Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Why I’m Nominating a Hong Kong Freedom Fighter for the Nobel

As the China-originated coronavirus reminds us, truth and democracy must always prevail over lies and authoritarianism.
Andy Chan

In February of this year, I nominated Andy Chan for the Nobel Peace Prize.

It wasn’t my idea. Ishii Hidetoshi, the vice president of the Free Indo-Pacific Alliance—a partnership of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongolians, and many other ethnic and religious minorities—contacted me a couple of weeks before to ask me to be the official nominating party. There are certain conditions that the Nobel committee requires nominators to meet, and I happened to fit the bill.

I jumped at the chance to be a part of the nomination. Why? The answer is simple: because of who Andy Chan is, and what the People’s Republic of China is.

Andy Chan is a Hong Kong political leader and one of the most prominent faces of the freedom movement in that city. Chan is young, but he has spent much of his adult life working within the system to secure freedom and human rights for his polis-mates. He joined the Umbrella Movement in 2014—a sea of protesters armed with brollies and parasols—and two years later founded the Hong Kong National Party, the first political party in history to call for the full independence of Hong Kong from the People’s Republic of China.

Chan was duly prohibited from running for election to the Legislative Council (LegCo) in September of that same year. So much for one country, two systems.

In 2018, the PRC puppet government in Hong Kong invoked an obscure colonial-era law to dissolve the Hong Kong National Party.

Chan was the first person ever prevented from running for election in Hong Kong. His party was the first party in Hong Kong history to be dissolved.

Further harassment followed. For example, I and my colleague Arimoto Takashi at Seiron—a storied and highly respected monthly news and opinion journal in Japan—were scheduled to interview Chan in Tokyo during the summer of 2019. But Chan was arrested just before boarding his flight, on laughable weapons charges (including possession of bows and arrows). Those charges were perfunctorily dropped as soon as the chance had passed for Chan to take part in a key gathering of conservatives here, CPAC’s convention in Japan.

On the sidelines of that convention, I had the chance to interview China specialist Gordon Chang. Chang reinforced for me the second reason I was eager to nominate Andy Chan for the Nobel Peace Prize: what the PRC is.

It is important to remember that Andy Chan is attempting to win freedom from what Chang describes as an authoritarian government, one that is now widely characterized within Hong Kong as the “Chinazi” regime. This is not hyperbole; the comparison is apt.

For example, veteran China researcher Steven Mosher has documented extensively the practice of “gendercide” within the PRC. China’s one-child policy—a Club of Rome population control offshoot that mercifully was modified into a “two-child policy” in 2016—was the catalyst for perhaps the worst sex-based culling of a human population in history. Tens of millions fewer females than males were born in China over the course of the one-child policy, many of them forcibly aborted by order of the government.

(Steven Mosher was kicked out of the Ph.D. program at Stanford for telling the truth about this. The rest of the American establishment also remained largely silent about the holocaust in the People’s Republic. Some in the American government were complicit. The ostrich response to PRC devilry is a subject that will take most of our lifetimes to understand. There will have to be truth-and-reconciliation committees in the U.S. to get past our material cooperation with grave evil.)

But this is just one aspect of the PRC. To truly understand the country, and why Andy Chan and the vast majority of Hongkongers want nothing to do with it, we must X-ray the Chinese map to see what lies beneath the monochrome sea of crimson ink.

The People’s Republic of China, like the United States of America, is the product of brutal conquest. Both empires shored up their positions by removing or simply exterminating (right down to the cultural roots, preferably) any groups that defied the distant capital. If you are reading this essay in English, and not Diné or Tsalagi, you’ll get the picture.

Also, both empires really got started in the wake of a civil war—America’s in the 1860s, China’s lasting intermittently from 1911 to 1949, when the PRC was declared by Mao Zedong and the last of the Nationalist pretenders under Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan. Both empires used the rural poor as cannon fodder while the urban elite grew rich and built villas in the mountains to escape the summer heat.

There is a key difference, though, and it helps us understand the position of Hong Kong. Unlike the American imperialist juggernaut, which looked out on a vast continent of variegated indigenous populations with little to no political cohesion, the Beijing imperialists had most of their work done for them by the Qing Empire, a Manchu polity the borders of which are very close to the borders of the PRC today.

The Americans forged an empire. The Chinese inherited one.

But whereas the Manchus had been largely of the Ottoman bent of mind, willing to tolerate a great diversity of customs and practices in their sprawling domains, the Han who succeeded them were rabid and racialist nationalists. The existence of Tibetans, Mongolians, Uyghurs, Bai, Dai, Hmong, ethnic Koreans, Manchurians, Christians, Jews, and other minorities was offensive to the Han racio-imperialists. Everything had to be Sinified, meaning Han-ified, clear-cut, eradicated, ethnically cleansed.

The Han went on a rampage, burning down lamaseries, raping Tibetan Buddhist nuns, putting Muslims in slave camps, pillaging Mongolia, going on bride kidnapping raids into Vietnam, and generally terrorizing everyone who was not Han Chinese. It was, and is, one of the most extensive genocides and cultural erasures in human history.

And it is Han Aryanism, pure and simple, that gives Beijing, in its mind, title over Hong Kong. The Hongkongers look like us, the Beijing government thinks, and therefore we rule them.

Andy Chan disagrees. Chinese history is replete with ethnic and linguistic diversity that belies the claims to monoculturalism that are the basis for China’s empire. Hongkongers do not speak the language of the Beijing overlords, do not like their culture, do not eat their foods, do not appreciate their interference in their affairs, and have no truck with their gross human rights violations. Ironically, some of this distinction stems from another strain of imperialism, namely the 15-some-odd decades of British rule. But the die is cast regardless. Hong Kong does not want to partner with Beijing. Unlike citizens of the PRC, which have never once voted in an election, Hongkongers rather like political self-determination and are not about to give it up without a fight.

Hong Kong, in other words, is not China. “China” is what every grad student who has read Benedict Anderson will immediately recognize: an imagined community. There is no China, but the Communist Party in Beijing cannot exist without it. Therefore anyone who questions the concept must be destroyed.

In the press statement I issued during the conference announcing the nomination of Andy Chan for the Nobel Peace Prize, I mentioned briefly the Wuhan virus that was then exploding into what is now a global pandemic. I should have known—Andy Chan could have told me—that the PRC authorities would deploy disinformation and outright deception to change the name of the sickness in order to hide the origins of the crisis. The PRC—which has entire government departments dedicated to the production and dissemination of dezinformatsiya (all the U.S. has is lowly NPR)—planted a few stories in the American and European press alleging that “Wuhan virus” was racist terminology, and the rest was (manufactured) history.

Still, as I think Andy would agree, it is absolutely essential that the world call this manmade plague, caused by the contempt for human life that the PRC has displayed in all of its dealings with its own and other people, by its toponym. For the same reason that we remember Tiananmen Square and not “square,” Katyn Forest and not “forest,” the Inner Mongolia Purge and not “purge,” we must pay tribute to those killed by communists by rendering them, as at Yad Vashem, “a memorial and a name.” “Wuhan virus” defeats PRC propaganda by pinning the disaster to the government responsible for it. “Wuhan virus” makes it clear that Beijing cannot erase chthonicity simply by declaring that places do not exist and that the people who live in those places do not matter.

We in the U.S. are just now waking up to what that government (and our own) is capable of. Let’s not forget that Andy Chan and his fellows in Hong Kong have known for a very long time.

Jason Morgan is associate professor at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan.