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Why storming of Hong Kong Legco is not comparable to the US Capitol siege?


Chinese government is using the US Capitol siege to push for narrative that the US adopted a “double standard” over protests in Hong Kong, including the storming of Legco 2019, and the riots in the Captiol. We asked Prof. Donald Moynihan, the Chair of McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University, on why both events should be differentiated from one another.

The following is the written response from Prof. Moynihan on CitizenNews' questions.

Trump supporters have stormed the Capitol, prompting Chinese officials and state media to compare the riot with the confrontational protests in Hong Kong in 2019. AP file photo

“My general response is that there are some similarities between the idea of a mob of people attacking the legislature, and leaving some property damage, but there are significant contextual differences between the US and Hong Kong case.

First, is the seriousness of the threat. In the US case, some of the mob carried guns and zip-tie handcuffs, indicative of an intent to take hostages or kill people. One police officer stationed at the Capitol is now dead from his injuries. Many in the mob were shouting “Hang Mike Pence” or “Where is Nancy Pelosi.” Members of Congress and staff feared for their lives, and if you take the rhetoric of the mob seriously, as well as the supporters who were encouraging this specific attack online, they had reason to be. A non-trivial portion of President Trump's supporters are well-armed and express violent intentions, and some had recently plotted to kidnap the Governor of Michigan.

A second difference is the motivation of the people involved. In Hong Kong, protestors believe, reasonably in my view, that their democratic freedoms are being eroded and see themselves as fighting to retain them. As you observe, this basic cause of grievance is more widely supported. In the US case, the mob are seeking to overturn an election, and maintain in power a President who had lost that election. In other words, to subvert democracy rather than protect it. To be sure, many of them sincerely believe that they are the victim of an attack on democracy, but this belief has been repeatedly debunked.

Third, is the source of this motivation. My impression is in Hong Kong there is widespread support for the idea of personal democratic freedom, partly because people felt they had rights that they are not losing. In other words, it is a bottom-up movement.

In the US, the mob would not exist without President Trump. He, and many in his party and some portions of the media, have been reckless in cultivating false beliefs about election fraud. It was not only Trump's statements on the day, telling the crowd they were to go to the Capitol, it was months of persuading them that the election was being stolen from them, and they had to fight to retain it.

Thus, while there has been broad condemnation of the violence and the direct perpetrators, and responses from civil society such as employers and tech companies, there is not universal agreement. Republicans might criticize members of the mob, but many still refuse to criticize President Trump directly, or tell people clearly that the President lost a free and fair election.

As long as these underlying conditions are not addressed, it is reasonable to expect future cases of political violence by President Trump's supporters.”


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