual power is a term used to describe the simultaneous existence of two hostile state powers in the same or overlapping territory. (A state of dual power prevailed in the North and East of this country at the time when the LTTE was at its peak). A condition of dual power can end only in the total destruction of one of the contending parties; that’s the lesson of history. It will be the same in HK and the verdict on who will prevail is obvious.
I am certain that if a free and fair referendum is held in HK posing the question “Do you want Hong Kong to separate from China and become an independent country?”, the call for “HK-Eelam” will be rejected by an overwhelming landslide. HK people are no fools, they understand how to survive (75% of water, 90% of food and 25% of electricity is from the Mainland; 80% of banking, finance and investment business – the source of HK’s global status – is China related).
However, the social implications of the insurgency are profound. In the long-run the military side is less significant even if the riots lead to the imposition of emergency and a military crackdown; on the physical side who will prevail is a foregone conclusion. The real challenge is how to overcome the ignorance of the rioters (those trashing property and running amok) and the insurgents (those calling for independence and a separate State). To meet this challenge a sense of history and democratic governance has to be inculcated; the task is ideological. HK’s youth have to learn that beating up those with a different opinion is not democracy if the territory is ever to return to its senses.
None of this will happen through government led indoctrination through the formal education system. The extremists are hysterical and possessed by the “madness of the crowd”, a concept first introduced by Thomas Mackay and developed by Freud to explain how the moral centre of individual consciousness is displaced by participation in horde activity and replaced by “crowd psychology”. There is little doubt that many of Hong Kong’s young people are possessed by mass hysteria. This is not to deny that there are real frustrations and problems but there is something of a collective nature that is more than that. It will take a long, hard and sustained effort by Hong Kong society to work towards a resolution of this appalling psychological impasse which is of greater significance than the breakdown of law and order, perilous though the latter is.