Hong Kong’s pro-democracy revolution has covered the headlines of all international media in the past week showing that the world’s eyes are focused on the Umbrella Revolution.
The international community has followed the current demonstrations very closely, mindful of the 1989 student protests in central Beijing; but how has the Chinese media reacted? What is the Chinese media perspective on the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests?
George Berkeley, an Anglo-Irish philosopher of the XVIIIth century, believed that nothing exists unless it’s perceived by the human mind – “esse est percipi”. Probably someone in the Chinese Communist Party has studied his theories quite closely and has decided to adopt this principle as core of the communication strategy in China. The ‘Umbrella Revolution’ in the official media coverage has been distorted to “a small number of people which held a color revolution on the mainland through Hong Kong” and all the news on the protests has been buried deep inside the newspapers. Most of the coverage concerns Beijing’s government reactions and very little information is given on what is actually happening. The articles underline that the Occupy Central movement-which initiated the protests in Hong Kong- was illegal even though it was labeled as “civil disobedience” and peaceful, therefore, the police was forced to fire tear gases against the protesters. Noteworthy is also the lack of image diffusion: the Umbrella Revolution pictures are viral everywhere in the internet, except in China.
A part from the clear efforts of Beijing to control the diffusion of information on the demonstrations, it is also very interesting that the People’s Daily front page on October 4th described the protests with the term “color revolution”.
Color revolution is an expression that has been widely used to describe the various movements in the former Soviet Union that led to the overthrow of satellite governments in the late 1990s; and it has also been applied to uprisings in the Middle East in recent years.
In order to maintain stability, Xi Jinping has to exercise strict party control over the entire territory; therefore, he cannot afford to weaken its influence over China’s peripheries as Gorbachev did with the USSR’s satellites in Eastern Europe. Consequently, we understand why the current demonstrations -that call for the resignation of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying, and true universal suffrage in the next elections- represent the biggest political and strategic challenge for Xi Jinping’s administration. They cannot afford a second Tiananmen, first of all because it would undermine internal political support and secondly because it would represent the end of China’s peaceful rise, an extremely strong and probably counterproductive political line.
Protestors agreed to start formal talks with the government starting from the end of this week, but what is sure is that Beijing’s headache is not finished yet and there is more to come.