In reporting the Hong Kong protest movement, the Western media have represented hoodlums as heroes and hooliganism as a movement for democracy. The rioters beat up on innocent bystanders, attacked police with gasoline bombs and sharpened metal rods, destroyed government buildings and metro stations, and interrupted the operations of the international airport.

The Hong Kong economy has ground to a halt, yet the media praised the rioters as freedom fighters. In fact, the ringleaders of the riots demanded that the disturbances not be called riots but protests.

When the Hong Kong police pushed back on the protesters, the cameras always found them, much less so when the violence was perpetrated by the rioters. In fact, accusations of “police brutality” were frequently bandied about as the provocation for the ensuing violence.

In the months from early June to early August, the Hong Kong police had to face protesters numbering in the millions, or at least that was what the media reported. Yet the police with great restraint made just 420 arrests.

By contrast, New York’s finest arrested 700 during the one-day Occupy Wall Street protest on October 1, 2011, and the size of that crowd was in the thousands, not millions. If the mayhem that has happened in Hong Kong took place in New York, rivers of blood would have covered the pavement and city jails and hospitals would have overflowed with victims.

So, what was the original cause for mass unrest in Hong Kong?

It was precipitated by the Hong Kong government proposing an amendment to the existing Fugitive Offenders Ordinance.

The necessity of the amendment became obvious when a young man took his pregnant girlfriend from Hong Kong to Taiwan, murdered her, and buried her dismembered remains there, and then came back knowing that he couldn’t be extradited to Taiwan to face justice.

Safe haven for fugitives

I asked a friend, a longtime resident of Hong Kong and a senior adviser to the governments in the territory before and after its handover from British to Chinese sovereignty, for an explanation of the proposed amendment. He said, “There are currently hundreds of known fugitives using Hong Kong as a safe haven because Hong Kong only has agreements with certain countries but [they] have so far not included Macau, Taiwan and mainland China.

“The proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance are designed to promote criminal justice and to redress a situation whereby certain criminals can use our city as a safe haven.”

Agitators seized the opportunity to convert a government intention to close a loophole into a cause célèbre by claiming that the added statute would give Beijing arbitrary power to arrest and extradite anyone, even those merely passing through Hong Kong, into mainland China for incarceration or worse.

Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, assumed that correcting the omission was straightforward and failed to anticipate the storm that followed. Even as Lam officially suspended and then subsequently withdrew the bill to amend the extradition provisions, the fury of the protests continued.

After successfully forcing Lam to backpedal, the protesters pressed forward with more demands, including exoneration of those arrested, Lam’s resignation, and universal suffrage for the selection of members of the Legislative Council and the chief executive.

Around the end of August, my friend shared this observation with me: “Whatever organization is behind supporting and promoting this unrest is apparently well funded and highly organized, with weekly schedules on what and where the disturbances will take place.”

Bankrolled by National Endowment for Democracy

As reported by various sources, a main source of funding support is the National Endowment for Democracy. The NED is in turn funded by the US Congress to finance organizations around the world that advocate democracy and human rights. Some 18 organizations identified as active in China have received funds from the NED. Six of the 18 are known to operate in Hong Kong.