Mar Llera *
The columnist of El Confidencial Mar Llera, also director of East Asian Studies (Compolíticas group), professor at the University of Seville and Amnesty International activist, has carefully followed the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Given the increasing comparisons between the protests of the Hong Kong people and the secessionist claims of the Catalan independence supporters, Llera has published an article, translated into Chinese, in the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao translated into Chinese. In the column, she tries to explain to the Hong Kong audience what she considers “three fallacies” of Catalan pro-independence.
“As a Spanish citizen born in Catalonia and as an activist committed to human rights and democracy in Hong Kong, I feel the ethical duty to dismantle three fundamental fallacies about the Catalan problem that in this age of post-truth feed equivocal comparisons with the British ex-colony”.
Dear Hong Kong citizens. I am addressing you because since your peaceful uprising in the Mobilization of the Umbrellas I have visited your city on numerous occasions, taking interest in your problems and joining your marches for democracy until I came to feel myself part of your people. When I was informed about the proposed Extradition Law, I reacted with indignation: your suffering is mine and your hope too.
Therefore, when I have seen that some of you have raised the flag of my homeland, Catalonia, misrepresenting its meaning, I have not been able to hold back my tears. That gesture forces me to write you these lines, because you should know that those who defend the Catalan stellar flag today by burning our streets and terrorizing our children, do not really love our land, nor love the Hong Kong cause. They simply exploit you. They intend to use your struggle to their advantage, to capitalize on their own interests the self-denial of the Hong Kong people. And when you least expect it, you will realize that the Western foreign ministries no longer listen to you as before, because without knowing it you are coming close to those who intend to destroy the democracy you dream of. Many of those who instigate separatism in Catalonia are undercover fascists. And you must be able to recognize them as such.
1 – No one has been convicted of merely voting.
Contrary to what many international commentators claim, little or not at all informed, the sentence on the Catalan ‘procés‘ on October 14 does not condemn anyone for the mere fact of voting. Voting itself is not a crime, of course not. What is a crime is to use the power granted by the Democratic Constitution of the Spanish State to the Catalan Autonomous Community to “induce, sustain, direct and carry out a public and tumultuous uprising” against that Constitution, which is what the condemned have done .
In the 2017 Catalan self-determination referendum, a multitude of voters participated, and of course, nobody has been accused. Those affected by the sentence are only nine people, six of whom have been convicted of sedition and / or embezzlement of public money. These are not ordinary citizens, but public officers, members of the Catalan government who used their authority to rebel against a higher authority, which clearly constitutes a crime of malpractice.
In order to carry out the referendum, these political representatives violated not only the Spanish Constitution, but also their own Catalan Statute of autonomy and the Regulation of the Catalan Chamber, silenced the parliamentary opposition, ignored more than half of the population, not separatist, and they used all citizens’ taxes for their particular political interests, committing crimes of embezzlement. They also disobeyed the proper judicial authorities – both Spanish and Catalan – and deceived society, making them believe that the result of the referendum had legal value. Finally, they proclaimed Catalonia as a new independent State, in a horrific gesture halfway between theatricality and the threat of a coup d’etat.
Catalonia already has the self-determination that Hong Kong demands. In this sense, the difference between the two protests cannot be greater. Despite constituting a vital node in the global economic-financial system, the Asian metropolis lacks democratic elections by universal suffrage, hence the lack of representativeness of its institutions. In Hong Kong the protests face a political and economic system increasingly influenced by Chinese authoritarianism that, without respecting either the constitutional pact (Basic Law), or its international commitments (Sino-British Treaty), multiplies its gestures of contempt for the formula of “One country, two systems”, in force since 1997. In addition, the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms (expression, demonstration, association, political participation) is increasingly violated by the growing interference of Beijing, as denounced at the time the campaign of Amnisty International in favor of the Umbrella Nine collective. By contrast, with respect to the leaders of the Catalan “procés”, Amnesty International has stated that their acts “possibly constituted a crime under Spanish law” and that “they were not protected by the right to freedom of expression, nor by any other human right established in international law”.
2 – Catalan radical pro-independence sector self-proclaimed itself as democratic, but it shows totalitarian features.
Spain does not condemn the separatist ideology, in fact those who govern Catalonia today promote that cause and have not been removed from power. The legislation of a democratic-liberal country like Spain allows them to do so, as long as they fight for their objectives respecting the rules and procedures established in our Rule of Law. If the pro-independence followers were able to obtain the support of at least two thirds of the Catalan deputies they could propose to the Spanish Parliament a reform of the articles 1.2 and 2 of the Constitution, recognizing the right of self-determination of the autonomous communities. Such reform should be approved in a referendum where the whole of Spanish citizenship would participate, for according to the Constitution it is the political subject of democracy, where the national sovereignty resides.
But the separatist forces have been unable to reach the necessary agreement to carry out their project by legal means, and have tried to achieve their objectives in an undemocratic and illegitimate way, imposing their will on those who do not think like them. Keep in mind that according to the barometer of the Generalidad, 51.6% of Catalans do not share the independence ideology. Their daily life is marked by the xenophobic harassment of the pro-independence segments, which seriously deteriorates coexistence and curtails democratic freedoms.
Violence in the streets
3 – Those who are committing abuses are not the security forces, but the violent radicals.
Since the sentence of the Catalan ‘procés‘ was announced on October 14, Catalonia has experienced a wave of street violence that no democratic party dares to defend openly, because it is evident that it breaks the very foundations of our freedom of living together . Those who are committing abuses against the Catalans are not the security forces, but the masked who exert an anonymous and indiscriminate violence that affects everyone, including pro-independence citizens, and that, lacking ethical justification, foster criminal behaviours such as looting and mugging.
In a scenario like the Catalan,
where the freedom and security of the people have been put at risk, the
forceful action of the security forces is necessary to protect all citizens,
both constitutionalists and separatists. On the other hand, it goes without
saying that in Spain the security forces are subject to surveillance and
scrutiny by the democratic powers of the State, the media and social
organizations. In case of any excess, the mechanisms established to debug
responsibilities will be put in place. This has been explicitly requested by
the Catalan president himself. But for now, as far as we know, the Catalan
police has neither hired thugs nor
thrown out-of-date tear gas in closed stations.
Therefore, compared to what a portion of the international public opinion at this time of post-truth sustains, equating the mobilizations in Hong Kong and Catalonia is a conclusion of little foundation, which harms the democratic cause at both ends of the planet.
Neither Spain is China, nor Catalonia is Hong Kong”.