The Chinese Communist Party is perfect and infallible. It follows that if anything ever goes wrong, it is someone else’s fault. Typically, hostile, often foreign, forces are to blame. As well as explaining the otherwise inexplicable, this line supports the official themes of China-as-victim and Party-as-saviour. To avoid having to provide evidence – and maybe to add to the all-important paranoid creep-out frisson – the accusation is usually vague, with the evil external elements not specifically named.
It was completely predictable that Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Occupy Central movement would attract this sort of allegation. For a while earlier this year, we were invited to read some kind of sinister CIA-or-whatever plot into opposition media mogul Jimmy Lai’s connections with former US Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. And for ages, United Front voices have suggested that pro-dem veteran Martin Lee is a puppet of Western powers on account of his frequent high-profile trips to Washington DC for otherwise pointless photo-ops with officials. After the Umbrella-Occupy campaign started in earnest, Beijing openly charged the US with supporting the protests, naming the National Endowment for Democracy. (The government-funded Reagan-era freedom-and-apple-pie NGO, as previously noted, has worked with Hong Kong groups, including pro-Beijing ones, though no attempt to overthrow the Chinese government apparently resulted.)
Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung dutifully echoed this, causing some discomfort among less nationalistic parts of the pro-establishment camp. When pressed, he said he was not making it up, and he would produce the evidence ‘when appropriate’. More eye-rolling ensued.
Now, a 125-page report with glossy 16-page PowerPoint presentation is doing the rounds, showing (according to the title) how the NED and fellow-NGO the NDI are ‘meddling in Hong Kong’s internal affairs’. The report is dated November 14, completely anonymous (the covering letter is signed ‘a Hong Kong citizen’) and in native-standard English. It seems to have been sent to Hong Kong officials, a few pro-Beijing lawmakers, the chair of the UK parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and a few media outlets.
Whoever did it put a huge amount of effort into it. It attempts to prove that NED/NDI started nurturing Hong Kong opposition groups before the Article 23 protests in 2003. It implies that they have been involved in encouraging and planning the recent student/Occupy/Umbrella movement since 2007 and conspired with the pan-dems to organize the (farcical) 2010 ‘de-facto referendum’. It names Hong Kong U’s public opinion polls, Baptist U’s HK Transition Project, Civic Exchange, SynergyNet, HKCTU, HK Human Rights Monitor and others as being partners or fundees (though it omits any mention of the NED/NDI activities with the pro-Beijing political parties). Among other things, it maintains that the public opinion polls are designed to lead public opinion and accuses NED/NDI of ‘grooming’ student activists. It gets heavily into a spooky-sounding ‘confidential’ meeting on November 15 2009 (complete with blurry photos and incriminating quotes) in which pan-dems like Cyd Ho and Gary Fan plotted with local NDI boss Belinda Winterbourne and a guy from some trendy European body with the Bond villain-sounding name of Bruno Kaufmann (who it seems comes from a Swedish town called Falun, which I bet has – a gong).
Much of the report lists seemingly every publication, seminar and other activity that ever took place in Hong Kong and had some sort of NED/NDI connection. Maybe over half of the content is cut-and-pasted from the organizations and events’ websites. The written style of the original material is not of the ‘lone lunatic’ sort produced by enraged oddballs using underlines, bold and deranged UPPER CASE!!! to make their sad points. But it has a heavy hint of ‘grudge’ about it. Among the dark questions it poses: ‘Who else’ in the Hong Kong media have been ‘recruited’ to the NDI cause? Are Benny Tai, Robert Chung, Michael DeGolyer and others aware that they have received US government funds? In what other meetings has [NDI officer] Stephen Tong conspired with legislators to cause tumult in Hong Kong? Not mouth-frothing crazy, but certainly angry about something.
Can’t decide whether the report is the work of the Liaison Office, or (more likely) some ultra-anti-democrat gwailo in need of a life. Someone has tried hard to make it seem credible. The use of the word ‘meddling’ in the title is interesting; Chinese officials use it a lot, and of course it doesn’t really mean anything – it sort of suggests something worse than ‘influence’ but not as despicable as ‘interference’. It also implies that someone doesn’t have anything better to do, which quite possibly sums up condescending Western political NGOs rather well.
Judging from the lack of reaction elsewhere, it seems most recipients tossed the report aside. They haven’t missed much. If this the worst a determined finder of evil foreign forces can find, we’ll be waiting a lot longer for CY’s ‘appropriate’ moment.