The official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party called for communists to gather in Tiananmen Square for an event denouncing the pro-freedom movement in Hong Kong, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Thursday.
The international community has expressed fears consistently since the pro-democracy movement took off in Hong Kong in early June of a repeat of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, when the military overran a peaceful pro-democracy rally, indiscriminately killing an untold number of protesters likely in the thousands. Thousands gathered in the heart of Hong Kong on June 4 to observe the 30th anniversary of the massacre, mourn the dead, and condemn China.
While the mass murder is well-known in Hong Kong, China severely censors any mentions of the massacre in broadcasts, educational settings, and online. This year was the first in which Chinese state media outlets acknowledged that the killings happened, and praised them as necessary to preserving communist rule.
The People’s Daily reportedly urged supporters of the regime to gather in Beijing’s iconic plaza to honor Fu Guohao, a propagandist for the government newspaper Global Times who protesters at the Hong Kong International Airport tied up and beat amid a chaotic effort to identify infiltrated Chinese government agents among them. The protesters surrounded and attacked Fu and another unnamed man believed to be disguised as a protester.
Protesters found Fu carrying a t-shirt in his bag reading “I love Hong Kong police,” which they took to mean he was opposed to their cause. He reportedly refused to confirm his identity as a reporter to protesters.
The Hong Kong protesters emptied the airport early Wednesday after a police raid extracted Fu and the other suspected Chinese agent. For much of Wednesday, the few remaining protesters wandered the airport carrying signs and posters apologizing for the chaos of the last two days. Thousands of protesters staged a sit-in at the airport that grounded all flights on Monday and Tuesday.
China’s propaganda outlets have attempted to rebut the millions-strong protests for individual freedom in the city with government-orchestrated events supporting the Communist Party. The Global Times regularly publishes photos of small groups of pro-China agitators congregating in Hong Kong but has yet to rally true city sentiment in favor of Beijing.
A survey by the University of Hong Kong published in June found pro-China sentiment in the city at record lows. Among respondents, 71 percent said they did not feel proud to be citizens of China; that figure rose to 90 percent among respondents aged 18-24. The majority of those surveyed said they identified most as Hongkongers.
The call to rally reportedly appeared in the Chinese-language edition of the People’s Daily, which also carried a belligerent column Friday accusing all Hong Kong protesters of being agents for nefarious Western powers and urging all Chinese people to be “united as one barrier” against democracy. “Stop dreaming!” the publication demanded.
The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP), which has provided consistently reliable on-the-ground coverage of the protest movement and translated the column, lamented its tone:
This is a Party-state that claims to have benevolent global ambitions, to offer a “China Solution” to issues facing the world – and yet it cannot speak a human language. It cannot admit any subtlety on complex issues. And today, more than 40 years after reform and opening began, it is farther now than it has been at any point in the reform period from having any credible media voice that can stand apart from narrow, nationalistic rhetoric and engage intelligently with the world.
Hua Chunying, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman tasked with condemning the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement this week, reiterated the government’s claim that the protesters are violent “rioters.”
“Since June, the violent criminal activities in Hong Kong have been escalating, which has grossly trampled on the rule of law and social order, severely undermined stability and prosperity in Hong Kong and blatantly challenged the bottom line of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle,” Hua said. “The most pressing and overriding task is to stop violence, end the chaos and restore order in accordance with law.”
Hua did not answer a question regarding if Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, who has not commented on the protests at all, would entertain a proposal by U.S. President Donald Trump for Xi to meet the Hong Kong protesters personally.
The protest movement began in response to a proposed bill in the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo) to allow China to extradite individuals deemed criminals under Chinese law. The move, protesters argued, would allow Hong Kong officials to enforce Chinese law, a violation of the “one country, two systems” policy China agreed to when the U.K. handed the city over. As the Hong Kong police have responded with outsized violence to peaceful protests against the extradition bill, protesters are also demanding an independent probe into incidents of police brutality and freedom for imprisoned protesters, who attorneys say are being subject to mockery and humiliation by police.