On Friday, 16th of August, I turned up to the “Stand with Hong Kong — Power to the People” Rally at the State Library of Victoria, and sure enough, pro-Hong Kong democracy demonstrators were in line of sight. I had hoped that only they were there, but unsurprisingly, so were the opposition. My Facebook livestream started just after 7pm.
My first peculiar encounter were the socialists you’ll typically find canvassing at Australian university campuses. They were pro-HK, pulling the recycled ‘we stand in solidarity with the oppressed in HK’ angle, trying to not make it obvious that their ideology is what led to communism in China. I was already close to the civilised pro-HK crowd gathering on the footsteps in front of the Sir Redmond Barry memorial statue, listening to speakers on the mic, but in the distance, I spotted crowds, cramped by onlookers, ready to witness a fight or two to break out. And so my adrenaline kicked in.
For the next 40 minutes or so before the police turned up to crowd-control the situation, numerous fights, mostly verbal, plus some pushing and shoving, broke out between notably middle-aged pro-HK people and predominantly younger pro-Beijing people. It didn’t matter too much that I couldn’t speak or understand Mandarin or Cantonese, as they say that over 90% of communication is nonverbal. Some fights were in English. One of the few yelling matches up close and personal in English which I recorded, went roughly as follows:
Pro-HK girl: “Freedom to protest, right?”
Pro-Beijing guy: “Tell me, you can want freedom, or you can protest. Which one do you want?”
Pro-HK girl: “Freedom is protesting. The ability to protest is freedom. If you protest in China, you’ll die.”
Pro-Beijing guy: “No!”
Admittedly, I was so incensed by the suggestion that freedom does not include freedom of speech and assembly, that I yelled out “Tiananmen Square” repeatedly. The pro-HK girl and others behind me followed suit, and the pro-Beijing guy moved on without further retort. That yelling match best summed up the sentiments divided between the two camps.
The irony of what looked like predominantly young mainland Chinese students studying in Australia making up the majority of the pro-Beijing crowd, exercising freedom of speech and assembly in Australia, was not lost on the pro-HK crowd. More ironic was that some of the pro-Beijing demonstrators accused masked pro-HK demonstrators of cowardice. Funny that, given the deliberate attempt of the pro-Beijing camp to derail what was intended to be a peaceful rally.
I was disappointed in the behaviour of a number of middle-aged pro-HK men, who couldn’t control their temper, and fell for the baits laid by their younger pro-Beijing counterparts. Unsurprisingly, the older men were provoked into a few pushing and shoving matches. I did the best I could to defuse those situations. At one point, the pro-Beijing crowd pointed and yelled at me and a fellow pro-HK livestreamer. It must’ve included insults, because there were moments of laughter amongst the crowd. I kept my cool.
Eventually, a fight broke out in front of the peaceful pro-HK demonstrators, which led to police turning up in numbers to split the two camps apart, and crowd-control. The night continued with both camps yelling at each other, and trying to drown each other in English and Mandarin/Cantonese chants. With all the flag-waving, mainly the display of the PRC flag on smartphones, coming from the pro-Beijing camp, the chants and singing appeared fervently nationalistic, and no doubt the yelling of insults also occurred.
From the pro-HK camp, the chants included “free Hong Kong”, and the counter-chant “Two Systems” in response to the pro-Beijing chant “One China”. It was disappointing to see however, insults coming from the pro-HK camp degenerating slowly into racism. Such insults started off with “go back to where you came from”, eventually going down to the level of “go home, we’ve run out of formula”.
There was a joke thrown around in the pro-HK camp that accused the opposition camp of being astroturfs. I didn’t believe that for one second. Real astroturfs wouldn’t display the youthful fervent nationalism that was on display that night. They were dead serious and unquestioning about their support for Beijing. It makes sense, most of them looked like they were born after 1989, and I imagine that you’d have to at least come from a middle-class family to afford university education in Australia.
That’s scary. It’s scary because they appear to be a generation representative of the future of China, a future where Beijing will do whatever it takes to continue to grow a comfortable middle-class to maintain their system of government. They represent a China that’s not ashamed of infiltration outside of China to grow their influence. Some from the pro-Beijing camp infiltrated the pro-HK camp after the police split both camps apart, to either start fights or display pro-Beijing paraphernalia. It was as shameless and unapologetic as the Chinese Communist Party’s concerning influence on Australian institutions. The behaviour of Beijing supporters at pro-Hong Kong democracy rallies across Australia is a sign of what’s already happening in Australia, and a sign of things to come.
Carl Jung’s The Undiscovered Self described Socialism / Communism as a form of mass psychosis:
“Separation from his instinctual nature inevitably plunges civilized man into the conflict between conscious and unconscious, spirit and nature, knowledge and faith, a split that becomes pathological the moment his consciousness is no longer able to neglect or suppress his instinctual side. The accumulation of individuals who have got into this critical state starts off a mass movement purporting to be the champion of the suppressed. In accordance with the prevailing tendency of consciousness to seek the source of all ills in the outside world, the cry goes up for political and social changes which, it is supposed, would automatically solve the much deeper problem of split personality. Hence it is that whenever this demand is fulfilled, political and social conditions arise which bring the same ills back again in altered form. What then happens is a simple reversal: the underside comes to the top and the shadow takes the place of the light, and since the former is always anarchic and turbulent, the freedom of the “liberated” underdog must suffer Draconian curtailment. All this is unavoidable, because the root of the evil is untouched and merely the counterposition has come to light. The Communist revolution has debased man far lower than democratic collective psychology has done, because it robs him of his freedom not only in the social but in the moral and spiritual sense. Aside from the political difficulties, the West has suffered a great psychological disadvantage that made itself unpleasantly felt even in the days of German Nazism: the existence of a dictator allows us to point the finger away from ourselves and at the shadow. He is clearly on the other side of the political frontier, while we are on the side of good and enjoy the possession of the right ideals. Did not a well-known statesman recently confess that he had “no imagination in evil”? In the name of the multitude he was here giving expression to the fact that Western man is in danger of losing his shadow altogether, of identifying himself with his fictive personality and of identifying the world with the abstract picture painted by scientific rationalism. His spiritual and moral opponent, who is just as real as he, no longer dwells in his own breast but beyond the geographical line of division, which no longer represents an outward political barrier but splits off the conscious from the unconscious man more and more menacingly. Thinking and feeling lose their inner polarity, and where religious orientation has grown ineffective, not even a god is at hand to check the sovereign sway of unleashed psychic functions.”