This is the second of two articles to demonstrate some truths about China. Western media outdo each other in their ill-informed opinions of China and its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). Here is another view. China is a strong country that deserves respect. China too makes mistakes. China is challenging some aspects of the West, especially in the Hong Kong SAR. Dealing with these challenges requires realism, sophistication and less emotionalism than appears in the media and in many political statements.
The CCP controls the media in China
True. China has a widespread, active, media industry. It reflects many views and interests. And there is a much commentary and criticism on many matters. However, the CCP does not permit anything to be published that appears to attack or seek to pull down the Government. Western cynics will say this is to ensure the CCP stays in power. Possibly. But it also fits in with Chinese culture that prefers order and discipline to ‘freedom’ and chaos.
Chinese media content is varied and far reaching. Many points of view are aired. In the West, many readers and writers complain that the media self-censors to reflect one perspective only. Publishing views that go against this ‘consensus’ is impossible in some cases.
You can’t criticise the Government in China
False. Each week, the Chinese media contain many critiques of Government or local officials. Protests occur somewhere in China almost every day. The Government pays careful attention to the rights or wrongs of these. Very often, the protestors are heard, and the situation addressed. So far as it is possible to judge, the Government is sincere in wanting to do its best for its citizens.
Equally, however, Chinese citizens see order and discipline as the way to a successful economy and happy life. Past experience has shown that such a large country descends into chaos rapidly if the Chinese Government is weak or fragmented. Chaos leads to economic ruin and thus unhappiness.
The majority of Chinese people are content with the way things are. As an example, at least 200 million of them travelled the world in 2018; all happily returned home.
China should pay compensation for COVID 19
False. It is hard to see a case for this. Every government has made major mistakes in the way it has handled COVID-19. China alone was capable of shutting down Wuhan, a city of 11 million inhabitants, two days before the major national holiday of Chinese New Year. China succeeded more rapidly than anywhere else, in ending the first wave of the virus. The lessons China has learned (and has passed on) should be a source of pride to China and admiration for others.
2 million protested on the streets on Hong Kong in 2019
False. At no time could more than 7-800,000 taken part in protests because of the space available. The population of Hong Kong is close to 8 million. This means that ten percent, or less, of the population engaged in the largest protests. Most were far smaller.
Hong Kong Police used systemic brutality against peaceful protestors
False. The protestors maintain that they were originally peaceful until the Police began attacking them. However, many protests were far from peaceful. There were also riots. The police exercised restraint in difficult circumstances. By May 2020, Hong Kong had endured more than six months of street violence and severe damage to several university campuses. More than 500 police officers were injured. More than 1250 shops and 150 subway stations were vandalised. One old man was killed when protestors threw bricks at him. Protestors set another man on fire because he objected to what they were doing. 3000 police officers had their personal identities stolen and put online (‘doxxing’). The police have uncovered bombs and bomb making materials on many occasions.
Some Hong Kong people agree that the protestors had some cause to protest at first. However, whatever the rights and wrongs of the protestors’ arguments, no city wants its streets and universities to become battlegrounds. Hong Kong’s police, like police forces everywhere, did their best to control what at times seemed like urban terrorism.
All this stopped with the introduction of the Hong Kong Security Law.
China broke international agreements with the Hong Kong security law
False. Firstly, China made no ‘international’ agreements over Hong Kong. The Sino-British Joint Declaration, the governing agreement about the future of Hong Kong, was between the occupying, colonial power, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong’s sovereign state, China.
Second, the Hong Kong SAR government, including under its last colonial governor, tried three times to introduce the security law that is mandated under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. It failed each time. There is security legislation in the laws of almost every other country. Seeing Hong Kong descend into chaos because of rioting, China took the step to do what should have been done many years before and finally introduced a security law. Three million people in Hong Kong approved of the law in a survey conducted before it was introduced. Most Hong Kong people have appreciated the restoration of order since.
Hong Kong should have democracy
False. Hong Kong has never been democratic. In their 150-year rule, the British did not permit it. The Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Hong Kong allow for greater popular input gradually over various institutions such as the Legislative Council. This has been happening, albeit fractiously and disruptively. China will introduce greater democracy – universal suffrage for example – ‘when the time is right.’
From a purely practical viewpoint, how could China even consider fully democratic governance in this tiny part of its huge country? What would be the implications for the rest of the country? And would the majority of its citizens enjoy the chaos that would almost certainly follow the collapse of the one-party system? Liberals may not like it but a chaotic, weak, China would be disastrous for China. It would be very bad for the world.
In any case, western-style democracy is under scrutiny as never before. It will almost certainly have to change or risk grave global instability.