The French Police’s brutal force against the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) protesters since November 2018 did not attract the same ‘international’ media outrage as that directed at the Hong Kong SAR police force despite being a lot less violent than the ‘mainstream’ media would make us believe.
On 21 August 2019, the French President Macron stated that ‘Il n’y a pas de liberté dans une société s’il n’y a pas d’ordre public’ or “There is no freedom in a society if there is no public order” in his meeting with the national press about his ‘rethink’ of police operations that were marred by police violence in the ongoing ‘Gilets Jaunes’ (Yellow Vests) protests since November 17, 2018.
The French Police’s brutal force against the Yellow Vests’ protesters since November 2018 seems not to warrant the same international media outrage as that directed at the Hong Kong SAR police force. Is it not China’s sovereign right, just like France, to maintain public order in order to ensure freedom for its citizens?
On the 10th of December 2018, a month after the start of the protests, the French government declared a state of economic & social emergency. Then, on 21 March 2019, the French government announced plans to redeploy military soldiers from the anti-terrorism ‘Sentinelle’ patrol force to help police guard public buildings. This escalation is in stark contrast to the more measured and conciliatory response by the executive authorities of the Hong Kong SAR and the Chinese Central Government.
In the first 4-months of the Yellow Vests’ protests in France, the cumulative number of protestors was 1,698,342 (a median of the French Ministry of Interior reported estimate of 1,387,100 and the Yellow Vests’ reported estimate of 2,009,583), by comparison to approximately 3,384,013 protestors in Hong Kong (a median of the authorities reported estimate of 1,102,725 and the organisers reported estimate of 5,665,300 from March 31 to August 23, 2019).
In France there were 11 dead; 8,400 arrested (1,954 convicted, 762 incarcerated, 1,755 pending judgement); 4,000 injured (94 seriously); more than 24 who lost an eye; 5 who lost a limb and 13,095 LBD (Flash Balls) shots fired at protestors. Whereas in Hong Kong, there were 5 dead by suicide; 748 arrests; 2,100 injured; 1 who lost an eye (though officially unconfirmed) and 160 LBD shots fired at protestors.
In other words, the number of protestors in Hong Kong were twice as many as those that protested in France; arrests in France were 11 times those made in Hong Kong; twice as many were injured and dead in France; 10 times as many were seriously injured in France; 24 times as many lost an eye in France; 5 times as many lost a limb in France and 82 times as many LBD (Flash Balls) fired at protestors in France.
The authorities response and the human toll of the protests in Hong Kong are far from having reached the levels of severity of France, which speaks volumes of the impeccable restraint of Hong Kong SAR Police (rather than the gratuitous violence that the international media would have us believe) and service to the people in dealing with the protests.
It also exemplifies a long-held Chinese Confucian maxim that self-restraint and service in pursuit of greater harmony can bring about a just and harmonious society, which is the answer to chaos and conflict in the world.
Hong Kong has had a long history of protests and riots, where British colonial forces brutalized many uprisings in the territory over more than a century until its rightful return to China in 1997. So, it is rather ludicrous to see protestors waving British and U.S. flags, because if anything else, it is NOT China that is waging a trade war that is threatening our global economy or made our world more dangerous over the past 30 years, but rather Anglo-American exceptionalism.
The current protests seem to echo a deep-seated superiority complex and condescending attitude towards the mainland Chinese despite China’s recent efforts in reducing the poverty rate in Hong Kong from a high of 20.1% to 14.7% with targeted government programs.
This was only one of many programs to revive Hong Kong’s economy after losing its privileged economic status when it contributed 27% in 1993 (currently at 2.7%) to China’s GDP. The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area is yet another initiative to help reinvigorate Hong Kong as part of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation.
It is morally corrupt for the ‘international’ media czars of ‘freedom and democracy’ to ‘grandstand’ and privilege France’s moral prerogative in dealing with its internal affairs, while denying China the same rights.
George Mickhail is an LSE trained academic with 30 years’ experience in major business schools in Australia, China, France and the United States. His research focuses on mapping corporate financial networks and their geopolitical threat. Prior to academe, he worked in international accounting firms and Global 500 financial services institutions.