Missing Link: China, Hong Kong and the West – Battle of the Narratives


Actually, for Hong Kong and China: “One country, two systems”. The formula was in the sign of a compromise in the dispute between the British administration and Beijing. The Chinese side thus committed themselves to maintaining the liberal, capitalist social order with freedom of assembly, freedom of opinion and freedom of the press for 50 years after the return transfer that took place in mid-1997. Almost halfway through the commitment period, there is hardly any sign of this.

What is missing: In the fast-paced world of technology, there is often the time to re-sort all the news and background information. At the weekend we want to take it, follow the side paths away from the current, try different perspectives and make nuances audible.

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After crushing the “umbrella revolution” and other protest movements, as well as enacting the “security law” a year and a half ago, the communist leadership in Beijing is taking vehement action against remaining critics and their activities in Hong Kong, which mainland China sees as subversive, separatist, terrorist or conspiracy be valid. Hardly a week goes by without independent newspapers and online media such as Apple Daily, Stand News or, most recently, Citizen News.

Political activists have either ended up in prison or gone into exile. From there they try to change Hong Kong’s fortunes and come to terms with the turbulent events of the past ten years. The resistance movement has long upheld the “no violence” doctrine, explained Ray Wong, founder of the political group “Hong Kong Indigenous”, founded in 2015, at the hybrid held in autumn Konferenz “Powers of Truth: China, Tech, Art & Resistance” of the Disruption Network Lab in Berlin. But this line had become increasingly dangerous: “We couldn’t impress the government, but we couldn’t satisfy our own camp either.”

Wong was one of the first opposition figures from Hong Kong to receive asylum in Europe and now lives in Germany. For him it is clear: under the Chinese Communist Party (CP) “it is impossible to maintain democracy in Hong Kong”. He accused the West of clinging to the “lie” of opening up and liberalizing China under the influence of the SAR and the rest of the world for too long. Before the current head of state Xi Jinping, there were brief signs of this. But then “a drastic change” took place.

The Chinese leadership has now banned a good 50 pro-democracy civil society organizations in Hong Kong or forced them to give up. Added to this was the crackdown on minorities in the autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Tibet, which suppressed local cultures as a whole. As a result, the movement in Hong Kong was “entered into a vacuum,” Wong recalls. At the time, the government of the former British colony issued the slogan: “We are all Chinese.” Nobody should think about independence.

However, Wong knows that students in particular felt little connection to the mainland. “We think differently culturally, historically and politically,” was her experience. He therefore founded his party as a platform for Hong Kongers to establish their own identity. In the face of increasing radicalism on both sides, the members finally no longer ruled out violence in order to “increase the costs for the government of maintaining a stable society”.

“We weren’t ‘trained’ activists,” emphasizes Wong. It is always important to question such narratives put out by the CP. The demonstrators have become more creative, have declared independence as a goal and “just want to do something”. It was wrong that Chinese citizens were also discriminated against. He was then even criticized as a “rightist”. Nevertheless, this does not change the fact that the CP is wiping out “clans, cultures and identities”.