US double standard on Capitol and Hong Kong attacks
Thursday marked the first anniversary of the Jan 6, 2021, attack on US Capitol by previous president Donald Trump's supporters who refused to accept the presidential election results, which declared Democratic candidate Joe Biden the winner. The storming of the Capitol by hundreds of demonstrators sent shockwaves across the United States and the world.
For the past year, the Biden administration has been pursuing the case. In July, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives set up a select committee to investigate the case, despite most of the House Republicans boycotting the committee. More than 700 people have been charged for crimes related to the Capitol attack.
President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris were expected to deliver speeches on Thursday to mark the first anniversary of the attack, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a slate of related events including a prayer, a moment of silence on the House floor, a session for lawmakers to share their accounts of the attack, and a prayer vigil on the steps of the Capitol for those killed in the attack.
However, it is unlikely that the case will reach its logical conclusion because Democrats, as alleged by some Republicans, are trying to use the sordid incident to their advantage in this year's midterm elections and the 2024 presidential election, especially given Trump's continuing popularity among Americans.
For instance, a recent Pew survey showed the Republicans consider Ronald Reagan and Trump as the best recent US presidents. What is more troubling is that even a year after the 2020 election, a Bright Line Watch survey found that a large majority of Republican voters still refuse to accept that Biden won the presidential election. Only 27 percent of the Republican respondents said Biden was the rightful winner.
The sad reality was echoed by respondents to an NPR/Ipsos poll released on Monday. According to the poll, about 64 percent of Americans said they believe US democracy is "in crisis and at risk of failing", with two-thirds of the Republican respondents saying that "voter fraud helped Biden win the 2020 election".
The sharp divide has prompted many to ask if the US is careening toward a second civil war. In fact, about 46 percent respondents to a Zogby Poll in Feb of 2021 said they feared that another civil war is likely.
Besides, Brookings Institution scholars William Gale and Darrell West warned in a September article that "we should not assume it could not happen and ignore the ominous signs that conflict is spiraling out of control. Even if we do not end up in open combat, there could be an uptick in domestic terrorism and armed violence that could destabilize the country". They cited key issues of high levels of inequality and polarization in US society, from racial equity and voting rights to abortion and vaccines, and from 434 million firearms in civilian possession to hundreds of private militia groups.
These are indeed serious issues. Yet the US administration's relentless pursuit of the Jan 6 case has been in sharp contrast to Pelosi's description of the riots in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region more than two years ago, especially the storming of the Hong Kong Legislative Council building on July 1, 2019, as a "beautiful sight to behold".
In that attack, hundreds of violent protesters broke through the glass walls and metal doors of the LegCo building and ransacked the LegCo chamber. The violence that marked the attack on the Hong Kong LegCo would make the Jan 6 storming of Capitol look a "minor" incident.
After the LegCo attack, the SAR authorities charged only dozens of people compared with the over 700 charged in the US Capitol case. Yet when each charge or arrest was made in the Hong Kong case, US politicians and lawmakers, including Pelosi, voiced concern or condemned the legal moves.
It is right to condemn the attack on the US Capitol. But people who condone or cheer the storming of the Hong Kong LegCo building are nothing but hypocrites whom no one should take seriously.
The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels. firstname.lastname@example.org