From Minneapolis to Hong Kong: One Demand Two Contexts

By Armando Chaguaceda

Photo: Scott Olson/AFP

HAVANA TIMES – We are witnessing in unison two events of global significance. The largest protests for racial justice since the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, stemming from the murder of African-American George Floyd. And the demonstrations in Hong Kong, in response to the Chinese Communist Party’s passage of a repressive law that seeks to annihilate both civic spaces and civil rights in that region.

These are two different contexts. The United States is a democracy with a vibrant civil society, a dynamic media ecosystem, and political pluralism, beset by the populist and authoritarian tendencies of Trumpism. A republic that harbors—as organizations such as Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International have recognized these days—inequalities of all kinds, which structurally impact the way rights are exercised.

Hong Kong is a semi-democratic enclave that is part of continental China, the fruit of an international agreement and the domestic evolution that generated the model of “one country, two systems.” A place where the Beijing offensive for the authoritarian modification of the Hong Kong legal and political system has brought the majority of its population out into the streets in defiance, the largest protest in the world last year.

Sectarian anti-imperialism -a permanent dogma of the anti-liberal left- celebrates the protests in the US as a symptom of a terminal crisis of US democracy, while ignoring the systematic repression occurring within the Bolivarian bloc [Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua] and its international allies.

Vulgar anti-communism -the ideological varnish of the neoconservative movement- subsumes the denunciation of Chinese interference in Hong Kong within its geopolitical dispute with Beijing. However, the latter does not overcome the conspiratorial reductionism that sees, behind any protest in liberal democracies, an oversized protagonism -distinct from the real presence- of the rival autocracies.

Both extremes selectively invoke the protests, to fit their respective political agendas. The demonstrators of Minneapolis or Hong Kong become for them mere chips, in a binary and polarizing dispute where a real commitment with human rights disappears. These, by essence, cannot be selectivity and not integrality in their promotion, defense, or enjoyment. The systematic violation to two basic elements of the human condition -the respect for life and the dignity of its realization- are behind the current protests in the United States and Hong Kong.

Although it is analytically possible -and politically relevant- to differentiate the frameworks offered by democracy and authoritarianism for the exercise of citizenship, in matters of human rights it is ethically impossible to establish such double standards. There are no excusable oppressions; nor are there victims or rights superior to others. Precisely because in the United States the right to have rights is a possibility, the demand for justice must set the bar high for the authorities and actors who violate them.

The structural differences between democracy and dictatorship, related to respect for Human Rights, come to light in the way in which the respective official institutions process the protests.

Protestors in Hong Kong. Photo: Niú

In the USA, the National Endowment for Democracy, an entity dedicated to the international promotion of the liberal democratic model, has issued a statement (https://www.ned.org/ned-statement-on-racism-and-democracy/) where it recognizes claims for racial justice are fair and legitimate, while rejecting all forms of coercing those rights. The statement clearly takes sides with those who, in civil society and US institutions, have questioned the repressive actions directed from different levels of government, including the Executive.

Could it be that in China the think tanks and official international promotion agencies of the “Chinese model” did something similar in the face of the ongoing repression in Hong Kong? The answer is clear: where the State, Government and Society are hierarchically subordinated to a single party and its personal leadership, such a possibility does not exist.

This does not imply weakness when it comes to confronting, with political realism, the interference of regimes -like the Chinese- that prevent domestic protests while taking advantage of the spaces of democracies for their benefit. As history shows, democratic legitimacy and strength can go hand in hand, at home and abroad, on concrete agendas to make this world safe for freedom, justice, and human dignity.


Armando Chaguaceda

Armando Chaguaceda: My curriculum vitae presents me as a historian and political scientist. I'm from an unclassifiable generation who collected the achievements, frustrations and promises of the Cuban Revolution and now resists on the island or contributes through numerous websites, trying to remain human without dying in the attempt.

3 thoughts on “From Minneapolis to Hong Kong: One Demand Two Contexts

  • I believe the basic tenet emanating from the unfortunate killing of an innocent black man in Minneapolis, aside from the blatant racial component certainly a major impediment to civil harmony in the United States and also here in Canada, is this new mantra, a loud vociferous cry heard in many nations: “defund the police.” What does that mean?

    Minneapolis has gone even beyond no longer funding its present police force to doing the unthinkable: disbanding the entire outfit outright. In the United States this behavior, at least I do believe, is not a symptom of a terminal crisis of US democracy as the author alludes. It is just the right thing to do in Minneapolis at this moment in time.

    The riots and disbanding the entire police department is the beginning process of perhaps healing racial wounds that have gone unrecognized and ignored for ages. Something had to be done about the deplorable race relations. Minneapolis acted swiftly.

    Other U. S. counties, states, and in Canada too, municipalities, provinces and even the federal force must now deal with how they will individually deal with blatant, systematic racism in police services. No one is talking disbanding police departments necessarily, but everyone is talking de – funding police in whatever form that may take.

    The author states in reference to what is happening in the United States regarding African-American George Floyd as “Sectarian anti-imperialism -a permanent dogma of the anti-liberal left- celebrates the protests in the US as a symptom of a terminal crisis of US democracy…”

    I don’t see the protesters on the streets either in the United States or Canada or Europe as rioting against imperialism or a crisis of US democracy, but trying to right an historical wrong that has been permeating society, particularly police departments, for too long.

    The protesters want to see police behave in a more humane way whenever they encounter a colored person – usually black on the street. They believe if police departments reassigned some of their exorbitant funding towards better methods of policing, better communication between police and social services that these solutions may begin to ameliorate some of the systematic racism endemic in policing everywhere.

    With regard to Hong Kong, I don’t see any direct correlation between their appropriate riots against communist China and blatant racism towards colored citizens particularly born black males in the US, Canada, or elsewhere.

  • For those who find “decent people” within the political extremes, attention ought to be drawn to the author writIng:

    “There are no excusable oppressions”

    Whereas Donald Trump finds: “Decent people on both sides”, others find them only on the extreme communist left – despite its history.

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