CIA’s Hong Kong Agitators Now Living It Up on Mainland

Kit Klarenberg, Covert Action, May 21, 2024 — 

umerous Hong Kong residents who participated in violent protests against Chinese Communist Party rule just a few years ago are now living and working in China, according to a recent article by Bloomberg.

Among the “record number of [Hong Kong] residents” who are “flocking to Shenzhen for cheap food and a good time” are former anti-China activists who joined Western-sponsored activist groups in bloody protests “opposing President Xi Jinping’s encroachment of the former British colony,” Bloomberg News reported, adding that the trend toward relocation by Hong Kongers is “accelerating an integration once rejected by the city’s freedom-loving youth.”

cited survey of Hong Kong residents under 40 years of age indicates 66% are now open to working and living “across the border,” a percentage which has tripled from just 22% in 2020. Other once-committed anti-Communist activists, including one who previously boycotted Chinese-owned restaurants in Hong Kong, “have set aside their ideals” and now “regularly go out of their way to the neighboring mainland city of Shenzhen,” the outlet explained.

After a short trip via Chinese-built high-speed rail, which has slashed commute times in half, Hong Kongers on the mainland enjoy “massive modern malls, bustling night markets and hip cultural parks preserved from old factory buildings… a booming array of entertainment choices and low prices further driven down by China’s longest deflation streak since the Asian financial crisis.” Meanwhile, the former head of Morgan Stanley Asia is quoted as saying “Hong Kong is over,” and “at risk of getting marginalized” as the mainland develops and grows.

In a tantalizing closer, Bloomberg ran a short interview with a 25-year-old Hong Kong native, and ex-activist. “Lured by cheaper prices in Shenzhen,” he moved across the border “into a bigger apartment,” commuting to work daily. While he “laments the shrinking space for speech in his former home,” he “doesn’t believe politics should get in the way of a good life.”

After all, “people may oppose the central government or have concerns about political freedom, but how does [sic] these concerns affect your everyday life? The truth is that it doesn’t.”

It is certainly believable that a higher standard and lower cost of living, cheaper housing and consumer goods, and raucous nightlife have prompted activists to jettison their professed commitment to democracy. Yet, as we shall see, the Hong Kong “pro-democracy” movement was always a U.S.-sponsored astroturf effort, financed and directed by the CIA and its “overt operations” cutout, the National Endowment for Democracy.


Now Washington’s ability to foment anti-Communist sentiment in China has been drastically curtailed, due to the CPC’s explicit efforts to crack down on shady NGOs and civil society organizations which could be used to foment “color revolutions” within its borders. It is thus no surprise protesters have moved on to new things.

BBC blows open “Davos for Dissidents”

In November 2014, BBC Newsnight visited a meeting of the Oslo Freedom Foundation (OFF). Host Laura Kuenssberg wandered through a Norwegian hotel, where political campaigners from all over the world were gathered for a series of briefings and workshops on overthrowing their respective governments. Kuenssberg referred to the assembled as “the aristocracy of activists,” meeting to “share ideas and learn about agitating for positive change over champagne and canapés”:

“In the basement of this four-star hotel, human-rights activists come to what feels a bit like a school for revolution…This workshop? How to make sure your message—whether in Egypt, Ukraine, Hong Kong or North Korea—catches on. This may not evoke the spirit of the barricades, but the teaching here is that, to be successful, to topple a government for good, you have to be organized, and plan meticulously.”

Kuenssberg went on to note that attendees in that particular class were involved “in organizing the current protests in Hong Kong,” then-ongoing under the auspices of the “Umbrella Movement.” Unrest was sparked on the island by proposals to grant universal suffrage in elections for the city’s leader, but only allow voters to select from a list of candidates vetted by Beijing. For 79 days students occupied streets around government buildings and office skyscrapers in the city’s financial district.

Kuenssberg boasted, “their plan to put thousands on the streets of the territory was, in fact, hatched nearly two years ago.” Newsnight then cut to an interview with Yang Jianli who, in his mid-20s was involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, and subsequently fled to the U.S. Upon returning to China in April 2002, he was jailed for four years, then another year after refusing to leave the country once released.

On a table adjacent to Yang was a laptop, through which he was chatting to none other than Joshua Wong, the Umbrella Movement’s young face, catapulted to international stardom in 2019 for his very public opposition to Beijing’s attempts to revise its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, which resulted in the National Security Act a year later.

Testifying to Congress in favor of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which compels Washington to sanction Chinese officials purportedly responsible for human rights abuses on the island, he also led unauthorized protests in June that year, for which he was subsequently jailed. In the Newsnight clip, Kuenssberg notes Yang had been talking to student activists in Hong Kong “on a daily, almost hourly basis.”

She repeated that activists involved in the 2014 unrest were “trained, long before taking to the streets, to use non-violent action as a weapon of mass destruction.” This segued into a brief talking head insert with Jamila Raqib, Executive Director of the Albert Einstein Institution, which “advances freedom with non-violent action,” and has received funding from NED, among others.

“Protesters were taught how to behave in a protest, how to keep ranks, how to speak to police, how to manage their movements, how to behave when arrested,” she revealed.

The Newsnight excerpt concludes with clips of a boozy after-party at the hotel. As members of Russia’s Pussy Riot take selfies with other attendees, Kuenssberg observes, “like at any good conference, the evenings see deals done over drinks.” She adds that, while viewers would likely “never know” most of those in attendance at the OFF summit, “the next revolutionary, who will change their country, could just be in this room”:

“Schmoozing for democracy! To say this is a strange event hardly begins to cover it…There’s something deeply incongruous about North Korean defectors, Ukrainian freedom fighters, even hackers, trading information over glasses of champagne. They call it ‘Davos for Dissidents’ for a very good reason.”

A person standing on a stage with a picture of a person Description automatically generated
Member of Pussy Riot urinating on a photo of Vladimir Putin at a show in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in April 2023. Pussy Riot members are heroes of the regime-change crowd. [Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

Color revolutions no more?

Suspiciously, days after broadcast, the British state broadcaster issued a rare clarification, stating that, while the Newsnight episode “may have given the impression that the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests were planned by foreign activists[,]…references to the demonstrations were intended to mean the planning was carried out in Hong Kong, with support from abroad.”

Kuenssberg clearly said too much, for her reference to the Umbrella Movement being “hatched” two years prior to the Newsnight report’s broadcast comports precisely with when NED funding for “pro-democracy” projects in Hong Kong began flowing. In 2012, US$460,000 was invested “to foster awareness regarding political institutions and constitutional reform…develop the capacity of citizens—particularly university students—to more effectively participate in public debate…[and allow] students and citizens to explore possible reforms leading to universal suffrage.”

Fast forward to September 2016, and NED published a report on the progress of its Hong Kong “democratization” efforts, which made repeated references to Joshua Wong, a movement he founded known as Scholarism, and a political party he led called Demosisto. Meanwhile, NED grants grew significantly in size, into the millions. In lockstep, political unrest and protest on the island also intensified.

Joshua Wong, the face of the umbrella movement. [Source:]

In 1991, senior NED official Allen Weinstein acknowledged that “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” Among the cloak-and-dagger work previously conducted by the Agency was the creation of the Albert Einstein Institution, as featured in Newsnight’s investigation. Its founder Gene Sharp, who died in 2018, joined Harvard’s Center for International Affairs in 1965, also known as “the CIA at Harvard.”

Gene Sharp [Source:]

The Center’s leaders and employees were prominent Cold Warriors heavily tied to the U.S. national security state. For example, its first co-directors were Henry Kissinger and Robert Bowie, future CIA deputy chief.

Sharp perfected many methods of non-violent resistance and regime change, which have influenced protest movements and “revolutions” on every continent. Yugoslavia’s OTPOR!, an NED-created youth protest group that brought down Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, was heavily informed by his writings.

OTPOR! went on to spread its model, and Sharp’s methods, globally, creating the Center for Applied NonViolent Actions and Strategies (CANVAS) for the purpose. Groups it created were at the forefront of color revolutions across the former Soviet sphere in the early to mid-2000s, and Arab Spring activists were also taught in “bringing down a dictator,” as a fawning contemporary “documentary” on Milosevic’s overthrow, narrated by Martin Sheen, was titled.

As an activist within Pora, a CANVAS-created youth protest movement in Ukraine central to the NED-orchestrated 2004 “orange revolution” revealed at the time: “The bible of Pora has been the book of Gene Sharp,…From Dictatorship to Democracy. Pora activists have translated it by themselves. We [wrote] to Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institute [sic] in the United States, and he became very sympathetic towards our initiative, and the Institution provided funding to print over 12,000 copies of this book for free.”

As The Grayzone reported, in October 2023 CANVAS became embroiled in controversy after Georgian authorities accused its local chapter of plotting a Maidan 2.0, in conjunction with ethnic Georgians working for the Ukrainian government tied to jailed former President Mikheil Saakashvili, including Mamuka Mamulashvili, commander of the notorious Georgian Legion. The effort would have sprung Saakashvili from jail, while installing a government more willing to open a second front against Russia.

Mikheil Saakashvili [Source:]

Saakashvili was installed by the NED-financed “rose revolution” in 2003, with much Western fanfare. Even State Department house journal Foreign Policy has admitted the results were “terribly disappointing,” as major change “never really materialized” and “elite corruption still continued apace.” The former president was imprisoned in 2021 for, among other crimes, ordering violent attacks on political rivals, and personally helping one of his ministers cover up a hideous murder they personally directed. Current Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has made clear she will “never” pardon him.

Celebrating the Rose Revolution
Georgia’s Rose Revolution [Source:]

Tbilisi is now pursuing a foreign agents law which would compel NGOs and other organizations to disclose their overseas funding. The legislation is intended to prevent another color revolution erupting in Georgia.

Meanwhile, like Saakashvili, Joshua Wong languishes in prison, potentially facing a life sentence for conspiracy to commit subversion. It has been reported that, before his arrest in June 2020, he sought refuge in Washington’s Hong Kong consulate, but the State Department refused him entry.

“It would have made the U.S.-China relationship even more contentious,” a source in the know explained. Evidently, being a U.S. puppet is not as politically and financially profitable as it once was. It almost certainly never will be again.

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