Believing in Ghosts in Hong Kong

In an earlier piece, I proposed that the dominant narrative concerning China in a small number of former colonising countries (usually known as ‘the West’) is like believing in ghosts. What is the narrative? It is the pure fancy that the Communist Party of China is a ‘secretive’ and ‘paranoid’ outfit, which is terribly afraid of its own people whom it monitors all the time, and is scheming for world domination. Nothing new here, since the same was believed concerning the Soviet Union.

How is this like believing in ghosts? If you believe in ghosts, then you can fit all sorts of odd things into your narrative. It might be a weird dream, a creak in the corner, a door closing by itself, a misplaced set of keys, and so on. All of these and more become part of your belief, confirming what is clearly false. And if you run out of a few twisted facts, you can simply make them up.

In short, if you believe that the CPC is an ‘authoritarian’ bunch with ‘evil intent’, then there are spooks everywhere. Boo!

In that earlier piece, I gave a number of examples, from Xinjiang, through Huawei to the Social Credit System in China. But let me focus here on the recent drug-fuelled violence in Hong Kong, with significant financial and logistical support from outside.

The narrative promoted misleadingly in a few ‘Western’ media outlets and government agencies has had a number of intriguing phases.

Phase 1 of the Ghost Story: The false idea of a ‘groundswell’ of popular opposition to ‘authoritarian’ measures.

This phase turned on deliberate misrepresentation of a modest extradition bill. The bill itself was simply standardising procedures for crimes such as murder (a murder case, with the culprit fleeing to the island of Taiwan, was in fact the immediate trigger for the bill). But through social media and deliberate misinformation, the extradition bill was pumped up into a measure instigated by the ‘authoritarian regime’ in Beijing, so that anyone and everyone in Hong Kong could be whisked away at any moment.

Behind this phase were a couple of assumptions: first, the obvious one is a ‘Western’ liberal paradigm of ‘authoritarianism’, a loose term used for any country that does not fit into the mould of the ‘Western’ bourgeois state.

The second is that Chinese people, and especially those in Hong Kong, are supposedly longing for Western ‘freedoms’, bourgeois ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’ and … Facebook. There were desperate efforts to show that the majority of people in Hong Kong supported the riots, although this flew directly in face of the fact that the majority are resolutely opposed to the riots and see themselves very much as part of China.

However, this assumption that people everywhere hanker after Western ‘freedoms’ is so strong in parts of Western Europe and North America that it underlies what passes as foreign policy in these places. While trying to claim the high moral ground, they use it consistently to intervene in and disrupt the sovereignty of many countries around the world, with the result that such countries are singularly unimpressed.

Curiously, this assumption leads to profoundly misguided policies. As they say in China, ‘seek truth from facts’ (Mao Zedong and especially Deng Xiaoping promoted this one). And what are the facts? In international surveys, Chinese people show between 86 and 90 percent trust in government and public institutions, along with confidence in the direction in which the country is headed. The more educated and younger the respondents, the higher the level of trust and support.

Phase 2 of the Ghost Story: ‘Beijing’ is ‘pulling the strings’.

When it became clear that the one country – two systems policy was being followed strictly, and that the local government in Hong Kong, headed by Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, was standing firm, another piece of the narrative came to the fore: ‘Beijing’ was ‘pulling the strings’ behind the scenes, making sure that the ‘puppet’ leader was doing its bidding.

Now it was time for pure fabrication. Supposedly, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor (to use her full name) had her resignation turned down. This lie was swiftly shown for what it was. This did not stop the ‘pulling strings’ line, which now relied on a standard approach in some places: using gossip, propagated these days through social media. Thus, they promoted by whatever way possible the belief that every step taken by the Hong Kong local government and its police to quell the riots were directed from ‘Beijing’.

A few points are worth noting? First, this approach was taken since the PLA garrison in Hong Kong had not been deployed, and troops from the mainland had not moved in. This turn of events was disappointing to some anti-China ideologues, if not the rioters themselves, so they had to find another line.

Second, it was a classic case of ‘look over there’. There is more than ample evidence of systemic interference in Hong Kong by government agencies from the United States and the UK, at times through NGOs and at times by direct political interference. For some time now, significant funds have flowed to the rioters, as well as logistical support. For example, more than 1000 Hong Kong police officers have been ‘doxed’, with their names, addresses, phone numbers, bank information, and so on, hacked and then spread widely. The result had been significant harassment of their families. Doxing requires a high level of logistical support, along with the assistance of compliant social media outfits like Facebook. How to respond to these embarrassing facts? Cry ‘look over there’ and blame ‘Beijing’.

Third, let us ask what is actually taking place. Since tensions in Hong Kong society had risen to the surface, extensive research for the sake of informing policies began. This research focuses on – to name a few – the problematic educational system in Hong Kong, extremes in poverty and wealth (more than one million people in Hong Kong live in poverty, in a city of seven million), the flawed political structure bequeathed by the UK, in which vested interests have an inordinate say in the Legislative Council and any resolution must have a two-thirds majority. We can expect much more in-depth research and reforms in these and other areas.

Of course, the whole idea of ‘pulling the strings’ is based on the ‘authoritarian’ paradigm, which shows profound ignorance of what the one country – two systems policy entails.

Phase 3 of the Ghost Story: The lie of Hong Kong police ‘brutality’.

With the initial protests fading away as people woke up to themselves, smaller and smaller groups raised the level of violence on the streets. They would typically be dressed in black, wear face masks or gas masks, and take drugs to bring on a type of ‘beserk’ behaviour. In their armoury they had petrol bombs, bamboo spears with knives attached, batons, baseball bats, lethal slingshots that fired large ball-bearings, and some began carrying guns.

They set about vandalising, smashing and burning public transport facilities, banks, shops, police vehicles, the airport and many other facilities. They would beat up any isolated police officer (most recently setting an officer on fire with a Molotov cocktail) or indeed member of public that condemned their acts. As the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions has opposed the violence, service centres of the federation have been vandalised and forced to close for repairs. These service centres provide medical, welfare and other community services to workers, especially its members but also the wider public.

Obviously, none of this was reported in the biased media outlets or indeed statements from some ‘Western’ foreign ministers and even leaders. Instead, they focused on supposed police ‘brutality’. And of course, ‘Beijing’ was behind it all.

The facts are quite different. The Hong Kong police have been exceedingly restrained, using measures only where needed to counter the escalation of violence by a small minority. For example, the anti-face mask law, with stiff penalties for covering one’s face in any public gathering, came in to effect on 5 October, 2019. This is quite late in the piece, follows international practice, and was instigated in response to widespread urging in Hong Kong. Indeed, the police have widespread support in Hong Kong and the mainland, with ‘I support Hong Kong police’ being displayed on many shop windows, on social media and so on.

Phase 4 of the Ghost Story: Supposedly, people on the mainland are ‘denied’ information about Hong Kong.

This one really runs through the whole story, but it was revealed to me by a question while I was in Western Europe: ‘What about Hong Kong, do the people in China know what is going on?’

The assumption behind this question is obvious: Chinese people are supposedly ‘denied’ information about the world and their own country.

Not long after I was asked this question, I returned to China. Not only are the news outlets regularly providing detailed and complete information about Hong Kong, but in everyday conversations people express their deep concern about what is happening. The foreign interference is clear, which they resent, and they are troubled by the overturning of central Chinese values, especially harmony, security and stability. Above all, they are not anti-Kong Kong, but instead feel for what ordinary people in Hong Kong are suffering (in light of the economic downturn in response to the riots) and hope that the situation will be stabilised soon.

I found that here one could gain a sense of the all the facts in relation to what was going on in Hong Kong. Thankfully, this is also the case in the vast majority of countries in the world, which increasingly do not listen to the biased material being pumped out of a few former colonising countries.

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Time for education reform in Hong Kong

Time for some long-term reforms in Hong Kong, especially in terms of education and responsible internet use, journalism and social media.

More immediately, attention is increasingly focusing on what many are describing as a terrorist cell in Hong Kong, numbering no more than a couple of thousand and funded by external (primarily US) forces. They are the ones escalating violence, calling themselves the ‘valiant‘ and following the script of a ‘colour non-revolution’. It would be better to call them the ‘neo-colonials’, since they want Hong Kong to be re-colonised by the UK or the USA.

Obviously, they and their sympathisers are a small minority in Hong Kong.

Further, more and more groups are urging the local government to invoke emergency legislation to ensure a return to the much-cherished Chinese values of stability, security and harmony. The latest is the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions. Thus far, the local government has held off, since the regular police force has been very disciplined, patient and restrained, but it may yet do so – no secret here.

But I am interested in long-term reforms. One concerns changes to rules for responsible journalism and social media use, possibly drawing closer to the mainland’s model (which I strongly support).

Another concerns education, especially since parts of the school curriculum promote the corrosive effects of Western liberalism, leading to profound ignorance concerning Chinese history, culture and Marxism. On this matter, I have copied a piece of investigative journalism from the Global Times.

Hong Kong Education at Fault

Anti-government groups in Hong Kong have called for school strikes as the new semester begins on Monday, and a 12-year-old boy was found to be the youngest protester arrested at recent violent street clashes.

Parents, schoolteachers and experts are calling for deep reflection on what is wrong with the city’s education system.

While black-clad protesters returned to the streets for the 12th straight weekend, opposition forces have come up with new posters instigating university and secondary school students to join the strike from September 2 to September 13 as a way of pressuring the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government into responding to their so-called five demands.

School students are major groups in the anti-extradition bill protests of the past two months and the average age of those protesters appears lower than those who joined the 2014 Occupy Movement.

In some universities and across the city, the Global Times reporters saw that the Lennon Walls, a so-called space for free expression, encouragement and solidarity, are not only filled with messages advocating values, but also curses, nasty words and unimaginable illustrations.

More parents and school teachers are now looking into the question of why more teenagers go out and fight the government in the streets, and some even used violence as a means to protest.

Liberal studies blamed

Police have so far arrested 15 people under 16 years old for violent attacks, holding offensive weapons and unlawful assembly, according to the latest statistics provided by the Hong Kong Police Force at a press conference on Tuesday.

The youngest was 12, which was seen as shocking by the majority of Hongkongers. The protester had taken lethal weapons such as an iron branch when arrested.

Former HKSAR government chief executive Tung Chee-hwa criticized the liberal studies curriculum, introduced as compulsory for all upper secondary schools in July 2009, according to media reports.

Tung blamed the curriculum as one of the reasons for causing youth problems today.

The Global Times reporters talked with parents of secondary and college students over the past month. Some said they were shocked and saddened by problems in Hong Kong’s education system, which they think needed to be changed as soon as possible.

“We read one of the textbooks for liberal studies thoroughly a few years ago which included much anti-mainland content,” a Hong Kong resident told the Global Times on condition of anonymity.

“The textbook is designed to strengthen student’s critical thinking, but without teaching them how to think in a rational and reasonable way.”

The mother of an 11-year-old student told the Global Times that her son was bullied in school as he came from the mainland.

The mother said she worried that bullying would worsen in the new semester as she heard “many teachers from the school participated in anti-government protests.”

The mother said she was disappointed with Hong Kong’s education system and was considering transferring her son back to adjacent Guangdong Province.

There are two types of liberal studies textbooks: One is provided by the publisher and one is decided by schools, and some schools may adopt both publishers’ textbooks and its own teaching materials, a teacher of liberal studies surnamed Wong told the Global Times.

“Because it usually lacks a review mechanism for those textbooks, it depends on the head of the liberal studies department of each school to decide how to teach students,” he said.

If a teacher intends to influence his students with his own political views, it is easy to do through the curriculum, he said.

Although there is no evidence that the rising violence of teenagers amid anti-government protests is directly related to liberal studies, there are reports suggesting that some teachers, with their biased political positions, have seriously affected their students, who are likely to be aggressive on social issues.

The mother of the 11-year-old said the teacher of her son had played so-called documentaries about China’s alleged “tyranny,” which frightened many in the class into tears.

She said her son was isolated by other students when he said students should not get too involved in politics.

In one textbook published by Ming Pao Publications Ltd, there are more than 10 topics about current issues including the National Anthem Law in Hong Kong and the debate about the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.

While those topics lead to open questions, the textbook suggests answers with more negative than positive arguments.

For instance, on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the textbook offers arguments that the mainland would not be a suitable place for Hongkongers due to its lack of freedom of information, food safety and divergences in values.

Tang Fei, a principal at Hong Kong’s Heung To Secondary School (Tseung Kwan O), told the Global Times that when Hong Kong had not been “fully de-colonized” and the entire society including ordinary people and the media have “not established a complete understanding of the country, students can easily have a favorable impression of British colonial times.

Youngsters’ understanding of this period of history, Tang noted, “may be reinforced through “open” liberal studies. Therefore they hardly recognize their national identity, he said.

Teachers the key

Hong Kong student Wang Yiming took Hong Kong’s Diploma of Secondary Education Examination this summer and has been enrolled at Peking University.

Wang told the Global Times that the liberal studies materials he read have indeed helped Hong Kong students understand the mainland, including achievements such as the Belt and Road Initiative as well as economic development and problems such as environmental pollution and income gap.

He believed teachers of general education are the key.

“Teachers’ stance can easily influence us,” Wang said. “If they simply belittle the mainland and focus on bad things in the mainland, students will accept their views unconsciously and have a negative impression of the mainland.”

But only a minority of teachers would do that, Wang said.

The position of faculties who teach general education “should be diversified rather than being taken by politically radical staff for a long time,” Tang said.

Tang said that political subjects involve extensive professional knowledge of politics and law, “which could be beyond the understanding of teenagers.” The political subjects enlighten an untimely interest in politics among young people, “like sexual precocity,” he explained.

The term “national education” has been demonized in Hong Kong, he said. Primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong should teach the Chinese mainland curriculum as students should learn a solid foundation of basic values at schools, Tang believed.

Hong Kong: a failed palace coup by spoilt rich kids

Palace coup: when a disgruntled section of the ruling class attempts to seize power. This assumes that it no longer has power, but in the past used to have it.

I have drawn the term from Ernst Bloch and it describes very well what has been happening in Kong Kong. How so?

Let me begin with a certain Nathan Law, a leader of the protests, riots and violence in Hong Kong, who jetted off to Yale University while urging others to stay on the streets. Less than impressed, many young Chinese in Hong Kong began a series of takes on his brave act.

‘I go to Yale, you go to jail‘ is one.

‘Blockheads boycott lectures, but I must first go to class’ is another, as in the following:

Such elitism is always popular:

But underlying this effort by spoilt rich kids is the reality that Hong Kong’s moneyed elite has lost the power it once had. The cosy deal with British imperial governors, who never allowed street protests let alone any type of parliament, is over. Now there is a parliament, elections and way more free expression. So they are anxious and worried, as this article points out.

And who is out on the streets, waving US and British colonial era flags, calling on the UK to restore the colonial past, if not urging Donald Trump – believe it or not – to ‘liberate’ Hong Kong?

Spoilt rich kids and those they have duped. They are mightily annoyed they will not have the influence once enjoyed by their parents.

Problem is that it is not working, despite the deliberate misinformation being peddled in a small number of former colonial countries (known as the West). Most people in Hong Kong are singularly unimpressed, and as for the rest of the mainland, they can see right through it. As can most people outside the old colonial cabal.

Now, the Hong Kong government is in control and busy charting a way forward, and we can expect a spate of reforms to secure Hong Kong’s future and minimise the corrosive effects of Western liberalism. Meanwhile, it will need to learn to play second fiddle to nearby Shenzhen, which has been designated as a model socialist city to drive the economic powerhouse of the Pearl River delta.

 

 

 

 

476,000 people rally in Hong Kong to say “no” to violence

‘I love Hong Kong’

‘Hong Kong is part of China forever’

‘I support Hong Kong police’

‘The five-star red banner has 1.4 billion defenders’

‘Say “no” to violence’

These and more were slogans used on banners and in chants at a rally of 476,000 people in Hong Kong today (17 August). These regular rallies gain more and more participants on each occasion, indicating that the tide has turned against the relatively small number of masked, black-clad perpretators of the violence (who use home-made spears, petrol bombs, corrosive liquids, lethal slingshots and much more, having thus far injured 5,139 police officers).

A couple of pictures, but you can find the full stories here and here.

Also worthy of note is a rally of 3,000 in Sydney, Australia, also saddened by the violence and supporting Hong Kong as part of China forever.

Finally, if you are into these things, you can find what is trending on Chinese social media (which of course includes Hong Kong). Many have repeated the items with which I began, especially the one by Hong Kong resident and Global Times reporter, Fu Guohao, who had his hands and feet tied and was beaten up at Hong Kong airport. As he was surrounded, he said, ‘I support the Hong Kong police. You can beat me now’. The moment happened to be videoed and went viral.

Truth from facts in regard to Hong Kong: Liu Xiaoming (Chinese ambassador to UK)

‘Seek truth from facts’ was one of Deng Xiaoping’s key positions, and it is well worth remembering in relation to Hong Kong. Below is an articulate, sharp and factual statement from Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to the UK. It has been published in full in the People’s Daily.

Reiterating that the Central Government has enough solutions and enough power within the limits of the Basic Law to quell any unrest, Chinese Ambassador to the U.K., Liu Xiaoming, called for media from home and abroad to report the Hong Kong issue in a just and objective manner during a press conference at the Chinese Embassy on Thursday.

During the conference, Liu provided materials from different sources on the current situation in Hong Kong, with a short video clip showing protesters attack Hong Kong police and the public’s negative opinions towards these acts of violence, which are heavily neglected by the Western media. Following is the full text of the opening remarks given by the Ambassador:

Opening Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the Press Conference at the Chinese Embassy

Chinese Embassy, 15 August 2019

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good morning! Welcome to the Chinese Embassy.

On 3 July, I held a press conference here to answer questions about the amendments to Hong Kong’s extradition laws and to explain China’s position. For more than a month since then, the opposition in Hong Kong and some radical forces have continued to use their opposition to the amendments as an excuse for various types of radical street protests. The violence involved has escalated and the damage to the society has expanded. The movement has gone way beyond free assembly and peaceful protests. It is posing a severe challenge to law and order in Hong Kong, threatening the safety of life and property of the Hong Kong people, undermining the prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and challenging the principled bottom line of “One Country, Two Systems”. As a result, Hong Kong now faces the gravest situation since its handover.

A handful of extreme radicals have been undermining rule of law, social order and “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong. But they have taken cover under the so-called “pro-democracy movement” to hide their real intention and to whitewash their disruptive actions. This “neo-extremism” is both highly deceptive and destructive. The “neo-extremists” stormed the Legislative Council Complex, attacked the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong, assaulted police officers and brought Hong Kong airport to a standstill by illegal assembly. Their moves are severe and violent offences, and already show signs of terrorism. The Central Government of China would never allow a few violent offenders to drag Hong Kong down a dangerous abyss. We would never allow anyone to harm the rule of law and sound development in Hong Kong. We would never allow anyone to undermine “One Country, Two Systems” at any excuse. Should the situation in Hong Kong deteriorate further into unrests uncontrollable for the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), the Central Government would not sit on its hands and watch. We have enough solutions and enough power within the limit of the Basic Law to quell any unrest swiftly.

This is a critical moment for Hong Kong. How will this end? This question is in the mind of all those who care about the future of Hong Kong. It is also hitting headlines and making “cover stories” in British media. Our answer to this question is firm and clear: We hope this will end in an orderly way. In the meantime, we are fully prepared for the worst. So how will this end in an orderly way? I think the following four points are extremely important.

First, the priority now is to support the SAR Government in ending violence and restoring order. I hope that Hong Kong people, especially the young people who have been led astray, would have a clear understanding of the current situation in Hong Kong and cherish the sound development of Hong Kong after the handover, which has not come by easily. I hope they will keep the big picture in mind, rally behind the Chief Executive and the SAR Government, uphold rule of law and justice in Hong Kong, and safeguard national unification as well as Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. Hong Kong people from all walks of life must refuse to be used or coerced by the radical forces. They should say “no” to all violence and lawlessness. They should support the SAR Government in governing Hong Kong in accordance with law, and support the Hong Kong police in strict and rigorous enforcement.

Second, the violent offenders must be brought to justice in accordance with law. It is the basic requirement of the rule of law that all laws must be observed and all offenders must be held accountable. The violent and lawless perpetrators must be brought to justice no matter who they are or however hard they try to whitewash their actions. If anyone in this country questions this point, let me ask them this: Would the UK allow extremists to storm the Palace of Westminster or damage its facilities, and get away with it? Would the UK give permission for attacking police officers with lethal weapons or set fire to the police station without any punishment? Would the UK allow so-called pro-democracy rioters to occupy the airport, obstruct traffic, disturb social order or threaten the safety of people’s life and property? Aren’t all these regarded as crimes in the UK?

Indulging lawlessness is tantamount to blaspheming against justice. Conniving in violence is tantamount to trampling on the rule of law. No country under the rule of law, no responsible government, would sit back and watch as such violence rages on. The Central Government of China firmly supports the SAR Government and Hong Kong police in strict, rigorous and decisive enforcement, so as to bring the offenders to justice as soon as possible and uphold the rule of law and social order in Hong Kong.

Third, foreign forces must stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs. Evidence shows that the situation in Hong Kong would not have deteriorated so much had it not been for the interference and incitement of foreign forces. Some Western politicians and organisations have publicly or covertly given various types of support to the violent radicals, and tried to interfere in the judicial independence of Hong Kong and obstruct Hong Kong police from bringing the violent offenders to justice.

I want to reiterate here that Hong Kong is part of China; no foreign country should interfere in Hong Kong affairs. We urge those foreign forces to respect China’s sovereignty and security, immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and stop conniving in violent offences. They should not misjudge the situation and go down the wrong path. Otherwise, they will “lift the stone only to drop it on their own feet”.

Fourth, the media must shoulder due social responsibilities. Since what happened in Hong Kong, I have to say, the Western media have failed to play a credible role. Instead of reporting the situation in a just and objective manner, they have confused right and wrong, given unbalanced account and misled the public. There has been massive coverage on so-called “right to peaceful protest” but few reports on the violent offences by the extreme radicals such as disruption of social order, attacks on police officers and injuries to bystanders. There has not been a word about the extensive public support for the SAR Government and for restoring law and order in Hong Kong. The lawless and violent offenders who undermine rule of law are whitewashed and named “pro-democracy activists” in media reports. But the legitimate law enforcement measures of the SAR Government and the police to uphold law and order and protect life and property of the people are labeled “repression”.

Such selective reporting and distortion have resulted in the prevalence of wrong information and have misled the public, especially young people in Hong Kong. It is fair to say that Western media have inescapable responsibility for the current situation in Hong Kong!

I sincerely hope that Western media would reflect on the social impact of their reporting, shoulder due social responsibilities, and report the situation in Hong Kong in a just and objective manner. I hope they would stop speaking up for the extreme violent offenders, refrain from pouring oil over the flame in Hong Kong, and foster a sound environment of public opinion so that law and order could be restored in Hong Kong.

“Order fosters prosperity while unrest brews regress.” Given what is happening in Hong Kong, this ancient Chinese teaching cannot be more relevant.

It is in the interests of both China and the international community including the UK to have a prosperous and stable Hong Kong, where over three hundred thousand British citizens live and work, and where three hundred British companies are doing business.

I sincerely hope that people from all walks of life in the UK will have a clear understanding of the big picture, act in the interest of Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and refrain from saying or doing anything that interferes in Hong Kong’s affairs or undermines rule of law in Hong Kong. I am confident that with the support of the Central Government of China and under the leadership of the SAR Government and Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Hong Kong will bring violence to an end and restore law and order at an early date. Hong Kong, the “oriental pearl”, will once again shine brightly.

More reason to support China’s promotion of human rights in Xinjiang

The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China recently released a white paper called ‘Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang‘.

Well worth a read, since it reveals why developing countries, and especially Islamic countries understand and support the very successful measures in Xinjiang to curb the three evils of terrorism, extremism and separatism. The following article from The Global Times explains why:

China on Friday released a white paper on vocational education and training in Xinjiang. For the past two years, the vocational education and training centers have been the focus of debate on Xinjiang affairs. Western countries have been fiercely critical, while developing countries, including Islamic nations, have shown a general understanding and support.

Through a thorough review of the white paper, it is clear why Islamic countries support the facilities, and why they receive more significant approval worldwide amid adverse reports from Western media.

A closer examination of the white paper shows the following reasons why the vocational education and training centers are valuable.

First, they were created based on facts, while providing an objective and powerful response to the situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Terrorism and extremism used to run rampant in Xinjiang. As mentioned in the white paper, there had been thousands of terrorist incidents including bombs, assassinations and poisonings from 1990-2016.

Violent terrorist attacks are spiritually instigated and supported by extremism and too powerful and complicated to be addressed by the general rule of law. As a result, vocational education and training centers serve as the best solution to solving this problem at its root. The facilities are a manifestation of the times.

Second, the centers are nothing like the depictions from Western media that have referred to them as “detention camps” that torture specific ethnic minorities. The centers have become a life school for the trainees and a place where they learn vital knowledge on laws and standard Chinese language while mastering one or two vocational skills. The centers provide possibilities for many impoverished trainees who were infected by extremism and have now reshaped their livelihoods. Undoubtedly, the centers will continue to change the fate of many poor people in Xinjiang.

Third, the centers are managed with care. They provide trainees with ideal conditions and are an improvement for those from impoverished places. Besides, the centers are not “closed learning” facilities. Even though they function as boarding schools, trainees are allowed to go home regularly, request time off, and communicate freely with the outside world.

Fourth, as a key governance measure in Xinjiang in recent years, the centers have achieved more than initially expected. So far, many trainees have already graduated. In doing so, not only have they strengthened their abilities to resist extremism but have also secured employment. In nearly three consecutive years, there has been no violent terrorist attack in Xinjiang, which is mainly due to the vocational education and training centers.

When looking back on recent years, the centers haven’t been crushed by the enormous pressure placed on them by Western opinion, and instead, have become even better. It shows that as long as a cause is based on facts and benefits majority of the people, it can experience continuous development.

The West-dominated discourse targeting the centers is similar to an iron curtain. But progress has been achieved in the communication over the centers. Attacks of the West have not extended beyond public opinion and went pale in the face of transparent progress by the Chinese side. Besides, the US and other Western countries have been unable to convince Islamic nations to join them to oppose the Xinjiang governance. China has gradually gained the initiative.

It’s fair to say China has conducted its most difficult human rights debate with the US and other Western countries in recent years, securing a glorious victory. China won as its efforts in Xinjiang have been pragmatic and based on facts. Proper governance has been implemented for the wellbeing of all ethnic groups in the region, rather than an attempt to win laud from the US and other Western nations. By adhering to this principle and moving forward, China has received more recognition from the international community, while its opponents are destined to become further isolated.

 

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The tide is turning against the masked mob violence in Hong Kong

As the masked mob spreads violence in Hong Kong, the tide is clearly turning against such acts.

Local newspapers recently ran a front page statement, headed ‘Hong Kong has had enough of it‘.

International observers are noticing how the black-clad and masked perpetrators use petrol bombs, rocks, air-guns and others means to attack visitors, reporters, citizens and police. The vast majority of Hong Kong residents want a return to peace and stability.

There are calls to revise the educational curricula, which are still infused with too much Western liberal popaganda, as well as insuring that socialist rule of law prevails.

And we cannot forget the crucial long-term role played by a handful of former colonisers in interfering with Chinese sovereignty. Needless to say, the demands for an end to such violations of sovereignty are perfectly understandable.

Throughout it all, it is noticeable that China will continue on its own path and not be swayed by external pressures. Thus, the ‘one country – two systems’ approach is being rigorously upheld. This applies even to the possible deployment of Hong Kong’s PLA garrison. On this matter, I have copied the article below from The Global Times.

Even if the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong Garrison is deployed to maintain social order in Hong Kong, the “one country, two systems” approach will not be damaged, said a Chinese expert.

The remark was made by Han Dayuan, a member of the Hong Kong Basic Law Committee of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, at a press briefing held by the Information Office of the State Council on Thursday.

Citing the law that governs the PLA Hong Kong Garrison, Han said that the Hong Kong regional government could ask the central government to allow the PLA garrison in Hong Kong to help maintain social order and carry out disaster relief missions when necessary.

Han also cited Article 18 of the Basic Law, which reads: In the event that the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress decides to declare a state of war or, by reason of turmoil within the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region which endangers national unity or security and is beyond the control of the government of the Region, decides that the Region is in a state of emergency, the Central People’s Government may issue an order applying the relevant national laws in the Region.

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress is entitled to judge, decide and declare on a state of emergency, Han stressed, noting that there are strict standards.

Exercising these laws would not mean the failure of “one country, two systems,” because the meaning of ruling Hong Kong by law is to safeguard national sovereignty, Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and Hong Kong residents’ rights and freedom through the rule of law, Han said.

“One country” comes first in “one country, two systems,” and the start point of “one country, two systems” is the unity and dignity of the country, Han said.

Non-political elections

In Engels’s key work, ‘Dell’ Autorità’, which was originally published in Italian in the midst of the struggle with the Anarchists (who were popular in Italy) and their ‘anti-authoritarian’ push. Engels writes: ‘All socialists are agreed that the political state [Stato politico], and with it political authority [l’autorità politica], will disappear [scompariranno] as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions [funzioni pubbliche] will lose their political character [carattere politico]’. But what, exactly, does political character mean?

The answer is simple enough: by political character both Engels and Marx mean the reality of class struggle and its manifestation in the state. Thus, the manifesto observes, immediately after mentioning the political character of public Gewalt absorbed into the state: ‘Political Gewalt, properly so called, is merely the organised Gewalt of one class for oppressing another’. I do not need to reiterate the details of Engels’s work on the state as a separated public power here (emphasis on separated), except to point out that if public Gewalt – with the senses of power, force and even violence – loses its political character, it ceases to be a manifestation and instrument of class struggle and thus coercion. Clearly, public Gewalt is not necessarily separated from society, for it may take other forms.

The formulation may be relatively simple, but the implications are far-reaching. On this matter at least, Marx offers a couple of hints, of which the second is the most interesting.

In his cryptic notes on Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy, Marx refers to what may be called non-political elections. How is this possible? Are not elections inherently political? This is so for those who have been indoctrinated by the Western liberal tradition, in which elections are the manifestation of regulated class conflict within the bourgeois state. So let us see what Marx suggests, all too briefly. He begins by pointing out that the character of an election depends in its ‘economic foundation [ökonomischen Grundlage]’, on the ‘economic interrelations [ökonomischen Zusammenhängen] of the voters’. That is, if economic relations are antagonistic, and if classes have formed and are engaged in class struggle, then elections will be ‘political’. What if this situation does not apply and economic relations are not antagonistic? Then ‘the functions have ceased to be political [die Funktionen aufgehört haben, politisch zu sein]’.

Marx then specifies the sense in which he uses politisch, or, rather, its absence. First, there are ‘no ruling functions [keine Regierungsfunktion]’. I have stressed the sense of rule and reign that are part of the semantic field of Regierung, since ‘government’ or even ‘administration’ (also senses of the word) are too weak and do not capture Marx’s sense. This meaning appears in the second point: ‘the distribution of general functions has become a routine matter [Geschäftssache] which entails no domination [keine Herrschaft]’. By this point, Marx is not speaking about the period of the proletarian dictatorship, but afterwards, when antagonistic contradictions have ceased. Now we come to third point, where he observes: ‘elections have nothing [hat nichts] of today’s political character [politischen Charakter]’. If political character means what pertains to antagonistic economic relations and class conflict, characteristic of the bourgeois state and its electoral system, then without that context, elections will lose, will have nothing of the political character of today – not only in Marx’s context where the bourgeois state was gradually being implemented across Western Europe, but also in those parts of the world today that are influenced by this tradition, either in Europe itself or in some of its former colonies.

Do non-political elections already take place today? Let me offer an example drawn from elections in China. Elections are held more regularly than in bourgeois states, both direct and indirect. Thus,  elections internal to the Communist Party are held at all local branches. In a village, in a small company, in a school – wherever there are three or more party members a branch is formed and elections are held for local posts, especially the local branch secretary. Why three? Only then can you have elections to such a post. In society as a whole, elections are held for the local National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC). These elections are held annually, are direct and include candidates from all nine political parties.

At higher levels – from the provincial to the national – elections are indirect. That is, people are elected from the lower and local bodies, and are subject to assessment as to whether they have the appropriate skills and experience. Thus, the national NPC and CPPCC require significant electoral processes each year. Thousands of representatives from across the country, from all classes, minority nationalities, religious groups and other sectors of society, are elected to the two bodies. I cannot go into more detail here, but the question remains: do these elections have a political character? No, for the system is known as a ‘multi-party cooperation and political consultative system [duodang hezuo he zhengzhi xieshang zhidu]’, which designates that the system of elections that is not based on class conflict but on non-antagonistic relations among the different groups and their representatives.

Thus, in many respects elections have already lost their political character in China.

The Greening of Beijing

For the past two weeks I have walked well over 100 kilometres – in Beijing.

Until now I have regarded my little corner of the city as an oasis, outside of which is the bewildering maze of one of the largest cities in the history of human civilization. To be sure, I am accustomed to taking the massive metro system to all corners of the city. But this practice makes no difference to the sense of living in a maze. One speeds along underground, emerging at one’s destination in another part of town.

Walking is completely different.

Initially, I simply set out to find a bicycle shop for local supplies for my new Brompton foldup bicycle. Before I knew it, I had checked my Baidu map (much better than the woeful Google maps) to locate another bicycle shop. By the time I found it and returned home, I had walked in a south-westerly loop of about 10 kilometres.

I was hooked in a way that I had not expected. The next day I walked north to a church and bookshop, ambling back via another route. Soon enough I was off again, walking north again to find the old Summer Palace grounds, known in these parts as Yuanmingyuan. Having been inside before and knowing the ruins (a result of one of the European colonial rampages in the nineteenth century), I preferred to walk there and find another way home.

Now it was time for a serious hike. To the west of where I live begin the mountains that encircle Beijing. A favourite is Xiangshan, Fragrant Mountain, which I have climbed in the past. But now I decided I would walk to Xiangshan, a distance of some 14 kilometres. On the way I found the Beijing Green Belt, a carefully designed strip that runs along the western reaches of town. Soon enough I was striding along, absorbing the trees and the first blossoms of spring. Few were enjoying them at the time, for people were flocking to Xiangshan and its fabled spring flowers. By the time I reached the village itself, at the foot of the mountain and outside the city, I was done, so I took the new metro back home.

More walks followed, to the massive Yuyuantan Park, south of where I live and full of people out and about and celebrating spring. But I was most thrilled by Xizhuyuan Park, or Black Bamboo Park. It had been a chance discovery on another walk, a green space that set a whole new standard for such spaces.

Originally it had been a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) minor palace area, but it had been closed for many a long year. What had they been doing in the meantime? It turns out that the Beijing City government had been working on a new plan for the greening of the city. Black Bamboo Park would be one of the model green spaces. It had opened only recently.

Inside I was amazed. The old buildings had been restored, but more importantly trees and birds and plants were everywhere.  As I walked along the lake, a ranger with much excitement pointed to the water. There was a turtle – an amphibian that is most sensitive to environmental conditions since it moves between water, land and air – enjoying the clean water of the lake.

After my first visit to this particular park, I was able to map out an ideal walk. Initially I would head west along Wanquanzhuang Road, deep in the outer regions of Beijing where few foreigners tread and where locals do their thing. Then I would pick up the western Green Belt, along the Nanchang River, which was yet another new development. The river itself had been cleaned up and its environs were full of trees, blossoms and recreational spaces. It led me to the Black Bamboo Park, where I once again relished the breakthroughs in green planning and implementation. For the final leg, I walked along some four kilometres of the major Zhongguancun Road, but I did so by walking through one green space after another.

By now I had walked in all directions of the compass, east, north, west and south. I had hiked into the centre of the city, to its outskirts and the mountains, to historic sites of colonial humiliation, and along the ever greater number of green spaces.

Above all, I was most struck by the greening of Beijing. Not so long ago Beijing was a leitmotiv of the worst of city living. Row upon row of high-rise building, with an air quality that had become proverbial. Indeed, some foreigners and Chinese people from other parts assume that Beijing is still like that.

Not any more: the city government has been fully aware that residents would no longer put up with such conditions, so it had set about for many a long year to clean up the city. Some of the strictest environmental laws in the world are enforced ever more strongly, but this is only a beginning. Whole new standards have been set for a greening of the city. The air quality would be tackled through many policies that has seen it gradually improve year upon year. Green spaces would abound, with designer planning and implementation, as only the Chinese know how. And water quality would be at a level where sensitive animals would feel at home, whether turtles or the fabled ducks – not the type of Beijing Duck that you eat at a restaurant.

How is all this possible, especially in a city that had become a parable for environmental degradation?

Long-term planning is the answer. A stable government that is able to implement five-year plans. This is of course a communist local government that is committed to a green Beijing. Forget the ‘Greens’ of bourgeois democracies, with their liberal policies that have become political footballs. Only a communist government committed to ‘ecological civilisation’ can achieve what I experience here in Beijing.

Chinese Trust in the Government

The overwhelming majority of Chinese people trust their government like no other country on earth. This may seem strange to some foreigners who routinely mistrust their government. Yet the statistics speak for themselves. For example, the Edelman Trust Barometer of 2019 notes a rise in the general public’s trust of the government and public institutions to a staggering 86 percent. Meanwhile, the monthly Ipsos surveys indicate that on average 90 percent of people have confidence in the direction in which China is headed. And in the five-yearly World Values Survey, the vast majority trust the government to promote human rights in China and throughout the world.

Why is this the case? One reason is of course the effect of Xi Jinping’s leadership, with effective rule by law and its closely associated Social Credit System, anti-corruption campaign and recovery of both traditional Chinese and Marxist values.

Yet, this is only part of the story. The assumption of trust in governance runs deep in Chinese society – assuming of course that the government in question has earned that trust. To understand how this works at a deeper cultural and social level, we need to go back a few centuries.

He Xiu’s Three Worlds

Important here is a certain He Xiu, who lived from 129 to 182 CE. He Xiu wrote a commentary on a commentary; more precisely, he wrote a commentary on the Gongyang commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals (reputedly edited by none other than Confucius). This particular history is not so important here. Instead, He Xiu[1] introduced a crucial distinction between three terms:

  1. What is ‘rumoured [suochuanwen]’.
  2. What is ‘heard [suowen]’ and thus reliably recorded.
  3. What is ‘seen [suojian]’ and therefore verifiable.

The importance of this distinction can hardly be underestimated. What is rumoured concerns words and indeed a world that is ‘decayed and disordered [shuailuan]’. This is a world of chaos in which the heart is ‘course and unrefined [cucu]’, the country is broken up into small warring states and the records virtually non-existent. Rumours abound of skulduggery, assassination, intrigue and inappropriate behaviour in light of established rituals. In other words, hearsay and gossip are highly unreliable, to be mistrusted at every turn.

By contrast, the world that is reliably reported is one that has written records, which enables the unity of the many different Chinese peoples. It is clearly better that rumour, hearsay and chaos, but it still has its problems. The best is the world that is ‘seen’ and therefore empirically verifiable. One has first-hand evidence, or what is now called scientific evidence, truth from facts (shishi qiushi), as Deng Xiaoping said on many occasions. This verifiable world is united, whether distant or nearby, large or small, and even the heart (xin) or inner being is now deep and thoroughly known (xiang).

In Chinese history, the prime body responsible for reliable records and verified facts is of course the government. Indeed, these are signs of good governance and thereby one that can be trusted.

He Xiu’s distinction has many further ramifications today, whether the refusal of newspapers to engage in gossip, the scepticism concerning oral traditions, the transparency of political statements, or the need for any government statistics to be based on solid research. Let me focus on three examples.

Mao Zedong’s Works

The first concerns editions of Mao Zedong’s works. In China, there are two main editions, The Works of Mao Zedong (Mao Zedong Wenji) and The Selected Works of Mao Zedong (Mao Zedong xuanji). Apart from these two, there are a number of other small collections, relating to early writings or those on specific topics. These have all been carefully produced by the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, which is fully resourced and responsible for reliable editions of all works in the Marxist tradition.

At the same time, there are a number of other editions of Mao’s works, the most notable being Mao Zedong ji, published in 20 volumes in Japan. While most Chinese scholars have copies of this edition, they are also suspicious. Why? An individual scholar has edited the works rather than a major institution funded by the government. Is it reliable? Can it be cited? Not sure. One has to wary indeed when relying on such material. And the five volume collection, Mao Zedong Thought Lives Forever, published without a place, date or editorship during the Cultural Revolution, is way beyond any form of reliability.

Number of Christians in China

The second example concerns the number of Christians in China. This has been the subject of what are now called the ‘Internet Wars’. The official government figure is 38 million, which foreigners interested in such matters disregard since they suspect that the government wishes to downplay the numbers. Instead, they postulate more than 100 million, based on an anecdote: supposedly Ye Xiaowen, the former director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, mentioned in a closed-door meeting at Peking University in 2006 that there were more than 100 million Christians in China. The problem here is that those who like to cite this anecdote provide no source for the statement, third-party evidence or indeed check with Ye Xiaowen himself. It turns out that – according to scholars who were actually present at the event – Ye Xiaowen had never said that there were more than 100 million Christians in China, but he did say that there were at that time more than 100 million religious believers. The difference is obvious, and the foreigners who like to peddle this number draw on unreliable rumour.

By now I am drawing on an article published in early 2019,[2] based on a long-term project at Peking University: the ‘China Family Panel Studies’. Carefully calibrated so as to be relevant to Chinese conditions, relying on a vast survey sample with multiple follow-ups, this sociological survey found in 2016 that there were 39.69 million Christians in China (about 2.8 percent of the population), of which 28.29 were ‘open Christians’ and 11.67 million ‘hidden Christians’. The ‘open Christians’ can mostly be attributed to the many legal forms of Christianity in China, such as the Three-Self Patriotic Movement churches (Protestant) and the recently united Roman Catholic Church, while the ‘hidden Christians’ are mostly from the illegal ‘house churches’.

While these figures are derived from a completely independent sociological survey, it is scientifically based and relies on the assumption that one can only trust what is recorded and verifiable. Tellingly, it is very close to the government figures for Christians in China, for the government does not release figures unless they are based on what can be verified.

As for the speculative foreigners, they are simply relying on hearsay and rumour.

Concept of (U)topia

The third example concerns utopia, which in the Western European tradition refers to both a no-place and a good-place. Typically, writings about utopia postulate a world yet to be realised, on a distant island (Thomas More’s Utopia), in the distant future (William Morris’s News From Nowhere), or even on another planet. The accounts are typically imaginative, hearsay upon hearsay, if not rumour itself. Obviously, if the world in question does not exist and therefore cannot be experienced, one must rely on nothing more than rumour and imagination. In other words, it is a transcendent world, much better than ours, but one that we cannot know empirically.

Let us go back to He Xiu, for his threefold distinction of rumoured, recorded and verified is actually the background to a major contribution to the Chinese tradition concerning what is often known as ‘utopia’. But his proposal is completely opposed to Western European assumptions. In more detail, He Xiu proposed three worlds:

  1. The ‘decayed and disordered world [shuailuan]’, which is characterised by rumour and gossip (suochuanwen).
  2. The world of ‘rising peace [shengping]’, which is determined by what is heard and recordable (suowen).
  3. The world of ‘great peace [taiping]’, which can only be known by seeing and is therefore verifiable (suojian).

By now you can see what has happened. What in the Western tradition is called ‘utopia’, based on rumour, is actually the world of decay and disorder. What cannot be known is highly undesirable, with plots, skulduggery and lack of unity.

By contrast, the world of rising peace can be recorded, leading to unity at least within the country and relative stability and security. But the most verifiable world is precisely that of the ‘Great Peace’ or what is also called the ‘Great Harmony [datong]’. This world can hardly be connected with the Western tradition of utopia, although not a few have tried to do so. Why? It is not a world of rumour and innuendo, but one that can be verified empirically and through scientific investigation.

Thus, ‘utopia’ is a particularly bad term to use in this context. If we stay with the Greek origins of the terms, the best term would be topos, a definite place, and the Chinese tradition concerning the Great Peace and the Great Harmony would have to be called ‘Topian Thought’.

Trusting the Government

Let us return to question of trust in governance. As mentioned earlier, throughout Chinese history, the body responsible for recording and verifying information has been the government itself. Given the size of the country, government has always been a somewhat large affair, and in this respect at least the communist government carries on a long tradition. Of course, it has a distinct trajectory determined by Marxism, but it is still responsible for the most reliable information, for it has the best resources to ensure such information.

I would like to close with an unexpected contribution from He Xiu, a contribution carried through in the later tradition via Kang Youwei’s Book of Datong and Deng Xiaoping’s evocation – in a communist framework – of the old Confucian category of a xiaokang society (one that is moderately well-off, healthy and peaceful). For Deng Xiaoping and even more those who followed – Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and especially Xi Jinping – this xiaokang society is the goal of the initial socialist phase of the new China, to be achieved by 2020.

This xiaokang society is equivalent now with what He Xiu called the world of ‘rising peace’. Most importantly, it is a world that about which one has reliable knowledge and is therefore able to provide reliable records. What does this mean for the core political program of achieving a xiaokang society in all respects by 2020? Is it merely political spin, a vague promise with little content? Not at all: it entails detailed and innovative planning, targeted projects, scientific analysis and rigorous assessment of results. For example, Xi Jinping has identified a peaceful and law-abiding country, environmental protection, and poverty alleviation as the three greatest challenges. Massive resources and initiatives have gone into each, with the Social Credit System, a wholesale shift away from environmentally destructive practices, and a last great push to lift the final 10 million people out of poverty (850 million since 1978).

Will these targets be achieved? Final assessment will tell. But one thing is clear: without them, a xiaokang society in unachievable; with them, it will be achieved. But such a society must be thoroughly recordable and verifiable. Trust in government turns on this fact.

Notes

[1] He Xiu. 1980. Chunqiu gongyangzhuan zhuxu. 28 vols. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, p. 2200. Many editions of this work exist, in 28 volumes. It may also be found at https://ctext.org/wiki.pl?if=gb&res=642006&remap=gb.

[2] Lu Yunfeng, Wu Yue, and Zhang Chunni. 2019. ‘Zhongguo daodi you duoshao jidutu? Jiyu zhongguo jiating zhuizong diaocha de guji’. Kaifang shidai zazhi 2019 (1):1-14. http://www.wyzxwk.com/Article/shehui/2019/01/398823.html.