Will the World Allow Hong Kong to Become Another Tiananmen?

By Simone Gao
Simone Gao
Simone Gao
November 19, 2019 Updated: November 19, 2019

A joint production of ‘Zooming In,’ an in-depth news program on NTD, and The Epoch Times

Narration: Thousands of rounds of rubber bullets as well as live rounds were fired. Beijing is delivering its toughest rhetoric. Is Hong Kong on the verge of experiencing a bloody crackdown?

Wei Jingsheng: Probably.

Narration: 30 years ago, As Chinese Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping was preparing to order the clearing of Tian An Men Square, what was his last concern?

Wei Jingsheng: Moreover, Deng Xiaoping was hesitant in ordering his troops, who were stationed in the suburbs, to advance into downtown Beijing. An important concern he had was the attitude of the U.S. toward the situation.

Narration: President H.W. Bush made it clear that the United States would not interfere with China’s internal affairs, he also replaced a pro-student ambassador.

Wei Jingsheng: At that moment, Deng was quite clear about the intentions of the US. He then gave the order and killing began.

Declan Ganley: perhaps if the signaling to Beijing had been a little bit different and a little bit stronger at the time, it might not have happened.

Narration: Will history repeat itself?

Marco Rubio: We want you to know that your cause will continue to be our cause…we are with you every step of the way.

Declan Ganley: You cannot compromise the morals of billions of people.

Title:Will the World Allow Hong Kong to Become Another Tiananmen?

Host: Welcome to Zooming In, I’m Simone Gao. The world has been on edge these past few days as Hong Kong experienced its bloodiest week since the protests began in June. Many signs are suggesting that Communist party leadership is becoming impatient and may want to put an end to the movement not in months or weeks but in days. Will Hong Kong really become a second Tian An Men Square? Can America help prevent this from happening? Let’s explore these questions in this episode of Zooming In.

Part 1: Is Hong Kong Nearing a Bloody Crackdown?

Narration: November 12 was a dark day for Hong Kong. The prestigious Chinese University of Hong Kong among other places were turned into war zones.

Narration: Police fired close to three thousand rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets against student protestors.

Narration: Students fought back by throwing rocks and petrol bombs while taking shelter behind barricades they had built using bricks dug up from roads.

Narration: Residents from nearby neighborhoods stormed in to fight alongside students. The campus was burning.

Narration: The escalation began on Monday after police shot two young protesters with live ammunition.

Narration: The following day, CUHK students blocked the East Rail Line that passes through campus as well as Tai Po Road in front of the university’s main gate as part of a planned city-wide strike.

Narration: Police stormed onto several campuses among which CUHK was the main target. While negotiating with police for the release of students who had been arrested, the president of CUHK was hit by tear gas and was sent for medical care.

Narration: On November 17, the battleground moved to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Police dispatched two armored vehicles and rushed to the student defense line. Students threw petrol bombs and forced the vehicles to retreat. The surrounding area of the University was blocked by riot police afterwards.

Narration: On Nov. 14, In his second mention of the Hong Kong crisis, Chinese leader Xi Jinping described the protesters as “radically engaged in violent crimes,” and suggested that a solution to the protests would be, “steadily supporting Hong Kong police in law enforcement while firmly endorsing Hong Kong’s judicial system in the punishment of violent criminals.” He said stopping the protests is Hong Kong’s “Most urgent task.”

Narration: Xi’s comments came a day after Chinese state-run broadcaster CCTV published a commentary calling for tougher actions to quell protests, stating that, “The time for Hong Kong to self-repair is limited … now is the time to resolutely enforce and implement anti-riot actions.” The Chinese Global Times claimed “direct state action will be inevitable.”

Narration: On Nov. 15, The People’s Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison was seen clearing streets of bricks, metal bars and other debris left by demonstrators.

Narration: His name is Wei Jingsheng. He was one of the earliest pro-democracy activists in China. He spent 18 years in prison for so called “counter-revolutionary” activities beginning 1979. Wei knows well how the communist party deals with protests.

Simone: What do you think is the reason behind the recent escalation of the Police violence in Hong Kong? What does Xi Jinping want to do?

Wei Jingsheng: The situation of Hong Kong is similar to the June 4 incident. Very similar. The Hong Kong masses are so determined that they will fight back even if the People’s Liberation Army goes into Hong Kong. They are very determined. They will not back down. As for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) the hardliners have the upper hand. Look at the Fourth plenary meeting of the CCP. (In general) no consensus was reached. The only agreement was: Double down the crackdown on Hong Kong. Personally, I feel that the cause of this unfavorable situation lies with the international community. Just as in the June 4th incident the attitude of the international community is an important element. And the American government? Originally, its attitude was good. The Sino-US trade talks were coupled with the humane treatment of the crisis in Hong Kong. However, currently, we find worrying signs in this position. For example, the US government condemned the violence in Hong Kong. But the condemnation was not limited to only the violence from the Hong Kong government and the Hong Kong police. It was a condemnation of violence on both sides (Protestors and police). Superficially, it seems very fair. But In fact it is not. Why? Let me quote Mr. Chang Ping with the Voice of Germany. He said: “Do not blame the oppressed.” This is very much to the point. They are suffering. Hong Kong protesters are violently beaten, even killed. They are suffering. How can you blame them for their self-defense? So the U.S. approach—condemning both sides—seems to send a wrong message to the communist regime and party chief Xi Jinping.

Narration: In Wei’s eyes, The West has sent the wrong signal to China’s Communist leaders more than once. The last time was in May 1989.

On April 26, 1989 the Communist Party’s official newspaper People’s Daily issued a front-page editorial, branding the student movement to be an anti-party, anti-government revolt. After the editorial, PLA soldiers began moving toward Beijing. In May, troops were deployed in the suburbs of Beijing and martial law was installed. However, for a while, Deng Xiaoping would not give the final order.

Wei Jingsheng: The hardliners in the CCP wanted a bloody crackdown. But among Party leadership, many were against it, which put huge pressure on Deng. Moreover, Deng was hesitant to order his troops who were stationed in the suburbs to march into downtown Beijing. One of his main concerns was the attitude of the U.S. He had to consider the consequences. If he were to stage a crackdown by force and incur world-wide sanctions, that would be a huge blow to China’s economy. If he used force to crackdown on the movement, and this resulted in a declining economy, power would still be lost. So, Deng began to hesitate. Just at that moment, President Bush Senior did a very bad thing. He sent the wrong message to Deng, twice, which ultimately led to Deng’s decision to use lethal force. In the first instance, he stated: “We’ll not interfere China’s internal affairs.” Even with this, Deng was unable to make his decision. Then Bush removed the US Ambassador to China, Winston Lord, who was supportive of the pro-democracy activists and whose wife was Chinese and also a supporter of the pro-democracy movement. President Bush removed him from his post. The newly appointed ambassador to China, although also a student supporter but was unable to immediately carry out his obligations. At that moment, Deng was clear about the US intention. He then felt reassured and gave the order to use lethal force.

Simone: Then, how will Xi Jinping feel about it in your opinion?

Wei Jingsheng: He may feel that if the United States does not show much determination, if he gives Trump a kind of sweetener in trade negotiations, then Trump may not care much about Hong Kong. (He would then think) “I can do whatever I like there”. Similar to the CCP during the June 4, 1989 Incident. Or, “I’ll simply resort to street killing until you are all too scared to come forward”. They are accustomed to that way of thinking. The CCP believes in violent crackdowns, which in their eyes, can solve everything. So I feel that the attitude of the United States and the West in general is crucial. Now the U.S. has taken the lead in saying: “We condemn violence on both sides.” And Europe followed suit. That means Xi feels less pressure on his shoulders. He may think: “Now I can focus my attention on tackling the Hong Kong issue”, which is a dilemma that he and those corrupt officials that he represents are facing. In fact Xi is also troubled by the trade war, a declining Chinese economy, and resistance from within China. If there is a successful crack down on the Hong Kong protests, then at least one of his headaches is gone. Therefore, Xi may think that it’s time to launch an armed suppression. There is even talk that the troops are ready for that now. They’re likely to enter Hong Kong.

Simone Gao: So, you think Hong Kong is likely to encounter a situation as in the June 4 Incident?

Wei Jingsheng: Yes. If the international community shows weakness and sends the wrong signal to the CCP, that will certainly happen. Xi will definitely send troops to suppress protesters, because he has no other choice. Currently people are advising him to negotiate with the Hong Kong protestors for a way out. In fact it’s very easy. You just carry out the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which states everything clearly. You just follow the Declaration and this problem will be solved. Hong Kong is not demanding too much from him. Just stick to the declaration, Nothing else. They never said they want independence. Only an extremely small number of people seek independence, the overwhelming majority do not. But if he doesn’t seek a political solution, the only option left is military suppression.

Host : Wei is not the only person who draws this conclusion. Declan Ganley, an Irish entrepreneur, who lives on the other side of the Atlantic ocean, shares the same understanding of that time.

Declan Ganley: I’m old enough to remember tenement square and what happened that year. And of course hindsight is 2020 and you can debate these things, but perhaps if the signaling to Beijing had been a little bit different than a little bit stronger at the time, it might not have happened. It was interesting because a few months later in 1989 and we’ve just celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Berlin wall coming down. The West was caught flat footed when the Berlin wall came down. The establishment didn’t expect that it would happen. They didn’t even know what to do. For a while it really did catch them unexpected. And you know, we were very, very lucky that the, the, the machine guns didn’t open up from East Berlin at that time because God knows what would’ve happened. But it’s, this is the time that try men’s morals and souls and there are not that many times in a lifetime where the ne, the, the, the, the nations, the democratic nations are called to make it very clear that there are basic and fundamental rules of human rights and decency and lines that cannot be crossed and if they are crossed that there will be a price to be paid.

Bumper: Coming up, Hong Kong human rights and democracy act will likely pass soon. Will that change Hong Kong’s fate?

Part 2: Will the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act Save Hong Kong?

Narration: Immediately after the escalation of the Hong Kong situation, US Senator Marco Rubio and Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jim Risch met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to push for a vote on the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act that Rubio introduced last June.

Narration: The legislation would require annual certification from the Secretary of State to verify that Hong Kong remains “sufficiently autonomous” from China in order to maintain its special trading status with the US.

Narration: The bill also supports Hong Kong residents’ basic rights and freedoms by allowing the imposition of sanctions towards officials who violate those rights.

Narration: Rubio tweeted after the meeting that there were significant developments and the bill would move forward quickly.

Jim Risch: We really believe we have consensus today. And I think you are going to see movement on it very quickly within the next week or so.

Narration: The next day, Senators Jim Risch and Marco Rubio began a hotline process for the U.S. Senate to quickly pass the legislation.

Narration: The Rubio office explained that they do this prior to scheduling a floor vote because if the hotline comes back and no senator objects, then Senate wouldn’t need to schedule a vote. It would just pass by unanimous consent. The office also said, President Trump did not oppose the bill when Senator Rubio met with him a while ago. According to Rubio, the bill could pass as early as next Monday.

Wei Jingsheng: If that bill gets approved and gets a signature from the White House it will become US law. It then must be implemented. The CCP and Xi will weigh the matter. If they really use violent force, Hong Kongers won’t retreat. Even if they send out troops, they still won’t give in, as the Beijing people did. A fierce resistance will occur. Then real sanctions would follow and they would probably not be limited to Hong Kong. Of course, Hong Kong will be the first. The favorable treatment Hong Kong enjoys as an economy would be gone. China would face overall sanctions, economically and politically. Just like after the June 4 Incident. Before the Tiananmen Square massacre people didn’t pay much attention to it after all, they were foreigners; Chinese affairs were not among their immediate concerns. However, after the scenes went public, people’s reaction were very strong. Government reactions were also strong. So the latter had to make a gesture of sanctions against China. Then they quietly sent word to Deng and reassured him that those moves were false. Even so, the Chinese economy was substantially affected. If that situation were to really occur, to put it simply, the CCP would collapse more quickly.

Declan Ganley: The other thing to remember is that the West is not top down in terms of its decision making. And Beijing might do very well to remember that cause sometimes we forget it. We focus and concentrate on leaders, presidents, prime ministers, whoever it might be.
Declan Ganley: The West is bottom up. Politicians react to as they should, the needs and wants of their voters and the street. The voters in the West have now got access to information and they can see exactly what’s going on in Hong Kong. It’s not going to be possible. They can seize the communication center in the Chinese university in, in, in Hong Kong, but the information is still going to get out and it gets out. We know about the concentration camps in China. We know there’s at least a million people in them. Maybe there’s 2 million, maybe there’s more. We don’t know the exact number. We haven’t got perfect information, but we know that that’s going on. We know there’s organ harvesting. These are things that cannot be kept secret anymore. We know the repression, we know the model that the communist party of China under secretary general Xi it is exercising. We know all of that.

Declan Ganley: So Hong Kong should take heart in so far as that the people in the democratic world vote is in the democratic world, can see perfectly well what is going on, keep the information coming and it will keep coming. The communist party’s not going to be able to shut it down. They don’t control our communications networks. At least they don’t yet. So I think that there is hope. I think that there is an increased likelihood of a TNM in square. But I think that if folks in Beijing are calculating that they will not be a serious price to be paid for that and that it will not massively shift public sentiment than they are miscalculating.

Part 3: How Will Hong Kong Affect the Trade War?

Narration: On November 24, Hong Kong is scheduled to have its district council election. Quite a few pro-democracy candidates are poised to replace the pro-establishment council members who are close to Beijing. However, Many voters and legislators also worried that the election would get canceled or postponed if the pro-establishment camp use the escalation of the situation, especially the allegedly staged stabbing of Junius Ho, a hard-line pro-Beijing politician as an excuse. But the passing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act would change that dynamic since the cancelling of an election would pose as a direct indicator of Hong Kong’s withering freedom which could invoke the removal of Hong Kong’s special trade status under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Host: Meanwhile, the U.S. and China are near signing a phase one trade deal although the thorny issue of whether to rollback tariffs is still being debated. Will Hong Kong get in the way of a trade deal? How is today’s U.S.- China relationship different from 30 years ago?

Wei Jingsheng: The current historical background is very similar to that from before, but not exactly the same. President Bush had thought that Deng could create opportunities for American businessmen to make money, because Deng opened up China’s economy, and the US entered China and began profiting. Their lobbying power was surprising. At the very beginning, before the massacre, ordinary American people didn’t pay much attention to Chinese affairs. It’s natural that people only care about things that are near to them. At the time, Chinese authorities weren’t killing anyone. People only saw protests there. And protests worldwide. So, they weren’t much concerned. Under those circumstances, President Bush made the decision to let Deng off by sending him the wrong signals. Currently however, we are facing a different situation. Ordinary American people, congressmen, and statesmen have all noticed the cruel repression in Hong Kong. They are indignant and can’t tolerate it. Every senator or representative—-even a pro-Communist member—would be afraid to publicly announce that he or she does not support the people of Hong Kong. No one would dare to say this. The domestic morale is different from before. From the perspective of President Trump, he is unlike Bush Senior, who just wanted to gain benefits: “we have no responsibility anyway, those are your internal affairs”. But the challenge is that Trump is fighting against China right now. Trade disputes may be referred to as “internal issues”. You can no longer cite the excuse that we do not interfere in China’s internal affairs. To say so, everyone will feel that you are betraying the people of Hong Kong. And your opponents will take this to bite you vehemently during next year’s election, right? Let alone that the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives are the firmest supporters of the Hong Kong protestors. Are you sure Democrats won’t attack you with this next year? Definitely they will. As I analyzed in an article a few days ago, you will lose your leadership in the world if you fail on the issue of Hong Kong—the frontline of democracy, fighting authoritarianism. No one will trust you anymore and huge blame will be upon you. Moreover, in China, after he gets over this huge challenge and has stabilized the domestic situation, will Xi obey the deal he reached with you? He won’t. The Chinese Communist Party will never go to the negotiating table unless they are weakened significantly. If they face no challenge at all, why would they feel the need to obey your agreement? Just as in May, they backed out. So if he tears up next year’s so-called “first-stage agreement” that he agrees to sign with you, you’ll feel it even more awkward trying to explain it to American voters.

Host: Tomorrow, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act might be passed. It will be a big relief for the Hong Kong people, but it will not be enough to crush the Communist Regime’s resolve to destroy the freedom of Hong Kong. Hong Kongers will keep fighting, and the rest of the world, especially America should hold this bottom line: No matter what, Hong Kong should not be allowed To become the second Tian An Men Square. I am Simone Gao. Thanks for being with us tonight.

Simone Gao