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Who is behind Hong Kong protests?

By Wei Xinyan and Zhong Weiping | | Updated: 2019-08-17 13:05
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MintPress News, a US news website, has reported that some groups involved in recent rioting in Hong Kong received significant funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, which it described as "a CIA soft-power cutout that has played a critical role in innumerable US regime-change operations".

Although it promotes itself as a "non-governmental organization", the NED's website says it "receives an annual appropriation from the US Congress through the Department of State, to help the US government".

"NED's NGO status allows it to work where there are no government to government relations and in other environments where it would be too complicated for the US government to work."


NED was founded in 1983, when the spotlight on the CIA was so intense that new methods — without a clear connection to the US state — had to be found to promote US interests in foreign political systems.

Presenting itself as an independent and private NGO, its function was to take over the CIA's political regime-change programs.

"We should not have to do this kind of work covertly. It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA," NED President Carl Gershman told the New York Times in 1986. "We saw that in the sixties, and that's why it has been discontinued. We have not had the capability of doing this, and that's why the endowment was created."

In 1991, The Washington Post quoted another NED founder, Allen Weinstein, as saying "a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA".

Screenshot of The News with Rick Sanchez of RT TV

NED doesn't hide its support for "democratization" in certain Asian countries, proclaiming on its website: "In 2017, the Endowment prioritized countries in Asia ... where the NED was positioned to have the greatest impact. Building upon NED's strategy from previous years, programs continued to be concentrated on key countries within each sub-region."

Voice of America interviewed Louisa Greve, then vice-president of NED's programs for Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, in 2014. It said the organization had been funding programs in Hong Kong for about two decades, with grants totaling several million dollars. Greve said the level of support had been consistent during that period.

VOA said NED's three partners in Hong Kong were the US-based Solidarity Center and Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, which received grants of around $150,000 and had been working in Hong Kong since 1997, and the US National Democratic Institute, which had a $400,000 grant.

MintPress News said NED funding for groups in Hong Kong actually dates back to 1994, with HKHRM receiving more than $1.9 million between 1995 and 2013.

The NED's website shows it granted $155,000 to SC and $200,000 to NDI for work in Hong Kong, and $90,000 to Hong Kong Justice Center in 2018. NDI received $650,000 from 2016 to 2017, and SC received $459,865 from 2015 to 2017.

Through the work of its three partners in Hong Kong, NED has had close relations with other groups in the region.

An episode of The News with Rick Sanchez on Russia's RT TV network in July disclosed that six organizations are taking money from and working with NED.

They are the HK Institute of Human Resource Management, the HK Confederation of Trade Unions, the HK Journalists Association, the Civic Party, the Labor Party and the Democratic Party, whose founding chairman is Martin Lee.

They are all members of the Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition Hong Kong media, including the South China Morning Post and Hong Kong Free Press, say is the organizer of the anti-extradition law demonstrations.

Screenshot of The News with Rick Sanchez of RT TV

In an interview with the Fox News show DEFCON 3 in 2014, Michael Pillsbury, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said the US holds some influence over political matters in Hong Kong.

"We have also funded millions of dollars of programs through the National Endowment for Democracy … so in that sense the Chinese accusation (that the US played a role in Hong Kong protests) is not totally false…" he said.

It is inconceivable that the organizers of the current Hong Kong protests are unaware of the NED's ties to some of the coalition's members. In her interview with VOA in 2014, Greve said activists knew the risks of working with NED partners, "but they still say 'international cooperation is legitimate'".

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