For twenty years after the handover of power from Britain to the People’s Republic, Hong Kong existed as a bastion of relative openness and liberty in China. Now, it’s all crashing down as Beijing aggressively imposes new controls on the territory. One of the latest dominoes to fall is the Apple Daily, a vocal anti-Beijing newspaper.
Hong Kong police arrested a senior journalist from the Apple Daily newspaper at the airport Sunday as he attempted to leave the city, four days after the paper’s forced closure, in the latest crackdown by Beijing under the sweeping new national security law.
Police confirmed in a statement to NBC News that a 57-year-old man had been arrested for “conspiring to collude with foreign countries or foreign sources to endanger national security” — a crime punishable by up to life in prison.
Police raided Apple Daily’s offices earlier this month, arresting five of its senior editors and executives, while also freezing financial accounts. The paper — one of Hong Kong’s most popular newspapers and a fierce China critic — published its final edition Thursday amid ever-deepening restrictions imposed by Beijing, following monthslong protests in 2019. [NBC News]
America’s leaders want to use Hong Kong to stoke conflict with China and score points at home. But they are doomed to fail, because America’s own leaders have embraced the same tactics they now want to condemn in Beijing. Just as Revolver warned early this year, thanks to its own hypocrisy, the corrupt ruling class of the Globalist American Empire has destroyed its moral authority and by extension its power to exert any soft power influence over the people of other countries.
China’s Hong Kong crackdown is the exact sort of overseas domestic incident that America has, traditionally, loved to weigh in on. And this time was no exception. In mid-June, after the first Apple Daily arrests, department spokesman Ned Price issued a statement that has to be seen to be believed:
[W]e strongly condemn the arrests of five senior executives from Apple Daily and their parent company, Next Digital, and we call for their immediate release. We are deeply concerned by Hong Kong authorities’ selective use of the national security law to arbitrarily target independent media organizations. The charges of, quote, “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security” appear to be entirely politically motivated. We deplore the reported assertion by a Hong Kong police official that articles published in Apple Daily are evidence of what they call the, quote, “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces.” As we all know, exchanging views with foreigners in journalism should never be a crime. [State Dept.]
This wouldn’t be a bad statement… if it was 1986. But in 2021, to all except the most mindkilled partisans of the American regime, the doublethink and hypocrisy of Price’s statement is breathtaking.
Price’s statement is a joke. This isn’t a free country objecting to the tyranny of another. It’s simply one empire of censorship and propaganda hypocritically trashing another.
And critically, in 2021, everyone knows it. China certainly does. In a commentary piece published last Friday in the People’s Daily Online, Chinese state media bluntly told the Globalist American Empire to cut out the hypocrisy.
There has never been such a thing as absolute press freedom. As a matter of fact, those Western countries that are trying to disparage China have strict regulations on the production of news, as well as red lines on freedom of speech or press. Some are even intensifying their restrictions. … In fact, what those Western countries intend to do by repeatedly absolving Apple Daily of blame is to stoke chaos in Hong Kong, and pressure China. When they are crying for “media freedom,” they are actually worrying about losing a tool to destabilize Hong Kong and contain China. [People’s Daily]
An editorial in the Global Times was even more blunt in its rhetoric. The paper’s editors expressly pointed toward the massive crackdown on Parler after elites opportunistically blamed it for the January 6 Capitol intrusion. China’s crackdown on the Apple Daily, the paper said, was much less blatant, intrusive, and overreaching than the censorship practices that are now the norm in 2021 America:
Apple Daily started two years before Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997. Gradually, the newspaper became the base camp of public opinion that mobilized resistance in Hong Kong to function by the spirit of the Basic Law, and promoted Hong Kong to act in collusion with the China policies of countries like the US and the UK. The outlet has greatly exceeded the information function of the media and turned into a political revolt-seeker. It has been stirring up trouble and running in the frontline in Hong Kong’s growing political turmoil.
No Western country would allow the existence of such a hub that manipulates public opinion to counter constitutional system of the country. Any media outlet that has gained inciting power to oppose the mainstream will not be spared. For example, after former US President Donald Trump’s Twitter account was permanently shut down, his supporters gathered on the app Parler, which was banned for good.
We have to point out that Trump’s account and Parler pose much less of a constitutional challenge to the US than what Apple Daily posed to Hong Kong’s constitutional system. The former is a deviation, while the latter is blatant confrontation. The “silencing” of Trump reflects the extent to which anti-establishment dissent is truly tolerated in the US. [Global Times]
The Globalist American Empire can fume in response. They can whine, and nitpick all the reasons that Parler and the 1/6 protesters are different and more dangerous than Apple Daily. The Washington Post can run shrill op-eds about how freedom was “murdered” in Hong Kong. But no matter how much they shriek, one thing can’t be changed: The Global Times is right. America’s ruling regime, the fusion of federal bureaucracy and its corporate fellow-travelers, has used many of the same tactics it now condemns in China, often with even less justification. Apple Daily was, at least, a newspaper critical of Beijing. Parler was just a website popular with conservatives that circumvented Twitter’s biased , and that alone meant it had to be destroyed.
With U.S. economic and military dominance waning, the Washington regime thinks it can rely on American soft power, its moral authority as a beacon of liberty and democracy against despotic foreign regimes.
But in its zealotry, intolerance, and greed for power, the Globalist American Empire has gutted its own soft power. It has embraced hypocrisy and the cynical use of power. Now, it wants to turn back time and pretend to be what it has just murdered. But the entire world saw what happened. The Global Times editorial ends with a direct call-out of the gross double standard the Biden Administration wants to enforce.
“Western intervention in Apple Daily’s shutdown is pale and weak. The intervention has also completely lost its moral force. It’s a manifestation of the hypocrisy of the West’s value system. The West is facing an increasing number of problems. They prioritize national interests at home, but demand the so-called “universal value” be put above all outside their countries. Such increasing incoherence will tear apart their hypocritical morality.
Last February, Revolver warned that Washington’s mass crackdown in response to 1/6 would gut its credibility and, in the long run, fatally undermine its attempt to project moral authority abroad.
America’s intensified censorship regime … has substantially undermined if not entirely evaporated America’s “moral authority.” The significance of this cannot be overstated. Saying that America has relinquished its moral authority is not to say that America has always operated morally from an objective point of view. Rather, it means America has shed the ability to even selectively or cynically claim the moral high ground for geopolitical purposes. The presumption of goodwill, which America routinely enjoyed during and after the Cold War as a champion of liberal democracy, has entirely evaporated.
We already see the effect of America’s newly upgraded censorship regime, coupled with its crackdown on pro-Trump demonstrators, on America’s ability to project propaganda in favor of Hong Kong’s protestors. After the crackdown, China’s state-run Global Times published a condemnation of American “digital hegemony” and called for tech companies to respect national sovereignty online. In other words, China signaled to the world that it supports letting governments handle their own populations, while America might use big tech to interfere at any time.
The more the American Regime clamps down on its citizens domestically, the less ability it has to weaponize its alleged “moral high-ground” to advance its interests abroad. While such a decline in “moral authority” would be a problem for any regime, it is uniquely and perhaps even existentially so for the United States. More than any other country in history, the United States leans on its alleged moral superiority as an instrument of power. Terms like “human rights,” “equality,” “fair elections,” and “freedom of speech” are not simply ideals to aspire to. They are weapons often cynically deployed against target regimes that have resources America want. [Revolver]
All that we’ve warned of is coming to pass. America no longer has the economic dominance to boss China around at will. Its military is overstretched from fighting useless wars and trying to be the world’s traffic cop. Its dysfunctional families, drug epidemics, inequality, and racial traumas mean that America no longer offers a “way of life” that other nations automatically aspire to. And now, America’s ruling regime has shed one of America’s last advantages, the soft power of being the world’s most genuinely free major power.
And just like all the other ways America has decayed in recent years, this shift was no accident. America didn’t “lose” its moral authority. Its leaders threw it away to benefit themselves. And until America has new leaders who actually respect the rights of the people they rule, that moral authority will not be coming back.