A commentary in the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party on Saturday accused the U.S. of trying to foment a “color revolution” in Hong Kong.
The commentary, which was entitled “Why is the U.S. so keen on ‘Color Revolutions’?”, appeared on the front page of the The People’s Daily overseas editions on Saturday. The People’s Daily is the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party.
The commentary deems it “inevitable” that the U.S. actions towards Hong Kong “will be associated with the US involvement in the ‘Color Revolutions’ in the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere.” The People’s Daily then slams the U.S. for pretending to be interested in democracy when it is really only trying to advance its “strategic interests.” For the United States, the commentary claims, a “‘democratic’ country is one that conducts its affairs in line with American interests.”
The commentary ends by stating that “U.S. may enjoy the sweet taste of interfering in other countries’ internal affairs, but on the issue of Hong Kong it stands little chance of overcoming the determination of the Chinese government to maintain stability and prosperity.”
Although China has strongly implied that foreigners were secretly controlling the Hong Kong protests in recent weeks, the commentary was the first time it so explicitly accused the U.S. of being behind the movement. Its support for this accusation is not very compelling, however, as it mostly focuses on the coverage of independent different media outlets, one of which appears to be a Hong Kong-based online publication.
The commentary begins by noting that, “according to media reports,” Louisa Greve, National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED) the 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.” The unidentified media reports the article references likely refers to an earlier report published in a “Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing newspaper,” according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post. The allegations themselves are most likely based on a NED-hosted public discussion on democracy in Hong Kong between Occupy Central leaders Martin Lee and Anson Chan that was held in Washington, DC in April of this year. Louisa Greve mediated the hour long talk, a video of which is available on YouTube.
The National Endowment for Democracy is a democracy promotion organization that, while administered as a private non-profit organization, receives the bulk of its funding from the U.S. government. In 2013 it gave two grants that together totaled less than $300,000 to two organizations for work on Hong Kong. Only one of those organizations is based in Hong Kong.
However, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a subsidiary of the NED, does maintain a tiny office in Hong Kong. The Diplomat has learned that NDI’s Hong Kong office typically employs one international staff member and occasionally hires one or two locals to help out when needed. Most of NDI’s work in Hong Kong focuses on holding workshops attended by young leaders from all interested political parties that focus on building skills in areas like public speaking, campaign strategy, message development and message delivery. The Diplomat has learned that NDI has regularly worked with pro-Beijing political parties in Hong Kong who, like all political parties, hope to prevail in local elections. Local Hong Kong press have occasionally accused NDI of being a front for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the past.
Beyond NED, the People’s Daily article notes that three former U.S. Consuls General to Hong Kong had “recently united” to write an open letter to Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung.
Most of the People’s Daily’s claim that the U.S. is trying to foment a color revolution in Hong Kong, however, is based on mainstream newspapers using the term “Umbrella Revolution” in their coverage of the Hong Kong protests. For example, it notes that the Associated Press and Wall Street Journal had used the term “Umbrella Revolution” in their Hong Kong coverage. Neither organization is affiliated with the U.S. government.
The People’s Daily commentary also claimed the “The Times Asia” had used the Umbrella Revolution phrase. It wasn’t entirely clear which publication the commentary was referring to, but it most likely it meant Asia Times Online. Asia Times Online is a Hong Kong-based online publication that grew out of a former Hong Kong and Bangkok-based daily print newspaper. Asia Times Online claims to cover issues “from an Asian perspective; this distinguishes us from the mainstream English-language media, whose reporting on Asian matters is generally by Westerners, for Westerners.”