NATIONAL– AF3IRM views with great concern the tear-gassing and pepper-spraying of Hong Kong student and resident protesters. The state’s use of these methods is unacceptable – the people should be allowed to bring their messages of discontent to the streets, especially in the face of state-sanctioned oppression. The use of tear gas and pepper spray, whether in Hong Kong or here in the United States in Ferguson where they continue to seek justice for Mike Brown, only speaks to how widespread the use of violence to police and control has become. As transnational feminists, AF3IRM condemns these practices and the militarization of our communities around the world.
Those in Hong Kong demonstrate in the face of the central Beijing government’s refusal to allow, without interference, civilian nominations for the 2017 chief executive elections in the island. Instead of free elections, the government requires that the candidates be subject to the approval of a small committee of its allied elites.
This provision is at odds with a 1972 bold statement by the leaders of the People’s Republic of China, a statement enshrined in the Joint Communique issued with arch-imperialist USA, to wit: “China will never be a superpower and it opposes hegemony and power politics of any kind.” At the time the People’s Republic insisted on the inclusion of this statement in the 1972 Shanghai Communique, people all over the world saluted its intent and promise.
The result of broken promises, supposedly equally enshrined in the “one country, two systems” declaration during the 1997 turn-over of Hong Kong from Britain, can be gleaned from the minuscule voter participation in Hong Kong elections. Despite having 5 million eligible voters and 3.2 million registered voters, only about a million participate in the choosing of Hong Kong’s leadership.
The wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign within the People’s Republic should have hammered home the lesson by now: that a hierarchy of privilege and control works against socialist/communist ethics, that it ends up with the same capitalist private expropriation of surplus value even as the means of production are socially owned. It creates a huge bureaucracy of expropriators of the people’s patrimony.
AF3IRM also knows that the majority of Hong Kong’s population is comprised of women and especially recognizes the steady flow of female migrants, mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines, who work there. Foreign domestic workers, such as housekeepers, lack even the ability to vote as they are specifically excluded from eligibility for permanent residency by Hong Kong law. This clearly speaks to the exploitation of their labor – as they are subject to abuse and wage theft, but are effectively left without the means or power to advocate for themselves within the political systems. The rights and issues of these more than 300,000 women domestic workers should not be ignored; Hong Kong protestors cannot demand “universal suffrage” and leave a sizeable segment of the population outside the pale of democracy. They cannot ask for support and solidarity outside Hong Kong while not providing support and solidarity with the disenfranchised in their midst.
We in AF3IRM hope that Beijing listens to the masses gathered in the streets of Hong Kong and take to heart and mind another declaration from the Shanghai Communique: “Countries want independence, nations want liberation and the people want revolution.”
What kind of a revolution too often depends on State response to grievances aired by its constituency. As we have seen in Ferguson, in Tehran, in Cairo, the use of tear gas, pepper spray and batons on civilians is not the way. The added levels of censorship the government is inflicting on news and social media outlets will not stand. We salute the people who have chosen to stand up and speak out, especially the students who lead the way against this state-sanctioned oppression. This is not civil disobedience or an “illegal gathering” – this is people continuing to rise up the world over.