The propaganda war against Hong Kong’s rebels

Beijing and its allies are telling lies about the protesters.

Mischa Moselle

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Hong Kong’s protesters are terrorists, paedophiles or prostitutes. They are mindless vandals backed by foreign money, probably funnelled through the CIA. That’s a selection of the more hysterical smears coming from Beijing and its local allies as their frustration at their inability to calm Hong Kong builds.

The state-owned newspaper China Daily carried a frontpage warning that protesters in Hong Kong were planning a 9/11-style terrorist attack. Of course, such an attack is not being planned. In the past few days, protests have been peaceful, at least on the protesters’ side. They have taken the form of flash mobs, nightly singing of a new unofficial national anthem, ‘Glory To Hong Kong’, and the booing of the Chinese national anthem at a Hong Kong vs Iran football match. (Hong Kong 0, Iran 2.)

While the slurs against the democracy movement are straight from the Stalin/Mao book of vilification, it is hard not to draw the conclusion that the authorities still don’t understand what they are facing. They are still planning a debate in the legislative council that would make insulting China’s national anthem a criminal offence. If the authorities went out of their way to choose an issue guaranteed to strengthen the opposition, this would be it. Not only does the law make insulting the anthem an offence – it could make it mandatory to sing the anthem in primary and secondary schools.

Hong Kong’s teachers are doing noticeably little to stop their students organising human chains around and between schools, as an act of defiance in solidarity with the protests. It is difficult to imagine them forcing their charges to sing the Chinese national anthem.

In 2012, the government tried to introduce the Moral and National Education initiative into schools, aimed at creating a more patriotic youth. The government succeeded only in bringing tens of thousands of people on to the streets before the idea was largely scrapped.

It also brought to prominence the Scholarism group, one of the pressure groups that played a role in the Umbrella Movement. The group was co-founded by Joshua Wong, now a leading light in the Demosisto political party and one of the people who comes close to being a leader of the leaderless protest movement.

Meanwhile, the almost appropriately named Fanny Law went on local radio to claim that 14-year-old girls were rewarding protesters with sex, with some of the girls sleeping with up to 50 to 60 men a day. She has managed to slur the protesters as paedophiles and the girls as prostitutes while admitting her so-called evidence is entirely circumstantial and comes from pro-Beijing online chatrooms. She also alleged that some protesters are not genuine – apparently they are actors, and not very good ones.

Law is a member of Hong Kong’s ExCo, or Executive Council, an advisory body of the unelected great and good, appointed to advise the chief executive. So it’s not surprising that she is entirely out of touch with peoples’ aspirations.

Some members of the out-of-touch elite would like to think that the protest movement is made up entirely of students who are just acting out their frustrations. The hope is that they will have their riotous summer of fun and go back to school or university and then life will return to normal. On Thursday, a pro-Beijing flash mob met up in Hong Kong’s swankiest mall, the world’s most expensive retail space, to sing the national anthem. Workers from the office development over the mall came down and tried to drown out their singing with a rendition of ‘Glory to Hong Kong’. These are not students but people working in finance, banking and law. The daily 10pm singing of the protest anthem has been spreading to districts across Hong Kong, and across most social classes.

The kernel of truth in the Beijing accusations is that there have been acts of destruction of property, in particular of the now-hated MTR Corporation. The protester photographed destroying a Braille map of the subway system is unlikely to have won himself many friends. But it is no coincidence that the MTR has been targeted, with an arson attack and the smashing of ticket machines. After all, the MTR has shut down services that might have carried people to demonstrations. It has also been the scene of some of the worst police brutality, and MTR has been selective in its release of CCTV footage – it has held back footage that might implicate the police in the violence.

And yes, there have been appeals to foreign powers. Opposition politicians have been to Washington to court cross-party support. Joshua Wong has been to Taiwan and has also met with the German foreign minister. It is not inconceivable that Hong Kong is being used as a pawn as part of the trade tensions between China and the US.

However, the idea that Hong Kong people are protesting because they are easily manipulated pawns is as insulting as Fanny Law’s comments about the protesters and their supposed teenage comfort women. These protesters want real change and freedom.

Mischa Moselle is a Hong Kong-based writer and English language teacher.

Picture by: Getty.

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Comments

Willie Penwright

15th September 2019 at 11:34 am

We can help the media’s campaign by sending US flags to the protesters. All sizes are welcome and any posters demanding US-style democracy. As the campaign enters the petrol-bomb stage we must remember the lessons of KIev and be ready to provide arms. Britain has a role to play here and must be ready to send a warship to cruise Chinese waters, should it be called upon to do so by the USA.

James Walker

15th September 2019 at 11:47 am

Why?

Francis Lee

14th September 2019 at 9:33 pm

It seems to me that the propaganda war is very much in favour of the Hongkong rebels, including Spiked it seems. Whether or not the rebels have a good case is a point at issue. Maybe, maybe not. In the age of fake news, propaganda and media manipulation (submitting to willingly) it is difficult to know exactly what is going on. But I did find it strange that the rebels were carrying American flags and the Union Jack which suggests an involvement of the two said powers in the current brouhaha. But of course I could be wrong. Stranger things have happened. For now I will reserve judgement and wait to see what happens.

Yuhong Zhu

26th September 2019 at 10:33 am

They love American more than Hong Kong. It’s a problem of identity politics. They don’t know who they are, Hong kongnese, Chinese, British, American. They are traped in such confusion.

James Walker

13th September 2019 at 4:34 pm

Just like his piece on 6th September, the author is cherry-picking facts to suit his simplistic agenda.

There is absolutely no balance here. It is propaganda not journalism.

Nobody reading this can derive any kind of reliable picture as to what is going in HK.

Then again, this is probably not surprising, because Mischa Moselle’s principle gig is writing about cooking, food and beverages………I think he should probably stick to that side of the trade.

Make no mistake, there is a hell of a lot more to the HK situation than a load of ‘heroic’ kids demanding change.

William King

14th September 2019 at 12:36 am

Absolutely, how would the authorities react in Britain if protesters began throwing bricks and petrol bombs at the police and then went off and smashed up Heathrow airport shutting it down for several days? And, of course, the British media might not be too impressed if one of their number was seized by the protesters, tied up then punched and kicked over a prolonged period as happened to a Chinese journalist at the Hong Kong airport.

Yuhong Zhu

26th September 2019 at 10:40 am

Violet can’t solve the problem, but peace talk will fail as well. Beijing will never agree with the five demands, but they don’t want to crush the protestors with tanks either. Right now, they just ignore the situation and let the Hong Kong local loyalists take all guilty.

James Knight

13th September 2019 at 4:15 pm

“the government tried to introduce the Moral and National Education initiative into schools”

Is this in Hong Kong or the UK?

Yuhong Zhu

26th September 2019 at 10:34 am

Hong Kong, so call patriotism education

Dominic Straiton

13th September 2019 at 3:33 pm

The British Parliament will never again be able to stand on the moral high ground of democracy. This is why Hong Kong protesters have stopped flying the Union Jack. How embarrassing.

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