The government newspaper China Daily published a host of unsubstantiated claims of “dirty tricks” against the Hong Kong protest movement Monday, alleging that protesters did not rightfully win Sunday’s District Council elections.
The elections, to determine who sits on the 18 District Councils that determine local laws, attracted a record turnout of over 71 percent and resulted in pro-China politicians losing 17 of the 18 councils (the 18th, Islands district, only had two contested seats). As the District Council elections are the only ones in which Hong Kong residents get to directly elect their public servants, the world interpreted the overwhelming victory of pro-democracy parties as a mandate for the government to fight China’s growing influence on capitalist Hong Kong soil.
The high turnout and support for pro-democracy parties follow months of protests that began in June against a proposed law that would have allowed China to extradite anyone present in Hong Kong if accused of violating communist laws, effectively making Chinese law viable in Hong Kong. The “One Country, Two Systems” policy that rules China-Hong Kong relations prevents China from imposing communist laws on the city, a fact that did not prevent pro-China politicians from proposing the law.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam agreed to make the Legislative Council (LegCo) withdraw the bill, but the protesters continue to make four other demands of the government: direct election of LegCo members, freedom for imprisoned protesters, an end to the government calling the June 12 protest a “riot,” and an independent investigation into police brutality.
China Daily, echoing the Chinese foreign minister but not the government of Hong Kong, claimed in a Monday editorial that “dirty tricks” prompted the overwhelming rejection of Chinese rule.
“The result of Sunday’s district council election marks a setback for Hong Kong’s democratic development, as the results were skewed by the illegal activities of the opposition camp to the benefit of their candidates,” the newspaper alleged, accusing protesters of an “all-out campaign to sabotage the campaign activities of pro-establishment candidates.”
China Daily claimed that pro-democracy protesters vandalized the offices of pro-China candidates, tore down campaign literature, and benefitted from “mudslinging efforts against Beijing” from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
“Emboldened by such support, members of the opposition camp have been advocating and inciting illegal acts under the banner of democracy, and young agitators have unleashed all kind of shocking violence, some of which have demonstrated the perpetrators have lost any semblance of humanity,” China Daily claimed.
The article did not provide any evidence for its claims or specific examples of the police processing the crimes alleged.
On Twitter – a social medium banned in China – China Daily published an “infographic” listing several accusations against the Hong Kong protesters. The protesters, the newspaper claimed, intimidated and confused elderly voters, stole voters’ identification cards if they appeared to be pro-China, and flooded election lines with minors and other non-voters to inflate wait times to vote and discourage voting.
The newspaper did not offer a single quote from a victim of these alleged tactics or police confirmation of the crimes. It did claim that police, which have engaged in brutal violence against protesters on a regular basis, for some reason “rejected” attempts to file charges for the alleged crimes.
— China Daily (@ChinaDaily) November 25, 2019
The Chinese Communist Party has not directly echoed most of these claims through its officials. It has, however, accused foreign governments of meddling in the election.
“The United States, making use of its domestic law, wantonly interfered in China’s internal affairs and attempted to undermine ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and the prosperity and stability of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, violating the United Nations Charter and the basic norms governing international relations,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday while on a visit to Japan. China’s allegation that America interfered in the election is centered on the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act through both houses of Congress unanimously.
The Hong Kong act, if President Donald Trump signs it, will require an annual review of Hong Kong’s special trade status. If the Department of State finds that China has eroded human rights in the city, Hong Kong could lose that status – and millions in foreign investment.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry once again condemned the Hong Kong act on Tuesday, after weeks of attempting to command Congress to abandon the legislation.
“China condemns and strongly opposes the U.S. Congress passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, for which we lodged stern representations with the U.S. side,” spokesman Geng Shuang said. “We urge the U.S. to grasp the situation and step back from the edge of the cliff. It should take immediate measures to prevent the bill from becoming law and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs.”
“If the U.S. side insists on going down the wrong path, China will take strong countermeasures,” Geng warned, without offering any examples of potential countermeasures.
Geng did not repeat Wang’s claims of fraud in the Hong Kong election.
Contrary to the Beijing allegations, Hong Kong protest leaders told reporters they had amassed evidence of Chinese sympathizers attempting fraudulent behavior to stem the landslide against them, in particular, confusing elderly voters to get them to vote for pro-China candidates.
“Apple Daily reported that two men took a voter in her 80s to a polling station in Kwai Ching, however, the woman later told the journalist that she did not know the men,” the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) noted on Monday. “In Wong Tai Sin, four people surrounded an elderly voter in a wheelchair and told her to vote for a candidate from the pro-Beijing DAB party, according to Stand News. When asked by the reporter if she understood the purpose of Sunday’s election, the voter said she did not know.”