On Occupy Central’s ties with the NED

A follow-up piece to “Occupy Central: Hong Kong’s fight against neoliberalism“. Also published on CounterPunch.

Numerous alternative media outlets, including WikiLeaks, have pointed out the connections between Occupy Central and the United States government through an organization called the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). I am not surprised at this, nor do I welcome it, given the United States’ questionable record (to put it nicely) at bringing “democracy” to countries where it has intervened in the past. It is most likely in Hong Kongers’ best interests that the US withdraw its monetary support for Occupy Central, as unlikely as this is to happen.

The same outlets, however, have been openly hostile towards Occupy Central for these reasons alone. Tony Cartalucci recently claimed that the protests “masquerade as a “pro-democracy” movement seeking “universal suffrage” and “full democracy,” but are really backed by “a deep and insidious network of foreign financial, political, and media support”. This assessment doesn’t do Hong Kong justice for two reasons: firstly, it portrays Hong Kongers’ grievances at the status quo as fictional and illegitimate, when they are in fact real, and it treats the protesters as pawns, when many in fact are taking to the streets of their own accord. Secondly, by treating the US as the sole independent actor in the movement and focusing entirely on analyzing and criticizing its actions in other countries, it only strengthens a United States-centred worldview that the mainstream media likewise seeks to disseminate.

None of the support provided by the NED for Occupy Central changes the reality of the economic situation facing middle- and working-class Hong Kongers today, brought about by the most extreme form of capitalism that the world has ever seen – to the extent that the extreme-right-wing Heritage Foundation dubs it “the world’s freest economy” year after year. It is poor journalism to even attempt to analyze the roots of discontent in Hong Kong while paying no attention to the structural factors involved, and yet the alternative media, like the mainstream media, have been guilty of doing so. Foreign writers who claim the movement is orchestrated purely by Americans are naive to believe Hong Kongers can simply be co-opted by an external force to demonstrate. This type of thinking is unfortunately symptomatic of a neocolonial conviction that somehow only “Westerners” are capable of thinking for themselves and acting of their own accord. Hong Kongers, like the Ukrainians, Syrians, Iraqis, Libyans and Venezuelans, are merely being manipulated by the “West”. Of course they are. After all, only those protesting against regimes in the “West” or backed by the “West” are legitimate – the rest are mere agents for “regime change”!

I will admit that I am not at all optimistic about the prospects of Occupy Central bringing genuine social change to Hong Kong. These prospects are only diminished by the involvement of the United States, with its own neoliberal and far-less-than-democratic agenda. They are further diminished by the absence of any radical groups calling explicitly for a more equitable distribution of income and wealth and end to the state’s collusion with established local and Chinese elites. But what is evident is that the status quo leaves no room for Hong Kongers to decide on how their territory is run, and that attaining the vote provides the opportunity, though far from a guarantee, for genuine socioeconomic reform, by deposing the established political and economic elite from their position of power. Who we will replace them with must be ours to choose, and that is precisely why the United States, as with China, must step back and allow Hong Kongers to decide their own fate.

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22 thoughts on “On Occupy Central’s ties with the NED

  1. The “absence of any radical groups calling explicitly for a more equitable distribution of income and wealth and end to the state’s collusion with established local and Chinese elites” is not some inexplicable oversight. It shows that Occupy Central is not opposed to neoliberal capitalism in Hong Kong. They are so much in favor that they won’t even demagogue the failures of neoliberal capitalism in meeting the needs of the majority! Hinting that Occupy Central is somehow fighting neoliberalism (instead of diverting attention from it) seems to me to be disingenuous at best. Judging from the conclusion of your post, Occupy Central is only concerned with denying the ultimate authority of the central government over Hong Kong. I don’t see any reason why this power dispute should be favored by any supporter of equitable societies, leftists, of any kind anywhere.

    • First off, I never argued that Occupy Central is fighting neoliberalism. My point is that the symptoms of neoliberalism are the MAIN REASON why people are protesting. It would help a lot of people actually understood what neoliberalism is and how that’s affecting them.

      But at the same time, gaining the vote is our ONLY opportunity to change the current order. The current HK government is so tied up with local and Chinese elites that it needs to be replaced in order for ANY positive change to occur. But without the vote, how are we going to oust them from power? Surely you wouldn’t advocate a CIA coup?

  2. It doesn’t matter why people are protesting, what matters is what they are protesting for, or what they are protesting against. Occupy Central is not even protesting neoliberalism’s effects, they are protesting the local government’s submission to the national authority. That’s why they have no demands other than “GO!” Or at least, no others that anyone has seen to tell the foreigners about.

    The effect of “open elections” is not to allow candidates with progressive economic platforms, which nobody in Hong Kong apparently wants anyhow. The purpose is to allow candidates who advocate some sort of independence of Hong Kong from the rest of China.

    The question for us abroad is whether Occupy Central isn’t just another version of a Color Revolution, or even worse, a Maidan. At this point, Occupy Central isn’t even as left as Syriza, which antipolitics shtick I think has been exposed as a political swindle.

    There is democracy suitable for capitalism. Advocating democracy of this kind is advocating capitalism. I see no reason whatsoever to imagine Occupy Central doesn’t hate and despise and fear democracy of any other kind just as much as their alleged opponents do.

  3. Why doesn’t it matter why people are protesting? My aim is to counter how the mainstream media has been completely misrepresenting the protesters’ motivation. If you want to understand a social movement, of course it’s important to understand its roots.

    Open elections are a means to an end. You cannot have positive change under the existing order, simple as that. What alternative do you propose? The status quo?

  4. ” None of the support provided by the NED for Occupy Central changes the reality of the economic situation facing middle- and working-class Hong Kongers today, brought about by the most extreme form of capitalism that the world has ever seen…”

    If real reason is the daily existential problems of hong kong people, then why pretend that it is a political problem? Why does the author think that “universal suffrage” can solve this problem when all over the world, the same existential problems of income inequality, joblessness, rising costs of living, diminishing social mobility are plainly evident on the streets of even the very temple of democracy and universal suffrage itself – the US of Assess. (Todate, it has 46 millions on food stamps according US government stats)

    ” Foreign writers who claim the movement is orchestrated purely by Americans are naive to believe Hong Kongers can simply be co-opted by an external force to demonstrate. This type of thinking is unfortunately symptomatic of a neocolonial conviction that somehow only “Westerners” are capable of thinking for themselves and acting of their own accord. ”

    I have read tony cartalucci’s piece. No where in his writing did he attempt to denigrate HKers intellectual capacity to think for themselves. The fact that he pulled out the stats for the recently concluded farcical online plebiscite already stated this clearly.

    His “beef” is with that few instigators and agitators who are under the payroll of the NED/NDI who are using young impressionable minds to further their neo-con masters agenda.

    • I’ve already answered your question multiple times in my two pieces and in my responses to comments. “Universal suffrage” isn’t a guarantee of social change by any means; it’s a prerequisite. An informed public and economic democracy are, of course, also prerequisites.

      I’ve read Cartalucci’s piece as well. Unfortunately, I disagree: it’s all too typical for writers on alternative sites to claim that simply by being either on the side of the US or fighting against one of the US’ enemies, you are mere pawns. Cartalucci is just one of many of them.

      • In case you didn’t know or are too “immerse” into the concept of universal suffrage and other types of neo-liberal socio-economic dictats created by the neo-cons and their ilks, almost all general elections in the so called democracies are bankrolled and manipulated by the corporate-political elites. The US of Asses is the prime example of one. None of the american presidential candidates can even gain a whiff of the white house without the support of AIPAC, the military industrial complex and the banksters in wall street. As if to add insult to injury, the US supreme court had just recently abolished the ceiling for campaign contribution. Voila! buy a US president anyone?

        And no, universal suffrage isn’t a prerequisite of social change either. Just in case you don’t know or are too taken in by the western corporate controlled main stream media, there is currently a very large country that is undergoing tremendous social changes peacefully, after having been subjugated and dismembered by foreign powers for almost 150 years. It had tried democracy and “universal suffrage” in the period beginning with the fall of its last hereditary dynasty and the coming to power of the communist party in 1949. The experiment resulted in millions killed and untold billions in lost treasure.

        Trying to find a foothold to rebuild itself, it again fell prey to the western created ideology of communism by dogged adherence that resulted in chaos and famine. Again, it realized (not too late) in 1978 that it has to abandon all forms of western ideologies by adopting its own methods to rebuild and revitalize the country and its people. It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white so long as it catches the mice and it is crossing the river by feeling for the stones. To hell with ideologies!

        And after almost 36 years of experimenting with its own methodologies (with some initial hiccups), it has transformed itself from being the “basket case” into the world’s second largest economy and well on track to overtake the empire of chaos to be the largest and MOST responsible economy in the world. Western opinion surveys among its population have consistently came out with statistics of more than 80% approval rating for its government. In contrast, less than 10% of americans today have anything positive to say about the US congress and its performance.

        Humanity has hope after all!

        ” An informed public and economic democracy are, of course, also prerequisites. ”

        You can’t really be serious! I don’t exactly know what you mean by this, but if you are referring to the western or western controlled media, my advice is not to waste your time. We are well into the age of government manipulation of stats, facts and even outright lies and the servile MSM are but one of their tools,

      • “Almost all general elections in the so called democracies are bankrolled and manipulated by the corporate-political elites”.

        Do you realize that corporate-political elites DIRECTLY ELECT members of the HK Legislative Council and the Chief Executive?

        In case you weren’t aware: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_constituency_%28Hong_Kong%29

        How is this any better at all?

        By an informed public, I mean people who understand that CAPITALISM is the root of HK’s problems and vote for more progressive candidates.

        I see no point arguing any further with Chinese apologists who are hell-bent against all things “Western” when this so-called “West” is a mere fictional concept. Maybe you should read Andre Vltchek, who shares your views, instead of simply trashing those who disagree with you.

      • I’ve already refuted that view in my piece. He is EXACTLY the kind of author I am talking about – holding the view that the US is inevitably the puppeteers behind every social movement that isn’t against the “West” and that the leaders are PURELY serving US interests rather than acting of his own accord.

        His use of the word “genuine” (he argues that Occupy Central is not) demonstrates my point entirely. He even goes on to argue that JUST because of the US’s funding, “the people of Hong Kong are governing and determining nothing”. Shocking. Also, if his noting of Anson Chan’s “perfect British accent” doesn’t prove his neocolonial undertones, I don’t know what else will.

        There is nothing, absolutely NOTHING new in Cartalucci’s piece that I haven’t already refuted here.

        Have a look at his past articles if you don’t believe me. There isn’t much in there other than US-bashing.

      • The point of mentioning her accent and connections to Britain in general seem pretty obvious to me. The greater point is that the protestors will not get what they rightfully deserve if their campaign succeeds. They’ll just be slaves to the IMF and World Bank like every other other nation that’s been in their shoes. Washington will do what’s best for their corporate masters at the expense of the Hong Kong population. If you think that’s the lesser of the two evils just say so. But to argue this is a step away from neoliberalism is absurd. Though you claim they’re only rebelling against the effects of it, rather than to put an end to it. So the new boss will be the same as the old boss, as the saying goes. So what’s the point? It is a power play by Washington. You really think they’re going to alleviate the hardships of these protestors that was thrust upon them from neoliberalism?

        And you’re right that there is neocolonialism in Cartalucci’s piece. He’s the one putting the spotlight on Washington’s attempt to further it. No one is saying the protestors can’t think for themselves. People are saying that they’re being used by the leaders of the movement, who are themselves being used by the U.S., for a nice paycheck and perks. This happens within the U.S. and other Western nations as well (astroturfing). So I really hope you’re not implying that Cartalucci is racist because he thinks that the Hong Kong protestors are just as susceptible as their Western counterparts to these machinations.

      • In the non-English-speaking world, what accent you have has nothing to do with what country you have ties with. Of course, Anson Chan’s connections to the UK are well-known, but her accent in itself means nothing. Plenty of Hong Kongers have perfect British, American or Canadian accents simply because they studied at an international school and grew up studying in English – myself included.

        Of course changing the electoral system would be the lesser of two evils. I never argued that it would be a step away from neoliberalism – you’re fighting a straw man there. Let’s not forget that this is Hong Kong we’re talking about, an international finance centre, not any old “part of China”. Conservatives call it “the world’s freest economy” precisely because it has ALREADY long been infiltrated by US and other “Western” corporations. Do you really think that’s something new and that the US is trying to “gain access” to the HK economy by supporting these protests? Of course not. They already have access – they just want to deal China a blow. Now under the current electoral system, these corporations, local and foreign, DIRECTLY vote for both the Chief Executive and half of the Legislative Council. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_constituency_(Hong_Kong)

        If changing that deeply corrupt and oligarchic system isn’t the lesser of two evils, I don’t know what is.

        Cartalucci doesn’t argue that HK protesters are “just as susceptible as their Western counterparts” – he suggests that not only are they susceptible, but they are somehow incapable of realizing how they’re being manipulated, just like the Ukrainians and Venezuelans and everyone else besides so-called “Westerners”. Yet somehow the same thing doesn’t ever happen to social movements in the “West”… Not to mention he suggests all of the Occupy leaders, simply because of their connections with the US and the UK, are mere puppets for those countries, which is plain wrong. I completely agree with Dave Lindorff here: http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/06/whats-driving-the-hong-kong-protests/

      • “In the non-English-speaking world, what accent you have has nothing to do with what country you have ties with.”

        I beg to differ. I’m from Hong Kong, and I have also been in other parts of the ‘non-English speaking world”. A British accent signifies a great deal; this is especially the case in the context of the former British colony, Hong Kong. That particular comment at least seems disingenuous to me. Just sayin’ ….

      • (sorry, I didn’t mean to interject into this conversation at all, My bad. I tried to delete my message, but there is no button to do so. Feel free to remove it, along with this note, – its not important.).

  5. Pingback: On Occupy Central’s Ties with the NED | Stop Making Sense

  6. The vote in Western countries has become a ritual and diversion and tailored in the interests of the “in” groups: the same mob of neo-liberals gets in everywhere, everything is privatized, the wealth gap is abysmal and there is no prospect of this changing through the vote any time soon. I would say to Hong Kongers, forget the vote and go directly for the rights the vote was supposed to guarantee, but does no longer.

    • The vote is the means to an end, and the end is social justice, as I mentioned in my first piece. You cannot go directly for social justice under an administration that is DIRECTLY ELECTED by interest groups (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_constituency_%28Hong_Kong%29)

      The only way to oust that administration without a vote would be through a coup, which the US would certainly support – and we know what a great record the US has when it comes to regime change. So, gaining the vote is the ONLY way of voting out these plutocrats.

  7. “By an informed public, I mean people who understand that CAPITALISM is the root of HK’s problems and vote for more progressive candidates.”

    I’m originally from Hong Kong. Can you please explain to me who these “progressive candidates” are in HK ? How do you see them equipped with sufficient economic-political ‘might’ to compete with the existing corporate-political elites ? The likes of Martin Lee, Jimmy Lai and Benny Tai (and other U.S. cronies) will certainly not be the answer we are looking for.

    Also, perhaps I am really uninformed, so forgive me, but I do not see the majority in HK being able to stand in the shoes of your “informed public”, ie. that they “understand that capitalism is the root of HK’s problems”. My experience of the general HK public is quite the opposite. My educated guess is that a majority of Kong Kong people will have no clue whatsoever of what neoliberalism is and why it is problematic, and even if they were to understand it, the majority will likely choose to vote for the continuation of these types of policies in HK. And it may not be the case that they directly advocate for or buy into these policies, but there will no doubt be wedge issues to exploit populist themes to gain votes etc.etc. And then there will inevitably be the secretly US-backed and US-funded candidates with campaign dollars and political influence, but whose true (undisclosed) interests may not truly serve the people of HK.

    Assuming the students and pan-democrats get what they are now asking for, in the final analysis, can you not at least see the same types of neoliberal-corporate-political elites be voted in and running the show ? Will HK not be just trading Beijing-backed candidates with U.S-backed ones ? Will the interests of HongKongers be truly served ? There are so many agendas here under the umbrella of the HK protest – does Occupy Central even understand what is truly in the interest of HongKongers by signing petitions and seeking help from the U.S. ? Will the HK public have sufficient understanding of U.S. hegemony and its foreign policies to not be manipulated, possibly to their own detriment ? From my experience (my own family and friends in HK included), there appears to exist an inexplicable trust of the U.S./the West, where Beijing is seen as evil and U.S./the West as the saviour (?).

    I am neither for nor against Occupy Central. I care deeply about Hong Kong. I am worried and I am merely trying to better understand the OC movement. Thank you.

    • “I am not at all optimistic about the prospects of Occupy Central bringing genuine social change to Hong Kong.”

      Note that I said that for a reason! But as I’ve already said multiple times, the vote is our only chance for any real change. It is NOT a guarantee – far from it. Yes, it could end up changing nothing. But what else can we do?

      • I am not a china apologist. There are issues in china that i do not agree with or condone. However, i take particular issue with the often oversold, abused and manipulated “universal suffrage”.

        I live in a “democracy” where we have a general election once every five years. In every election for the last 57 years, the same bunch of crooks, power abusers and cronies are returned to office to perpetuate the mayhem their predecessors started. If not for the few blessed oil wells in the south china sea, this country would have gone to the dogs a long time ago – and i am talking about the myanmar / phillipines kind of nightmares, maybe even worst. And mind you, my country is not the only “democracy” that is abusing and manipulating “universal suffrage”. Those much vaunted temples of democracy in the west do this to an art form.

        It may true that HK’s CE and the Legco is currently elected by the corporate-political elites. It may also be true that the new system of choosing the CE may not yield any results that are different from the current situation. You have also stated that “true universal suffrage” may not bring about the change that you have envisioned for HK. None of the above is certain to change HK according to your wishes. If that is so, why create so much chaos and mayhem on the streets that prompted even grandfathers and uncles to come out to try and bring normality back? These folks have to do business to pay rents, workers to look after and make a living for themselves too. They have rights too!

        I have stated in my very first posting that if socio-economic problems are the ones that HKers are facing right now, there is no point in trying to disguise this as a political issue. This so cold war stone-age kind of action only begets suspicions from the higher ups in Beijing because those guys in ZhongNanHai have their antennas perpetually tuned to foreign meddling especially from the CIA and their british mongrels. They will recognize the template instantaneously, what’s more with people like Anson Chan and Martin Lee openly attending the very special event created by the NED/NDI for them in washington earlier this year. The photo of these two pleading with Joe Biden for help to regime change in HK is the icing on the cake. With this, can anyone blame the folks in Beijing and elsewhere from coming to the conclusion that these insidious instigators are co-opting impressionable, pliable young minds to advance the cause of western interest to sow unrest, chaos, regime change and ultimately install their own puppets in Beijing to complete their “FULL SPECTRUM DOMINATION” ? (Better believe it, they are trying it with Russia in Ukraine now)

        By the way, i am not against “all things western” as you have so presumptuously said so. I find much to rejoice and savour in western technology and the more palatable part of its culture. And I have to disagree with you that “the west is a fictional concept”. For all the good that it has brought to the world in terms of its scientific and technological brilliance and economic innovations, the west has also brought untold miseries to the people of the world through its greed, its need to dominate, its prejudices and its perceived superiority and exceptionalism. The west now embodies a monolithic military/industrial/financial bloc that is hell bent on world domination without equals. We have already been given very bitter samples of this in the various bloody regime changes from 1945 onwards, wave after wave of financial scandals that had resulted in economic convolutions throughout the world, denial after denial of its culpability in polluting the planet in the past, ad infinitum. For this and this alone, i for one am standing up to it, starting with HK where people who are near and dear to me reside still.

        (Please do not delete this reply if you are truly into an intellectual debate. I am not out to get personal with you, only with your ideals)

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