Hong Kong: Down with authoritarian rule!

Rebuild the Hong Kong democracy struggle, but to win the direction of the movement has to change!

This is the text of a mass leaflet to be distributed by Socialist Action’s team in the October 1 demonstration in Hong Kong. Tens of thousands are expected to march against repression and in solidarity with the political prisoners.

Hong Kong has entered into the era of authoritarian rule. A vigorous fight back is needed. The Chinese dictatorship and puppet Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor have launched an unprecedented political crackdown. We must rebuild the democratic struggle, or our democratic rights will suffer further reverses!

The “reconciliation” line peddled by Lam is an attempt to deceive the masses. She is just a tool of the Chinese dictatorship (so-called ‘Communist Party’) in its assault on our democratic rights. The dictatorship needs a “softer” face to disguise the most vicious authoritarian policies. We should not be fooled by her (as some sections of the pan-democratic leadership seem to be). Socialist Action believes the democracy movement should be clear and demand that Carrie Lam must go!

The regime’s campaign of white terror has recently spread to the university campuses. The pro-government camp, based on right-wing pro-China nationalism, has launched frenzied denunciations of “Hong Kong independence”, imposing censorship. They act as if the anti-democratic ‘Article 23’ ordinances had already been introduced. Whether or not we are in favour of independence for Hong Kong, we must defend freedom of speech and fight the attempt to criminalise debate over independence. Students must organise to fight! A city wide one-day student strike would send a powerful warning to the censorship machine and its ‘blue ribbon’ [pro-China nationalist] shock troops that we will not surrender our democratic rights.

The entire judicial system in Hong Kong is now under the control of the Chinese dictatorship. It goes much deeper than one “evil official” – Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung. We should not be fooled into believing the judicial system will defend our democratic rights. We can only rely on mass struggle! The government still fears the masses; it fears its policies could trigger a new eruption as in 2014. This is shown by the August 20 demonstration – the biggest since the Umbrella Movement – which caused splits and hesitation within the government about how fast to proceed with the crackdown.

How to challenge Hong Kong’s new authoritarian regime?

Rebuilding the mass democracy struggle is the only way to defend our rights. The August 20 (‘820’) demonstration showed the potential. But what next?

It is not enough to tell people to “hang on”, “don’t give up”, and hope for things to change as some pan-democratic spokesmen are now saying. Hong Kong people are prepared to support mass action if a clear call is issued. Today, we are again out on the streets in force – this must be a starting point for a new kind of democracy movement, which needs to address three things:

• The only force to defeat dictatorship is collective struggle by grassroots working people and youth. The strike weapon is one of the most important and powerful ways to resist dictatorship. Yet it has never really been tried, or even properly discussed, by the leaders of the Hong Kong democracy movement.

• The struggle must spread beyond Hong Kong. Both the pan-democratic leaders and the nativists [Hong Kong anti-China nationalists] unfortunately want to limit democracy to one city. But historically there has never been a victory for anti-authoritarian struggle in just one city. If the struggle in Hong Kong is to succeed, it must be spread to mainland China, linking up with the mainland people, especially the working class, in a common struggle against the dictatorial capitalist regime. The struggle even goes beyond China’s borders, it is international.

• The tycoon-controlled economy needs the authoritarian regime to defend it. [Former Hong Kong Chief Executive] CY Leung admitted this, that universal suffrage would give “poor people” too much power over policy! That’s why the democracy struggle is also a struggle against capitalism – for a working class alternative.

Pro-government politicians make death threats against independence supporters.

Can the dictatorship be defeated?

To win, the democracy struggle in Hong Kong must clearly understand what its mission is: to defeat the CCP regime. The alternative is to accept the reality of today’s authoritarian Hong Kong, which means more political prisoners, more election rigging, and more repression.

The Communist dictatorship will never voluntarily relinquish power over Hong Kong. All history shows that democratic rights are not given by rulers, they are taken by the people.

Unfortunately, the pan-democratic parties are only focused on compromise with the Chinese dictatorship, hoping it will reform itself and make voluntary concessions. They have therefore tried to limit the scale of the mass movement, and prevent “too radical” demands, out of fear of losing control.

But world history shows nothing like this has ever succeeded – dictators are overthrown not “civilised”.

But how can a city of 7.3 million stand up to a giant, the world’s strongest dictatorship? Only by spreading the struggle beyond Hong Kong. Socialist Action stands for internationalism. To win, Hong Kong’s struggle must understand it is not just a “Hong Kong thing” but is part of a worldwide struggle against the undemocratic rule of the 1% of super-rich.

No countries in the world have more billionaires directly controlling government than China and Hong Kong. The social crisis is explosive on both sides of the border. Contrary to what Hong Kong nativism argues, the vast masses of China who suffer state repression, long work hours and exploitation, a housing crisis and toxic air – just like Hong Kong people – these are the natural allies to build a united struggle against the dictatorship and capitalism.

The nativists in Hong Kong have never understood this reality, and their racism against mainlanders and opposition to unifying events like the ‘64’ vigil [annual commemoration of the June 4th 1989 Beijing massacre] using sectarian arguments (“democracy in China is not our concern”), has unfortunately been very negative for the struggle against dictatorship.

Today there is a mood for unity in the struggle which even seems to extend to the formerly “irreconcilable” nativist groups – but unity cannot be based on ignoring and not facing up to the disastrous role of racism, sectarianism, and support for right-wing neo-liberal policies which have been the political hallmarks of Hong Kong nativism.

Socialist magazine, from CWI China and Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong).

Strikes that make history

Another of the reasons why the Hong Kong democracy movement has not yet won is that it cannot succeed by marches alone, nor even occupation. The struggle requires more than this.

We must draw lessons from what is happening right now in Catalonia and Spain. There, we see working class people and youth, both Spanish and Catalan, in a united struggle for the right to hold a democratic vote on independence and resist the central government’s ‘Chinese-style’ repression. On September 28, the students of Spain and Catalonia, led by members of Socialist Action’s sister party Izquierda Revolucionaria, organised a massive one-day school strike despite government repression.

Organised strike action is a much more effective weapon for resisting government repression, with the power to paralyse the functioning of the government and the economy. This can both mobilise the biggest numbers in struggle but also expose governments as powerless in the face of united working class action. A political strike, as in Catalonia now, and in South Korea, Brazil, South Africa, many years earlier, would shake the Hong Kong and Chinese governments to the core.

Capitalism is united with authoritarian rule

Hong Kong’s business elite has a shared stake in the dictatorship of the ‘Communist Party’, which they hope will help them suppress the mass struggle and give them even greater control over the government’s pro-corporate policies, such as the recent massive tax cuts for big business announced by Lam. Therefore, to achieve full victory the democracy movement must break the undemocratic stranglehold of the capitalists over the political system and over the economy.

To fight for democracy without challenging the capitalists’ power is to fight with one arm tied back. It is necessary to link the government’s authoritarian attacks and brutal jailings with their defence of billionaire interests and denial of basic reforms like rent control, 8-hour working day, and universal pension system. Socialist Action stands for a working class alternative: Tax the super-rich, build 50,000 public housing units per year, and take the big companies and banks into democratic public ownership – to free them from tycoon control. We want a new democratically elected government of working class people that is committed to introducing socialist policies, and the same for China, to replace brutal pro-capitalist dictatorship.

If you agree with this leaflet, please join us. History is on our side!

International grassroots solidarity

The new authoritarian Hong Kong has shocked the whole world. Socialist Action has contacted international left-wing parliamentarians, unions and representatives of social movements for support against the political crackdown. Acts of solidarity are planned from Ireland, Germany, Brazil, Britain and many other countries.

“We the undersigned express our full solidarity with the struggle for democratic rights in Hong Kong, China, and globally. We call for the release of the political prisoners and an end to the government’s repression.”

These words are from a new petition from labour and social movements, which can be found on this Facebook page.

Grassroots solidarity is needed, rather than appeals to foreign governments and establishment politicians, such as Trump and Theresa May who are the enemies of democratic rights at home, and are staying silent over the crackdown in Hong Kong because they are more interested in business with Xi Jinping’s dictatorship.