China/Hong Kong: ISA launches new campaign

Solidarity Against Repression in China & Hong Kong; Free ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung!

ISA reporters

Since the Hong Kong mass struggles in 2019, the situation has changed completely. The dictatorship of Xi Jinping and the misnamed Communist Party (CCP) has answered with massive and unprecedented repression of democratic rights aimed at destroying the movement and preventing any future mass struggles in Hong Kong and China.

In light of these attacks on democratic rights in Hong Kong and increasing repression in China, ISA is launching the campaign Solidarity Against Repression in China & Hong Kong. The aim of this campaign is to spread awareness about what is really happening in China and Hong Kong, to mobilize solidarity from ordinary people, workers and youth.

This campaign will be different in important respects from several existing solidarity initiatives. The ISA has comrades, fellow socialists, in China and Hong Kong. They are directly threatened and affected by the repression making this a very concrete struggle.

Our solidarity campaign will focus on the situation facing the oppressed layers in China and Hong Kong: workers, young people, women and ethnic minorities. We will steer clear of initiatives launched by various governments and business interests groups who follow their own agendas. They can neither speak for the oppressed nor can they be trusted when issues of democratic rights and workers’ rights are at stake. This is especially important in the era of the new Cold War between the rulers of the United States and China, in which both sides try to manipulate global public opinion as part of their imperialist power struggle.

The aims of the campaign are to educate, intervene, and organise solidarity. Solidarity in practical and immediate terms means to show support for the victims of state repression and spread information about their cases as widely as possible. The campaign hopes to raise awareness in the trade union and labour movement globally, through moving resolutions, making videos and sharing photos of activities to support workers’ rights and democratic rights in China and Hong Kong.

Students and protests

While many demonstrations have been paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, Solidarity Against Repression in China & Hong Kong can prepare for interventions in pickets, protest vigils and meetings wherever the topic of political rights in China and Hong Kong is featured.

At universities around the world, where almost a million students from China and Hong Kong are enrolled, the campaign can find an important audience. In the UK alone there were 120,000 Chinese students prior to the pandemic and 370,000 in the US.

Chinese and Asian students and migrants face a heightened risk of racist attacks in Western countries due to the racist pandemic blame game of politicians like Donald Trump and the Cold War rhetoric not only of Western governments but also the nationalistic and jingoistic ‘wolf warrior’ propaganda of the Chinese regime. The CCP organises nationalistic student groups at overseas universities, both to spread nationalistic propaganda and to monitor any opposition sympathies among Chinese students. This makes it harder for students who are critical of the regime to express their views. Solidarity campaigns on campuses therefore need to link the issues of state repression and democratic rights to anti-racist initiatives and united struggle.

In coming months Solidarity Against Repression in China & Hong Kong hopes to coordinate together with ISA sections a series of online meetings in different parts of the world and in several languages. The campaign is in the process of producing a campaign pack with leaflets, model trade union resolution and other campaign tools to build for solidarity actions.

Free ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung

‘Long Hair’ campaigns in support of Socialist Action’s (ISA in Hong Kong) candidate in 2015 District Council elections.
‘Long Hair’ campaigns in support of Socialist Action’s (ISA in Hong Kong) candidate in 2015 District Council elections.

A crucial part of this solidarity work is to highlight the case of Hong Kong’s imprisoned former legislator ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung. Along with over forty other candidates for the city’s now disbanded Legislative Council (Legco) he is being held in prison charged with subversion under the dictatorship’s national security law, for which the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.

We demand the release of all political prisoners in Hong Kong, most of whose political ideas we would not agree with, because the case against them is a frame up. Some of the accused played only a minor role in the mass struggle and young protesters were very sceptical towards the compromise approach of some of these political leaders. These political differences do not influence our call for their immediate release. We want to single out ‘Long Hair’ for special attention as one of Hong Kong’s most famous protest figures, because he is the only representative of the left among the most prominent leaders of the democracy movement. ‘Long Hair’ has actively supported workers’ causes in China and Hong Kong, women’s, LGBTQ, and refugee rights, and opposed US imperialism. It is sickening when some internet ‘lefts’ in other countries dismiss the Hong Kong mass protests as a US-backed ‘colour revolution’ (using similar arguments for Myanmar and Xinjiang) and support the vicious repression which is now taking place.

Solidarity Against Repression in China & Hong Kong hopes to coordinate overseas solidarity messages for ‘Long Hair’ in prison. Comrades in different countries can write short solidarity messages stating where you are from and send these to us (address below). There are strict rules concerning prisoners’ mail and therefore this needs to be coordinated carefully: please don’t write political slogans or demands or the letter will be destroyed by the guards, but you can write about current affairs. It is important not to mention your personal details other than your name. Use only black or blue pen and plain paper without any decorations).

Branches and student societies can also make a banner from paper or plastic sheeting with the slogan, “Free political prisoners in HK”, and display at your public stalls. Ask the public to sign and write short greetings on the banner. These banners can be used in photo messages and sent via our campaign to ‘Long Hair’ and other prisoners.

‘Long Hair’ at anti-Trump demo November 2016.

The background

In June 2020, China’s dictator Xi Jinping imposed a national security law upon Hong Kong with draconian penalties. Charges of “subversion” and “separatism” can be punished by life imprisonment or even extradition to stand trial in mainland China where the death penalty still applies for such offences.

The aim of this crackdown is to crush the mass democracy struggle in Hong Kong and eliminate hard won democratic rights: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to form political parties and stand in elections, trade union rights including the right to strike. All these things are banned in China. Hong Kong was once the exception which Xi is moving to end. Two Hong Kong trade union leaders are among those held in detention and charged with subversion.

At China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) in March 2021, the dictatorship imposed new electoral rules on Hong Kong. These rules replace the semi-elected Legco with an “improved” Legco — more restricted, authoritarian, and with most members appointed by a committee under the control of the dictatorship. It will no longer be possible for any genuine opposition political group to participate in elections. Only CCP stooges will be approved. Using the previously quite open election system as a platform to campaign for workers’ rights and against capitalism, as ISA did in 2011 and 2015, is now impossible. Most Hong Kong people will probably boycott the elections based on these changes.

Xi’s regime is simultaneously presiding over the most severe crackdown in China since the crushing of the 1989 mass democracy movement. Workers’ protests in China are routinely attacked by police, activists are disappeared and tortured, a monstrous high-tech police surveillance state exceeds Orwellian levels, minorities especially Muslims suffer inhuman repression, racist laws, and mass incarceration.

Xi Jinping’s plan is to rule for life. The counterrevolution in Hong Kong is driven by the needs of his dictatorship to eradicate all opposition among the masses in China and not just Hong Kong. The Hong Kong mass struggle of 2019 for democracy and against police brutality brought millions onto the streets. There was not a shadow of doubt that Hong Kong’s ultra-capitalist and Beijing-appointed government lacked any genuine social base; it could only continue to rule because it was propped up by China’s massive police state.

Global shockwaves

The Hong Kong struggle inspired people around the world and created a crisis for Xi’s totalitarian system. It was a global public relations disaster and undermined China’s efforts to project ‘soft power’ internationally. The CCP feared that the Hong Kong “political virus” could spread to the mainland and spur the super-exploited Chinese working class to take the path of class struggle. Workers’ living standards and working conditions have been declining in China amid the global economic crisis while the CCP’s pro-business policies create five new billionaires every week.

The Hong Kong mass struggle was an example of incredible defiance and fearlessness against a seemingly all-powerful dictatorship. Xi’s regime wants to extinguish this example of rebellion before the eyes of the whole world. Hong Kong has also become a crucial frontline in the accelerating Cold War between Chinese imperialism and US/Western imperialism. Xi Jinping’s strangulation of democratic rights in Hong Kong is intended as a demonstration of his regime’s power in defiance of the “democratic” West.

Solidarity Against Repression in China & Hong Kong does not support either of the two sides in this conflict. We do not believe any of these governments genuinely stand for democratic rights. Their actions and policies are based on their geo-strategic concerns: an unscrupulous dogfight for markets, sources of cheap labour and raw materials. The US-China conflict has absolutely nothing to do with “democracy” and “human rights” as one side claims, or “patriotism” and “national security” as both sides claim.

Working class internationalism

Our campaign seeks to spread awareness of what is really happening in China and Hong Kong. This is based on our interaction with workers, young socialists and activists in China and Hong Kong. A fundamental weakness of the mass struggle in Hong Kong was its inability despite incredible heroism to spread the movement to China and appeal to the working class especially. This would have required a clearer program based on internationalism rather than nationalism/regionalism and understanding the role of capitalism as integral to the totalitarian system in China/Hong Kong.

While we demand an end to all repression and freedom for all political prisoners our campaign will prioritise the voices of those who fight for workers’ rights and link the democratic struggle to the fight against the intrinsically undemocratic system of capitalism and imperialism.

In Myanmar, Thailand, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and in the US and other “democracies”, real democratic rights have never been granted by ruling classes; they can only be achieved — and existing rights defended — through mass struggle to change the system.

As a start you can show your solidarity with the struggle for democratic rights in Hong Kong, China, and globally, by liking and following us on Facebook and Twitter, by attending the online solidarity meeting we will be holding in your language/time zone in coming weeks, by adapting our model trade union motion to raise at your union meeting, and by inviting a speaker from Solidarity Against Repression in China & Hong Kong to address your branch of ISA. If you find any rallies in solidarity with Hong Kong/China democratic rights in your area, please let us know. We will assist you in mobilizing to be part of it.