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Chinese State Media Allege US Backing of Protests

  • Shannon Sant

An Occupy Central protester, center, is escorted by police to a hospital for examine his injury during a clash between protesters and police in an occupied area near the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Oct. 15, 2014.

An Occupy Central protester, center, is escorted by police to a hospital for examine his injury during a clash between protesters and police in an occupied area near the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Oct. 15, 2014.

Chinese state run news media say the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are backed by the United States. Analysts say it is a charge the Chinese government has made before.

A series of newspaper reports in mainland China say the United States is partly to blame for the demonstrations filling the streets of Hong Kong. The stories say officials from the U.S. government-funded organization the National Endowment for Democracy have been meeting with protest organizers. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei commented on the allegations.

"Hong Kong is a part of China and no foreign country has the right to interfere. Relevant countries should be prudent with their words and actions and refrain from sending wrong signals," said Lei.

Chinese state-run newspaper reports and editorials have been more explicit. A commentary in the People’s Daily said that Louisa Greve, the National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED) Vice President for Asia, Middle East & North Africa, and Global Programs, met with “key people” in Occupy Central “several months ago” to “talk about the movement.”

Hong Kong’s Takungpao newspaper reported that pro-democracy legislators in Hong Kong have received U.S. government money. The report references a “netizen” who wanted to set up a small business in Hong Kong but was prevented from doing so by the large protests and crowds. The entrepreneur said he had documents that proved U.S. funding for democratic and workers rights activities.

Doug Young, author of a book on Chinese news media called “The Party Line,” says blaming unrest on the U.S. government is not a new tactic for China.

“This is actually quite similar to what happened during the Tiananmen protests in 1989. Afterwards there were all kinds of reports about the black hand. That was the word that they were using back then. It was always a small group of black hands that were manipulating the masses," said Young.

Other reports in the People’s Daily newspaper accused protesters of trying to stage a “color revolution,” referencing the peaceful protests that took place in the former Soviet Union.

Joseph Cheng, of Hong Kong’s Alliance for Democracy, and a professor of International Relations at the University of Hong Kong, says comparing the Hong Kong protests to the color revolution is a sign the Chinese government is leaving no room for compromise with the protesters.

“This is very dangerous because in Communist terminology this means the relationship between Chinese authorities and the pro-democracy movement is a conversation between enemies. It means there can be no negotiations, meaning that a harsh crackdown is justifiable. This has caused a lot of worry among the pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong," said Cheng.

A report in the Beijing Times quotes the Director of the Central People’s Government’s Liaison Office, Zhang Xiaoming, as saying the protests betray the “one country, two systems” principle and disregard Basic Law.

Cheng says students’ protests are driven by fears for Hong Kong’s future.

“I think a lot of the protesters feel that if we do not come out now we may not even have a chance to speak out a few years later. And there is a strong feeling that we do not want to become just another big Chinese city like Shanghai. We want to uphold our core values, our lifestyle, our dignity, our basic rights," he said.

The National Endowment for Democracy denies allegations in Chinese state news media of meetings with protest organizers and says Vice President Louisa Greve moderated a panel with democracy advocates last spring. The organization details recipients of its grant money for Hong Kong on its website which totaled more than $695,000 in 2013.

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