18 August 2019
A protester stands by his lonesome behind a barricade. Young people like him are fighting for their future, not the overthrow of the regime in Beijing. Photo: AFP
A protester stands by his lonesome behind a barricade. Young people like him are fighting for their future, not the overthrow of the regime in Beijing. Photo: AFP

Color or no color, it’s not a revolution

China is harping on the characterization of the Hong Kong protests by the western media as a “color revolution” to prove its point that the movement is aimed at fomenting the overthrow of the regime in Beijing.

Really? How about a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment for democracy?

The problem is that Beijing has already decided that the protests, which it considers illegal, are a direct threat to national security.

Vice Premier Wang Yang has said so in so many words but Chen Zho’er, head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, is even more direct and detailed.

Chen compared the protests to uprisings that toppled unpopular regimes from Tunisia to Libya and Ukraine by virtue of their western labels after the international media christened the ongoing democracy campaign “Umbrella Revolution”.

“They all have the same nice-sounding names — Rose Revolution, Tulip Revolution, Velvet Revolution, Jasmine Revolution, Sunflower Revolution and so forth,” Chen said.

“There’s little difference. Basically, they have all been executed according to the playbook of the intelligence organ of a certain country.”

That country, Chen said, is the United States but he did not offer any evidence.

It’s unfortunate that Beijing should be trivializing a historic movement. If anything, it shows its lack of understanding of the real — and only issue — at hand: genuine democracy.

Beijing should revisit the source of the protesters’ demands before it spreads the notion that the democracy movement is a threat to national security or the Communist Party.

For one thing, the central government refuses to admit it failed to deliver on its promises under “one country, two systems”.

Yet, the crux of the problem is really an old issue — that Beijing does not want real political power for Hong Kong.

It has decided to curb its democratic development by tightening its election process to ensure whoever is in charge is a loyalist who will toe the line.

The students that have been at the forefront of the democracy protests these past two weeks want to hold Beijing to its word about promised universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election.

They’re not talking about the overthrow of the regime but an orderly devolution of political power from the central government to allow Hong Kong’s continued growth and prosperity as a free and open society.

China appears more focused on enforcing compliance with its wishes than honoring its commitments to Hong Kong and its international obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the basis for the return of sovereignty from Britain.

As result, social conflict is widening in Hong Kong, exacerbating political instability and economic uncertainty.

The democracy movement, for instance, is a generational issue pitting older people who have benefited from the heady days of economic success on both sides of the border and the younger generation who are experiencing political and socio-economic turmoil.

It is a quiet and divisive upheaval that is beyond the narrow concept of a “color revolution”.       

These young people are fighting for their future, not gambling it away by risking conflict with China. They will be the last people to call for a revolt. This is not Tiananmen 1989.

– Contact at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

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