Hong Kong teeters on the edge of a mass slaughter
While Americans are focusing on two horrible mass shootings in our country, the situation in Hong Kong is getting downright scary. The people there have been officially warned that troops will fire upon them, via a video posted to the official social media account of the People’s Liberation Army portraying PLA troops shooting at rioters.
YouTube screen grab.
Sunday, Hong Kong police fired tear gas at protestors, as the New York Times reports:
Thousands of antigovernment demonstrators in Hong Kong kicked off the second of three straight days of large-scale civil disobedience on Sunday, as riot police again fired tear gas to disperse protest crowds.
The demonstrations on Sunday came a day after violent street clashes erupted between protesters and riot police officers, resulting in more than 20 arrests.
What makes this scary is the planned general strike for Monday, that it is hoped will shut down the city. The New York Post editorial board fears for a massacre:
After eight weeks of huge Hong Kong street protests against Beijing’s rule, the People’s Republic is massing police and soldiers just across the border. Message: If the protesters don’t quit, a bloodbath is coming.
Beijing has also started denouncing the protests as the work of American provocateurs. That’s so the regime can paint its Tiananmen Square-style crackdown as a battle against “foreign influence,” not a smashing of Chinese people who decided all on their own that they’d rather be free.
President Xi realizes that the one thing that can unite the fractious Chinese people, who have many things to complain about, given the corruption that is a way of life there, the absolutist rule they face, and now the tanking economy, is anti-foreign agitation. China has deep, legitimate grievances over they way it suffered at the hands of foreign governments, starting with the deliberate supply of opium in the 18th century by first British, and then other Western powers (including American “China traders”). Not only was mass addiction fostered, a successful war was fought tobe able to continue and expand that narcotics trade.
Prior to the mass opium addiction, China was in the driver’s seat when it came to trade, running trade surpluses so vast that Britain experienced a monetary crisis owing to the shipment of silver to China to pay for all the Chinese goods that Western consumers demanded – from tea and porcelain to wallpaper and silk – and could not obtain from non-Chinese sources. The Qianlong Emperor wrote a famous letter to King George III stating (among many other things):
…our Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific abundance and lacks no product within its own borders. There was therefore no need to import the manufactures of outside barbarians in exchange for our own produce. But as the tea, silk and porcelain which the Celestial Empire produces, are absolute necessities to European nations and to yourselves, we have permitted, as a signal mark of favour, that foreign hongs [merchant firms] should be established at Canton, so that your wants might be supplied and your country thus participate in our beneficence.
The arrogance of the emperor was not solidly founded, for Western nations had superior weapons – and used them. All Chinese know this history and regard their decline and fall to military, economic, and social chaos at the hands of the West as a crime. Appeals to nationalism have deep resonance.
I am not saying that bloody repression and blaming the West is inevitable, but it is an option for Xi, one that would address domestic issues for him. But it would also come at a heavy price, for China’s efforts to target and wait out President Trump, hoping for his defeat in 2020, depend on maintaining and expanding ties with the advanced nations of the West (and Japan and South Korea). Exploiting such a division would be difficult if Hong Kongers are slaughtered. And China – and various politically influential people in China – makes a lot of money and is able to enjoy access to personal financial flexibility through Hong Kong’s special status. Hong Kong's importance is far greater than the htree percent or so of China's GDP that it accounts for.
I have my fingers crossed that there will be no mass slaughter tomorrow, or ever, in Hong Kong. But I would not bet a lot of money on it.