Today’s commentary appearing on the front page of the Chinese Communist Party’s official People’s Daily is one for the history books. This is true on the one hand because it offers one of the strongest and most indignant rebuttals so far on the protests that have rocked Hong Kong since June, and on the other because it is so reminiscent of commentaries we have seen at other important points of political drama in the history of the PRC. [Photo credit: Hong Kong Free Press].
The sentiments are not new. In fact, they are painfully familiar. The protests are cast as predominantly violent and irrational, undoing any legitimate claim to justice, and they have exposed the “cold-blooded hypocrisy” and the moral vacuum of the West and its cries for “freedom,” for “freedom of speech,” and so on. China will not be fooled. It sees clearly the “black hands” behind events in Hong Kong, these “overseas anti-China forces” that wish to foment “color revolution.”
Why painfully familiar? Because here we are plodding toward the tail end of 2019, and yet this sort of rhetoric is still the way China’s leadership chooses to frame complex events like those unfolding in Hong Kong. Drum beats and trumpet blasts and broad-brushing of Western forces, and no attempt at sober assessment of what is actually happening.
This is a Party-state that claims to have benevolent global ambitions, to offer a “China Solution” to issues facing the world – and yet it cannot speak a human language. It cannot admit any subtlety on complex issues. And today, more than 40 years after reform and opening began, it is farther now than it has been at any point in the reform period from having any credible media voice that can stand apart from narrow, nationalistic rhetoric and engage intelligently with the world.
This is a reminder, at the same time, of why Hong Kong voices, messy and inconvenient though they are, have been such a critical window on China. And what if that window closes?
The commentary ends by saying that 1.4 billion Chinese “are united as one barrier.” How do you talk with and engage a barrier?
Our translation of the commentary, attributed to a “commentator from this paper,” follows:
What Do We See Through the Violence?
Commentator from this paper (本报评论员)
August 15, 2019
On the nights of the 13th and the 14th, shockingly violent incidents happened at the Hong Kong International Airport: A portion of the violent radicals taking part in the illegal gathering restrained and abused Fu Guohao, a reporter for the website of the Global Times, and another mainland traveler right out in the open for all to see. We fiercely denounce such displays of violence! We resolutely support the Hong Kong police and judiciary authorities in decisively enforcing the law and bringing the criminals to justice!
In recent days, one instance of violence after another has allowed the world to see the true face of the “peaceful protests” in Hong Kong. Violent attacks, The trashing of the Legislative Council chamber, the surrounding of the Liaison Office, the use of poisonous chemicals and petrol bombs and other dangerous materials to attack police, deliberately smashing private property and destroying public facilities, deliberately defacing public transportation such as subways and airports, harassing and attacking tourists in the airport, even sick people, pregnant women and children . . . . The extreme violent behavior and methods of the protesters has been taken constantly to new levels, fiercely escalating, the level of destructiveness more and more dramatic. But these violent acts trampling on rule of law are glossed over as “peaceful protests.” And on the other side, the Hong Kong police in exercising the law and legitimately preserving order are smeared as a “repressive force.” When true and false are so confused, and black and white turned upside down, how can you not be angry?!
The Hong Kong opposition parties have long had “freedom of speech” and “freedom of expression” on their lips, but the bitter experience of the Global Times Online reporter has shown their true faces: this freedom is only extended to media that share their views, and media that put out different voices unfortunately cannot enjoy this freedom, but if a single word is unacceptable then they are met with violence. Since the storm against the extradition law began, [they have] unreasonably thwarted normal reporting, have “dug into” reporter’s materials online, have beaten journalists with different beliefs, and have even threatened their families . . . .
Extreme opposition parties on the one hand wantonly suppress media with different opinions, creating an atmosphere of “black terror” (黑色恐怖) in the media, and on the other hand advocate breaking the law to seek justice, saying that “only violence can solve the problem,” instigating and bewitching the youth of Hong Kong to take the path of law-breaking and crime, trying with their words to coerce the Hong Kong citizens into their political dispute, worsening tensions in society. In a nutshell, they want to use the name of “freedom of expression” to “oppose China and bring chaos to Hong Kong.”
Not long after the violence at the airport, certain Western politicians and media again came out to on stage. Turning a blind eye to this shocking violence, turning a deaf ear to the victims of physical abuse, they spoke out for the “brave protesters,” reminding us of what it means to be selective. Since the storm against the extradition law began, certain Western politicians and media have opened their eyes wide to the atrocities, applauded the crimes, all the time claiming that the actions of these radical demonstrators “inspired the world,” saying that “their courage should not be ignored.” The world has already seen enough of these performances of theirs and grown accustomed to it. The United States and Britain have experienced large-scale public protests before, and at many points in U.S. history the military and tanks have been deployed to suppress popular demonstrations and riots. In 2011, when there were riots in London, the British government took a strong position, the prime minister [David Cameron] called the riots “completely unacceptable” and said that there was “no legitimate reason” for the violence,” and that “illusory human rights cannot become a roadblock to identifying criminals and trying them.” [NOTE: Cameron spoke of the “twisting and misrepresenting of human rights in a way that has undermined personal responsibility,” but did not refer to “illusory human rights.”] Just listen to these two instances! Faced with the same violence, they show the world what double standards are, and what is cold-blooded hypocrisy.
“O freedom, what crimes are committed in your name!” With things having developed to this point, people should see clearly the true faces of Hong Kong’s extreme protesters and the black hands behind them. This so-called “anti-extradition” is just a name, an excuse, and what they really seek is to oppose China and bring chaos to Hong Kong, to bring about a “color revolution.” But their performances have become the best and most convincing lesson of the opposite. The Chinese people, including our brethren in Hong Kong, are better able to discriminate and remain immune against what these anti-China forces overseas (境外反华势力) are peddling. We warn those black hands hiding behind: The 1.4 billion Chinese are united as one barrier, and they can stop any flood that threatens to destroy our country and our people. Stop dreaming!