Playing Hong Kong Card: An Old Recipe of Western Interference

Turning an internal issue into an international one, under the speech of freedom and democracy, is an old American recipe to generate destabilization of the target.

Hong Kong has become a main topic in the international media, especially since the 2019 protests. Even though other protests have happened before, there is no doubt that since 2019 the rhetoric around China’s issues with Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) has become more redundant and hyperbolic.

Whatever action China does or does not take in Hong Kong is immediately related with the concepts of suppression, domination and anti-democracy. Therefore, the consequent avalanche of western criticism and rejection of Chinese actions, like the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the HKSAR, is based on false, uninformed, and manipulated ideas regarding Chinas sovereignty, role and intentions in Hong Kong.

This situation is nothing occasional. In fact, the “pro-democracy” angle that the media uses to describe Hong Kong protests creates the perfect stage needed by the United States to use Hong Kong as a Trojan horse, for US President Donald Trump’s clear attempt to conveniently frame China as the enemy of the US hegemony and the international values system. Turning an internal issue into an international one, under the speech of freedom and democracy, is an old American recipe to generate destabilization of the target. It serves to deviate attention, gain votes and justify international policies that would have never been approved had it not been for the international system double standard.

As history shows, this recipe has not only been unsuccessful over the medium term but has had catastrophic consequences for the countries involved. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Ukraine are some recent examples. However, China is a totally different type of target, and the consequences of using this same recipe could have regrettable global impacts in the most vulnerable international system that we have seen in decades. To widen the perspective on what is really happening with Hong Kong, and to better understand why China must launch the national security law, is important to clarify certain points.

Hong Kong is part of China

The freedom and secession rhetoric when explaining the Hong Kong issue, leads to think that somehow China has not rightful sovereignty over Hong Kong. Let’s remember that Hong Kong belonging to China has never been a question. Hong Kong was colonialized by the British Empire, as part of the worst moment for the Chinese history, the Opium War (1840-1842). The hundred years of humiliation and defeat are the episode that gave birth to China’s determination of ending western colonialism, reconstructing, reunifying and rejuvenating the Chinese nation and peacefully strengthening the country to the point that no foreign power can invade China ever again.

During the 155 years of British colonialism in Hong Kong, there were no freedoms no democracy in the island. Hong Kong was led by the British governor. There were no elections, no legislative autonomy, and no constitution. It was not until the expiration of the agreements was close, that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher suddenly expressed her worries about the future of the freedoms and democracy that were non existing in the island, as well as the future of the capitalist system. This was a clear British attempt to propose a co-administration of the island so they would not have to leave. Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping was prepared and determined to put an end to this terrible chapter of Chinese history, here is when the “one country, two systems” model was established.

Democracy, special autonomy, legal system, etc. only arrived at Hong Kong in 1997 after China rightfully recovered the sovereignty over the island. In terms of the capitalist system, economic growth, stability, welfare, financial support, they were never better than after 1997. Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability relay almost totally on the support and relationship with the Chinese mainland. One country, two systems is fundamental for the Chinese Central Government, and it has never been endangered by it. On the contrary, to protect this principle, China must safeguard its sovereignty. If the Central Government legislates to protect the security of Hong Kong, it is not an invasion, the island is part of China and the Chinese central government has all the sovereign power over its own territory.

Activists wave the US flags during the anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong, on August 3, 2019.

Some facts about Hong Kong protests

Hong Kong protests have been portrayed around the world as organic pro-democracy expressions of grassroots youth. However, some leaders of the movement like the controversial Jimmy Lai, the protest symbols and slogans, and specially, the US and pro-democracy institutions declarations after the approval of the national security law of HKSAR, prove the protests to be more xenophobic and western funded than organic expressions.

In this point, it is important to clarify that, as expected, the British did not totally leave the island. It was their intention, with the support of the United States to keep presence in Hong Kong so they could undermine China’s sovereignty in the island. Just before 1997, they established a partially elected but mainly pointed government and established and founded several parties. Since then, they had spent millions of dollars funding all kinds of institutions in Hong Kong. As Sara Flounder states “The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions receives US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funding, along with British support. It promotes “pro-democracy, independent unions” throughout China. The HKCTU was established in 1990 to counter and undercut the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions founded in 1948, which is still the largest union organization with 410,000 members”.

These institutions have promoted western, anti-China, anti-communism, and other ideas among people, especially young people that did not even live in the colonial Hong Kong. It is not a surprise then that during the protests British and Hong Kong’s colonial flags were being held, with slogans like “Hong Kong for the Hongkongers” a known xenophobic approach that has been related to many attempts to stop people from Chinese mainland to enter in the island. Also, the American flag is exposed while singing the American anthem and asking Donald Trump “Please liberate Hong Kong and defend our constitution”. As Chief Executive of HKSAR Carrie Lam stated after the extradition bill was canceled, the continuity of the protests at that point, demonstrated that they were promoted as secessionist, anti-China protests. The leaders of the protests did not deny this statement but reaffirmed their intention of incentivizing western countries to intervene and “liberate” Hong Kong.

The international media did not cover the other side of the coin, the common people of Hong Kong asking the activists to stop the mobs and vandalism that had led the city to an economic recession, and expecting for China to restore the stability. After the national security law banned foreign founding of the protests, the US openly admitted having funded 2019 protests, and was forced to freeze $2 million in planned payouts to Hong Kong protests groups. On the other hand, all the groups that were leading the protests decided to close their offices after knowing that they will not receive any more foreign funding. If these groups were functioning only because they had foreign funding, does not this mean that the locals are not as supportive of the cause as the media is portraying them?

The Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is inaugurated in Hong Kong, south China, July 8, 2020. (Photo/Xinhua)

The international conjuncture, who is threatening whom?

As stated before, Hong Kong issue is legitimately an internal affair of China.  So why is China being forced to deliver a national security law over HKSAR? Let us look to what has happened with the US – China relationship lately.

US President Donald Trump has openly decided to declare China the contender of the US and a threat to the international system. Apart from China being militarily encircled by the US, (half of the 800 US overseas military bases surround China), Trump started a trade war with China, he did not only increased tariffs but also slander Huawei and China regarding 5G technology. In 2020 he has been blaming China for the COVID19 and asking China to be held accountable for the pandemic. It does not matter from which perspective is observed, China’s peaceful development, economic freedom, wellbeing, and security are being openly threatened by the US. In the context of the presidential elections, using the China card as smoke screen has become the rule to deviate attention from internal problems.

In this context, and being aware of the traditional war recipe mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is evident that Hong Kong had become Trump’s ace under the sleeve to destabilize China. Allowing internal affair to become an international affair would mean to open the door to the biggest threat to China’s most sacred good: sovereignty. Therefore, legislation of the national security law is the only legitimate way for China to protect the country from the US threat. Only with this law can China warranty an honest, secure, and fundamental social process within Hong Kong. Only in the context of prosperity and stability can the one country two systems formula evolve as it must for the next 27 years.

History has told us that foreign intervention in internal affairs does not come selflessly. It comes as a strategy intended to benefit the hegemonic power. The US is activating what is known as the Thucydides trap, intensifying confrontation with China instead of promoting cooperation. Fortunately for the world China has a very practical foreign policy and does not seek benefit from war. Hong Kong is China’s internal affair and it should not be another focal point of international confrontation.


Lina Luna is a sinologist and internationalist, Lecturer and Researcher at Externado University of Colombia. Her research areas include China’s foreign policy, China-Latin America relationship and emerging economies. She is also the General Secretary of the Colombia-China Friendship Association.