Fear is not always irrational
A recent media image that remains strong in my mind is the sight of hundreds of anxious Afghans clinging to a U.S. airplane as it taxied away before leaving Kabul airport. So many people keenly seeking a flight out of their city besieged by advancing Taliban forces were left disappointed, unable to gain a passage to safety or a new life outside Afghanistan.
Pictured below are a few of the many that did manage to get out with assistance from hastily organised evacuation flights arranged by a range of nations in concert.
Hong Kong (HK), like Afghanistan, is not a happy place. It too is wracked by fear, so what can we learn by comparing the desperation of these two peoples? We have to ask what FEAR, real or irrational, could drive so many citizens of a nation to flee their homeland, to flee the advancing Taliban forces...to seek the refuge and citizenship of some other land? Why are people leaving HK? What fear would drive people towards such sacrifice, such uncertainty, to the unknown, to change? What has stoked these fears?
The lesson of history
CCP are a pack of authoritarian tyrants and scoundrels. If you upset CCP, they're bound to respond. They think of it as "Picking quarrels", a law broadly defined by authorities, but it has been so loosely defined as to catch activists and dissenters for all manner of transgressions.
HKers have fresh in their minds what happened to the local booksellers who apparently upset mainland authorities by selling books that detailed the private lives and corruption of party officials. The "Causeway Bay Booksellers" were variously kidnapped or ensnared: one, Lam Wing-kee later describing his capture, detention and mistreatment that had lasted eight months.
HKers, many of whom themselves fled the mainland for refuge in HK, or who are descendents of mainlanders, also remember stories of life under CCP during the Cultural Revolution. Reports indicate that there were waves of illegal emigration from the mainland in 1957, 1962, 1972, 1979.
Above: Four "freedom swimmers" are led away by Police at Tai Po Kau (May 1971) in HK for questioning. (Photo: Chu Ming-hoi SCMP)
So, do the Taliban have a bad track record? Well, it's claimed they are evil for forcing young girls to become suicide bombers. During its 1996–2001 rule in Afghanistan, the Taliban was considered notorious internationally for its misogyny and violence against women. The Taliban narrative of Afghan history is as muddied and distinctive as the CCP version of Chinese history. Seemingly unlike the pro-democracy protesters in HK, the Taliban are not a united bunch.
2. A leopard doesn't change its spots
After the 2021 Taliban seize of power, Afghan researcher and political analyst Irfan Yar is on record saying that the Taliban have changed "drastically" due to globalisation and the experience they have gained.
"When they came to power initially they were just students from the madrasahs, they knew nothing, but within the last 20 or 24 years, they got involved in politics," he said, adding that gradually they learnt how to negotiate and cooperate with international allies.
Perhaps what Yar is referring to without any specifics could be collaboration with CCP/China and Pakistan?
Though many international experts aren't buying the claim, the Taliban say they've changed. (NPR) and that their old 1996 gameplay 'script' is no longer in use.
So has the CCP changed its ways, or is it likely to in the not too distant future? Well there has been speculation that China's central government will one day collapse, and there is also just as much speculation about what could or will trigger that. What seems certain is that CCP is a paper tiger challenging the world order, and that for too long individuals, nations and businesses have kowtowed to its threats, and to its coercive, bullying tactics.
A better question to ask is "Has change in China been good and healthy for its people?" Well, with Xi Jinping at the nation's helm he is probably the one to watch. Especially after his 2018 power grab President Xi has many critics, though they are not likely to be too vocal inside China. Ms. Cai Xia, a former communist and part of the class of offspring of senior CCP leaders known as “princelings,” has stated on record that more than 40 years of U.S. trade and economic engagement with China has failed to produce a more benign system or a responsible global power.
3. When you're already down, the only way is up!
There's no doubt that the financial cost to the U.S. of the war in Afghanistan was not sustainable. But what of the human cost of the war?
The civilian population for a long time was trapped between the armed opposition on the one hand and the international and Afghan forces on the other.
The conflict was being fought out right in among the civilian population, so obviously they suffered direct consequences of that including, crossfire, airstrikes, suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices. Isn't that enough to instil fear?
But then there are the indirect consequences. The fighting deprived civilians of basic services such as health, because medics couldn’t get into remote areas and people couldn’t get to the towns where the medics were. Pregnant women often spent days trying to get to a hospital because there were no health facilities nearby. Many were still travelling when labour started and a number died, along with their unborn children, because they couldn’t reach help in time.
The human cost of the war steadily increased during the years of conflict. To say that people have lost hope seems a pathetically inadequate summation of the situation.
And in HK people have lost hope too.
BBC Have Hong Kong's youth lost hope in the future? (April 2017)
Daily Mail The tiny flats fueling a revolution: How Hong Kong's well-educated youth are furious the city's Beijing-backed tycoons get rich as they live in coffin-sized rooms - meaning they have NOTHING to lose (August 2019)
The Conversation Hong Kong protesters don’t identify as Chinese amid anger at inequality – survey suggests (September 2019)
Apple Daily: Hong Kong falls to 49th place on Economist Intelligence Unit’s livability index
HK is a place that has lost its soul thanks to its puppet Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who kowtows to the CCP in Beijing, who disrespects ordinary citizens and electors, and has failed to address a raft of social and humanitarian issues under her governance. Freedoms are being eroded, the pre-existing justice system has been undermined, and draconian laws have been imposed to instill fear and turn the city into a police state. Professionals like teachers and medical staff are hampered in their work.
4. Dictatorial, vengeful forces
It's clear to many that in the case of both the Taliban AND the CCP we can expect there to be a mismatch between what they say and promise on the one hand, and the realities of what they do on the other.
We have only to consider as an example the strong but hollow words of Xi Jinping spoken at the UN (September 2021) ... perhaps these words were intended for his mainland audience? ... that "China has never and will never invade or bully others, or seek hegemony".
How does CCP explain these situations: 1) China being taken to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) over the disputed island territory in the South China Sea 2) Repeated fighter jet incursions into Taiwan airspace 3) Threats to attack Australia, and imposition of trade sanctions 4) military clash with India 5) Wolf Warrior Diplomacy ?
Similarly, though the Taliban said they would not seek retribution, evidence has soon come to light that they are continuing to renege on their word. Like I say above - the leopard doesn't change its spots!
Reuters : The Taliban vowed no revenge. One Afghan family tells a different story
Human Rights Watch : Afghanistan: Mounting Taliban Revenge Killings
Western Journal : Report: Taliban Have Begun the Process of Executing People with US Connections
In HK meanwhile pro-Beijing hawks have pushed for more arrests and harsher punishment of pro-democracy freedom fighters, of organisers and supporters, whether peaceful or not. Some HK legislators even called for retrospective prosecutions in which people would be charged for historical protest activity made illegal by the passing of the new National Security Law in the city. The HK judiciary has been under attack and under pressure for not issuing sentences deemed hard enough. Any fairness in the judicial system has gone out the window!
A prominent pro-democracy lawmaker is stabbed and his attacker is found guilty and sentenced to three months in prison (October 2020)
A pro-establishment, pro-CCP lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu was stabbed in the chest at an election campaign event amid the social unrest of 2019. An unemployed HK man jailed for nine years. (September 2021)
Harsh sentences are a worry, and no doubt have lead to some people fleeing the HK to avoid potential prosecution. Such is the concern, that some people have even tried to flee HK by boat to evade authorities, or left the city under other special arrangements. Some have sought asylum, others have become refugees.
No one wants to be a political prisoner or a prisoner of conscience?
5. For personal health there's no denying how we feel
It is often said that 'what we fear we attract'. I can't offer definitive lessons on the concept of visualisation, positive thinking, or the power of the mind.
Whether our fear is rational or not, I do think that so long as we have feelings we have to address them if we are to remain healthy. We have to trust our own emotions.
HK is like a pressure cooker - without a relief valve it is just waiting to blow up! All HKers have to find their own personal relief valve if they are to remain healthy living in HK - the alternative is to emigrate.
The aim is to live in the moment NOW, with a deep FEELING of unconditional LOVE and PEACE, then you are on a natural healing path of good health for yourself and all.
HK and Afghanistan are sickening places. If only there were benign governments there who acted with compassion and love for the people they represent! If only those governments acted out of care and concern rather than rabid fundamentalism, and any personal desire for sustained wealth and power.
If only the governments there inspired trust, hope and enthusiasm then maybe you and I would feel and think differently about the current situation for the people of these places. If their governments acted on the will of the people in a scientific, democratic and just manner the health and well being of all would be so much better.
Hey, since 2019 and the arrival of covid the world has changed. There has been a paradigm shift! If you are in government and you don't make the health and wellbeing of your people and the planet we all live on your number one priority, you quite simply should get out and leave the job to people who really care.
Fall of Afghanistan: Crew describes apocalyptic scene from final flights out of Kabul
(3 September, 2021 NZ Herald)
A Journey Through Kabul on the Day of the Fall
(29 August, 2021 The New York Times)
Incriminating report reveals Beijing’s ‘intent to destroy’ Uighur minority (news.com.au)
'Picking quarrels and provoking trouble': How China's catch-all crime muzzles dissent (Asia News Day)
Returned Hong Kong Bookseller Recounts Eight-Month Detention in China (Time)
Missing Hong Kong bookseller 'in Chinese detention' (BBC)
Forgotten stories of the great escape to Hong Kong across the Shenzhen border (SCMP)
Reunited at last: The friends who escaped China's Cultural Revolution (BBC)
Cracks appear in Xi Jinping's control over the Chinese Communist Party (Times of India)
Chinese regime used U.S. to strengthen neo-totalitarianism, former Communist Party insider says (Washington Post)
Shifting narratives: How Carrie Lam’s response to Hong Kong’s protest movement evolved over a year (HK Free Press)
Taliban threat for 108 Afghans who helped ADF and Australian agencies (Nine News)
The exiles and the inmates: The heart-wrenching hand dealt to Hong Kong's democracy activists (CNN)
The Top 9 False Promises China Made in Joining The World Trade Organisation (Innovation Files)
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CCP says one thing and does another, presenting a leader who spins a narrative beyond belief!