The U.S. interest in Hong Kong is not for residents' welfare but to prop up its own waning influence
By Tom Fowdy  ·  2021-01-04  ·   Source: NO.1 JANUARY 7, 2021
The Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region holds an oath-taking ceremony for under secretaries and political assistants, who swear allegiance to Hong Kong SAR and its Basic Law, on December 16, 2020, in the presence of Chief Executive Carrie Lam (XINHUA)
The new $900-billion relief package signed by U.S. President Donald Trump on December 27, 2020, designed to supplement the U.S. economy over the impact of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is hardly straightforward in its purpose. It is being utilized as a vehicle for other things, which in fact have little to do with the virus or the U.S economy.
Included in the final version are a number of anti-China provisions, targeting the country in specific areas, forced into it by hawkish senators who have sought to push bills on the same matter throughout the year.
Such measures include attacks on China's sovereignty over Tibet Autonomous Region, increased support for Taiwan authorities, and most strikingly, $3 million allocated for "activist causes" in China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) under the guise of "pro-democracy."
The Chinese Government has long accused the U.S. Government and various politicians of promoting disruption in Hong Kong. It has also noted that a number of key individuals in the Hong Kong unrest have engaged in what might be described as "foreign collusion."
But it is an area that has constantly been dismissed by the Western media as propaganda and misinformation despite a great deal of the evidence being as clear as crystal. Misleadingly, China has been portrayed as the aggressor.
But there are no lies being told here. The reality is this: The U.S. does not truly care about democracy in Hong Kong as much as it strives to strategically weaponize it against the mainland and sustain political hegemony over its institutions. This is about sustaining its influence in a part of China, which is increasingly diminishing.
Stemming from British colonialism, Hong Kong was once conceived as an outpost for Western financial, economic and political interests within China and Asia. It was believed that it would serve as a model and a bridge to project ideological change within the country, and accordingly Anglosphere nations have approached it with a "guardianship" mentality that does not regard Chinese sovereignty as equal or truly legitimate.
Divide and profit
Hong Kong was the very place where China's "century of humiliation" began. Its creation was due to British imperialism. The British, having waged the war of aggression against China, also known as the Opium Wars (1840-42, 1856-60), sought to force open and financially exploit the country's markets and size.
Here began what were known as the "unequal treaties"—the British annexed Hong Kong, and subsequently utilized it as a base to project their commercial interests into China and beyond. Many other European countries followed this "treaty port" model, which saw the primary coastal areas of China occupied or annexed for similar reasons, such as the French in Shanghai, the Portuguese in Macao and the Germans in Shandong Province.

Not surprisingly, this arrangement transformed Hong Kong into a hugely successful global financial hub. However, the status quo could not last. Therefore, the territory had to be handed back to China, but in a way that would serve to sustain British and broader Western interests there. This led to the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, the document for Hong Kong's administration after it returned to the motherland in 1997, agreeing on a principle of "one country, two systems."

Ideally, Hong Kong was conceived as self-governing and part of China in name only. As China was now opening up to the world again, it would serve as a beachhead to project Western influence and ideology into the country like in times of old. These were the British assumptions when they signed the declaration.

Weaponizing Hong Kong

Yet this did not take place. The West's own sense of invincibility following the Cold War was wrong, and China grew whilst sustaining its political system. By the late 2010s, this drew aggravated hostility from the U.S., once open to engaging China on this premise, now sought to pursue confrontation against it and depict Beijing as an ideological threat.

Hong Kong, naturally, was a part of the jigsaw. Not being under national security legislation at that time, it stood in effect as an enclave around China where American politicians, non-governmental organizations and other organizations could proliferate a wider agenda against the country and interfere in its politics.

The unrest in Hong Kong was encouraged by American hostility toward China and things exploded in 2019 with the proposal for an amendment to the extradition law, descending into violence. Some key individuals openly collaborated with American politicians in lobbying for sanctions against the SAR, and in December 2019, the U.S. Government passed the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Not surprisingly, when the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, passed the Law on Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong SAR in June 2020, exercising its constitutional right to do so, the U.S., UK and others were quick to decry it as a violation of Hong Kong's autonomy, as if China held no true sovereign

rights of national security over the SAR. This law has since closed the loopholes utilized by the U.S. to project its political influence into China, which is why the administration has been so aggrieved.

Yet for many politicians, the goal of continuing to weaponize Hong Kong as a Trojan horse continues. The COVID-19 relief bill is not helping American people as much as it is attempting to fund greater political unrest and advocacy in Hong Kong in a clear attempt to undermine China's sovereign rights.

For China, however, this is an issue that is not negotiable. China sees the return of Hong Kong as the correction of a longstanding historical injustice and will not compromise on any attempts by U.S. politicians to try and meddle with that again. 

The author is a British political and international relations analyst

(Print Edition Title: Trojan Horse Strategy)

Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar

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