China’s Global Times propaganda outlet picked up the rumor on Tuesday disseminated by a Hong Kong official that pro-democracy protesters are tricking girls into becoming “sex angels” to boost morale, a claim the Times failed to substantiate in any way.
The rumor surfaced through anonymous “confessions” of alleged “victims” on Chinese social media, which are heavily regulated by the Communist Party. The “confessions” reportedly described the girls as “sex angels” meant to help protesters continue fighting the Chinese regime. The rumors reached Hong Kong Executive Councilor Fanny Law this week, who claimed to corroborate the allegations through a friend of a friend. Hong Kong police have not been able to confirm any allegations of sex slavery or identify any potential victims, nor have non-profits that operate in Hong Kong to help sexual assault victims, according to local reporters.
The Global Times nonetheless reached out to Law and credulously published her remarks, sharing the contents of an “article” of an unknown source that Law allegedly forwarded to the Times as evidence. It also claimed that Hong Kong protesters were forcing underaged girls to “try marijuana.”
“When reached by the Global Times again on Tuesday for confirming the case, Law said that this particular case was confirmed to be true by someone who personally knows the girl,” the newspaper claimed.
“This is not fake news,” Law reportedly told the Times. She reiterated that a friend of a friend knew a 14-year-old girl who protesters had “brainwashed” into some form of sex slavery but could not confirm that she knew the girl’s identity or even if she exists. Despite her insistence that the protesters were raping children, she also told the Global Times that “it was sex between willing parties.”
Law said the girl in question and her family do not want to file charges despite the gravity of the alleged offense.
The only evidence Law provided to the Global Times was an “article.” The communist newspaper did not name an author or publication for the article, nor provide any direction to anyone seeking to find a copy of the article themselves. The newspaper did say that Law described the author of the article as “a source.”
“Most of the young black-clad protesters look moderate with innocent smiles; how could they get involved in the dangerous adult world of street riots?” an article Law shared with the Global Times said.
It turns out that the black-clad protesters have a great need to be recognized by others. “Without the riots, they wouldn’t have made each other’s acquaintance. They would have spent their adolescence as home-bound boys and girls … But after joining the rioters’ corps, these youngsters received considerable ‘peer’ recognition,” said the article which Law said was written by a source who had close contact with blackcade [sic] protesters.
During protests, young people soon become comrades-in-arms, while boys and girls become lovers. And some young women offer themselves for those who fought the police “valiantly” on the front lines. Previously girl-shy young men now find themselves embraced, even by well-born, well-to-do women they wouldn’t have dreamed of approaching, according to the article.
The article goes on to call Hong Kong’s peaceful pro-democracy protesters “racist” drug abusers.
No journalist outside of Chinese Communist Party writers has published any evidence for these claims being true. They reached the mainstream outlet RTHK through an interview with Law on Monday, in which the official called the practice “comfort sex,” an apparent reference to the forced prostitution of Korean and Chinese women by Imperial Japan during World War II.
“I am so sad for these young girls who have been misled into offering free sex,” Law lamented. After being pilloried by callers to the RTHK radio show she made the remarks on, she exclaimed, “There is evidence!”
“That is the daughter of a friend’s friend. That’s second-hand knowledge, but it’s direct and it’s real,” Law insisted.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam went out of her way not to confirm, or even support, Law’s accusations on Tuesday.
“I would say that those comments are representing her own personal views. But I would like to take this in a broader context,” Lam told reporters after being asked to remark on Law’s accusations. “In the last couple [of] months or so, there were a lot of fake news or rumors or speculation circulating on… social media.”
“[If] somebody suspects that offenses have been made, then they should report to the police, or at least they should consult the professionals including their own family members,” Lam suggested. “Every one of us including government officials, because we are also receiving a lot of [that] information circulating in the social media, we have to be extremely cautious in ascertaining whether it is accurate.”
Lam hinted that the government may soon provide clarifications against “unfounded rumors.”
Some pro-democracy officials have expressed outrage at the ease with which Law propagated the rumors.
“Fanny Law, as an Executive Council member, without any evidence made such a serious allegation against the protesters. I do think it is extremely irresponsible,” Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said on Tuesday, according to RTHK. “As an Executive Council member she should apologize to Hong Kong people and resign from her position.”
Asia Times sought to find evidence for the rumors by reaching out to Caritas Hong Kong, a non-profit that often helps pregnant girls and women in need. The organization said it had no record of any girls coming to their charity and alleging that they were pregnant as a result of “free sex” with a protester. The original social media post allegedly written by a 14-year-old sex slave claimed she became pregnant as a result of the encounter.
The pro-democracy protest movement has been largely peaceful — with the exception of pro-China mob attacks on protesters and police brutality. The protesters began to organize in June against a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions from Hong Kong to China if Beijing accused an individual of violating Communist Party laws. Lam, the chief executive, announced her intent to withdraw the bill last week, but the protesters have insisted on four other demands: freedom of political prisoners, direct election of lawmakers, an end to the government calling protesters “rioters,” and an independent investigation into police brutality.
While no concrete evidence exists of sexual crimes on the part of protesters, women participating in the protests have accused police of sexual assault. An anonymous protester identified by press as “Ms. Lui” said that, following her arrest in August, female police officers “ordered her to remove all of her clothes including her underwear” and performed a strip search. The protester offered media the identification numbers of the police officers involved.