Trump’s Protest Response Hands Propaganda Win to China on Hong Kong

Law enforcement push forward moving protesters
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U.S. President Donald Trump’s heavy-handed response to George Floyd protests has given China’s propaganda machine invaluable fodder to slam the U.S. for hypocrisy in its support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.

Chinese diplomats, officials and state-run media are having a field day with the extensive policing the U.S. has deployed in response to protests across the nation, with many making opportune statements in support of racial equality — despite the fact that China currently holds an estimated one million ethnic minority Uighurs in internment camps in its Xinjiang region.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday called racism “a chronic disease of American society,” saying that “Black people’s lives are also lives. Their human rights must also be guaranteed.”

The comments ignore accusations that China is discriminating against people of African descent in its coronavirus response. Last month, Human Rights Watch issued a report condemning the singling out of people of African descent for discriminatory treatment in the southern province of Guangdong, home to China’s largest African population. Subsequent discrimination there from landlords and businesses left many evicted and forced to sleep on the street, banned from the metro, and shunned from establishments that put up signs reading “no blacks.”

China’s state media has nonetheless flocked to use the woke language of the Black Lives Matter movement to draw attention to the U.S.’s current situation — and point out how American officials who have expressed support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have taken the opposite position over similarly sweeping protests at home.

Zhao said the U.S. response is a “textbook example of its world-famous double standards.” His colleague, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, took to Twitter — a platform banned in China — to tweet “I can’t breathe” alongside a screenshot of a tweet from U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus criticizing Beijing’s Hong Kong policies.

On May 29, Trump said he would cut Hong Kong’s special trade relationship with the U.S. in retaliation to a new, controversial national security law passed by Beijing that critics say will permanently hamper civil liberties in the semi-autonomous region. Beijing has been furious with U.S. voices in support of the ongoing anti-government, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The editor-in-chief of China’s Global Times Hu Xijin gleefully tweeted, “The beautiful sight defined by U.S. politicians has eventually extended from Hong Kong to the U.S. Now they can witness it by their home windows.”

“I want to ask Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Pompeo: should Beijing support protests in the U.S., like you glorified rioters in Hong Kong?”

The Global Times, which tends to take a nationalistic tone and is sometimes referred to as China’s Fox News, ran three prominent editorials Tuesday on U.S. race problems: “U.S. Needs to Reflect on its Social and Economic Discrimination,” “Two-Party Politics Leaves African Americans No Chance to Make Change,” and “Quelling Protests with Troops Self-Contradictory for U.S.”

Trump’s threat to deploy active-duty U.S. armed forces against American civilians engaged in the protests almost ominously coincide with one of the darkest days of modern Chinese history: June 4, 1989, the day of the Tiananmen Square massacre, when peaceful protesters calling for reforms were quelled by the Chinese army in the heart of Beijing.

The event is one of China’s most highly censored topics, and many young Chinese do not even know of its existence — but Hong Kongers have gathered annually for the past 30 years to mark the event with a rally and lighted candles. 

This year, however, the Victoria Park vigil has been banned by Hong Kong police, ostensibly for coronavirus-related social distancing reasons, making it the first time it will not be held since 1989.

Retired East Asia national intelligence officer John Culver posed a portentous question on Twitter: “A century from now, which set of events will loom larger in history: The [Chinese Communist Party’s] 1989 employment of the [People’s Liberation Army] to thwart the Chinese peoples’ aspirations for freedom? Or 2020’s test of U.S. Military’s loyalty to the Constitution rather than to the vanity of a mere politician?”