Chinese Media: Hong Kong Protesters ‘Mobsters,’ ‘Terrorists’

Protesters hold placards at Hong Kong's international airport following a protest against the police brutality and the controversial extradition bill on August 12, 2019. - Global stock markets dropped on August 12 as escalating protests in Hong Kong forced the closure of the financial hub's airport, adding geopolitical worries to …
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China’s government news agency Xinhua referred to the peaceful, pro-democratic Hong Kong protest movement as “mobsters” that have “created an atmosphere of terror” in the city on Monday.

Xinhua joined other state propaganda arms like the official newspaper of the Communist Party, the People’s Daily, and the state-run Global Times publication in calling the protest movement “terrorism” and defending Hong Kong police from accusations, corroborated by many videos circulating on social media, of disproportionate violence against protesters.

In calling the pro-democracy protesters “mobsters,” Xinhua did not address the role that actual members of organized crime have played in suppressing the movement. On at least two separate occasions, masked assailants carrying metal rods and bamboo sticks severely beat crowds of unarmed protesters; police later confirmed that among the mob were members of the Hong Kong syndicates known as triads.

“With petrol bombs, brick-firing slingshots, bows, and even airguns, black-clad mobsters have created an atmosphere of terror on the Hong Kong streets,” Xinhua alleged on Monday. “Endless and ever-escalating violence has stained the reputation of Hong Kong, long acclaimed for its safety, social order, and rule of law.”

Xinhua did not offer evidence for the outrageous claim that protesters were using bows to shoot arrows at police. Most footage of the protests circulating on social media this weekend shows unarmed young people dressed in black facing a barrage of tear gas, bean bag projectiles, and other crowd dispersal techniques at close range. One video showed police cornering protesters in an underground mass transit station and shooting them with tear gas once the crowd had nowhere to run from it.

Xinhua claimed the protesters’ persistent marching for their demands was “a flagrant trampling on the rule of law” and that the protests are “posing a grave danger to public safety and challenging Hong Kong’s prosperity.”

Repeating the regular accusations of the Chinese Foreign Ministry that Hong Kong residents did not decide on their own to object to communist rule, which they have not lived under, Xinhua also accused the protesters’ “behind-the-scenes string-pullers” of urging protesters to become more radical to “paralyze” the Chinese-controlled Hong Kong government “for their own political gains.”

“Any connivance or support for the mobsters, any appeasement of them, or sophistry and excuses for them are an insult and defamation of the Hong Kong police force guarding their homeland,” the state news outlet claimed. “Such acts disregard the safety of Hong Kong people, posing great harm to Hong Kong’s overall interests.”

The state outlet concluded that Chinese communists living in Hong Kong must “step forward” to support the government.

The People’s Daily – officially a communist propaganda outlet, unlike Xinhua which Beijing brands as a communist-controlled news organization – also accused “foreign forces” on Monday of encouraging Hong Kong residents to fight for their freedom.

“US politicians have openly supported the unrest and anti-China forces are working behind the scenes. In fact, the US government often uses democracy promotion to attack other countries, and China has always been a major target,” the newspaper alleged.

The People’s Daily referred to the peaceful protests in Hong Kong as a “color revolution,” a term for the anti-Russian political victories in Georgia and Ukraine at the turn of the century. Unlike the Western world, Chinese propaganda outlets use the term as an insult.

“In recent years, there have been warnings that color revolutions are emerging as a new form of warfare employed by the West to destabilize certain countries,” the newspaper claims, citing “officials at a conference in Moscow” who alleged in 2014 that American operatives were somehow behind the anti-Russian sentiment in the aforementioned countries, both of which Russia subsequently invaded. The newspaper insists that communism is the only viable way to govern China and that it would be “a disaster to expand this strategy of warfare [supporting democratic movements] to the world’s second largest economy with a population of 1.4 billion people.”

Hong Kong’s police vowed to do more to repress the protests on Tuesday, the second day in a row that protesters forced the grounding of all flights out of Hong Kong International Airport. The Global Times state newspaper claimed that police officials saw “signs of terrorism” in the protest movement.

“No matter how hard protesters disguise violence, they can’t get away with the nature of the violence,” the Global Times quoted Tang Ping-keung, deputy commissioner of police (operations), as saying on Monday. The newspaper also confirmed rumors that police officers had dressed like protesters and infiltrated marches this weekend, violently attacking protesters and causing chaos among an unarmed population, and justified it as necessary because the Hong Kong government stopped giving out permits for marches.

“Undercover officers will not trigger any unrest or engage in any unlawful actions,” Tang reportedly said.

The Global Times repeated the claim that protesters were armed with large weapons such as bows and arrows, bricks, and “petrol bombs.”

Also on Tuesday, the Global Times warned on social media that protesters would meet “self-destruction” if they did not submit to the Chinese Communist Party, according to a CNBC translation.

“If Hong Kong rioters cannot read the signal of having armed police gathering in Shenzhen, then they are asking for self-destruction,” the outlet reportedly claimed. Shenzhen is the Chinese province that shares a border with Hong Kong. Beijing moved a massive armored vehicle convoy into the area on Monday in response to the protests. Last week, it staged an anti-riot drill featuring 12,000 police officers there, where those dressed like “rioters” were wearing black and construction hard hats, the common uniform of the Hong Kong democracy movement.

Hong Kong residents began taking the streets in early June against the passage of a proposed bill that would have allowed China to extradite anyone present in the city if Beijing charged them with a violation of Chinese law. Chinese law differs from Hong Kong’s traditional British law significantly, offering no protections for freedom of speech or religion and requiring rigid loyalty to the Party. The protesters argued that the bill would violate the “One Country, Two Systems” policy, which bans China from imposing its law on Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) tabled the bill, which keeps it out of active debate but allows lawmakers to revive it at any time. Protesters continued to take the streets after LegCo tabled the bill in June. Currently, protesters have five demands of the government: a full withdrawal of the bill, freedom for imprisoned protesters, an independent inquiry into police brutality against protesters, direct election of lawmakers, and an apology for referring to one of the protests, occurring on June 12, as a “riot.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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