by Sara Flounders, published on Workers World, September 4, 2019
Google stripped away the illusion that the continuing protests in Hong Kong are about democracy when on Aug. 20 the internet monopoly suspended 936 Twitter accounts and disabled 210 YouTube channels, charging them with seeking to “discredit Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and sow political discord in the city.” (theguardian.com, Aug. 23)
Twitter then shut down 200,000 more accounts, possibly based in China, allegedly because they could in the future “inflict damage, undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.”
For months every news article or interview in the corporate media and accompanying social media posts described the protests in Hong Kong as pro-democracy. These same protests regularly used firebombs, sacked and defaced the elected Hong Kong legislature and covered its symbols with British colonial flags. Meanwhile they sang “Rule Britannia! Britannia Rule the Waves!” and “God Save the Queen” and demanded Britain void the 1997 agreement to return Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty.
Freedom of information
The major imperialist corporate media are breaking the rules of a supposedly free and open democratic society by censoring thousands of sites for either having a possible connection to the Chinese government or for criticizing open U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funding of Hong Kong protest organizations.
Far from circulating “fake news,” the shut-down social media sites on YouTube and Twitter were repeating facts that were carefully documented in published articles. For example, an article by Alexander Rubenstein as early as June 13 showed how the open U.S. funding of thousands of nongovernmental organizations in Hong Kong works and how the Hong Kong organizations must be aware of it. (tinyurl.com/y6nhmapz)
A second detailed article, this one by Dan Cohen published on Aug. 17, showed how Hong Kong protests have become xenophobic with backing from U.S. government organizations that aim at regime-change outfits, as well as a right-wing local media tycoon with close ties to hardliners in Washington. (tinyurl.com/y4tpgkvs)
A network of subversion
This U.S. government funding of networks of thousands of social organizations is an essential part of U.S. soft power and has been used in U.S. coups and attempted coups, in so-called “color revolutions” and “regime change” operations for decades.
The U.S. State Department’s Victoria Nuland bragged about the impact $5 billion and 40,000 NGOs had in the 2014 bloody, fascist Maidan coup in Ukraine that violently overturned the elected government.
The Washington Post on Sept. 30, 2014, admitted to foreign funding, especially NED funding of the 2014 Occupy Hong Kong or Umbrella Movement.
All the organizations leading the protests in Hong Kong receive U.S. government funding through NED. This is hardly a state secret. There are 37,000 registered NGOs in Hong Kong. NED funding stretches from teachers’ unions and school curriculums to trade unions and social clubs, along with political parties and hundreds of publications.
NGOs in Hong Kong have publicly been recipients of NED grants since British colonial occupation ended in 1997. This is not speculation, insider information or based on high-tech surveillance. It is certainly not “disinformation.”
The heads of organizations leading the current protests and the 2014 Umbrella Movement, such as Hong Kong Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, law professor Benny Tai, activist-turned-politician Joshua Wong and many others, have publicly received awards and grants from and held press conferences and met with members of U.S. administrations, government agencies and Congress over the past 20 years.
Youth activists have bragged of their participation and training at international schools, such as the Oslo Freedom Forum. A YouTube video shows in glowing terms the interconnection of sponsored activists from Ukraine, Serbia and Uighur Chinese dissidents being trained in scripted tactics of sabotage and color revolutions to overthrow governments.
A founder and chair of NED, Alan Weinstein, openly admitted that NED exists to do what the CIA previously did secretly. Making public “democracy” grants was seen as preferable to the exposé of secret CIA funds. (Washington Post, Sept. 22, 1991)
More than $170 million in grants to NGOs spreading U.S. style “democracy” around the world were handed out just in 2018. NED funds and its many subsidiaries, including the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, are congressional appropriations on the public record. What is secret is the way the organizations operate.
For Google to shut down thousands of accounts means that U.S. imperialism aims to prevent online debate about the nature of the Hong Kong protests.
China Daily on July 28 published this explanation:
“Judging from the preparation, targeting strategies, riot tactics and abundance of supplies, it takes naivety … to truly believe these activities are not being carefully orchestrated. What is happening in Hong Kong is no longer the airing of real or imagined grievances. It is of the same hue as the color revolutions that were instigated in the Middle East and North Africa—local anti-government elements colluding with external forces to topple governments utilizing modern communication technology to spread rumors, distrust and fear.”
Voice of America and BBC not affected
Of course “state-backed” news such as U.S. government-funded Voice of America or BBC News funded by the British government are not blocked. Supposedly they responsibly report information.
Google does not block social media that receive government funding if the funding is from the U.S. If this seems contradictory, it is.
Google spent a decade trying to become the social media platform in China. But suspicious of Google’s attempts to undermine Chinese sovereignty, the Chinese developed their own social media platforms. WeChat messages have more than 1 billion active users, along with Weibo, QQ, QZone, Tik Tok and TenCent Video.
Unable to sabotage China from within, Google is now blocking almost any use of its networks to counter corporate or U.S. government saturation messaging.
Sara Flounders is an American political writer who has been active in ‘progressive’ and anti-war organizing since the 1960s. Sara is Co-Director of the International Action Center (IAC) and a member of the Secretariat of Workers World Party She also frequently writes for Workers World newspaper and publishes articles on the International Action Center website.