back to e-flux.com

e-flux conversations

The Hong Kong Uprising Redefines the Temporality of Protest


#1

At the n+1 website, Elvia Wilk gives a fascinating account of the six weeks she recently spent in Hong Kong amidst the pro-independence protests that have been raging there since the summer. The Hong Kong government shows no signs of conceding to the protests’ demands, who themselves show no sign of relenting – prompting many to wonder when and how the demonstrations might end. But as Wilk writes, the Hong Kong protests remind us that the temporarily of revolution is always indeterminate and open-ended. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

My aversion to end-speak is not an aversion to sensationalism or alarmism—by all accounts this is a sensational moment! Ring the alarm! Nor am I making a plea for some kind of general optimism. There is not much reason to be optimistic. The most easily foreseeable negative outcomes are indeed the most likely ones: further encroachment of martial law, the arrival of the PLA, an official curfew, longer detention terms for the arrested, more injuries and deaths. And yet I wonder whether it’s possible for a writer in my position to acknowledge these likelihoods without describing them as inevitable, and without relying on the narrative crutch of apocalypse.

Impending apocalypse is titillating, at least from the outside. It’s the easiest story for people like me to tell. But the dogged and determined activity of the protesters—not in spite of but irrespective of the likely outcomes—demands that witnesses challenge ourselves to imagine a different way to tell the story, both now and later. A story with a different arc than “they put up a good fight but it’s doomed.” A story that gives important events their due but does not describe any moment as the turning point after which all will be lost. No news hook can explain this daily insurrection—its constancy and its lack of heroes and martyrs are the reasons it’s remarkable—and admittedly, it’s hard to tell a story about a leaderless, decentralized revolution. But the ability to stick with indeterminacy is exactly what revolution, and the revolutionary imaginary, requires.

Image by VOA. Public Domain.


#2

As does the Algerian uprising, Friday after Friday for 40 weeks now.


#3

They put up a BAD fight and it’s doomed, more like.
The article above simply fails to acknowledge that the protesters were parading around behind masses of stars and stripes flags, and repeatedly called for US intervention - which Trump has given them with threats to sanction the PRC over “human rights”. In other words, just because hordes of people are involved in a mass movement does not make it right. What were their politics? Entirely reactionary anarchistic screaming for “freedom and democracy” - Western imperialism’s and the CIA’s key watchwords for subversion and bringing back the direct rule of monopoly-capitalism via coups and dictatorship.
Much as China’s socialism, which overuses capitalist economic methods (while achieving great things) could do with a great deal more Leninist politics and a good hard look at what is really building socialist well-being for the masses, the Hong Kong protesters were not trying to do this. They were NOT trying to make China more socialist or communist. They have been completely anti-communist in everything they have done and in all their deranged middle-class violence and calls for the fascist US Empire to intervene on their behalf. Their class nature is confirmed by their love of British union jack flags and colonial-era symbols and their notorious use of lethal violence against counter-demonstrators.
Readers should compare and contrast the achievements in anti-imperialist economic and cultural development in revisionist-led but still socialist China with Hindu-nationalist led and purely capitalist India in terms of organisation, good sense and rational national development. It is no contest. China’s development is amazing and, most of the time, totally beneficial for all in China.
And look at the handling of mass uprisings in Haiti, Iraq, Chile, Ecuador, France etc and compare to the HK police’s response to extreme destruction and violence by the pro-US mobs in Hong Kong. Hundreds have been shot down in the imperialist-ruled countries for rising in rebellion. In HK, the police made huge efforts to avoid the use of lethal force. Protesters have indeed been shot in self-defence at point blank range when they were wielding iron bars and threatening police officers directly, but in fact NOT ONE has been killed by the cops.
It is the same story with the handling of the Uighurs in the Islamic areas of China. The West is screaming about “concentration camps” but, in tackling what had been a sustained series of extremist bomb attacks, Beijing has tried to contain the situation and prevent ethnic strife in what otherwise, with CIA backing, could have spiralled out of control.
But what did the West do when it suffered the Middle East’s revenge terror attacks on 9/11? It destroyed Afghanistan and Iraq, killing millions of people.
I’m not naïve enough to think that everything China does in the re-education camps is fine and dandy, but it at least ought to be accepted that, in a world hit by unsettling monopoly-capitalist crisis and with all Islamic sensibilities fired up by the West’s fraudulent “war on terror” (with plenty of CIA subversion and devious use of extremists going on), then some quite wide-ranging methods might be needed to prevent things getting out of hand in China’s Islamic regions.