Herman Tiu Laurel / Phil-BRICS Strategic Studies / May 26, 2020

(First of two articles)

Let me start the discussion with the reports of a Hong Kong teacher’s lesson on the “Opium War.” I am certain that you, the readers, are shocked with the title of this column piece and you’d ask, “How could anyone make such an obvious error about the history of the ‘Opium War’?”

Maybe one or two of you, dear readers, would be dazed and bewildered by the title knowing the writer, i.e. me, to be a history aficionado and a Sinophile. You would be saying, “Surely, Herman (or Mr. Laurel) would and should know better than highlight such a falsehood.”

Well, if you had either of these two reactions I would not be surprised and in fact I hoped you did have this reaction because you would be showing that you know better than a Hong Kong teacher from the Ho Lap Primary School in Hong Kong.

Last April 29 or so several well-known Hong Kong news sources, among them the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Standard, reported on a Hong Kong primary school teacher shown in a 3-minute video teaching to the class this lesson, which I quote:

“Britain wanted to attack China in an attempt to ban smoking…because Britain had found back then many people in China were smoking and the problem was really serious…. Therefore, they [Britain] initiated the opium war so as to destroy these items called opium.”

One of the first thought that occurred to me when I read this story was to demand to know who the teacher was, but to the credit of the news sources they hid the identity to protect the teacher from, at the very least ridicule, and at worse being told to stand at the corner for the rest of her life.

Every educated citizen of the World knows the “Opium War,” but not many know there were two. The first in 1839 when China acted to end illegal British opium smuggling in China since 1773, skirmishes ensued. Britain sent in gunboats in 1840 and defeated the Qing dynasty forces, ending in the Treaty of Nanking where Hong Kong was ceded to Britain.

The Second Opium War was in 1856 when the French joined the British (which was busy quelling a mutiny in India) in aggression against the Qing dynasty, ending in 1858 when British forces reached Tianjin. The Treaty of Tianjin forced China to cede Kowloon and open more ports to Western trade and residency.

The year 1939 flags China’s “Century of Humiliation” inflicted by the West through “gunboat diplomacy.” China under the Qing dynasty was decaying, weak, divided and defeated. The 1949 Chinese Communist Party triumphed signaling China’s rebirth, Chairman Mao Zedong opened the First Plenary Session of the CPPCC in September 1949 declaring …”The Chinese People Have Stood Up!”

Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories was restored to China in 1997. Hong Kong as part China again should have its educational system, like any country’s educational system, be teaching not only accurate history but allegiance and loyalty to the country as well — even under the concept of “One Country, Two Systems.”

It is, therefore, shocking to learn some teachers in Hong Kong’s schools teaching such distorted history and slandering its own country while extolling falsely the former colonial master that pushed drugs and addiction, and oppressed the country. That this can happen explains much of the problems that Hong Kong now face.

We Filipinos should be very familiar with the problems that colonial education have. One of the most popular books in Philippine nationalist literature is Renato Constantino’s “The Miseducation of the Filipino” which is a good reminder of the malignant impact of colonial education strategies.

The Western politicians and media are currently in an uproar over the move of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) to legislate a National Security Law that paves the Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region (HKSAR) to implement its Basic Law’s Art. 23 mandating it to:

“… enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government (CPG), or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organization or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.”

An attempt was made in 2003 to enact such laws mandated by Article 23 but the controversy it stirred forced its shelving, but events in Hong Kong of 2019 however compels strong measure now.

In 2019 the world witnessed the HK political opposition elements’ overdrive of physically violent, destructive and incendiary actions. Burning shops and people, shooting arrows at policemen, beating up non-supportive civilians – even seniors and elders – and open collaboration with U.S. NGOs and political officers, raising of U.S. and British flags and open calls for independence.

I remember the Hong Kong high court’s ridiculous declaration that the ban on wearing face masks by demonstrators as unconstitutional, hence granting the impunity of anonymity to masked juvenile vandals and arsonists. I recall the masked culprit who poured fuel and burned the defiant HK working man almost to death yet protected by the anonymity of the mask.

The capacity for violence of the “democra-zied” Hong Kong youth was unimaginable especially when one sees the cruelty these kids inflict on senior citizens that do not subscribe and/or overtly oppose their rabid hate against HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam or their illogical opposition to a totally legitimate extradition law.

We saw innocent store keepers and small eateries unsupportive of the protesters attacked and smashed, owners bloodied. Policemen were stoned and set on fire with Molotov cocktails. It is still amazing to me the HKSAR government and police managed to maintain composure amidst the vicious provocations with all out support from the Western governments and media.

We heard HK pro-Democracy leaders Jimmy Lai telling Western media “We are fighting the first battle of the New Cold War” and the imp Joshua Wong declaring “infinity war.” We saw them videoed in a conspiratorial meetings U.S. politicians and officials. We saw British and Americans flags waved in the demonstrations and the Chinese flag desecrated.  

Hong Kong has one of the highest ranking in the world’s Human Freedom Index conducted by the Canadian public policy think tank the Fraser Institute, covering 162 countries. Hong Kong has consistently ranked No. 3 just behind New Zealand and Switzerland and 12 ranks higher than the U.S. Hong Kong never had any chance to elect its own governors under the British, now they do.

If the Fraser Institute ranks HK so highly why is the West complaining about democracy and human rights in Hong Kong today? The answer is, the West is neither interested nor concerned about democracy and human rights in Hong Kong.

It is just being consistent in its strategic containment of China and restore its hegemony over Asia led by the United States of America.

Some Filipinos think along the lines of the West and support the containment of China, they don’t understand that it is the same as containing the rise of the Philippines and other Asian nations to fulfill the full promise of the Asian Century. This message is a fundamentally important point to be made to my fellow Filipinos and Asians.

China had been too hands-off on Hong Kong to adhere to the “One Country, Two Systems.” The local HK power elite was divided and Western interlopers, revealing its real intent of subversion and restoration of colonial control, has taken advantage with local cohorts over the years. The conspirators controlled the educational system and brainwashed the youth to disdain China and worship the West.

A Chinese TV networked interviewed me at the height of Hong Kong’s 2019 chaos. I recounted my experience as a student recruited from school into anti-government activities by priests, then given seminars by the U.S. embassy and met in groups by the U.S. ambassador. Another sibling was recruited in U.P. into Jose Ma. Sison’s CIA-directed communist party. Schools are very sensitive grounds.

It is inconceivable that a Hong Kong primary school teacher would on his or her own misinterpret history so blatantly, harm the image of the country while prettifying the vicious and devious former colonial master. But now we see this sacrilege actually happening in Hong Kong, and understand how thousands of HK students’ minds are so twisted and poisoned.

China post the entry of the World Trade Organization and 2009 Global Financial Crisis had been very sanguine about the West and the U.S.

The WTO entry helped China’s rise. The West appreciated China after the 2009 Western Financial Crash as China’s domestic pump priming lifted the global economy.

But as China rose and lifted Asia with it, frustrating the U.S. “Pivot to Asia” and restoration of hegemony the paranoia kicked in.

The U.S. containment of China and Asia was never really lifted as evidenced by the hundreds of U.S. military bases that encircle China. The political containment plan was always ready, consisted of destabilization plots using the South China Sea and the Hong Kong-Taiwan axis. The alarm for China was heightened with the violent destabilization of HK in 2019.

Hence, this 2020 China’s National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s top legislative body, in its all-important annual meeting held in conjunction with this year’s 2020 regular “Two Sessions” focuses attention on securing the peace and stability of Hong Kong from foreign interference and interventions with the National Security Law for Hong Kong.

While the anti-China elements in HK re-ignites its destabilization plot, at least 5,000 of our 150,000 or so Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong are fearing the loss of their jobs there due to the HK economic downturn from the troubles and the pandemic,  and expected by DOLE to be returning home. A stable and secure Hong Kong is a stable and secure China.

Though China is the earliest nation to recover from the pandemic and restore economic growth, the additional threats from the West poses serious risks of reversals. We hope China stabilizes Hong Kong posthaste with the new National Security Law for Hong Kong and ensure the path to China’s post-pandemic growth and Asia’s as well.

A stable and secure China is a formidable pillar to hold up the Asian Century of Mankind’s 21st Centenary.