A pile of China Daily copies at a Starbucks in Bangkok on Aug. 20, 2019.

Among Thais who have accused Hong Kong protesters of harboring hatred toward their own nation is senior Democrat Party member Warong Dechvigrom.

With images of some protesters waving the union jack or stars-and-stripes flags with placards containing messages like “Please Liberate Hong Kong” spreading around the globe, Warong said on Facebook last Friday that some Hong Kong protesters have forsaken their Chinese roots and hate their own nation.

“The longer it goes on, the image is that of [people who] hate their own nation, causing havoc and who forget their own national roots,” Warong wrote on Facebook.

What needs to be reminded time and time again is that as much as there is no single way to be Thai, there is also no single way to be Chinese.

Hong Kongers want freedom and democracy, but they can be Chinese as much as the Taiwanese, who have proven to offer a successful model of a Chinese democratic society. 

What is so Chinese about being a pseudo-communist state and a dictatorship, as Communist China is today? Are Chinese who support dictatorial China more Chinese than, say, those who subscribe to Taoism, which advocates a more anarchistic and detached way of life?

There is basically no single way to be Chinese or Thai. We would be fooling ourselves to not acknowledge that there’s always multiple ways to be Thai or Chinese, and often people compete to define what is Thai or Chinese at the expense of other competing models.

The irony is that some Thais who profess to love and revere the monarchy and Buddhism are now supporting a communist dictatorship state’s crackdown on its own people for merely calling for liberty and basic democracy. That Warong himself identifies with a political party called the “Democrat” Party makes it doubly ironic.

That some protesters are calling for help from the US and its former colonial master the UK doesn’t help, however.

Their plea strikes a chord with those Thais who believe that the West has always been interfering in Thai domestic politics, during the Cold War (which was true) and beyond (which is debatable, as the US’ influence is waning.) 

These Thais prefer, or at least feel more comfortable with, Chinese dictatorship over US hegemony since the former is less of a blatantly interventionist superpower – at least she knows how to save Thai face. 

China is not forcing its ideologies into your mouth. It is not a zealous preacher, because it doesn’t care what political system you have, because it’s only money that counts.

These days, you can even pick up copies of China Daily at some Starbucks in Bangkok for free.

“China Helping World to Create Shared Future,” reads the propaganda front-page headline of the Tuesday August 20 global edition of China Daily at my local Starbucks. It adds that President Xi’s thoughts on diplomacy have opened new vistas and achieved new progress.

Another reason why some Thais can’t wait to see China cracking down on Hong Kong protesters is because these Thais have become conservative. They value “national security” and stability above all else. They see what’s happening in Hong Kong as a threat against such a mindset.

National security, peace, and order at any price – this has become the dominant ideology among many conservative Thais. They see the Chinese model as a model to emulate, or at least accept. It is an unfortunate state of affairs.

Thailand moves closer and closer into China’s orbit of influence, while Thais are still struggling for genuine democracy and greater liberty. We need a more democratic neighbor, not less. Rooting for Hong Kong to become less democratic won’t be helpful.