Hong Kong: Government offers fake concession, prepares to escalate repression

The following is the text of a leaflet issued by Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) for the coming days of mass protests:

  • Reject fake compromise!
  • Beware of emergency laws!
  • Spreading the revolution to China is essential for success!

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced her amendments to the extradition law, which triggered the mass revolt of the past three months, will be withdrawn.

But not only is withdrawal postponed until the Legco (Legislative Council) reconvenes in October (no date yet set), Lam refused the other four major demands of the current unprecedented mass movement. Lam’s move is just a fake concession in an attempt to split the movement, to try to isolate those demonstrators who will continue the struggle, and then to attempt to establish a full-blown dictatorship by invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance (a repressive law from the British colonial era). This law would grant Lam – the most unpopular Chief Executive ever – wide powers to imprison, deport, suspend the internet, censure and close down publications, ban political parties and seize property.

Fake concessions accompanied by repression are a trick the Chinese dictatorship (CCP) has always used. In the Wukan struggle in Guangdong province in 2011, the villagers who struggled against police brutality, land theft, and for the democratic election of village officials, mistakenly believed the CCP’s promise about allowing elections and so called off their struggle. Eventually the CCP-state took grim revenge with the breaking of all promises, mass arrests, and a fierce crackdown.

What the CCP most fears is showing weakness towards Hong Kong protesters, which will damage the dictatorship’s authority and in turn inspire the mainland masses to rise up and fight, following the example of Hong Kong masses. In that case, Hong Kong’s revolution can be spread throughout China in a chain reaction. Therefore, after Lam’s withdrawal of the bill, the CCP intends to launch violent repression in Hong Kong in order to prevent the potential spread of the movement to mainland China.

Therefore, the anti-authoritarian struggle is not over, but rather has entered a more complex stage. We have no way to retreat and must continue to fight. We can either win all or lose all. Hong Kong protesters have shown huge courage and determination, but the next period of struggle needs clearer direction and coordination. Now more than ever we need a leadership established from the bottom up and under the supervision and democratic control of the masses, instead of remaining spontaneous and ‘leaderless’ as in last three months.

Need for workers’ organisation and struggle

Big business in Hong Kong is afraid of endless demonstrations, which are damaging its profits, so since the early days they have lobbied Carrie Lam’s government to make concessions to pacify the movement. Recently, after a meeting with Lam, representatives of the capitalists and the pro-Beijing establishment asked Carrie Lam to establish an independent investigation of the police as protesters demand. But Xi Jinping’s regime has blocked any such investigation. It backs the police 100 percent because they are now the main pillar of the regime to keep its control over Hong Kong. The capitalists also advised Lam to formally withdraw the extradition bill. They argued these were the “easiest” two of the five demands for the government to concede. This is not because they are moved by the suffering of the Hong Kong people, or the horrific violence of various police operations, but because the ruling class is now seriously split with rival camps trying to protect their own interests.

But despite its divisions big business is committed to supporting the authoritarian regime, in order to access the Chinese market and protect its financial interests against workers’ and citizens’ demands for more social fairness and redistribution of wealth. Now we see a wave of corporate white terror. Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong Airlines and HSBC are cracking down heavily on workers, with spying, threats and sackings, taking their cue from the CCP’s demands for a harder line.

Socialist Action member Nathan Leung, who was working for banking giant HSBC, has been sacked for organising a trade union. Socialist Action and our international organisation, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), is therefore initiating a solidarity campaign in Hong Kong and internationally, demanding HSBC withdraw this outrageous dismissal.

The capitalists in Hong Kong are taking advantage of the white terror against the protest movement to strike blows against the city’s trade unions and intimidate workers into submission. Despite the fact unions have so far unfortunately not played the key role they could and should play in the mass movement, the bosses fear a stronger trade union movement can emerge through the mass struggle.

With the capitalist economy again entering crisis, as in 1998, 2003, and 2008, the capitalists are preparing a wave of layoffs, wage freezes and further attacks on workers’ conditions, hours, and living standards to make us pay for the crisis of their economic system, to insure we bear all the burden while their billions of dollars in profits are protected. The fight to defend trade unions and individual workers facing victimisation for participating in the protests is now a key front line of the mass struggle.

This means the mass movement has to fight not only against the CCP, but also against big business. The general strikes on August 5 and September 2-3 were an initial display of workers’ power, while the next general strike needs more powerful trade union involvement and strike committees in order to really paralyse the economy. Especially with the escalating police violence, this action can only be done from within – by the workers withdrawing their labour – rather than from without by direct-action-type initiatives, even if these are also useful provided they explain and keep strong public support.

Link up with international masses – No trust in western governments

Many pan-democrats hope the US Congress will pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to help put pressure on the CCP regime and the pro-CCP establishment in Hong Kong. That Carrie Lam announced the withdrawal of the law is of course an attempt to minimise pressure from western governments. However, the US ruling class is just using the issue of human rights to pressurise Xi Jinping, attempting to extract trade and geopolitical concessions. The Trump administration does not really care about Hong Kong’s democracy. The US president called Hong Kong protesters “rioters” and only asked the CCP to “work it out”, which is hardly support!

The US trade war is to increase the profits of Wall Street, the global power of its banks and multinationals, and in no way aims to help the masses in the US or protect human rights in China, Hong Kong or Asia. Trump is the least popular US president in decades, known for his sexism, racism, and pro-billionaire policies. It would be fatal for Hong Kong’s mass struggle to have any illusions that such a government will support our rights. Both the CCP and Trump are imperialist governments that care only about their global power and business interests.

Interventions by the US and other Western countries in mass struggles are always to hijack them to serve their own great power interests. For example, in 2014, the US intervened in the Ukrainian mass protests, and after the corrupt pro-Russian government fell, a corrupt pro-US government came to power. The power was just seized by another group of rogues and liars and the dictatorship of the oligarchy continued.

The genuine allies whom the Hong Kong mass struggle needs are the grassroots workers and youth all over the world, rather than western pro-capitalist politicians and governments. Recently protesters in Britain have also risen to defend their democratic rights against Boris Johnson’s coup to suspend parliament. The Hong Kong protests are widely supported and cheered by those who are fighting against their own governments’ attacks on democratic and workers’ rights. These are the people we must appeal to. Waving British or American flags in demonstrations will send completely the wrong signal, leading them to think Hong Kong protesters are rallying behind the British or US governments, which will sabotage our opportunities to link up with grassroots workers and youth internationally. We also call for mainland workers and youth who are suffering from the CCP dictatorship and extreme wealth gap to fight together with us against the dictatorial capitalist system.

Socialist Action stands for united struggle by Hong Kong and mainland Chinese masses and the building of a new mass workers’ party. This could lead a common struggle not only for full compliance with the five demands, but also against blood-sucking capitalism: For a massive increase in cheap public housing, an 8-hour working day, huge increases in the minimum wage and trade union rights, increased public investment in education and healthcare, and full and immediate democracy to end the violent rule of the dictatorship.