Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #1091 The Destabilization of China, Part 2

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This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Intro­duc­tion: The pro­gram begins with an excerpt of AFA #37 (from the fall of 1992), deal­ing with the desta­bi­liza­tion of the U.S.S.R. Rely­ing on arti­cles from Covert Action Infor­ma­tion Bul­letin #35, by Doug Hen­wood and Sean Ger­vasi, the pro­gram reviews both NSC 68 and what Ger­vasi terms “the full court press” strat­e­gy that was its ulti­mate ful­fill­ment.

Using polit­i­cal action focused on pro­mot­ing frac­tious nation­al­ism among tar­get­ed eth­nic­i­ties with­in the tar­get­ed nation and eco­nom­ic and diplo­mat­ic pres­sure to weak­en that coun­try, the strat­e­gy worked very well with the Sovi­et Union.

It is Mr. Emory’s con­sid­ered opin­ion that the same strat­e­gy is being applied to Chi­na. Whether that strat­e­gy will be suc­cess­ful remains to be seen.

Next, we note the role of the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy (an exam­ple of Orwellian Newspeak if ever there was one) in con­tin­u­ing our exam­i­na­tion of the tur­moil in Hong Kong. NED was deeply involved in the desta­bi­liza­tion of the U.S.S.R. We exam­ined NED’s role in pro­ject­ing Nazi and fas­cist ele­ments back into Lithua­nia in AFA #37, as well as FTR #858.

In this arti­cle we note: the involve­ment of the NED with the lead­ing indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions involved with the tur­moil in Hong Kong; the net­work­ing between oth­er U.S. “soft-pow­er” intel­li­gence fronts with the Hong Kong activists; the net­work­ing between top Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials and the Hong Kong activists; the use of anti-Chi­nese slurs dat­ing to the fight­ing between Japan and Chi­na pri­or to, and dur­ing, World War II; U.S. “Alt-right” involve­ment with the Hong Kong unrest; the meet­ing of a U.S. diplo­mat with Hong Kong activists; the use of what–if it were used by peo­ple act­ing in the U.S.–rioting and ter­ror­ism by the crowds in Hong Kong; the vio­lence used in Hong Kong includes throw­ing gaso­line bombs at the police, set­ting fire to sub­way sta­tions, attack­ing passers-by and assault­ing counter-pro­test­ers.

1.The pro­gram begins with an excerpt of AFA #37 (from the fall of 1992), deal­ing with the desta­bi­liza­tion of the U.S.S.R. Rely­ing on arti­cles from Covert Action Infor­ma­tion Bul­letin #35, by Doug Hen­wood and Sean Ger­vasi, the pro­gram reviews both NSC 68 and what Ger­vasi terms “the full court press” strat­e­gy that was its ulti­mate ful­fill­ment.

Using polit­i­cal action focused on pro­mot­ing frac­tious nation­al­ism among tar­get­ed eth­nic­i­ties with­in the tar­get­ed nation and eco­nom­ic and diplo­mat­ic pres­sure to weak­en that coun­try, the strat­e­gy worked very well with the Sovi­et Union.

It is Mr. Emory’s con­sid­ered opin­ion that the same strat­e­gy is being applied to Chi­na. Whether that strat­e­gy will be suc­cess­ful remains to be seen.

2. We note the role of the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy (an exam­ple of Orwellian Newspeak if ever there was one) in con­tin­u­ing our exam­i­na­tion of the tur­moil in Hong Kong. NED was deeply involved in the desta­bi­liza­tion of the U.S.S.R. We exam­ined NED’s role in pro­ject­ing Nazi and fas­cist ele­ments back into Lithua­nia in AFA #37, as well as FTR #858.

In this arti­cle we note: the involve­ment of the NED with the lead­ing indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions involved with the tur­moil in Hong Kong; the net­work­ing between oth­er U.S. “soft-pow­er” intel­li­gence fronts with the Hong Kong activists; the net­work­ing between top Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials and the Hong Kong activists; the use of anti-Chi­nese slurs dat­ing to the fight­ing between Japan and Chi­na pri­or to, and dur­ing, World War II; the use of what–if it were used by peo­ple act­ing in the U.S.–rioting and ter­ror­ism by the crowds in Hong Kong; the vio­lence used in Hong Kong includes throw­ing gaso­line bombs at the police, set­ting fire to sub­way sta­tions, attack­ing passers-by and assault­ing counter-pro­test­ers.

“US Backs Xeno­pho­bia, Mob Vio­lence in Hong Kong” by Dan Cohen [The Gray Zone]; Con­sor­tium News, 8/19/2019.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweet­ed on August 13 that he “can’t imag­ine why” the Unit­ed States has been blamed for the chaot­ic protests that have gripped Hong Kong. 

Trump’s befud­dle­ment might be under­stand­able con­sid­er­ing the care­ful­ly man­aged nar­ra­tive of the U.S. gov­ern­ment and its unof­fi­cial media appa­ra­tus, which have por­trayed the protests as an organ­ic “pro-democ­ra­cy” expres­sion of grass­roots youth. How­ev­er, a look beneath the sur­face of this over­sim­pli­fied, made-for-tele­vi­sion script reveals that the fero­cious­ly anti-Chi­nese net­work behind the demon­stra­tions has been cul­ti­vat­ed with the help of mil­lions of dol­lars from the U.S. gov­ern­ment, as well as a Wash­ing­ton-linked local media tycoon. 

Since March, rau­cous protests have gripped Hong Kong. In July and August, these demon­stra­tions trans­formed into ugly dis­plays of xeno­pho­bia and mob vio­lence. 

The protests osten­si­bly began in oppo­si­tion to a pro­posed amend­ment to the extra­di­tion law between Hong Kong, Tai­wan, main­land Chi­na, and Macau, which would have allowed Tai­wanese author­i­ties to pros­e­cute a Hong Kong man for mur­der­ing his preg­nant girl­friend and dump­ing her body in the bush­es dur­ing a vaca­tion to Tai­wan. 

High­ly orga­nized net­works of anti-Chi­na pro­test­ers quick­ly mobi­lized against the law, com­pelling Hong Kong Chief Exec­u­tive Car­rie Lam to with­draw the bill. 

But the protests con­tin­ued even after the extra­di­tion law was tak­en off the table — and these demon­stra­tions degen­er­at­ed into dis­turb­ing scenes. In recent days, hun­dreds of masked riot­ers have occu­pied the Hong Kong air­port, forc­ing the can­cel­la­tion of inbound flights while harass­ing trav­el­ers and vicious­ly assault­ing jour­nal­ists and police.

The pro­test­ers’ stat­ed goals remain vague. Joshua Wong, one of the most well known fig­ures in the move­ment, has put for­ward a call for the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment to “retract the procla­ma­tion that the protests were riots,” and restat­ed the con­sen­sus demand for uni­ver­sal suf­frage.

Wong is a bespec­ta­cled 22-year-old who has been trum­pet­ed in West­ern media as a “free­dom cam­paign­er,” pro­mot­ed to the Eng­lish-speak­ing world through his own Net­flix doc­u­men­tary, and reward­ed with the back­ing of the U.S. gov­ern­ment. 

But behind telegenic spokes­peo­ple like Wong are more extreme ele­ments such as the Hong Kong Nation­al Par­ty, whose mem­bers have appeared at protests wav­ing the Stars and Stripes and belt­ing out cacoph­o­nous ren­di­tions of the Star-Span­gled Ban­ner. The lead­er­ship of this offi­cial­ly banned par­ty helped pop­u­lar­ize the call for the full inde­pen­dence of Hong Kong, a rad­i­cal goal that is music to the ears of hard­lin­ers in Wash­ing­ton.

Xeno­pho­bic resent­ment has defined the sen­si­bil­i­ty of the pro­test­ers, who vow to “retake Hong Kong” from Chi­nese main­lan­ders they depict as a horde of locusts. The demon­stra­tors have even adopt­ed one of the most wide­ly rec­og­nized sym­bols of the alt-right, embla­zon­ing images of Pepe the Frog on their protest lit­er­a­ture. While it’s unclear that Hong Kong res­i­dents see Pepe the same way Amer­i­can white nation­al­ists do, mem­bers of the U.S. far-right have embraced the protest move­ment as their own, and even per­son­al­ly joined their ranks.

Among the most cen­tral influ­encers of the demon­stra­tions is a local tycoon named Jim­my Lai. The self-described “head of oppo­si­tion media,” Lai is wide­ly described as the Rupert Mur­doch of Asia. For the mass­es of pro­test­ers, Lai is a tran­scen­dent fig­ure. They clam­or for pho­tos with him and applaud the oli­garch wild­ly when he walks by their encamp­ments. 

Lai estab­lished his cre­den­tials by pour­ing mil­lions of dol­lars into the 2014 Occu­py Cen­tral protest, which is known pop­u­lar­ly as the Umbrel­la Move­ment. He has since used his mas­sive for­tune to fund local anti-Chi­na polit­i­cal movers and shak­ers while inject­ing the protests with a vir­u­lent brand of Sino­pho­bia through his media empire. 

Though West­ern media has depict­ed the Hong Kong pro­test­ers as the voice of an entire peo­ple yearn­ing for free­dom, the island is deeply divid­ed. This August, a group of pro­test­ers mobi­lized out­side Jim­my Lai’s house, denounc­ing him as a “run­ning dog” of Wash­ing­ton and accus­ing him of nation­al betray­al by unleash­ing chaos on the island. 

Days ear­li­er, Lai was in Wash­ing­ton, coor­di­nat­ing with hard­line mem­bers of Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty team, includ­ing John Bolton. His ties to Wash­ing­ton run deep — and so do those of the front-line protest lead­ers. 

Mil­lions of dol­lars have flowed from U.S.  regime-change out­fits like the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy (NED) into civ­il soci­ety and polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions that form the back­bone of the anti-Chi­na mobi­liza­tion. And Lai has sup­ple­ment­ed it with his own for­tune while instruct­ing pro­test­ers on tac­tics through his var­i­ous media organs.

With Don­ald Trump in the White House, Lai is con­vinced that his moment may be on the hori­zon. Trump “under­stands the Chi­nese like no pres­i­dent under­stood,” the tycoon told The Wall Street Jour­nal. “I think he’s very good at deal­ing with gang­sters.” 

 Born to Wealthy Main­land Par­ents 

Born in the main­land in 1948 to wealthy par­ents, whose for­tune was expro­pri­at­ed by the Com­mu­nist Par­ty dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion the fol­low­ing year, Jim­my Lai began work­ing at 9 years old, car­ry­ing bags for train trav­el­ers dur­ing the hard years of the Great Chi­nese Famine.

Inspired by the taste of a piece of choco­late gift­ed to him by a wealthy man, he decid­ed to smug­gle him­self to Hong Kong to dis­cov­er a future of wealth and lux­u­ry. There, Lai worked his way up the ranks of the gar­ment indus­try, grow­ing enam­ored with the lib­er­tar­i­an the­o­ries of econ­o­mists Friedrich Hayek and Mil­ton Fried­man, the lat­ter of whom became his close friend. 

Fried­man is famous for devel­op­ing the neolib­er­al shock ther­a­py doc­trine that the U.S. has imposed on numer­ous coun­tries, result­ing in the excess deaths of mil­lions. For his part, Hayek is the god­fa­ther of the Aus­tri­an eco­nom­ic school that forms the foun­da­tion of lib­er­tar­i­an polit­i­cal move­ments across the West.

Lai built his busi­ness empire on Gior­dano, a gar­ment label that became one of Asia’s most rec­og­niz­able brands. In 1989, he threw his weight behind the Tianan­men Square protests, hawk­ing t‑shirts on the streets of Bei­jing call­ing for Deng Xiaop­ing to “step down.” 

Lai’s actions pro­voked the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment to ban his com­pa­ny from oper­at­ing on the main­land. A year lat­er, he found­ed Next Week­ly mag­a­zine, ini­ti­at­ing a process that would rev­o­lu­tion­ize the medi­as­cape in Hong Kong with a blend of smut­ty tabloid-style jour­nal­ism, celebri­ty gos­sip and a heavy dose of anti-Chi­na spin.

The vocif­er­ous­ly anti-com­mu­nist baron soon became Hong Kong’s media king­pin, worth a whop­ping $660 mil­lion in 2009. 

Today, Lai is the founder and major­i­ty stake­hold­er of Next Dig­i­tal, the largest list­ed media com­pa­ny in Hong Kong, which he uses to agi­tate for the end of what he calls the Chi­nese “dic­ta­tor­ship.” 

His flag­ship out­let is the pop­u­lar tabloid Apple Dai­ly, employ­ing the trade­mark mix of raunchy mate­r­i­al with a heavy dose of xeno­pho­bic, nativist pro­pa­gan­da.

In 2012, Apple Dai­ly car­ried a full page adver­tise­ment depict­ing main­land Chi­nese cit­i­zens as invad­ing locusts drain­ing Hong Kong’s resources. The adver­tise­ment called for a stop to the “unlim­it­ed inva­sion of main­land preg­nant women in Hong Kong.” (This was a crude ref­er­ence to the Chi­nese cit­i­zens who had flocked to the island while preg­nant to ensure that their chil­dren could earn Hong Kong res­i­den­cy, and resem­bled the resent­ment among the U.S. right-wing of immi­grant “anchor babies.”)  

The trans­for­ma­tion of Hong Kong’s econ­o­my has pro­vid­ed fer­tile soil for Lai’s brand of dem­a­goguery. As the country’s man­u­fac­tur­ing base moved to main­land Chi­na after the gold­en years of the 1980s and ‘90s, the econ­o­my was rapid­ly finan­cial­ized, enrich­ing oli­garchs like Lai. Left with ris­ing debt and dim­ming career prospects, Hong Kong’s youth became easy prey to the dem­a­gog­ic pol­i­tics of nativism

Many pro­test­ers have been seen wav­ing British Union Jacks in recent weeks, express­ing a yearn­ing for an imag­i­nary past under colo­nial con­trol which they nev­er per­son­al­ly expe­ri­enced. 

In July, pro­test­ers van­dal­ized the Hong Kong Liai­son Office, spray-paint­ing the word, “Shi­na” on its facade. This term is a xeno­pho­bic slur some in Hong Kong and Tai­wan use to refer to main­land Chi­na. The anti-Chi­nese phe­nom­e­non was vis­i­ble dur­ing the 2014 Umbrel­la move­ment protests as well, with signs plas­tered around the city read­ing, “Hong Kong for Hong Kongers.”

This month, pro­test­ers turned their fury on the Hong Kong Fed­er­a­tion of Trade Unions, spray-paint­ing “riot­ers” on its office. The attack rep­re­sent­ed resent­ment of the left-wing group’s role in a vio­lent 1967 upris­ing against the British colo­nial author­i­ties, who are now seen as heroes among many of the anti-Chi­nese demon­stra­tors.

Besides Lai, a large part of the cred­it for mobi­liz­ing latent xeno­pho­bia goes to the right-wing Hong Kong Indige­nous par­ty leader Edward Leung. Under the direc­tion of the 28-year-old Leung, his pro-inde­pen­dence par­ty has bran­dished British colo­nial flags and pub­licly harassed Chi­nese main­land tourists. In 2016, Leung was exposed for meet­ing with U.S. diplo­mat­ic offi­cials at a local restau­rant.

Though he is cur­rent­ly in jail for lead­ing a 2016 riot where police were bom­bard­ed with bricks and pave­ment – and where he admit­ted to attack­ing an offi­cer – Leung’s right­ist pol­i­tics and his slo­gan, “Retake Hong Kong,” have helped define the ongo­ing protests. 

A local leg­is­la­tor and protest leader described Leung to The New York Times as “the Che Gue­vara of Hong Kong’s rev­o­lu­tion,” refer­ring with­out a hint of irony to the Latin Amer­i­can com­mu­nist rev­o­lu­tion­ary killed in a CIA-backed oper­a­tion. Accord­ing to the Times, Leung is “the clos­est thing Hong Kong’s tumul­tuous and lead­er­less protest move­ment has to a guid­ing light.”

The xeno­pho­bic sen­si­bil­i­ty of the pro­test­ers has pro­vid­ed fer­tile soil for Hong Kong Nation­al Par­ty to recruit. Found­ed by the pro-inde­pen­dence activist Andy Chan, the offi­cial­ly banned par­ty com­bines anti-Chi­nese resent­ment with calls for the U.S.  to inter­vene. Images and videos have sur­faced of HKNP mem­bers wav­ing the flags of the U.S. and U.K., singing the Star Span­gled Ban­ner, and car­ry­ing flags embla­zoned with images of Pepe the Frog, the most rec­og­niz­able sym­bol of the U.S.  alt-right. 

While the par­ty lacks a wide base of pop­u­lar sup­port, it is per­haps the most out­spo­ken with­in the protest ranks, and has attract­ed dis­pro­por­tion­ate inter­na­tion­al atten­tion as a result. Chan has called for Trump to esca­late the trade war and accused Chi­na of car­ry­ing out a “nation­al cleans­ing” against Hong Kong. “We were once col­o­nized by the Brits, and now we are by the Chi­nese,” he declared.

Dis­plays of pro-Amer­i­can jin­go­ism in the streets of Hong Kong have been like cat­nip for the inter­na­tion­al far-right.

Patri­ot Prayer founder Joey Gib­son recent­ly appeared at an anti-extra­di­tion protest in Hong Kong, livestream­ing the event to his tens of thou­sands of fol­low­ers. A month ear­li­er, Gib­son was seen rough­ing up antifa activists along­side ranks of club wield­ing fas­cists. In Hong Kong, the alt-right orga­niz­er mar­veled at the crowds. 

“They love our flag here more than they do in Amer­i­ca!” Gib­son exclaimed as marchers passed by, flash­ing him a thumbs up sign while he waved the Stars and Stripes.

 Xenophobic Propaganda 

Such xeno­pho­bic pro­pa­gan­da is con­sis­tent with the clash of civ­i­liza­tions the­o­ry that Jim­my Lai has pro­mul­gat­ed through his media empire.

“You have to under­stand the Hong Kong peo­ple – a very tiny 7 mil­lion or 0.5 per­cent of the Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion – are very dif­fer­ent from the rest of Chi­nese in Chi­na, because we grow up in the West­ern val­ues, which was the lega­cy of the British colo­nial past, which gave us the instinct to revolt once this extra­di­tion law was threat­en­ing our free­dom,” Lai told Fox News’ Maria Bar­tiro­mo. “Even Amer­i­ca has to look at the world 20 years from now, whether you want the Chi­nese dic­ta­to­r­i­al val­ues to dom­i­nate this world, or you want the val­ues that you trea­sure [to] con­tin­ue.”

Dur­ing a pan­el dis­cus­sion at the neo­con­ser­v­a­tive Wash­ing­ton-based think tank, the Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies, Lai told the pro-Israel lob­by­ist Jonathan Schanz­er,

“We need to know that Amer­i­ca is behind us. By back­ing us, Amer­i­ca is also sow­ing to the will of their moral author­i­ty because we are the only place in Chi­na, a tiny island in Chi­na, which is shar­ing your val­ues, which is fight­ing the same war you have with Chi­na.”

While Lai makes no attempt to con­ceal his polit­i­cal agen­da, his bankrolling of cen­tral fig­ures in the 2014 Occu­py Cen­tral, or Umbrel­la move­ment protests, was not always pub­lic. 

Leaked emails revealed that Lai poured more than $1.2 mil­lion to anti-Chi­na polit­i­cal par­ties includ­ing  $637,000 to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and $382,000 to the Civic Par­ty. Lai also gave $115,000 to the Hong Kong Civic Edu­ca­tion Foun­da­tion and Hong Kong Demo­c­ra­t­ic Devel­op­ment Net­work, both of which were co-found­ed by Rev­erend Chu Yiu-ming. Lai also spent $446,000 on Occu­py Central’s 2014 unof­fi­cial ref­er­en­dum.

Lai’s U.S.  con­sigliere is a for­mer Navy intel­li­gence ana­lyst who interned with the CIA and lever­aged his intel­li­gence con­nec­tions to build his boss’s busi­ness empire. Named Mark Simon, the vet­er­an spook arranged for for­mer Repub­li­can vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Sarah Palin to meet with a group in the anti-Chi­na camp dur­ing a 2009 vis­it to Hong Kong. Five years lat­er, Lai paid $75,000 to neo­con­ser­v­a­tive Iraq war author and U.S. Deputy Sec­re­tary of Defense Paul Wol­fowitz to orga­nize a meet­ing with top mil­i­tary fig­ures in Myan­mar.

This July, as the Hong Kong protests gath­ered steam, Lai was jun­ket­ed to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., for meet­ings with Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor John Bolton, and Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Ted Cruz, Cory Gard­ner, and Rick Scott. Bloomberg News cor­re­spon­dent Nicholas Wad­hams remarked on Lai’s vis­it, “Very unusu­al for a [non-gov­ern­ment] vis­i­tor to get that kind of access.”

One of Lai’s clos­est allies, Mar­tin Lee, was also grant­ed an audi­ence with Pom­peo, and has held court with U.S. lead­ers includ­ing Rep. Nan­cy Pelosi and for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph Biden.

Among the most promi­nent fig­ures in Hong Kong’s pro‑U.S. polit­i­cal par­ties, Lee began col­lab­o­rat­ing with Lai dur­ing the 1989 Tianan­men Square protests. A recip­i­ent of the U.S.-funded Nation­al Endow­ment for Democracy’s “Democ­ra­cy Award” in 1997, Lee is the found­ing chair­man of Hong Kong’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, now con­sid­ered part of the pro‑U.S.  camp’s old guard. 

While Mar­tin Lee has long been high­ly vis­i­ble on the pro-west­ern Hong Kong scene, a younger gen­er­a­tion of activists emerged dur­ing the 2014 Occu­py Cen­tral protests with a new brand of local­ized pol­i­tics.

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 U.S. regime-change appa­ra­tus. For instance, Nation­al Endow­ment for Democracy’s Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Insti­tute (NDI) main­tains a close rela­tion­ship with Demo­sis­to, 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.

The Office of the Com­mis­sion­er of the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs in Hong Kong sub­mit­ted a for­mal com­plaint with the U.S. con­sulate gen­er­al, call­ing on the U.S. “to imme­di­ate­ly make a clean break from anti-Chi­na forces who stir up trou­ble in Hong Kong, stop send­ing out wrong sig­nals to vio­lent offend­ers, refrain from med­dling with Hong Kong affairs and avoid going fur­ther down the wrong path.”

The pro-Bei­jing Hong Kong news­pa­per Ta Kung Pao pub­lished per­son­al details about Ead­eh, includ­ing the names of her chil­dren and her address. State Depart­ment spokesper­son Mor­gan Orta­gus lashed out, accus­ing the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment of being behind the leak but offer­ing no evi­dence. “I don’t think that leak­ing an Amer­i­can diplomat’s pri­vate infor­ma­tion, pic­tures, names of their chil­dren, I don’t think that is a for­mal protest, that is what a thug­gish regime would do,” she said at a State Depart­ment brief­ing. 

But the pho­to under­scored the close rela­tion­ship between Hong Kong’s pro-West move­ment and the U.S. gov­ern­ment. Since the 2014 Occu­py Cen­tral protests that vault­ed Wong into promi­nence, he and his peers have been assid­u­ous­ly cul­ti­vat­ed by the elite Wash­ing­ton insti­tu­tions to act as the faces and voic­es of Hong Kong’s bur­geon­ing anti-Chi­na move­ment.

In Sep­tem­ber 2015, Wong, Mar­tin Lee, and Uni­ver­si­ty of Hong Kong law pro­fes­sor Ben­ny Tai Lee were hon­ored by Free­dom House, a right-wing soft-pow­er orga­ni­za­tion that is heav­i­ly fund­ed by the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy and oth­er arms of the U.S. gov­ern­ment.  

Just days after Trump’s elec­tion as pres­i­dent in Novem­ber 2016, Wong was back in Wash­ing­ton to appeal for more U.S. sup­port. “Being a busi­ness­man, I hope Don­ald Trump could know the dynam­ics in Hong Kong and know that to main­tain the busi­ness sec­tor ben­e­fits in Hong Kong, it’s nec­es­sary to ful­ly sup­port human rights in Hong Kong to main­tain the judi­cial inde­pen­dence and the rule of law,” he said.

Wong’s vis­it pro­vid­ed occa­sion for the Senate’s two most aggres­sive­ly neo­con­ser­v­a­tive mem­bers, Mar­co Rubio and Tom Cot­ton, to intro­duce the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democ­ra­cy Act,” which would “iden­ti­fy those respon­si­ble for abduc­tion, sur­veil­lance, deten­tion and forced con­fes­sions, and the per­pe­tra­tors will have their U.S. assets, if any… frozen and their entry to the coun­try denied.”

Wong was then tak­en on a jun­ket of elite U.S. insti­tu­tions includ­ing the right-wing Her­itage Foun­da­tion think tank and the news­rooms of The New York Times and Finan­cial Times. He then held court with Rubio, Cot­ton, Pelosi, and Sen. Ben Sasse

In Sep­tem­ber 2017, Rubio, Ben Cardin, Tom Cot­ton, Sher­rod Brown, and Cory Gard­ner signed off on a let­ter to Wong, Law and fel­low anti-Chi­na activist Alex Chow, prais­ing them for their “efforts to build a gen­uine­ly autonomous Hong Kong.” The bipar­ti­san cast of sen­a­tors pro­claimed that “the Unit­ed States can­not stand idly by.”

A year lat­er, Rubio and his col­leagues nom­i­nat­ed the trio of Wong, Law, and Chow for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. 

Washington’s sup­port for the des­ig­nat­ed spokes­men of the “retake Hong Kong move­ment” was sup­ple­ment­ed with untold sums of mon­ey from U.S. regime-change out­fits like the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy (NED) and sub­sidiaries like the Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Insti­tute (NDI) to civ­il soci­ety, media and polit­i­cal groups. 

As jour­nal­ist Alex Rubin­stein report­ed, the Hong Kong Human Rights Mon­i­tor, a key mem­ber of the coali­tion that orga­nized against the now-defunct extra­di­tion law, has received more than $2 mil­lion in NED funds since 1995. And oth­er groups in the coali­tion reaped hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars from the NED and NDI last year alone.

While U.S. law­mak­ers nom­i­nate Hong Kong protest lead­ers for peace prizes and pump their orga­ni­za­tions with mon­ey to “pro­mote democ­ra­cy,” the demon­stra­tions have begun to spi­ral out of con­trol. 

Protests Become More Aggres­sive

After the extra­di­tion law was scrapped, the protests moved into a more aggres­sive phase, launch­ing “hit and run attacks” against gov­ern­ment tar­gets, erect­ing road­blocks, besieg­ing police sta­tions, and gen­er­al­ly embrac­ing the extreme modal­i­ties put on dis­play dur­ing U.S.-backed regime-change oper­a­tions from Ukraine to Venezuela to Nicaragua. 

The tech­niques clear­ly reflect­ed the train­ing many activists have received from West­ern soft-pow­er out­fits. But they also bore the mark of Jim­my Lai’s media oper­a­tion. 

In addi­tion to the vast sums Lai spent on polit­i­cal par­ties direct­ly involved in the protests, his media group cre­at­ed an ani­mat­ed video “show­ing how to resist police in case force was used to dis­perse peo­ple in a mass protest.” 

While dump­ing mon­ey into the Hong Kong’s pro‑U.S. polit­i­cal camp in 2013, Lai trav­eled to Tai­wan for a secret round­table con­sul­ta­tion with Shih Ming-teh, a key fig­ure in Taiwan’s social move­ment that forced then-pres­i­dent Chen Shui-bian to resign in 2008. Shih report­ed­ly instruct­ed Lai on non-vio­lent tac­tics to bring the gov­ern­ment to heel, empha­siz­ing the impor­tance of a com­mit­ment to go to jail. 

Accord­ing to jour­nal­ist Peter Lee, “Shih sup­pos­ed­ly gave Lai advice on putting stu­dents, young girls, and moth­ers with chil­dren in the van­guard of the street protests, in order to attract the sup­port of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty and press, and to sus­tain the move­ment with con­tin­u­al activ­i­ties to keep it dynam­ic and fresh.” Lai report­ed­ly turned off his record­ing device dur­ing mul­ti­ple sec­tions of Shih’s tuto­r­i­al.

One pro­test­er explained to The New York Times how the move­ment attempt­ed to embrace a strat­e­gy called, “Mar­gin­al Vio­lence The­o­ry:” By using “mild force” to pro­voke secu­ri­ty ser­vices into attack­ing the pro­test­ers, the pro­test­ers aimed to shift inter­na­tion­al sym­pa­thy away from the state. 

But as the protest move­ment inten­si­fies, its rank-and-file are doing away with tac­ti­cal restraint and lash­ing out at their tar­gets with full fury. They have thrown molo­tov cock­tails into inter­sec­tions to block traf­fic; attacked vehi­cles and their dri­vers for attempt­ing to break through road­blocks; beat­en oppo­nents with trun­cheons; attacked a wound­ed man with a U.S. flag; men­aced a reporter into delet­ing her pho­tos; kid­napped and beat a jour­nal­ist sense­less; beat a main­land trav­el­er uncon­scious and pre­vent­ed para­medics from reach­ing the vic­tim; and hurled petrol bombs at police offi­cers.

The charged atmos­phere has pro­vid­ed a shot in the arm to Lai’s media empire, which had been suf­fer­ing heavy loss­es since the last round of nation­al protests in 2014. After the mass march­es against the extra­di­tion bill on June 9, which Lai’s Apple Dai­ly aggres­sive­ly pro­mot­ed, his Next Dig­i­tal dou­bled in val­ue, accord­ing to Eji Insight. 

Mean­while, the protest lead­ers show no sign of back­ing down. Nathan Law, the youth activist cel­e­brat­ed in Wash­ing­ton and pho­tographed meet­ing with U.S.  offi­cials in Hong Kong, took to Twit­ter to urge his peers to sol­dier on: “We have to per­sist and keep the faith no mat­ter how dev­as­tat­ed the real­i­ty seems to be,” he wrote. 

Law was tweet­ing from New Haven, Con­necti­cut, where he was enrolled with a full schol­ar­ship at Yale Uni­ver­si­ty. While the young activist basked in the adu­la­tion of his U.S. patrons thou­sands of miles from the chaos he helped spark, a move­ment that defined itself as a “lead­er­less resis­tance” forged ahead back home.

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