Teenager Vs. Superpower, with help from a bigger superpower
Joshua Wong meets with Sen. Marco Rubio in Washington on May 8, 2017 (Same Rubio backing regime change in Venezuela)
Joshua Wong was just 17 years old when the Umbrella Movement took form in 2014. After emerging in the protest ranks as one of the more charismatic voices, he was steadily groomed as the pro-West camp’s teenage poster child. Wong received lavish praised in Time magazine, Fortune, and Foreign Policy as a “freedom campaigner,” and became the subject of an award-winning Netflix documentary called “Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower.”
Unsurprisingly, these puff pieces have overlooked Wong’s ties to the United States government’s regime-change apparatus. For instance, National Endowment for Democracy’s National Democratic Institute (NDI) maintains a close relationship with Demosistō, the political party Wong founded in 2016 with fellow Umbrella movement alumnus Nathan Law.
In August, a candid photo surfaced of Wong and Law meeting with Julie Eadeh, the political counselor at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong, raising questions about the content of the meeting and setting off a diplomatic showdown between Washington and Beijing.
....until I backended myself into this report, from Spain, I had no idea that the Catalonians are similarly protesting their central government, and that there is developing a sort of 'kindred spirit' between Hong Kong and the Catalans....
...both being violently oppressed/suppressed... and each 'sporting' each other's flage in solidarity? who knew?
A Catalonian pro-independence Estelada is waved alongside a Hong Kong colonial-era flag as some protesters in the city express their feelings about Chinese rule. Photo: Sam Tsang
“I’m very disappointed with the EU,” Puigdemont said, speaking in the Belgian town of Waterloo. “Obviously, we didn’t expect clear support from a European institution, but we expected [it to voice concern] if fundamental rights were violated.”
Chinese officials claim the differing treatment by European politicians and media of the two movements is an example of double standards and “Western hypocrisy”.
“So-called democracy and human rights is only an excuse with which the West interferes with Hong Kong affairs,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said
. “There should only be one standard and one stance on violence and illegal activities.”
Another significant difference is in how the movements have been led. Puigdemont once led a Catalan government that unilaterally held a referendum on independence without Madrid’s approval. His successor, Quim Torra, also a pro-independence figure, was sworn in as Catalonia’s president after months of direct rule by Madrid. This contrasts with Hong Kong’s movement, which has no clear leadership and was initiated by those on the political fringes.
Catalan protests fuelled by ‘chaos’ in Hong Kong, Chinese ex-envoy says
Both of the movements failed to win support from the rest of the country. Ask Spaniards outside Catalonia, and most of them would belittle Catalan independence as a “fake issue”. “Our shared history [Catalonia and Spain] is long and deep,” Rafael Arenas Garcia, an activist against Catalan independence, wrote in The New York Times. “Catalonia has been an integral part of Spain since the nation’s inception.”
Mainland Chinese following the Hong Kong protests – whether they live on the mainland or in Hong Kong – tended to see them as the work of secessionists trying to break away from the rest of China, even though the claim is repeatedly denied by the protesters.
The mainland public’s suspicion was only deepened by the frequent appearance of anti-China messages and one of the movement’s slogans, “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”. Given the rising nationalist tides in China, any movement perceived as “separatist” would quickly lose public sympathy.
The Spanish and Chinese governments are equally vocal in trying to engage overseas media regarding the protests.
Placards and slogans used during demonstrations in Barcelona reveal the empathy between the two movements. Photo: AFP
Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, his ministers and the country’s most senior judge have cited heavily The Economist’s latest democracy ranking, which puts Spain ahead of the US, France and Italy, as they wage a PR battle against Catalonian leaders.
Sanchez’s ministers have bombarded the international media with briefings, interviews and opinion articles defending Spain’s reputation, and provided reporters with a bounty of data, according to news magazine Politico.
The same has been seen from Beijing, whose foreign diplomats in the US and Europe have defended the Hong Kong government’s actions against the protesters since June. They, too, like to cite international statistics to support their assertion that Hong Kong’s rule of law remains in good shape.
While the protesters of Catalonia and Hong Kong might be sharing tactics and moral support, Puigdemont said there was little the Beijing government could learn from its Spanish counterparts.
“My advice to the authorities is to respect fundamental human rights,” he said.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Protest movements with more than a shared style?