The largely grassroots movement that’s organically sprung up in Hong Kong might be mostly comprised of well-intended people, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it has all the hallmarks of a Color Revolution and could very easily be hijacked by foreign forces and their extremist collaborators in order to provoke another Tiananmen Square incident.
One Crisis, Two Stories
Tens — and by some accounts, hundreds — of thousands of Hong Kong residents have recently taken to the streets to protest a proposed law that would allow detainees to be sent to the mainland, which the demonstrators believe is a gross violation of the “one country, two systems” principle upon which their city-state reunited with the People’s Republic in 1997. Beijing believes that the central government has the right to standardize the legal system within its universally recognized borders in order to remove the existing loophole that has hitherto allowed Hong Kong to de-facto function as an anti-state safe haven for political extremists and therefore endanger the security of the country as a whole. The problem is that a sizeable number of Hong Kong residents still experience a sense of “identity separateness” vis-a-vis the People’s Republic whereby they place their city identity above their national one, which is why they don’t interpret the Chief Executive’s proposed move through the prism of national security but instead see it as a supposed infringement of their city-state’s rights under the “one country, two systems” principle.
The municipal government has indefinitely delayed debate on this piece of legislation as a de-escalation measure, but that hasn’t stopped the most zealous protesters from continuing their demonstrations in order to demand that it be withdrawn and that the Chief Executive resign. Some of them have even referenced the 2014 unrest popularly described by the international media as the so-called “Umbrella Revolution“, which has been abused to “justify” an attempted repeat of those events after some black-clad political radicals attacked police officers and started building barricades around the central financial distract, with others even attempting to storm the city council. The authorities had no choice but to respond with tear gas and rubber bullets while simultaneously denying the weaponized fake news rumor that the central government was considering a military intervention in the city-state, which was probably spread in order to scare people into thinking that a 21st-century iteration of the Tiananmen Square incident is imminent.
That’s actually the objective that the most extreme members of these manifestations hope to achieve by duping the well-intentioned and peaceful majority of the protesters through Color Revolution tactics into functioning as “human shields” behind which they can attack the authorities in order to provoke that outcome. The grand strategic significance of this anti-state Color Revolution unrest is to set an example that the mainland’s megacities could emulate before the full-scale integration of the country’s ubiquitous surveillance systems with the “social credit system” makes such a scenario all but impossible. It goes without saying that the US stands to strategically gain the most from this scheme and is assumedly attempting to indirectly guide the ongoing destabilization in the direction of its long-term interests, which is why China warned its rival against interfering in its domestic affairs after Washington issued a provocative statement suggesting that the promulgation of the proposed legislation would lead to the US reconsidering the special legal status that it affords the autonomous region.
Beijing must have long foreseen the eventual necessity of bringing some elements of Hong Kong’s legal system into line with the rest of the country’s standards in order to preempt the above-mentioned scenario of an anti-state city-state from materializing, but it probably thought that the a few decades’ worth of time would allow it to replace the residents’ predominant city identity with a national one like has already occurred all over the rest of the country in regards to historically ingrained regional identities. That plan evidently wasn’t as successful as its masterminds originally predicted as proven by the large-scale protests that have taken place, with it being illogical to accuse every participant of being an “American agent” since the vast majority are peaceful well-intentioned folks who simply don’t understand the security implications of failing to pass the proposed reforms and have instead been manipulated into thinking that its promulgation will spell the end of their special rights.
The Communist Party is in a very sensitive position because it doesn’t often publicly discuss domestic threat scenarios such as the one elaborated upon by the author earlier in this analysis, as it’s thought by some that doing so is an admission of weakness and an invitation to have these vulnerabilities exploited by hostile forces. Nevertheless, that’s already happening as it is, and the lack of a public awareness campaign about the national security merits of this initiative is inadvertently contributing to the ease with which the protests’ organizers are able to fearmonger about the proposed reforms and manipulate many into joining their cause. At the same time, however, officially acknowledging the national security importance of this initiative might feed into the very same fearmongering narrative about the central government allegedly trying to scale back the near-sacred model of “one country, two systems”, which is why the authorities currently find themselves in a very serious dilemma.
China has ample experience dealing with Color Revolution threats and is well aware of the strategic consequences of backing down in the face of this movement, which is why it didn’t flinch during the last round of unrest half a decade ago during 2014’s so-called “Umbrella Revolution”. While some accounts claim that the current demonstrations are the largest-ever since the 1997 reunification and interpret this observation to imply a supposedly convincing degree of legitimacy, that doesn’t take away from the fact that this largely grassroots movement that’s organically sprung up in response to the proposed legislation can very easily be guided in the direction of the US’ grand strategic interests, which is the central authorities’ chief concern. Interestingly, it can’t be forgotten that this instability is occurring just weeks ahead of Trump’s next possible meeting with President Xi at the upcoming G20 Summit in Japan, giving it yet another layer of strategic significance that might factor into the ever-changing calculus of the New Cold War.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.