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Tell the truth if you dare

By Joan Coxsedge

October 03, 2019 "Information Clearing House" - Once upon a time I felt OK in saying I was an Australian. But that was back in the era when Australia was one of the most egalitarian nations in the world, when there was vigorous debate about important issues and when our basic commodities were in public hands and jobs gave security and even some satisfaction. My grandfather worked all his life as a train driver (steam) and my father followed him into the railways, a solid career move back then, which was why I was born in Ballarat. What a different story today.

Counted as full-time even if you only work for a few hours a week, with no sick leave, holiday pay, security, or the other basics unions fought so hard for - when bang, you’re on the scrap heap and have to fight like buggery to get a lousy payout, leaving you to subsist below the poverty line, with no hope of redress. The corporates love our system because they can screw workers into the ground. The crooks and rorters love it because no-one stops their rorting.

Capitalism’s terrific if you’re rich and crooked and stupid, but it needs growth and growth is killing our world and killing our animals and birds and trees and flowers that make it so special. We should all be shouting from the rooftops like gutsy 16-year old Greta Thunberg who told the UN with passion and integrity: ‘People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth…I want you to act as if the house is on fire’. And our house is on fire. But miserable sods like our Pentecostal PM didn’t speak at the UN forum because he had nothing to say, preferring to hob-nob with slimy Uncle Sam, a war-mongering dud on the cusp of impeachment. When Morrieson spoke at a lesser gathering he made a gig of himself, pushing us even further down the plughole.

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In Hong Kong the protests are getting nastier and more violent. A slice of history might help. Hong Kong was part of China since the Qin Dynasty in about 220 BC before morphing into an international financial centre. Trade kicked in with the arrival of the ruthless East India Tea Company in 1711, when the Brits refused to pay for tea in silver, smuggling in opium as a means of exchange. By 1787, the Company was illegally sending in 4.000 chests of opium every year, causing massive addiction and corruption. Back in 1820, China’s economy was still the largest in the world, that is, until the Opium Wars, but by the end of the second war, its share of global GDP had halved, and sovereignty over its territory had been seriously compromised. In 1841 a defeated China was forced to cede Hong Kong Island to the British as part of the Treaty of Nanjing, to lease the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 in perpetuity and the New Territories in 1898 for 99 years, areas that make up present-day Hong Kong. At the end of Japan’s occupation during WW2, HK reverted back to Britain, which was then forced to transfer sovereignty back to China after the lease expired in 1997 when they negotiated a transition period called the Sino-British Joint Declaration designating Hong Kong as a ‘special administrative region’. China reluctantly agreed to extend semi-autonomy until 2047. This is the genesis of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ rule at the heart of today’s conflict, highlighting that China and Hong Kong have been on two quite distinct and intersecting paths of development.

It is now 22 years since the British left after an agreement stipulating that all interventions and colonial claims would end with full sovereignty returning to China. Calling for secession from China would be like calling for Manhattan to secede from the US. Can you imagine Washington ever agreeing to that? Hardly. And times have changed. In 1997, HK’s domestic product was 27% of China’s GDP. Today it’s 3%. Shenzhen and other major cities are now China’s financial hub and threaten Western hegemony. China, Russia, India and Pakistan, plus a few others, are members of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) comprising about half the world’s population and controlling about one-third of its economic output, and are moving out of the dollar economy.

And what do you reckon western reaction would be if it was confronted by marauding gangs of protesters dressed in ninja outfits holding metal bars, with black scarves covering their faces and backpacks churning out the Star Spangled Banner, smashing up Heathrow, JFK or Melbourne Airports? You’d be beaten up and thrown into gaol. The gangs also smashed up HK’s MTR, its public Mass Transit Railway and attacked passengers. Fighting for democracy? My foot. Leaderless? Not. There’s tycoon Jimmy Lai, who owns a local tabloid and who’s met US Vice President Mike Pence at the White House, and politician/barrister Martin Lee, founding chair of the local Democratic Party. ‘Protest organiser’, politician-in-waiting, Joshua Wong flies around the world, hobnobbing with far-right US Congressmen like Marco Rubio and the head of the notorious White Helmets outfit, Raed Al Saleh. What, I ask, would a ‘grassroots leader’ in China have in common with a belligerent Syrian propaganda war mob? Because both have links to the CIA’s National Endowment for Democracy, infamous for subverting and manipulating democratically-elected governments, which has admitted funding HK dissidents for more than two decades in the name of ‘Freedom’.

In Washington, Trump and Co.have just announced sanctions against Raul Castro and his four children for ‘gross violations of human rights in support of the Venezuelan government’ - for ‘freedom’, of course. In today’s society, tell the truth if you dare, like Julian Assange who, with Edward Snowden (exiled in Russia) and Chelsea Manning (detained indefinitely), exposed massive crimes and corruption by the US government and its allies, and remains locked up in Belmarsh Maximum Security Prison in appalling conditions. ‘Wherever America goes, terror follows’. Viva Cuba!

Joan Coxsedge, artist, writer, political activist, former Member of Parliament - Melbourne, Australia

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