Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 14, 2019

Hong Kong…a Colored Revolution?

Filed under: Hong Kong,housing,workers — louisproyect @ 6:06 pm

As predictable as the Sun rising in the East, the same people who have defended Assad and Putin are now supporting Xi Jinping’s attempt to crush the protest movement in Hong Kong. Just check Max Blumenthal or Ben Norton’s Twitter accounts and you will find dark warnings about Trump using the protests as a way to undermine Chinese influence globally. Does it matter that Trump refers to these protests as “riots”? Probably not, since Grayzone is effectively a Fact-Free Zone.

Trump Says It’s Up to China to Deal With Hong Kong ‘Riots’

By Reuters

Aug. 2, 2019

HONG KONG — U.S. President Donald Trump has described protests in Hong Kong as “riots” that China will have to deal with itself, signalling a hands-off approach to the biggest political crisis gripping the former British colony in decades.

Ever since the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004 that protested what was seen as a rigged election allowing Yanukovych to become President, massive protests against government the USA opposes are labelled “color revolutions”. The same villains keep surfacing in the “anti-imperialist” narrative: the CIA, the NED, George Soros, Gene Sharp, Human Rights Watch, Doctors without Borders, etc. This narrative has a certain amount of credibility since American imperialism always seeks its own goals by maneuvering in troubled waters. As it happened, the CIA reached out to Fidel Castro at the very moment it was committed to Batista. Like Goldman-Sachs donating to both Trump and Clinton’s campaigns in 2016, it hedges its bets.

While technically not a “colored revolution”, the 2014 Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong conformed to the established pattern. The movement sought to eliminate a 1,200 member Election Committee that would be the arbiter of who would be able to run for elected office, just as the much smaller 12-member Guardian Council in Iran makes such decisions. The goal of the protesters was to eliminate the Election Committee and open up the elections to all comers. It was dubbed the umbrella revolution because umbrellas were used to defend protesters against the pepper spray used by cops.

Writing for Near Eastern Outlook in 2014, F. William Engdahl put forward the typical arguments:

The Hong Kong wunderkind of the Color Revolution Washington destabilization, 17-year-old student, Joshua Wong, founded a Facebook site called Scholarism when he was 15 with support from Washington’s neo-conservative National Endowment for Democracy via its left branch, National Democratic Institute and NDI’s NDItech project. And another Occupy Central leading figure, Audrey Eu Yuet recently met with Vice President Joe Biden. Hmmmm.

In one of Max Blumenthal’s latest Tweets on Hong Kong, he cites this Engdahl who has quite a history. Long associated with Lyndon Larouche’s movement, he believes that the Pentagon orchestrated the Egyptian overthrow of Mubarak and that the entire Arab Spring was a conspiracy plotted by the Bush administration in 2003.

Writing for CounterPunch in 2014, Andre Vltchek used quite the unhinged invective to denounce the protesters after paying lip-service to their motives:

Protesters may have some legitimate grievances. They want direct elections of the chief executive, and there is, in theory, nothing wrong with such a demand. They want to tackle corruption, and to curb the role of local tycoons. That is fine, too.

This sort of thing was heard in 2011 as well when Syrians rose up against Assad. Yes, he was a plutocrat and a dictator but he is the country’s best defense against Al Qaeda. In Hong Kong, the outside agitators weren’t Muslim fanatics but a cabal of CIA agents seeking to turn yuppies against socialist China:

The Hong Kong protest movement reeks of upper middle class bourgeois consciousness, including its cloying cheap sentimentality and unexamined worshipping of Western “heroes”, like Churchill.

Oh, did I mention that Vltchek doesn’t write for CounterPunch any more?

On March 31 this year, the movement re-emerged but without the umbrellas. When a bill was proposed to the Hong Kong parliament that would allow China to extradite criminals, a massive movement broke out that was much more militant than the one five years ago. While the extradition bill was the spark, the explosion could only have occurred with a number of very inflammatory elements that had angered ordinary working people and students in Hong Kong for a number of years. While the desire for a genuine democracy persisted, the fuel that drove people to shut down the airport, invade the parliament building and confront the police had a class basis. Hong Kong was one the most unequal states in the world.

On July 22nd, an article titled “Tiny Apartments and Punishing Work Hours: The Economic Roots of Hong Kong’s Protests” made very clear that the same thing that drove Syrians to rise up against Assad explained the Hong Kong protests: inequality. In an similarly titled article of mine, “The Economic Roots of the Syrian Revolution”, I focused on rural misery caused by drought and government indifference to the plight of the peasantry. In Hong Kong, there was urban misery instead:

“We thought maybe if you get a better education, you can have a better income,” said Kenneth Leung, a 55-year-old college-educated protester. “But in Hong Kong, over the last two decades, people may be able to get a college education, but they are not making more money.”

Mr. Leung joined the protests over Hong Kong’s plan to allow extraditions of criminal suspects to mainland China, where the Communist Party controls the courts and forced confessions are common. But he is also angry about his own situation: He works 12 hours a day, six days a week as a security guard, making $5.75 an hour.

College-educated? A security guard making $5.75 an hour? That hardly sounds like Vltchek’s “upper middle class” ne’er-do-wells. With that kind of income, Leung is forced to live in one of Hong Kong’s many subdivided apartments, his space equaling 100 square feet about twice the size of the average prison cell in the USA.

Like Manhattan, Hong Kong is an island and space is at a premium. Given the shortage of housing, it naturally galled people like Leung that the rich were determined to maintain their privileges.

Critics say government policies that favor property developers make it even worse. The government makes money off sales of land to property developers, so it paces sales to maximize revenue and favors luxury developments over affordable housing, they say.

They cite the time last year when activists asked city officials to consider turning a golf course into public housing. The 54-hole course, the anchor for a 2,600 member golf club nestled amid Hong Kong’s landscape of concrete dominoes, could have housed apartments for 37,000 people. In the end the government chose to set aside less than one-fifth of the land.

Carrie Lam has been the Chief Executive of Hong Kong since July 2017. Her election campaign was closely tied to both the island’s big bourgeoisie and the Chinese government as Wikipedia reports. Her first election rally was attended by many pro-Beijing figures and tycoons from both the Henry Tang and Leung Chun-ying corporate empires. Zhang Xiaoming, who was simultaneously head of the Communist Party’s Central Coordination Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, and Sun Chunlan, head of the party’s United Front Work Department, met with major corporate members of the aforementioned Election Committee. Zhang told the electors that the Politburo of the Communist Party had decided to support Carrie Lam in the election.

For all of the vitriol directed against the protesters, it is worth mentioning that one of the politicians identified with their movement hardly qualifies as an agent of Western imperialist interests. I am referring to Albert Ho, a lawyer and former chairman of the Democratic Party in Hong Kong that emerged out of support to the Tiananmen protests of 1989 and its call for the end of one-party rule in China. For these stands, the party was seen as “treasonous” by Beijing.

Not paying much attention to Max Blumenthal or Andre Vltchek, Edward Snowden hired Albert Ho to represent him in Hong Kong before he fled to Russia. As someone familiar with the naked power of authoritarian governments, Albert Ho was just the kind of attorney who could help him ward off the assaults of the Obama administration whose concern for constitutional rights were about the same as the current White House resident.

Yesterday, the NY Times reported on how “Protests Put Hong Kong on Collision Course With China’s Communist Party”. The final section of the article, which is titled “Fears of A ‘Color Revolution’”, refers to Zhang Xiaoming, who is mentioned just above:

Inside a ballroom at the Wuzhou Guest House in southern China last week, Zhang Xiaoming, Beijing’s top official for Hong Kong, told an audience of 500 politicians and business executives from Hong Kong that the protests “have the clear characteristics of a color revolution,” a reference to uprisings in the former Soviet bloc that Chinese officials believe drew inspiration from the United States.

That’s really ironic, warning business executives about a “color revolution”. There was a time when such movements were regarded as imperialist plots against the sort of sclerotic socialism found in Ukraine, Byelorussia or Georgia. Now, it refers to an uprising made up of security guards making $5.75 per hour living in a subsection of an apartment about twice the size of a prison cell. How we ended up with a left that includes Max Blumenthal and Andre Vletchek that can’t tell the difference between a member of the bourgeoisie and the working class is beyond me. But as long as there are young people defending socialism, even if not in Marxist terms, and more importantly willing to act on behalf of the Kenneth Leung’s of the world, that’s all that matters.


  1. What would Norton, Blumenthal or Vletchek have presented (from the point of view they hold today) as their analysis of the Khmer Rouge in the second half of the 1970s?

    The Chinese were supporting Khmer Rouge due their beef with the Soviet Union, so they wanted the Khmer Rouge to beat the Vietnamese. The U.S. also supported the Khmer Rouge, due to their beef with the Soviet Union and, of course, with the Vietnamese, who had recently beaten their ass.

    [The Vietnamese had also kicked out the Chinese in the tenth century, 938 AD, after a long period of colonization, and then again in 1427 AD, according to the Wikipedia page for ‘Chinese Domination of Vietnam’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_domination_of_Vietnam.)]

    From a report by HRW (from 2015): “China and the United States opposed the Cambodian government created after Vietnamese forces overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime in January 1979 and ensured that the Khmer Rouge retained Cambodia’s seat at the UN. Chinese military aid revived Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge as an anti-Vietnamese insurgency, and the US joined China in opposing accountability for Khmer Rouge crimes.” [source: https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/03/22/cambodia-stop-blocking-justice-khmer-rouge-crimes%5D

    To underscore, both China and the U.S. actively worked for an outcome whereby the legitimate occupant of the UN’s Cambodia seat was to be the *genocidal* Khmer Rouge.

    So, who would Norton, Blumenthal and Vletchek point to as the true villain there?

    More to the point, and regardless of who they pick out as the true villain, how do they explain the confluence of interests between a socialist state and the number one imperialist state?

    Comment by Reza — August 15, 2019 @ 12:15 am

  2. Imagine what the protestors in Hong Kong could do if they had the same arms as the cops and PLA! Instead all they can do hold signs and get shot with rubber bullets and pepper spray.

    Comment by Big Mike — August 15, 2019 @ 4:11 am

  3. […] via Hong Kong…a Colored Revolution? — Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist […]

    Pingback by Hong Kong…a Colored Revolution? — Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist | Art History blog — August 15, 2019 @ 7:17 am

  4. REZA: With all due respect Camdians killing Cambodians isn’t anybody’s definition of “genocide” except that wing of the imperialist bourgeoisie that organizes “humanitarian interventions”. If you cannot ignore the affects of blockade and imperialist encircement strangling the Russian Revolution in the creation of Stalinism in the USSR then you cannot ignore the affects of the years of carpet bombing the jungle hideouts of the Khemer Rouge leadership in the events that followed. Even left liberals like Spalding Gray in his “Swimming to Cambodia” narrative lay most of the blame for the atrocities there on Uncle Sam.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 15, 2019 @ 2:23 pm

  5. Mass slaughter by a people of that peopls .not genocide. What a relief! I was so worried.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — August 16, 2019 @ 1:05 pm

  6. The Hong Kong protests are a thoroughly bourgeois movement. That is really undeniable to people on the ground. Complaints by some workers of “not making more money” are not framed in a socialist or class conscious context.
    The poorest people in Hong Kong, who are typically recent immigrants from the mainland, are generally not involved in these protests.
    The base of support for the protests does come from liberal upper-middle class yuppies who look down on Mainlanders in the same way that bougees always look down on ignorant peasants the world over.

    Comment by Comrade Bala — August 17, 2019 @ 1:29 am

  7. The base of support for the protests does come from liberal upper-middle class yuppies who look down on Mainlanders in the same way that bougees always look down on ignorant peasants the world over.

    Meanwhile, Carrie Lam’s support is drawn from real estate developers and bankers in Hong Kong and their allies in Beijing. For all your Marxist-sounding blather, you are clueless about the class dynamics in this struggle. I’m sure you cheer on the Chinese police when they beat up protesters in mainland China as well, all in the name of defending “communism”.


    Swire Pacific (SWRAY), one of Hong Kong’s richest family-owned business empires, issued a strongly worded statement on Tuesday. The company condemned “illegal activities and violent behavior” and threw its support behind Hong Kong’s beleaguered government.

    “Swire Pacific is deeply concerned by the ongoing violence and disruption impacting Hong Kong,” the company said in a statement, offering its full support for Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the city’s police “in their efforts to restore law and order.”

    The company’s CEO is billionaire Merlin Swire. The family’s business empire dates back more than 200 years and has had roots in Hong Kong for much of that time. It owns luxury hotels, office towers and high-end shopping malls in the city.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 17, 2019 @ 1:07 pm

  8. I don’t get your headline. Are you saying people in Hong Kong are “colored”?

    Comment by Max Power — August 18, 2019 @ 11:41 am

  9. These kinds of massive protests obviously go beyond a narrow layer of middle class.

    I have friend from a country close to China, and their facebook is totally swamped with targeted Pro PRC ads right now aimed at undermining these protests, btw.

    Comment by Bill — August 19, 2019 @ 5:16 am

  10. Hong Kong Protests Serve Imperialism | Decolonizing Media Ep. 11

    Comment by ANTICONQUISTA — August 31, 2019 @ 11:21 pm

  11. Anticonquesta supports the Hong Kong and Chinese big bourgeoisie. Just what I’d expect from from a bunch of knuckleheads who love Assad.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 31, 2019 @ 11:40 pm

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