Hong Kong’s freedom is worth more than a full stomach
Chinese authorities and media have fallen silent. Articles praising pro-Beijing winners were scrapped. Patriotic and anti-US media campaigns failed, as did Carrie Lam. Beijing thinks that human rights are just food, clothing and a roof over people’s head. But the people of Hong Kong also love freedom.
Rome (AsiaNews) – The avalanche of votes in favour of pan-Democrats in Hong Kong’s district elections three days ago stunned Chinese authorities. For hours, Chinese state media silently watched the pan-Democrats' victory unfold, not knowing what to say.
Some reports suggest that party newspapers had to trash articles and editorials prepared the day before praising the victory of pro-government candidates.
After reporting that elections were held (without indicating the results), mainland media published the usual array of fake news, stressing the need to stop the violence that has undermined Hong Kong’s order and welfare, as well as blaming again the United States and other foreign powers for trying to harm China by manipulating Hong Kong's problems.
In the past few months, the pseudo-patriotic rhetoric and the call to order (Beijing’s) and the reference to the "rule of law" (Beijing style) have permeated the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign against protests and demands by most Hong Kong people.
Whilst young and not so young Hong Kongers have pushed and push for five demands (including universal suffrage, an independent investigation into police violence, and the refusal to have protesters treated as rioters), mainland media have always portrayed Hong Kong youth as hooligans, rapists, vandals, traitors to the homeland, often blaming them for violence perpetrated by police and organised crime groups connected to the latter.
What is striking is the fact that all this mud-slinging had no influence on Hong Kong voters who backed anti-extradition bill and pro-democracy protests and protesters.
Perhaps, in front of this failure, Beijing should review the work of its propaganda office: when one lies, one should do it well, with some connection to the truth; otherwise one is not credible.
Even Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam – who hoped in a landslide victory against young vandals and metro rail and tunnel stoppages in order to restore order and get back to business – had to swallow a bitter pill after voters chose the disorder of young people over police order.
This said, I am not praising the violence by radical groups. It is a fact though that the latter is the by-product of government action, the result of its refusal to talk with protesters, of letting police act with brutality, of deliberately ignoring the five demands that Hong Kong society, including the Catholic Church, wants them to address.
The outcome of these elections – 392 seats out of 452 for pan-Democrats against Beijing’s stooges or confederates – shows that Chinese authorities do not understand Hong Kong.
Perhaps the first reason for this is that Beijing representatives in Hong Kong have failed to explain to their bosses how things really are, how strong the desire for democracy and freedom is in the territory, choosing instead to send sanitised reports and studies to please Xi Jinping.
It is very likely that heads will roll in the mainland’s Hong Kong Liaison Office, including that of its boss. A crisis centre has already been set up in Shenzhen to monitor the situation in the former British colony. But even this is doomed if Beijing fails to understand a very simple truth: the people of Hong Kong, especially the young, will do anything to have freedom.
Over the decades, Beijing has spread its materialist theory of human rights, whereby people only need food, dress and a roof over their heads. The rest of the world – Italy included – appear to agree with China: in order to be Beijing's friend, they are willing to turn a blind eye on what is happening to the Uyghurs, Tibet, persecuted religious groups, Hong Kong.
Conversely, local district elections have given the people of Hong Kong an opportunity to show that it prefers freedom to a full stomach. For Beijing, this is a humiliating defeat.