Two Hong Kong youths have a Youtube channel on which they present views that don't align with mainstream western media. This interview is very telling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYK-cC9mw6c
The guest on the show interviewed 100 protesters. What's interesting is that none of the protesters were able to explain what concrete change they want. The protesters merely blindly reigurated media talking points without being able to explain what's behind those talking points. None of them have actually read the NSL text.
Sound familiar? Yes: the "anti-voting fraud" Capitol rioters, who were hiding unnoble intentions behind a noble label. Many Hong Kong "protesters" were merely anti-China, not pro-democratic. They literally attacked people merely for speaking Mandarin. Ironically, one guy that was attacked was Taiwanese, not mainland Chinese.
Seeing how they literally burned innocent people, vandalized public infrastructure, vandalized mainland Chinese busineses merely for being mainland Chinese, made petrol bombs, etc. is it really reasonable to expect China to do absolutely nothing? Bringing back safety to the streets is what any government would do. After it was clear that they'd never send in tanks, people moved the goalpost and started demonizing the NSL but few people know what's actually in the NSL.
Demise of Hong Kong's rule of law are exaggerated. Even after the NSL, Hong Kong's judiciary remains fiercely independent — with evidence.
 The NED is the regime change arm of the CIA. Despite the name, they are anti-democratic, having overthrown democratic regimes that refuse to align with the US. They publicly admit having sponsored the Hong Kong protests: https://www.ned.org/region/asia/hong-kong-china-2020/
 Videos: https://twitter.com/DanielDumbrill/status/116629626167206297...
Your comment is vastly disproportionate, and does not explain what happened.
Your comment suggests the following:
- Hong Kong’s protest was mainly due to sponsorship by the US, that is, it would not happen to this scale without US’s sponsorship (via NED).
- Hong Kong’s protest was mainly undemocratic (using your examples).
When discussing a social movement of this scale (millions went to the street, protests went on for half a year, with aftermath still affecting current events), we must judge whether your examples represent the majority or the extremely rare minority of what happened.
Just like the social movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, the movement led by Martin Luther King, or the recent BLM movement would not change much even if hundreds of protestors did things that go against the main thrust of the movements (which did happen).
To make this concrete: imagine blaming the BLM on CCP because they supported it , which is absurd .
We know that:
- The pro-democracy group had a landslide victory in the 2019 election (during the protests) .
- Many Hong Kongers left Hong Kong after the National Security Law : a higher percentage of Hong Kongers left Hong Kong after the NSL than German left East Berlin after the split of Berlin.
Blaming the Hong Kong protests on CIA, NED, and the US does not explain the above events. Just like blaming the BLM on CCP does not explain the trend.
A much simpler explanation is that Hong Kongers do not like CCP rule, and they show it in the protests, in the election (when conducted fairly, without screening of candidates), and in their acts of leaving (when faced with the NSL and screening of candidates in future elections).
I suspect that the popularity rating of CCP, or of Kim’s regime in North Korea, would plummet if people know what is going on (that is, when the state censorship and propaganda are gone) and they are allowed to express themselves (for example, with a fair election). We just see this happened in Hong Kong.
I do not believe that the HK protests were mainly due to US sponsorship (even if they were a contributing factor). My point was rather that it's unreasonable to expect a country to not respond to foreign sponsorship with security measures.
I do not believe that the HK protests were mainly undemocratic. However, the undemocratic and violent faction had effectively taken over, while the actually democratic faction failed in reigning this former faction in, so in my opinion trying to rhetorically separate them is a waste of time.
I do not agree with you that the CCP's popularity in the mainland is fake. There are multiple studies that show that their popularity is real. The difference is between mainlanders and Hong Kongers is that many Hong Kongers don't have first-hand experience with how the mainland is governed and how the mainland has improved, and that the media regularly injects disinformation. Mainlanders know about Hong Kong, but they disagree. You can blame it on propaganda, but even mainlanders who have moved outside the mainland and who have been exposed to western media, don't tend to change their stance on Hong Kong.
What bugs me most is that the criminals are getting away with a good reputation in the west, who wholly paints them as "pro-democracy freedom fighters".
It also bugs me that a lot (not sure how many, but a lot) of protesters don't know what sort of freedom they want. Check the Keybros interview I linked: why could none of the 100 protesters articulate what concrete freedoms they are missing? Why are the protesters mostly younger people who have never lived under British colonial times? There is something deeply disingenuous among a part of the protester movement. I hope they can recognize that economic trouble (e.g. cage houses) is one of the reasons, and I hope that Hong Kong will do something about that. If these protesters think that life in Britain is really better, then they should experience it firsthand and come to their own conclusion on whether their protest was right or not.
What I hope for is more reconciliation between mainland and Hong Kong. I even hope that Hong Kong will get more democracy, namely universal suffrage and a strong Common Law-based rule of law environment. However I want Hong Kongers to be honest about things, and I want more democracy/rule of law at the same time as a Hong Kong that is proud of being part of China, and at the same time where criminals aren't swept under a rug for political reasons. One Country Two Systems, not Two Country Two Systems.
I am not questioning CCP’s current popularity in Mainland (or Kim’s current popularity in North Korea), given their current control (including in education and media, both propaganda and censorship). When the population were brought up that way, even when presented with opposing view points their thinking is skewed (compared with many other democratic countries), and considers things as conflicts of super powers or humiliation by foreigners. Such thinking frequently persists and affects their actions even after they move outside of China (censor Hong Kong and Xinjiang in FANNG ), even in face of opposing evidence (linking Xinjiang to CCP ). Many of the Chinese population are effectively exporting their values to the world .
For a concrete example, even when foreign sponsorship does not pose material threats, some Chinese would suggest disproportionate responses (such as to consider draconian security measures and the National Security Law, resulting in arrests of the majority of democratic candidates ). This is disproportionate because UK and other European nations would not take comparable measures against comparable foreign sponsorship (by CCP). Just like in the US, Texas Secession could be discussed and supported without similar consequences to the NSL in Hong Kong . This shows the resilience of their political systems, and by contrast CCP is overreacting.
Gaining popularity this way may be fine for CCP (or for Kim) for now, but when the system becomes unstable (due to declining economy and shrinking population), things may start to crack. The problem is not that it is fake, the problem is that the system (by censoring dissent and pointing fingers at others inconsistently) is unsustainable. And at least, this is why CCP and Kim do not currently have as high popularity in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Sweden, Czech, Germany, France, or elsewhere.
> It also bugs me that a lot (not sure how many, but a lot) of protesters _don't know what sort of freedom they want_.
Many Hong Kongers want CCP to leave them alone, which was the implicit contract behind the 1997 hand over of Hong Kong. To be more specific, Hong Kongers want to run the city their way (including have their elected representatives not being arrested ), and not having laws inserted into their mini-constitution (Basic Law) against their will, to respect their differences—more or less the way Hong Kong was run before 2019. Incidentally, I think that’s what most Tibetans originally wanted, and what most Taiwanese currently want (against unification), too.
Wanting CCP to leave them alone was the main theme behind the 5 demands in the 2019 protest. What they don’t know is how to achieve it, when faced with CCP, the PLA and the massive Chinese population.
I am less worried about them not knowing exactly what or how to achieve the freedom they want, just like the population of Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, or South Korea might not know exactly what they wanted during their democratization (I would not be surprised by a Keybros interview when they democratized. BTW, if you want to know what the protestors think outside of cameras or Keybros, check out https://www.thestandnews.com/). Ignoring the selection bias, not everyone is as articulate, but this does not stop the trend of democratization. They democratized by trial and error 摸著石頭過河, and things work out fine for them. Same for Hong Kong.
> why could none of the 100 protesters articulate what concrete freedoms they are missing?
How did the Keybros interview avoid the selection bias?
> Why are the protesters mostly younger people who have never lived under British colonial times?
The younger ones have less burden and could go to the streets, the older ones with more burden supported them. See the election result for the proof .
> There is something deeply disingenuous among a part of the protester movement.
Hong Kongers want to say No to CCP, but this could not be said out loud with the PLA standing by. This is the disingenuous part. (Just like many protests in China would be prefaced with a support of the CCP, however contradictory and disingenuous sometimes it could get. Also, many Taiwanese wanted to say so, but again need to consider the threat of the PLA.) This is why many Hong Kongers left when they still could , they vote with their feet, if they could not vote with their hands.
> One Country Two Systems, not Two Country Two Systems.
CCP said that first to Tibet in 1951, then to Hong Kong in 1984. Seeing what happened, now in 2021 even the Nationalist party KMT in Taiwan is rejecting One Country Two Systems. Sometimes we need to learn from history.
Worth noting that there is a huge difference between “Rule of Law” and “Rule by Law”: China only has “Rule by Law”, not “Rule of Law” , because Rule of Law requires Judiciary Independence (hence “having Rule of Law” is incompatible with “being part of China”, as CCP stated explicitly ).
To make this concrete, let’s use the recent event of Peng Shuai’s allegation as an example. The accused ex-Premier Zhang Gaoli could be guilty or not, but under Rule of Law—where no one is above law, not even the party or prominent party members—he must go through the same process as other accused. This is the only way to show that criminals aren't swept under a rug for political reasons (such as because Zhang Gaoli was close to Xi Jinping during their time in Shenzhen). Putting the party or prominent party member above law (or behind some opaque process) is NOT Rule of Law.
And a huge disagreement causing the Hong Kong protest is due to deteriorating Rule of Law , due to worsening democracy in Hong Kong (the legislative council does not represent the majority opinion). This had been voiced out by a judge of Court of Final Appeal  and some prominent lawyer .
Indeed, the 2021 Report to Congress by U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission points out (p. 458 of ):
Judiciary Independent in Name Only
Hong Kong’s historically independent judiciary is no longer reliably impartial on cases related to matters the Chinese government deems sensitive, since the National Security Law has cemented Beijing’s right to determine which judges hear national security cases in which jurisdiction, almost guaranteeing outcomes the CCP prefers.
Hence, if you wish for Judiciary Independence and Rule of Law of Hong Kong, you would object the NSL, like the protestors did correctly.
This is the reason that comparing the protestors to Capitol rioters, as China did , is disingenuous .
Given the difficulty of maintaining Rule of Law under One Country Two Systems (as Tibet and Hong Kong showed), your hope of Rule of Law would object One Country Two Systems.
Also, before demonizing Two Country Two Systems, have you experienced it firsthand and come to your own conclusion? Do you know what you are disagreeing with?
Given the disinformation campaign of CCP , that is, CCP regularly injects disinformation into media (or in this case, deliberately confusing “Rule of Law” with “Rule by Law” in a newspeak way ), it is hard for Mainlanders to know about Hong Kong and have an informed opinion, even when they moved outside China.