Hong Kong: China’s accusations of foreign influence echo authoritarian playbook



China has a long history of blaming “foreign forces” for challenges it has faced internally, including the Tiananmen Square protests 30 years ago. But the depth and ferocity of China’s accusations over Hong Kong suggest they are not merely propaganda intended for domestic or international audiences…China’s accusations of foreign influence echo those that other authoritarian governments have made in the face of popular opposition, Steven Lee Myers writes for The New York Times:

Instead, analysts said, they reflect the thinking of an increasingly anxious leadership that sees any manifestation of popular sentiment in the streets as a potential “color revolution” like those that swept Georgia, Ukraine and later the Arab world….A 42-page report released recently by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs singled out the National Endowment for Democracy, the Congressionally funded organization founded in 1983 to support the spread of democracy and human rights around the world, accusing it of underwriting a similar revolution in Hong Kong….

Its grants in 2018 included $155,000 for the Solidarity Center, the American labor advocacy group allied with the AFL-CIO, and $90,000 to the Hong Kong Justice Center, an organization in Hong Kong that monitors the territory’s compliance with rights defined by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“The process we’re engaging with is an official United Nations process, which China is a part of,” said Annie Li, a senior researcher with the Hong Kong Justice Center, referring to the annual assessments of human rights known as the Universal Periodic Review. “They’re obviously aware of our work.”

National Endowment for Democracy

The National Endowment for Democracy regularly distributes grants to organizations working to preserve democratic rights — a goal very much in line with the protests, Myers adds:

Another organization that has worked in Hong Kong, the National Democratic Institute — a Democratic Party-affiliated partner of the National Endowment for Democracy — received $200,000 from the endowment in 2018. The institute’s president, Derek Mitchell, who previously served as ambassador to Myanmar, called the accusations that Americans have fomented or funded the protests “utterly ridiculous.”

The institute’s work has been to promote civil society by organizing training seminars for scholars, lawyers and civil servants, according to the National Endowment for Democracy’s grant. That the Chinese government views such advocacy as a threat, Mr. Mitchell said, “shows their insecurity.”

“It’s a fairly consistent theme from China and other authoritarian governments,” he said. “They can either accept responsibility for their own behavior, or they can blame others.”

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