08/17/2019, 08.42
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Beijing wages fake news war against Hong Kong protests

by Lu Haitao

The government unleashes its propaganda machine: fake news, misinformation, ideology and patriotism.  The reasons for the demonstrations are never explained.  The official media call the protesters "rat droppings".  Chinese from the mainland posing as tourists, in reality policemen and members of the secret services.  Ban on sending helmets, umbrellas, masks, gloves to Hong Kong that demonstrators use to protect themselves from tear gas and rubber bullets.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Chinese authorities have slammed the protests of anti-extradition demonstrators in Hong Kong as riots and warn the violence shows the trend of “terrorism”.

Violence is escalating between protesters and police in Hong Kong and the police force is cracking down more brutally on civilians. The presence of troops in Shenzhen, a city neighboring to Hong Kong is causing concern among the international community about a potential military intervention.It is reported that post and express delivery services in China are not allowed to deliver helmets, umbrellas, masks and gloves, which are used by protesters for protection, to Hong Kong and the cities on the border.

Meanwhile, Beijing has also launched its propaganda apparatus at full steam. Reports of official media focus on the violence of protesters, ignoring the reason and cause. Authorities blame “foreign black hands” for creating unrest and claim that Western countries are playing a shameful role though lacking concrete evidence. State-run media are even using swear words to refer to protesters. Official CCTV commented on “eliminating these rat droppings” (坚决剔除这些天怒人怨的“老鼠屎”) at prime time.

Millions of people took to the street to express their discontent about the extradition law peacefully in June. In the beginning Beijing kept silent and censored all information about peaceful demonstration in Hong Kong. Hong Kong executive Carrie Lam claimed that “the bill is dead” but she did not formally withdraw the process. Anxiety grew and protests became angry.

Since then, official media broke silence and concentrated on the violence of protesters and their conduct of smearing the national emblem, without mentioning the gangsters who attacked the protesters indiscriminately and police who used weapons and tear gas. Hong Kong people also suspect that agents, armed police even soldiers from mainland have infiltrated into Hong Kong secretly.

Protesters flooded into the terminal of Hong Kong airport and flights were cancelled en masse. The conflicts in the airports ignited the anger of both official media and mainland people.

A reporter of pro-Beijing Global Times Fu Guohao (付国豪) was caught by protesters for his suspicious behavior. According to Hong Kong media reports, Fu was in black, the same as protesters and took photos of protesters’ faces at close range. Fu claimed he was a tourist and he was found a blue T-shirt printed with “I love Hong Kong Police”, the same as gangs, in his bag. Fu was attacked by some angry protesters and his hands were bound. He said that “I support Hong Kong Police and you can beat me”.Fu Guohao’s speech is promoted by official media and massively shared on social networks. However, Fu’s identity is suspected by some web users. Fu was found reporting in Hong Kong with a tourist’s entry permit that was expired when he was caught by protesters, and without press card. According to a photo of Fu’s belongings taken by protesters, one of his credit cards is marked with another name Fu Hao.

Fu was suspected of being an agent of China’s State Security Bureau for his dual identity, however, chief editor of Global Times Hu Xijin denied the allegation and insisted that Fu conformed with the law. Rumors say that Fu’s credit card was stolen when he was attacked. The unverified information is covered by official media even though the original post on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, was deleted.

Voice of America asked Global Times chief editor Hu Xijin to confirm it. Hu replied that he heard of it, and said that “maybe it happened. If it happened, I blame this person”. (有可能有吧,有的话,谴责这个人)State-run media call Fu Guohao hero, but have kept tight lipped on another episode.

Xu Jinyang(徐锦炀), another man caught by protesters in the airport was found to be an auxiliary police in Shenzhen. Official media only call Xu “tourist”, and avoid mentioning his name. Searching Xu Jinyang’s name on Chinese search engine Baidu, returns no result. The attacks on those two caught in the airport were finally stopped by protesters, however state-run media omitted this point.

Richard Scotford,  a reporter protected Xu Jinyang from being beaten.  Scotford was interviewed by pro-Beijing media and said that he did not agree with violence but empathized with the people’s anger. Scotford later said his words had been manipulated and used to discredit the movement.

For the victims attacked by police, official media even fabricated fake news in a satirical light. A woman’s right eye was injured by police who used blank bullets, but CCTV claimed that she was hurt by protesters and CCTV’s report posted a photo that  showed a woman counting out cash in the street that insinuated that protesters were paid.

Nathan Law, the student leader who was active in Umbrella Movement in 2014 is attending Yale University. The activist has become the target of the propaganda apparatus. State media blamed Law incited the students’ strike and assembly but he was en route to the US. Law wrote on Facebook that “smearing attack does not help solve the dilemma and only causes more confrontation”. (抹黑式的攻击无助解决现时僵局,只会造成更大的群众对立。) Law also wrote that he must be back for the election of the legislature next year. The firewall was used to control the circulation of information. All information that differs from the propaganda has been censored. China has made progress in new media, and the information vacuum this has created is filled with an officially Sinicized worldview and delicately decorated ideology. Hatred speeches are tacitly allowed. Speeches urging military intervention is prevailing. Chinese students overseas disrupting the pro-Hong Kong rallies in Australia and New Zealand are supported by Chinese embassies.

Regardless of the firewall, youths find ways to log into Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to combat pro-democracy speeches, or simply inundate irrational posts with patriotic ideology. This is endorsed by Communist Youth League, a youth group affiliated by Communist Party, though lots of people were warned and arrested for posting on foreign websites since last year. The crack down on Twitter has targeted individual users and they were forced to delete their accounts by police. Ironically, the attack on a Global Times reporter prompted the Communist Party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily to question “Where is press freedom? Where is rule of law? Where is humanity?”

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