America will heal itself. Can undemocratic Hong Kong heal?

June 04, 2020 07:53
Photo:  Reuters

It was inevitable that China, its censored media, and Beijing loyalists here would mock the United States by comparing the protests there with last year’s unrest here. Some are even salivating for the police to shoot rioters dead so they can claim Hong Kong police were restrained during last year’s protests.

I admit some of those who took to US streets are rioters from extremist groups. They hijacked largely peaceful protests to loot, torch police stations, and even a church. Did Hong Kong protesters loot or torch police cars? No. They vandalized MTR stations and China-linked businesses.

Yet Beijing’s subservient Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her underlings label all protesters here as rioters. Even people singing freedom songs in shopping malls are rioters. Children in school uniform are arrested for peacefully protesting.

Protests, some extremely violent, have spread to numerous US cities. Many police officers, including those guarding the White House, have been injured. The protests outside the White House were at one time so violent President Donald Trump had to take shelter.

Yet the police responded with restraint. Teargas, rubber bullets and pepper balls but no water cannons or live fire. Imagine how Hong Kong’s heavy-handed police would respond if violent protests occurred outside Government House.

Even comparing apples with oranges cannot describe the difference between the US and Hong Kong protests. One is about racism against African-Americans, the other about fighting for democracy. Both are noble causes but the way the US police is handling the protests and the way our police handled last year’s protests are like night and day.

After a video surfaced of a white policeman suffocating a black man, George Floyd, to death by pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck, he was charged with murder. Three other policemen who stood by were fired. So were two Atlanta policemen who used excessive force against protesters. How many Hong Kong policemen have been fired for excessive force during last year’s protests? None.

Minnesota’s governor apologized after police briefly arrested a CNN crew covering the protests. Did our police apologize for manhandling the media? No. A Michigan sheriff marched with protesters against police brutality. Police in many US cities knelt with heads bowed in solidarity with protesters. Richmond’s police chief apologized after officers fired teargas at peaceful protesters. Can you imagine all that happening here? No.

New York’s mayor Bill de Blasio called for an investigation after two police cars rammed into a crowd of protesters. This is what he said: “There is no situation where a police vehicle should drive into a crowd of protesters or New Yorkers of any kind. It is dangerous, it is unacceptable”.

Last November a Hong Kong motorcycle cop rammed into a crowd of protesters. Did Lam or the police condemn him? No. After public pressure, the policeman was suspended from frontline duties. We have heard nothing more.

Trump described Floyd’s death as a tragedy. Lam made a great show of sorrow over the death of a cleaner struck by a brick during last year’s protests. Did she express sorrow over the mysterious death of student Chow Tsz-lok during a police clearance operation? No.

Beijing loyalists repeatedly said if the Hong Kong protests had happened in the US, police would have shot dead the protesters. Sorry to disappoint, but that hasn’t happened. In fact, policemen are being shot at – four were injured in St Louis – not the other way round. Two Louisville policemen opened fire, killing a man, after claiming they were being shot at. Louisville’s mayor fired the police chief and put the officers on administrative leave.

Yet China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhou Lijian claimed US police shot protesters. He criticized the use of the National Guard. Let me enlighten him. The National Guard consists of volunteer citizen soldiers. It’s not the military. State governors rejected Trump’s call to forcefully use the National Guard. Despite Trump’s threat to deploy the military, he has not ordered soldiers onto the streets to quell the unrest.

Today is the 31st anniversary of the June 4 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. Let me remind Zhou it was his country that used the military to kill peaceful protesters. China has yet to account for this tragedy. Instead, it has erased the tragedy by brainwashing its people.

Zhou urged the US to face its racial problems, accusing the police of brutality. The US agonizes over its racial problems. Floyd’s death will lead to further soul-searching. China dealt with its racism towards Xinjiang Muslims by locking up a million Uighurs. That is real brutality.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, mocked the US by tweeting “I can’t breathe”, Floyd’s last words. She can use Twitter but censorship means her countrymen cannot. Here’s my reply to her: Your countrymen can’t breathe freedom.

America always confronts its problems with openness. Its democracy helps it heal. China confronts problems with oppression, as it is now doing in Hong Kong. I am sure Hua and Zhou won’t commemorate the 31st anniversary of the June 4 incident. I will do it on their behalf by lighting a candle.

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A Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London.