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A movement in decline?

When the Hong Kong movement declines to respond

This opinion piece by Tom Fowdy, originally titled "How the Hong Kong movement fell into decline", was published in CGTN, 18 January 2020 no doubt edited so it would not reveal any facts party authorities wanted kept secret from mainland readers.

As you will soon read, Fowdy refers to "the scale of the protesters' demands and ambitions" - is that perhaps meant to be a reference to THE FIVE DEMANDS? It's quite amazing that he can so boldly claim that the violence of police actons were "persistently and repeatedly exaggerated"! Was he there? Was he blinded by a police projectile? Was he ever arbitrarily arrested by police or beaten by members of the force?

Mr Fowdy does the movement a grave injustice by ignoring reports from reputable sources and organisations, including Amnesty International, United Nations rapporteurs and Human Rights Watch etc (see links below). He immediately starts his piece by referring to "violent protesters", yet it was the sheer scale of initial PEACEFUL protests that drew international media attention to Hong Kong (HK), and also perhaps the media wished to report the REASON why the people of HK had taken to the streets?

Our search of the internet to verify Mr Fowdy's credentials was not particularly intriguing, but we wish to ask how so many academics and others who should know better get things wrong and write material that lends support to the CCP propaganda machine?

Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations analyst and a graduate of Durham and Oxford universities. He writes on topics pertaining to China, the DPRK, Britain, and the U.S. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN [or of WTPOHK!].

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Tom Fowdy says:

In 2019, Hong Kong made headlines for all the wrong reasons. As violent protesters pursued radical unrest and destruction throughout the city, they were given blanket support from the Western mainstream media and U.S. politicians.

Thanks to this support, they scored some small victories. However, given the scale of the protesters' demands and ambitions, they have fundamentally failed to change the status quo in the city and achieve what they set out to achieve.

As 2020 sets in, the movement looks like it is quickly running out of ideas. While unrest and protests are expected throughout the Chinese New Year period, it is nevertheless quite evident that they are losing momentum and also failing to attract the same round-the-clock news cycle, which boosted them the year before.

The pursuit of violence and civil disobedience has not escalated support to the point of stopping the system from functioning, nor has it resulted in response from authorities, which they hoped to provoke. In turn, activists online are now resorting to more and more outlandish conspiracy theories in order to try and reclaim the attention they are now losing, albeit unsuccessfully.

The strategy of the most violent Hong Kong activists comes under what is described as "Jujitsu politics," which is defined as a form of asymmetrical warfare where radical groups act to "provoke governments to crack down on the populace at large and produce domestic blowback which legitimates further violent action," according to Clark McCauley, author of "Jujitsu Politics: Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism." Its goal is to make a given political system lose its legitimacy at large, as well as draw increasing support of foreign powers.

There is substantial evidence to make the claim that they pursued this strategy: Violent activists sought to provoke escalatory responses from the police by deliberately pursuing destructive behavior and then shaping the outcome into narratives of violent "oppression," which was then in turn used to appeal to the Western mainstream media and politicians. Those responsible persistently and repeatedly exaggerated police actions, whipping up mass hysteria in the hope of fermenting [sic] and sustaining greater unrest against the system. They hoped this would ensure violence escalated to the point Hong Kong would cease to function altogether, giving them the political capital to impose their demands.

In doing this, violent activities peaked through the months of September to November, with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University standoff being the "climax." Since the turn of the New Year, however, their movement has since lost momentum.

How so?

First of all, round-the-clock media coverage of Hong Kong has ended. The news cycle has moved on. It is old news, or incremental at best. Even though there have been some pockets of violence since, these events have not actually gained coverage, even in outlets that gave them support such as the BBC. This has stifled their strategy of claiming police oppression.

Secondly, Washington has also moved on. The Trump administration didn't want the "act" concerning Hong Kong, which congress pushed on him without choice, and therefore has no interest in enforcing it. The Iran crisis has also diverted the agenda. Senators who were relentless in the support of Hong Kong radicals are now tweeting instead about Tehran at large.

It is telling how Trump himself actively supports protests in Iran and even tweets in Persian, but ignores Hong Kong altogether. The U.S. has in effect lost interest in the city and there is no momentum for further action, something the activists who appealed to them did not realize or bargain for – underestimating the opportunism which American politicians operate on.

Thirdly, the governments of other countries beyond the U.S. are not supporting Hong Kong as they hoped or taking any action. The British consulate in fact called the police on violent activists last week, something which provoked calls of betrayal.

In this new environment, activists online have in fact become increasingly paranoid and are now resorting to more and more conspiracy theories, based on increasingly bizarre claims, with suicides in the city being attributed to the police without any evidence whatsoever. It is a desperate call for attention, but the media can't report completely baseless claims.

In this case, the Hong Kong movement is losing pace and momentum, the world is losing interest. The same exaggerated claims of police oppression, with no deaths whatsoever, can only be stretched so far. The status quo is in fact comfortable and secure. Never has the movement looked any less likely or feasible in achieving their demands than at this point. They may be aiming to spur disruption and unrest in the near future, but a flicker of an ember does not change the trajectory of a dying flame.

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So Mr Fowdy claims that under his "Jujitsu" analysis, HK protesters have "persistently and repeatedly exaggerated police actions" in an attempt to manipulate public opinion, media and politicians.

May we humbly ask where is the analysis of either the HK police actions or its statements over the period of social unrest? Where is the similar analysis of the HK government's modus operandi throughout this time?

We would humbly present just a few matters that are of grave concern to the people of HK whether they are pro-democracy freedom fighters or not. These are matters that reverberate internationally as we see how policing has evolved in Thailand, the United States, Britain, Myanmar, and Russia - where ever there is civil unrest, and for whatever reason:

  1. The Yuen Long MTR incident of 21 July 2019 that resulted in a significant number of people being injured; complaints about police inaction; the tardy subsequent police investigation; that some victims and first responders caught up in the incident were later charged by police; intimidation and blocking of journalists' investigations of the incident.

  2. The many, many calls for a thorough independent investigation into police use of force etc; the only attempt to have an investigation by foreign experts failed because they had no power to sequester information; the existing police complaint and inquiry mechanisms have been proven ineffective; the Chief Executive continues to side with the HKPF ignoring the building evidence against the force.

  3. The lack of professionalism in the HKPF; officers beating people they have detained; carrying out arbitrary searches and arrests; officers' misuse and over-use of the defensive weapons they carry (e.g. pepper spray, tear gas); officers breaking HKPF operational guidelines.

  4. Unjustified and unreliable prosecutions based on political persecution, fabricated evidence, outright lies, and disrespect of citizen's fundamental human rights.

As we study Mr Fowdy's dismissal of the HK protest movement, the main problem of note is that he fails from the outset to consider whether there has ever been any merit or justification whatsoever in what sparked the initial protests. While he might argue that the protester's themselves kept the unrest going, Mr Fowdy doesn't understand the fluid and dynamic drive of the movement that spanned different age groups, different interest groups, and different political factions. As a foreigner, does the British Mr Fowdy truly understand and appreciate the cultural nuances and attitudes, the language of both Hongkongers and mainland Chinese?

Since his piece was published in January 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic and changing global geopolitics has further impacted what the HK movement can do, and what it chooses to do. As most readers will know, since CCP foist its wide-reaching National Security Law (NSL) in HK in the middle of 2020, like it or not everything changed. And, if things in HK were truly as "comfortable and secure" as Mr Fowdy suggests, why was there such a strong need for CCP to impose that draconian and wide-reaching security law?

This is not the place to analyse how or why the political climate in HK has changed - we have other blogs for that (see below).

How Mr Fowdy could suggest that HK's pro-democracy movement is "a dying flame" clearly plays into the CCP narrative. Social media alone would prove Mr Fowdy is myopic in his views. Further, events in the last 18 months run counter to a raft of Mr Fowdy's assertions that now more clearly than ever turn out to be whimsical predictions.

In the absence of a legitimate HK government - one elected with the proper mandate of HK people via universal suffrage - exiled freedom fighters have already set up a charter organisation to continue their struggle (see our blog - "The new Hong Kong Charter"). Furthermore, the United Kingdom is not alone in recognising that the Chinese Government has reneged on its international legal obligations under the Joint Declaration.

What is, is. What was, was. What causes "disruption and unrest" and who promulgates it is worthy of study. But, there is no "trajectory" here, Mr Fowdy, except the one of your making, and it's very much off course!

Jeremiah B.

P.S. WTPOHK will continue its challenge of false narratives!

Here is a list of UNITED NATIONS reports of concern in the form of letters sent to China's central government, all of which have been ignored by authorities:

There has been no reply from China to the UN letters above!!

Here are a few links to matters of Policing in HK prepared by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other agencies:

  • Hong Kong: Police Shouldn't Use Excessive Force (June 2019)

  • Hong Kong: Evidence of police violence against protesters verified (June 2019)

  • Did Hong Kong police abuse protesters? What Videos Show (June 2019)

  • Hong Kong Police 'Tortured' and Beat Protesters, Amnesty Says (September 2019)

  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Condemn Systemic Violations of Fundamental Freedoms in Hong Kong & Police Violence (November 2019)

  • Surgeon presents evidence of Hong Kong Police violations against medical workers to British Parliament and Calls for International Inquiry (December 2019)

  • Hong Kong: Lack of accountability for police violence could fuel unrest (March 2020)

  • Hong Kong Repression's True Cost (February 2021)

Please read some of our other blogs on matters of TRUTH:

  • The Truth is out there

  • Truth unmasked! (part 1 of 2)

  • Truth unmasked! (part 2 of 2)

  • Denying the truth does not change the facts: Cai Xia (part 1)

  • Truth beyind question, truth denied

  • Speak to truth and reconciliation

  • CCP tell the COVID-19 truth : or pay the price!

  • UN human right to the truth

ANOTHER VIRUS IN HONG KONG: Under the control of CCP, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, continues giving blind support to the Hong Kong Police Force who act without either effective restraint, transparency or accountability.

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