Epoch Times reporter Stacey Tang sat down with Stephen K. Bannon, a founding member of “The Committee on the Present Danger: China,” and a former White House chief strategist and senior counselor to President Donald J. Trump.
They discussed the recent Hong Kong protests, the Chinese Communist’s Party role in it all, and what the future could hold. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Epoch Times: I think the last time you were interviewed by The Epoch Times and NTD was in April and in the past two months, a lot of things happened, particularly regarding Hong Kong. The two mass protests that made the government suspend the extradition law, what’s your takeaway of that?
Steve Bannon: I think this puts a lie to everything that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) said about the Chinese people. You are seeing democracy at work there. I mean look at the young people in Hong Kong that have stood up to the CCP in particular. This is not about an extradition bill, this is about the sovereignty of Hong Kong. It’s about a deal that the Chinese Communist Party made with the British and the world accepted back in 1997 of one country/two systems, and the “two systems” was supposed to rest upon real democracy and freedom for the Hong Kong people.
I think what’s most amazing is that this is driven by young people. Young people and a lot of those people are Christians, a lot of those people are Falun Gong, a lot of those people have deep spiritual beliefs. And they want freedom of speech, they want freedom of assembly, they want freedom of religion, and they want rule of law. This is about the rule of law in Hong Kong, and I think that’s why the world has been awakened to how deep this movement is. And I think it’s fantastic. It’s put the fear of God into the radical cadre that runs the CCP in Beijing, because we also saw the world change.
You can’t have another Tiananmen Square. Trust me they wanted to in the worst way on that second weekend, not the first. I think the first weekend they were shocked but the second weekend they wanted to send in the bruisers to really get the crowd under control and disperse it.
And you could tell that the world media and these young people were not about to give up, and it’s being covered, they didn’t do it. But the police brutality that came out of those two weekends showed you everything you needed to see about the CCP, but I think Hong Kong—and I’ve said this now for the last three or four weeks—this is the single most important event that’s happening in the world.
Epoch Times: I was thinking about that question. What do you think of the historic importance of this event?
Mr. Bannon: It’s monumentally important. Number one, remember the whole world has bought into this lie that the Chinese people are not ready for democracy, that the Chinese people can’t govern themselves. I keep saying it’s the most racist thing I’ve ever heard, it’s unacceptable that the world’s capitals and the world’s media and the world’s established order have bought into this. The Chinese people, why do they have a firewall? Why are they suppressed? Why are they enslaved? Why do we just buy this assumption the CCP puts out that China can’t govern itself.
If you look at Hong Kong, look at the discipline, this would be the equivalent of the United States in the first weekend of like 40 or 50 million people coming out. I think the second weekend would be like 80 million people turning out. Look how they police themselves. Look how students were studying while they were being tear-gassed. Look how they cleaned up afterward, look at the streets, look at Victoria Park, where they went around and cleaned up, it was cleaner than when they started.
This is what democracy is about. Democracy is about citizen participation. The whole thing of nationalism that we’re talking about is that the nation-state is the best unit to govern because that’s the unit that gives the citizen the most participation in their government. Hong Kong I thought was a perfect example of democracy.
This is not about an extradition bill. Although the extradition bill is horrific, it will allow the Chinese Communist Party just to take whoever they want and put them in prison in these prison camps in China. It’s really about sovereignty, and that’s why I think it’s so important. I think historically, this is an inflection point. Hong Kong is going to resonate very deep. Look, it’s the reason Xi went to Korea. He said, I’ll see you Hong Kong and I’ll raise you Korea, just to let you know that Trump and people know that he’s still in charge.
I think the other thing that’s very interesting is the outright lies of the CCCP. I’ve been following the coverage, the people I work with have been sending me the press conferences they’ve been having in Beijing, which the first weekend they said there’s 700,000 people on the streets supporting the bill [that weekend hundreds of thousands were on the streets opposing the extradition bill]. I mean, just an outright blatant lie because they can’t allow the truth to be told.
The second lie is “foreign powers”, “the black hand of foreign powers.” The (Chinese) foreign secretary came out yesterday said it’s the black hand, it’s the CIA, it’s Miles Kwok and Steve Bannon. It’s these outside agitators, it’s groups like Falun Gong, it’s all these troublemakers in the West that are trying to stir this up, when nothing could be further from the truth.
This is a grassroots movement, principally driven by young people in Hong Kong. Now the middle class has joined in. Also, you’re starting to see the business interests in Hong Kong and the upper middle class who have always had the side of the CCP because they don’t want to have politics involved. They just want to make money. They understand now that this will affect Hong Kong as a major financial center—that you have to have the rule of law.
The CCP is a gangster organization, run by gangsters with a gangster’s mentality; they are criminals, and they have a criminal mindset. You can’t have a world’s third most important financial center without the rule of law. I think that is what at stake, the stakes at Hong Kong couldn’t be higher.
Epoch Times: So what would you expect will be the consequences? Will the law be suspended forever, or will the CCP change its way of pushing the law, or maybe it will become a bargaining point?
Mr. Bannon: It’s very interesting that they kind of did what I thought they’re going to do, which was just delay it indefinitely. Not to say a temporary indefinite, but delay it indefinitely. I ultimately think they’ll throw Carrie Lam under the bus. They’ll use her as a sacrificial lamb, no pun intended, to try to hope this thing goes away. They’re not going to back off this. They’ve already blinked, which should send a signal to everybody else in Mainland China and Taiwan, that they’re not as powerful as they put themselves up to be. Two million Hong Kong Chinese, in particular, a group of young people, made the Chinese Communist Party, Wang Qishan, and Emperor Xi, his henchmen, back off. That’s incredible.
Epoch Times: But they won’t admit it, the CCP will never admit it.
Mr. Bannon: They’ll never admit that. They’ll say it’s Carrie Lam misunderstood. Carrie Lam didn’t execute this correctly. Look, I think, very bluntly, and I’ve said this, I think Carrie Lam is a traitor to the Hong Kong people. It is a disgrace she’s Hong Kong Chinese. She has been a running dog for the CCP.
Epoch Times: Would that have consequences to Taiwan? I think I heard that Taiwan is going to have a parade.
Mr. Bannon: I hope. Taiwan’s got a huge election coming up in 2020. There’s all this discussion of the military, in particular with what’s happening in Iran, some sort of military situation in Taiwan. I think more important than a military situation is the election in 2020. I think Terry Gou and Foxconn is a fifth column for the CCP. I think KMT, unless they really change their profile, that they’re in bed with the CCP, what they’re going to try to do is try to have some sweet happy talk about reunification. I don’t think the stakes would be higher. Remember the first weekend Taiwan media did not cover this.
I think Taiwan should take a tremendous, tremendous, lesson here from Hong Kong, about what resistance really means and peaceful resistance. I hope they have rallies, I hope they have parades, I hope they honor Joshua Wong and the young people of Hong Kong should be held up as the example of democracy at work.
Here’s the thing I tell people in the West, we have young people, most of whom have some spiritual affiliation, either Christianity, Catholicism, Falun Gong, or Buddhism, or something. Most of these have yearning and they have some sort of spiritual background. You hear in the hymns that they’re singing. They’ve made these hymns, the songs of some of these old Christian hymns and they’re protesting peacefully, while they’re studying, getting tear-gassed and not being violent. And they’re protesting for rule of law, democracy, and capitalism. That’s the most powerful thing I think we can see today.
Epoch Times: How could you compare last week’s protest to the 1989 student protests?
Mr. .Bannon: I think the student protests in 89, what amazed me is when they built the Goddess of Democracy. I saw that statue in the middle of Tiananmen Square. I go, how long is this going to last? They’ve taken this to a new level, it was amazing. Tiananmen Square, if you go back and remember the West because of the influence peddling of the CCP, the West doesn’t really know much about Tiananmen square
I keep saying now, with the success of this epic masterpiece “Chernobyl” that someone should go back and do a mini-series on Tiananmen Square because people don’t know the facts. We were debating earlier; we don’t even know the facts about how many were killed. We don’t know the facts of who was in prison. We don’t even know who tank man is. There’s so little that we really know about Tiananmen.
I went to a dinner on June 4, to honor some of the veterans in DC of Tiananmen Square, and to hear their stories, when you hear the eyewitnesses, it certainly seems like there was a lot more than ten thousand. It seems like the brutality was pretty substantial, but you see some connection there in the young people that time had a yearning, not just for democracy, for something deeper. I think what you’re seeing in Hong Kong today is the brutal repression of all forms of religion, the brutal repression of free speech, the brutal repression of freedom of assembly, the brutal repression of the firewall, and rule of law.
You’ve seen the reaction to that. What these kids are saying, it’s not about extradition, this is about our sovereignty. If we allow this to happen, they’ve lied about everything since 1997. Little by little, they’re taking it away. If you look at their demands, their demands are pretty straightforward. The key demand is they want a direct election, they don’t want any more Carrie Lams. They don’t want any more majority of people on the legislative council selected by Beijing who are just puppets. They are just running dogs for the regime in Beijing. What they want is a democracy, they want those people to be elected because they know if they’re elected by the people of Hong Kong, the rules are going to be very different. I think that’s quite powerful.
Epoch Times: You admire President Reagan. How do you compare Reagan and Trump, and particularly in the regard that Reagan helped to bring the collapse of Soviet communism? Do you think Trump has that same higher goal to bring an end to the CCP?
Mr. Bannon: President Trump I think is very much the Reagan of our present time. He believes in peace through strength, he believes in people. You got to remember though he’s in a much more, I think, difficult position. This is one of the reasons we started the Committee on the Present Danger. There are certain analogies to the late 70s into the teens here in the 21st century. One is that America back then took after Vietnam. We took our eye off the ball where the real threat was, the real threat was the rise of this military power. The Soviet Union is oppression of people throughout the world, which was really in central Asia. In eastern Europe, they were starting to spread throughout Africa, the Caribbean, they had a global plan for Hegemony. The one thing that they did have that that hurt them was, they actually had the economics of communism, which we know cannot work.
Trump comes into a [different] situation. Remember back then there was some sort of at least unity, although there was division among our elites there was a central unity. Remember the committee of the present danger in the 70s had Democrats and Republicans, who are the people like Scoop Jackson, people who were Hawks who were saying, hey, we have to confront this.
Today, you have the exact opposite. Remember how has CCP gotten so powerful? CCP has gotten so powerful because the elites, the elites of western Europe and the United States, the financial, the corporate, the media and the political class have supported the CCP. Remember, CCP would be nothing if it was not financed by western capitalism and not given western technology or allowed to steal western technology, all the surveillance technology which they use to oppress their people, was either sold to them, or allowed to be stolen, by the west.
So Trump comes into a situation where all the elites are against him, why are they against him? They don’t care if the people of China are enslaved. They just don’t. It’s a business model. They’re making a lot of money. Labor’s cheap because Chinese people are enslaved, they don’t care that the underground Christian church is being persecuted in one of the worst persecutions we’ve ever seen by the Chinese Communist Party. They don’t care whether a Falun Gong is tortured in a prison. They don’t care.
Here’s what they care about, they care about money. You go back to Trump’s inaugural week, and you had Xi go to Davos, and give that speech on globalization. He was admired and everybody came to him, as he was the hero of globalization. Those people in Davos knew about the concentration camps of the Uygurs, those people knew about what was happening to the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhists, those people knew with the persecution of underground Catholic church and the evangelical Christians, those people knew about the torment against Falun Gong. These people know all about it, and they don’t care.
The CCP has a state capitalist model of how to maximize profits and that’s what they care about. So Trump comes into a situation that is very different. Remember, he’s battling the entire established order in this, the established order says, we basically have a deal with the Chinese. That system’s working well for them, it’s crushing working class people.
You saw yesterday, a perfect example. We’re here in Chicago talking about American manufacturing and the deindustrialization to an audience of Hindu Americans who have come here as entrepreneurs and built up the printed circuit board business, which basically the CCP targeted and took over. Remember, not one word from the American establishment, it was fine with them. So Trump comes at this in a much more difficult situation than Reagan had because Trump doesn’t have the Republican party with him. Besides the happy talk, who are the guys all over trump on the tariffs—the Republican party, the conservative think tanks. They’re not prepared to do what has to be done to confront the CCP in the economic war that they’ve been running against the West.
I happen to believe if you continue to see things like Hong Kong, people in the West are prepared to have the back of people of people in mainland China, and in Taiwan and in Hong Kong that are yearning for freedom and democracy. That yes, the CCP as it’s constituted today will not have the same grip on China in a few years, I happen to think it’s a very tenuous group. People on Wall Street, they were just saying, oh, you can’t even to talk about this. They are the rulers of China and you just have to understand that’s like the second law of thermodynamics. It’s a metaphysical certitude that they’re the rulers. I said that’s not true.
I meet expatriate Chinese all the time and I keep telling people Hong Kong is going to explode, they all laughed at me. I said, look at it, it’s exploding, it is exploding by young people who refuse to back down. So remember, the West has always been wrong about China for 20, 25 years. You saw that yesterday, at the conference with the Hindu-American businessman. They had robust $70 billion businesses just went away and nobody even thought about it. Nobody tried to defend it. The elites in the West are absolutely in bed with, okay, the leaders of the CCP, they are financial partners, they are business partners, and they’re the ones are putting the most pressure on us, not putting pressure on the CCP. But if Hong Kong continues, the CCP is not going to be the same in four or five years.