Posts Tagged ‘citizens self organization’

This text and image were posted by me on the 4 of October 2014 on Flickr. It had 25.487 views since then. I republish it now 5 years later on my blog to mark the violent events as they evolve and infold now in Hong Kong and compare them to the demonstrations for local democracy and safeguard of the ‘rule of law’. I have not altered anything in that text of 2014, just kept my direct reactions to the movement of that time. It was only a few years after I had been working for therein part of the year in Hong Kong, teaching and doing research as a senior fellow of the City University of Hong Kong. The city itself was one of my main subjects at that time… by applying research principles I had developed for studying the change of through time of the mood of a city, ‘literary psycho-geography’ , to the city-state of Hong Kong. I also was teaching this subject to the mostly very young students at the new media department of that university and so had gained some knowledge of their state of mind. The continuous housing crisis in this city has as one result that most students still lived with their parents. I found themeless independent than young European students… so the greater has been my surprise at the great participation of young people, many students, in this movement and the social and political abilities they developed in such a short time.



…that was and will remain the basic recipe of the People’s Republic of China, since the rise of Deng XiaoPing in the mid seventies did put China on a two rail track: combining market economy with state socialism. It was Deng who ceremonially struck the deal with Margaret Thatcher in 1984 to be given back in 1997 what had grown over a century into a colonial crown jewel: Hong Kong. (1) Another ‘double dealing’ was agreed upon then: ‘one country two systems’, promising Hong Kong population something – in the future – their British overlords had not been able to provide them with in all the years they could have done so: ‘universal suffrage’.

It comes as no surprise that a state – formally – unified under a one party system failed to supply the citizens of Hong Kong was an undiluted suffrage system for Hong Kong. Hence the 2017 proposed election system for a city-adminstration-leader, from appointed candidates by the PRC only.

What the Brits left behind in 1997, though, was a juridical system that – compared to that of the PRC – was reasonably independent, one could say that the successful ‘freedom of trade’ of Hong Kong was very much dependent on such a ‘rule of law’ system, as capitalist big business needs the assurance of a set of rules independent from a single party power government to prosper.

‘Rule of law’ did not only benefit big business, but also functioned as social leveller for the less affluent citizens of Hong Kong, because a successful economy is only hampered by too blatant social unequally in its direct realm.

After a week or so of large demonstrations by Hong Kong citizens against the paternalistic system of voting for a new chief-city-administrator in 2017, the voice of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Peoples Republic of China has uttered a commentary, which should be read as ‘a decree’: “Firmly safeguard the rule of law in Hong Kong.” The article launches a warning to he peaceful HK demonstrators:

“These acts will undoubtedly end up with the rule of law violated, severely disrupted social orders, huge economic losses and possible casualties.”

Reference: english.peopledaily.com.cn/n/2014/1004/c90785-8790857.html

‘Possible casualties’ is a way of saying that a hard hand will come down on demonstrators who dare to go any further. The article is cleverly formulated by schooled party ideologues and so it turns the main argument of HK democracy demonstrators against them, as it is not the Chinese state that violates rule of law promise of universal suffrage made to Hong Kong, it is the Hong Kong demonstrators who are violating it.

The defamation campaign in local newspapers (readers comments often anonymous) (2) and the pro China counter-demonstrations and delivered bruisings to young students (3), was the overture for the Chinese Opera that will be put on stage in the coming days. The demonstrators are declared a minority and thus the ground is prepared to get them out of the way:

“A democratic society should respect the opinions of the minorities, but it doesn’t mean those minorities have the right to resort to illegal means.”

There are 7 million Hong Kong inhabitants, and even when there were one million protesters out in the streets, the far way rulers in Beijing can declare them ‘a minority’.

It seems an easy game for the Chinese rulers, as the state is always ‘legal’ and using force against ‘illegal actions’ is what a state is supposed to do. This is formulated in the opening of the Peoples Daily article:

“Democracy and the rule of law are interdependent, and a democracy without the rule of law will only bring havoc.”

There is of course a deep oddity in the demands of the movement for democracy in Hong Kong, as its main aim was the right to choose their own leader. One can distinguish between a social movement and its own inner dynamics from the formal demands it makes. The show of ability for self-organisation of the people that have massed the streets of Hong Kong these last days, is an achievement in itself and does even overshadow the somewhat meek demand to be able to vote for someone who will then have a mandate to rule you.

This is a simplified argument, but necessary to get some understanding of what is won and may be lost in the Occupy Central movement. A real choice of a new ‘leader/administrator’ for Hong Kong, necessitates a platform or party with a set of principles and practical proposals and the figure head to be voted for is supposed to attempt to put these into practice.

Anybody living in a parliamentary democracy knows the limits and shortcomings of this social construction. Less so – it seems – the demonstrators in Hong Kong. In a way their self-organisation was a denial of their own demand to be able to choose a leader of their own choice. They could well think about leading society themselves, be it not in formal governance representation, but in their ability to manifest themselves in many ways as active citizens, that have learned how to halt or limit the exercise of what they feel as ‘unjust authority’. Voting once in so and so many years is after all not good enough to realise democracy.

Even when in a media sense in the head-lines the Occupy Central movements will loose, they have won something in the bylines yet to be written in times to come: the practice of peaceful self-organisation.


(1) The top part of the tableau-picture is: “Reconstruction of the important meeting between Deng Xiaoping and Margaret Thatcher in Beijing on 24 September 1984 with talks about the future of Hong Kong – at the visitors platform of the Diwang Dasha in Shenzhen Date 2.07.2007”

The bottom part is a picture that appeared in the South China Morning Post published in Hong Kong and afterward in many more newspapers, it is students many wearing black t-shirts making the symbolic sign of crossing arms, showing both that they do not carry any weapons and disapproval of government action. That sign was used in previous demonstrations against the introduction of ‘patriotic history’ lessons PRC style in Hong Kong schools. The yellow ribbon refers with its colour yellow to earlier grand Hong Kong pro democracy demonstrations against government measures that were deemed by demonstrators to be authoritarian, like massive demonstration did use yellow umbrellas , like a famous one ion October 10 2007.

The yellow ribbons also as an avatar for those who are supporting the movement but could not be at a demonstration, tied to fences and worn as a bracelet. More details on symbolism used at this web-page…

(2) 1/10/2014 my readers comment in the South Cina Morning Post after reading several defamation readers comments:

“PROTEST & DEFAMATION social movements when they grow tend to produce defamation campaigns. Reader’s reaction, often posted under pseudonym, are used for it, like in the SCMP of 1/10/14 by “David777” citing “revolution observer Tony Cartalucci” about the long ties with the USA governent of Occupy Central leaders: “Recent events in Hong Kong follow a pattern of US-engineered regime change operations, where naive students and other youth are encouraged to be the public face of protests, which start out preaching non-violence only to be very soon shunted aside by far more radical elements who provide the real muscle behind the regime change.” Egypt, Syria and the Ukraine are mentioned adding suggestively: “the Maidan protests soon gave way to violent, armed groups sporting neo-nazi tattoos and radical ideologies.” David777 ends: “SCMP = USA.” Such rethorics make one remember the Cold War with both camps excelling in constructing, inventing and disclosing conspiracies, thus denying existence of any genuine form of protest. From USA McCarthism to KGB unveiling of Yankee subversion. RUFMORD (character assasination)in German. Also the PRC has a long tradition in this field. Many have suffered or paid with their life. One needs not to be versed in details of the mass-defamation campaigns during the heigh days of the Cultural Revolution in China to know, how violent and murderous such campaigns can get. It went to the level that children would accuse their own teachers and parents.”

The South China Morning Post reader “David777” quotes an article dated 30//9/2014 from a Canadian web-site of the organisation called Global Research, with an opening paragraph reading:

“Behind the so-called “Occupy Central” protests, which masquerade as a “pro-democracy” movement seeking “universal suffrage” and “full democracy,” is a deep and insidious network of foreign financial, political, and media support. Prominent among them is the US State Department and its National Endowment for Democracy (NED) as well as NED’s subsidiary, the National Democratic Institute (NDI).”

This Canadian based organisation is well known for its curious pro-party-communist-state and pro-post-party-communist-party-state analysis (how to summarise that in a non-biased way in one sentence), also being a welcome guests to certain outlets of such states, like the Russian television station ‘Russia Today’ that is a voice and commentary strictly within the Putin party line. It is not the first time I have come across the special views promulgated by this organisation, founded by Michel Chossudovsky… I will try to refine the background on this later, for the moment here is a Wikipedia on the founder of the organisation Michel Chossudovsky:

(3) 3/10/2014 The Guardian: “Violent clashes break out in Hong Kong after counter-protesters storm sit-in
About 1,000 people opposed to pro-democracy movement fight 100 demonstrators after Leung Chun-ying’s talks offer”

The Huffington Post has a series of photographs showing the confrontation in Mong Kok:

My commentary on that day send to HK friends:

“NO SURPRISE the warming up was going on for days with a defamation campaign in the press (through readers responses to the news)… and a megalopolis as Hong Kong is also home to a myriad of thugs and maffiosi…, the knuckle sandwich has been on the Hong Kong menu for over a century… this combines with the cells of the Chinese Communist Party an organisation deeply entrenched in the former Crown Colony… once outlawed by the Brits, ever since even more effective as a semi-underground, not formal and open organisation. When a movement like Occupy Central loses a bit of momentum, it is the right moment for these groups to move in… Also Mong Kok part of the mainland area of HK, Kowloon, is a very different district from the area with mainly offices on Hong Kong Island, especially Admirality… an encampment in these streets does not seem a good idea… I did live not far from Mong Kok and I did not understand this choice for any fixed position action… Well the activists will learn their lesson the hard way… The move of opening talks… was to be expected… and as the demands have been limited to one issue… even when that issue is not dealt with properly in the talks that are supposed to be upcoming (and who decides who will be there speaking with the authorities for whom… the whole issue of a popular mandate is always tricky)… the non-involvement of police in such a situation is the most classic of all situation… with the schizophrenia of activists who justly claim freedom of demonstration and refute police intervention…until the moments that a third force attacks them… the answer – organising your own order-troops – is also problematic, as soon order troops tend to take over power within any activist loose grouping… these are the normal dynamics of large social movements… with a Hong Kong social relation flavour.”

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