Hong Kong’s Poisoned Chalice

In chats about Hong Kong and the mainland, we always reached a consensus: if you want to develop you can go to the United States or back to the mainland, but there is no future in Hong Kong.  In recent years, the decline has happened with shocking speed. At handover in 1997, per capita GDP was twice Macao’s. Hong Kong’s GDP was 18 percent of China’s then; in 2013 it was three percent. Now, Macau’s is three times Hong Kong’s. In 1997, neither Beijing, Shanghai nor Guangzhou had GDPs approaching Hong Kong’s; now all are higher, as are Shenzhen’s and Tianjin’s.1

Demonstrators breaking into Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Chambers

The Good Old Days

Under British rule,  Hong Kong’s public had no say in political appointment and the Governor, who was Commander in Chief of military forces, could do anything short of sentencing people to death. Wiretaps didn’t require warrants; when police denied demonstration permits the courts could only review their paperwork; the legislature was a rubber stamp and there was no political opposition. Under Communist “oppression”, the courts review police decisions for reasonableness, citizens elect their legislators, the government has a political opposition, and the Chief Executive can neither declare martial law nor call out the military. Some things haven’t changed, however: it is still illegal in Hong Kong to join the Communist Party of China.

Missing Elements

Some aspects of contemporary Hong Kong missing from our media’s coverage:

  1. As long as it controlled access to China’s gigantic market, Hong Kong flourished. Capitalism, Democracy, and British Justice had nothing to do with it.
  2. Had Hong Kong joined the mainland in 1997 its prosperity would have been assured.
  3. Before the handover the UK introduced electoral democracy, the poisoned chalice that ended the Colony’s hopes for development.
  4. When the Asian Financial Crisis crashed real estate markets Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa created the ‘85,000 Housing Development Project’ to build affordable homes and diversify the economy by building the Hong Kong Science Park and increasing investment in commerce, education, industry and tourism.
  5. Once the affordable housing units came onto the market the bourgeoisie opposed them because they affected real estate prices, the legislation voted with the bourgeoisie and the youth demonstrated in their support. Tung was vilified and thrown out.
  6. After they killed 224 people in the post-Tiananmen riots in 1989 French Intelligence, Britain’s MI6 and the CIA smuggled 600 agents out through Hong Kong to Western countries. The PRC arrested three Hong Kong-based activists but released them after intervention by the Hong Kong government.
  7. When China joined the WTO in 2001, trade bypassed Hong Kong, stagnation set in and the city’s best and brightest joined Taiwanese seeking a better life on the mainland.
  8. Hong Kong’s profile now resembles Britain’s: 23% of its children live in poverty– compared to the mainland’s 1%.
  9. Home ownership–a marriage prerequisite–fell from 53% in 2010 to 49% in 2018– compared to 78% on the mainland.
  10. Hong Kong trails only London and New York for the largest concentration of individuals worth more than $30 million.
  11. Hong Kong’s ten richest citizens account for 35% of its GDP.
  12. Hong Kong’s household GINI is 0.539, Singapore’s is 0.458 in 2016, America’s is 0.394 and the UK’s is 0.358. (0=equality).
  13. Rent for an HK ‘coffin apartment’ is HK$2,000/mo.


Hong Kong’s woes illustrate capitalism’s familiar  shortcomings: wealth accumulation has far outstripped the development of productive forces and the vast majority of citizens have no way to share its benefits. A large rentier class owns most of the city’s social resources, the same contradiction–between capital accumulation and society’s desire to live a dignified life–we confront in the US.

What do Hongkongers really need? Economic growth, employment opportunities and better housing, tasks the mainland has already accomplished. If they want a bright future Hong Kongers need to work together harder and bring their education standards up to the mainland’s. Their youth must develop a clear understanding of their true friends and real enemies.

The Protest Puzzle

The protests are interesting for several reasons:

  • They’re directed at Beijing, which does even have an extradition treaty with HK and has never requested one.
  • They’re timed (probably by the NED) to coincide with the anniversary of the handover.
  • They ignore the financial institutions and capitalists blocking legislative change.
  • Western media cover them sympathetically, almost hysterically, while ignoring real protests in Gaza, Honduras, Sudan, Yemen, and Brazil.
  • British media–which have persecuted, tortured, and incarcerated Julian Assange for non-political crimes–now urge his extradition, while trembling lest the PRC use ‘non-political crimes to prosecute critics.’
  • The UK Government has refused to sell crowd control gear to Hong Kong police.
  • Imagine how the NYPD would respond if one of their officers were assaulted like this:
  •  Or if demonstrators behaved like this: https://youtu.be/qFgE2Ardv64
  • Hong Kong police reported firing 150 tear gas canisters, several rounds of rubber bullets and 20 beanbags during the one day of serious violence, causing 72 injuries, none of which required hospitalization, and making 30 arrests.
  • French police, by contrast, fired 19,000 rubber bullets last year and 5,400 shock grenades, caused 850 serious injuries and 30 mutilations, dozens of facial and skull fractures. Twelve French demonstrators lost one eye. Including those injured by tear gas, water cannon and truncheons, the number would approach six figures, a level of repression not seen since the German Occupation.
  • French police arrested 9,000 on March 24 alone, half of whom received prison sentences–and that was before orders were issued to arrest protesters even faster.
  • The almost total Western media silence about French figures has been matched with relentless propaganda presenting their demonstrators as destructive hooligans.

The NED: Doing God’s Work

Beijing’s completion of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Hong Kong-Mainland high-speed railway, along with the relentless decline of voter support for ‘democracy’ parties at every Hong Kong election are speeding the West’s ungraceful retreat from an Asia that never invited them. The extradition law will further erode Western influence and accelerate the political and economic integration of Hong Kong. Here are some elements of dis-integration:

  • There are 37,000 NGOs registered in Hong Kong (compared to 13,000 in Shanghai, which is four times larger), many of which receive funding from the US and Europe.
  • In March 1997 the NED sent their first survey mission to Hong Kong to assess the political environment and identify possibilities for NED programming in the territory.
  • Fourteen NED survey missions had visited Hong Kong by 2012 to assess the political environment and identify possibilities for NED programming.
  • In 2004, the NED found little interest among university students in activism,2 “Many critics still lament the low level of interest and activism by university students in Hong Kong”.
  • Between 1995 – 2013, HKHRM received more than $1.9 million in funds from the NED.
  • Through its NDI and SC branches, NED has had close relations with other groups in Hong Kong. SC has given $540,000 to the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions in the past seven years.
  • The current protest’s messaging and its associated groups raise questions about how organic the movement is:

  • Some of the groups receive significant, direct funding from the NED.
  • The Canadian and British foreign ministries have publicly thrown their weight behind the protests.
  • The protesters appeal to Western audiences, using signs in English and the hashtag “AntiExtraditionLaw”.
  • The group below is waving colonial Hong Kong flags while accusing China of colonialism.

  • Keeping Hong Kong from China has been an American priority for decades. One former CIA agent even admitted, “Hong Kong was our listening post.”
  • Seventy international NGOs have endorsed an open letter urging the bill to be killed, but signed only by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor (HKHRM)–all US fronts.
  • In 2018, NED granted $155,000 to SC and $200,000 to NDI for work in Hong Kong, and $90,000 to HKHRM, which is not itself a branch of NED but a partner in Hong Kong.
  • The coalition cited by Hong Kong media, including the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Free Press, lists as organizers of the demonstrations the Civil Human Rights Front. That organization’s website lists the NED-funded HKHRM, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Civic Party, the Labour Party, and the Democratic Party as members of the coalition.
  • Since Beijing made a big deal of NED’s influence in the 2014 Occupy protests, it is inconceivable that the current protest organizers are unaware of NED’s ties to its members. One NED official, Louisa Greve, told the Voice of America that “activists know the risks of working with NED partners” in Hong Kong.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Congress has “no choice but to reassess whether Hong Kong is ‘sufficiently autonomous’ under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework.”
  • The State Department says the extradition bill could “could undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and negatively impact the territory’s long-standing protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic values.”
  • Martin Lee, founder of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, a member organization of the Civil Human Rights Front, met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who expressed support for the protests
  • Why are the protests supported by a foreign power currently carrying out a coup in Venezuela, threatening the DPRK and trying to start a war with Iran?

The Actual Amendment

The amendment would “allow Hong Kong to surrender fugitives on a case-by-case basis to jurisdictions that do not have long-term rendition agreements with the city,” among them mainland China and Taiwan. It was introduced when authorities found that a Hong Kong man wanted for murdering his pregnant girlfriend could not be returned to Taiwan to stand trial. Under current law, criminals from other parts of China can escape charges by fleeing to Hong Kong (imagine if Louisiana, under its Napoleonic code, refused to extradite fugitives from Texas or California for crimes committed in those states). Under the amendment the following crimes will be extraditable:

  • Aiding, abetting, counseling or procuring suicide.
  • Maliciously wounding; maiming; inflicting grievous or actual bodily harm; assault occasioning actual bodily harm; threats to kill; intentional or reckless endangering of life whether by means of a weapon, a dangerous substance or otherwise; offences relating to unlawful wounding or injuring.
  • Offences of a sexual nature including rape; sexual assault; indecent assault; unlawful sexual acts on children; statutory sexual offences.
  • Gross indecency with a child, a mental defective or an unconscious person.
  • Kidnapping; abduction; false imprisonment; unlawful confinement; dealing or trafficking in slaves or other persons; taking a hostage.
  • Criminal intimidation.
  • Offences against the law relating to dangerous drugs including narcotics, psychotropic substances, precursors and essential chemicals used in the illegal manufacture of narcotics and psychotropic substances; offences relating to the proceeds of drug trafficking.
  • Obtaining property or pecuniary advantage by deception; theft; robbery; burglary (including breaking and entering); embezzlement; blackmail; extortion; unlawful handling or receiving of property; false accounting; any other offence in respect of property or fiscal matters involving fraud; any offence against the law relating to unlawful deprivation of property.
  • Offences against bankruptcy law or insolvency law.
  • Offences against the law relating to companies including offences committed by officers, directors and promoters.
  • Offences relating to securities and futures trading.
  • Offences relating to counterfeiting; offences against the law relating to forgery or uttering what is forged.
  • Offences against the law relating to protection of intellectual property, copyrights, patents or trademarks.
  • Offences relating to bribery, corruption, secret commissions and breach of trust.
  • Perjury and subornation of perjury.
  • Offences relating to the perversion or obstruction of the course of justice.
  • Arson; criminal damage or mischief including mischief in relation to computer data.
  • Offences against the law relating to firearms.
  • Offences against the law relating to explosives.
  • Offences relating to environmental pollution or protection of public health.
  • Mutiny or any mutinous act committed on board a vessel at sea.
  • Piracy involving ships or aircraft.
  • Unlawful seizure or exercise of control of an aircraft or other means of transportation.
  • Genocide or direct and public incitement to commit genocide.
  • Facilitating or permitting the escape of a person from custody.
  • Offences against the law relating to the control of exportation or importation of goods of any type, or the international transfer of funds.
  • Smuggling; import and export of prohibited items, including historical and archaeological items.
  • Immigration offences including fraudulent acquisition or use of a passport or visa.
  • Arranging or facilitating for financial gain, the illegal entry of persons into a jurisdiction.
  • Offences relating to gambling or lotteries.
  • Offences relating to the unlawful termination of pregnancy.
  • Stealing, abandoning, exposing or unlawfully detaining a child; any other offences involving the exploitation of children.
  • Offences relating to prostitution and premises kept for the purposes of prostitution.
  • Offences involving the unlawful use of computers.
  • Offences relating to fiscal matters, taxes or duties.
  • Offences relating to unlawful escape from custody; mutiny in prison.
  • Bigamy.
  • Offences relating to women and girls.
  • Offences against the law relating to false or misleading trade descriptions.
  • Offences relating to the possession or laundering of proceeds obtained from the commission of any offence described in this Schedule.
  • Impeding the arrest or prosecution of a person who has or is believed to have committed an offence described in this Schedule.
  • Offences for which persons may be surrendered under multilateral international conventions; offences created as a result of decisions of international organizations.
  • Conspiracy to commit fraud or to defraud.
  • Conspiracy to commit, or any type of association to commit, any offence described in this Schedule.
  • Aiding, abetting, counseling or procuring the commission of, inciting, being an accessory before or after the fact to, or attempting to commit an offence described in, this Schedule.

The current spate of US-initiated wars, threats of wars, embargoes, threats of embargoes, coups, threats of coups, heavy censorship and massive propaganda, while impressive in its breadth, seems to lack strategic coherence, tactical effectiveness, credibility or effectiveness.

ABOVE: A picture circulated by CNN confirms the out of control violence of the protesters. Even CNN seems a bit confused about the Hong Kong process. The caption reads: A policeman looks at the damage and debris after protesters stormed the legislature hours before in Hong Kong early on July 2, 2019. This image was part of a subtly tendentious dispatch filed by James Griffiths on 2 July 2019.

Examine it, if you can, and see if you can spot the biases now that you read our remedial report.

  • First published at Greanville Post.
    1. See Hong Kong, Please Forget Me. []
    Godfree Roberts, Ed.D. Education & Geopolitics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1973), currently resides in Chiang Mai, Thailand. His expertise covers many areas, from history, politics and economics of Asian countries, chiefly China, to questions relating to technology and even retirement in Thailand, a topic of special interests for many would-be Western expats interested in relocating to places where a modest income can still assure a decent standard of living and medical care. Read other articles by Godfree.