Russian state media has developed a reputation for absurd interpretations of international news events that may shed unfavorable light on the control the Russian government has on expression and politics in the nation. The burgeoning protests in Hong Kong are no different– these, the Russian government reports, are not earnest manifestations against government oppression, but an organized American plot to cause mischief in the region.
The Wall Street Journal reports that multiple state media sources in Russia have declared the protests, in what protesters are calling the “umbrella revolution,” an organized plot in which agitators trained by the United States government are trying to foment hatred against China. On Tuesday, multiple television sources began parroting this line, comparing the protests in Hong Kong to protesters in Kiev standing up against Russia’s attempts to recolonize Ukraine.
On Rossiya 24, one anchor cited “Chinese press” as confirming that “the leaders of the [Hong Kong] movement received special training from the American intelligence services,” later specifically linking protesters to “the American State Department.”
Another correspondent on the same network argued that it was absurd to claim that student protesters had the critical thinking ability to come up with using social media for protesting, or the idea of using umbrellas as a symbol of protest.
While this language is largely common on Russian media outlets, the English-language Russia Today (RT) has yet to indulge similar responses to the Hong Kong protests, instead reporting on threats of violence from Hong Kong protesters that portray the students, who seek to preserve their independence from the communism of mainland China, as hooligans out to cause mischief for its own sake.
Violence did erupt during the first days of protests against the new provisions proposed by Beijing, which would grant significantly more power to Communist China over the autonomous territory. Chinese officers deployed pepper spray and tear gas into a crowd of thousands staging a sit-in opposing the new measures. One witness told the Associated Press the violence only strengthened the protesters: “They were just sitting down on the road asking to speak with (Hong Kong leader) Leung Chun-ying to start a dialogue. Now, police have solved nothing and students are more resolved to stay.”
The protests have poured into the midweek, as China begins to celebrate its 65th anniversary as a Communist state. The National Day is the biggest headline at Xinhua, the state media outlet, which has yet to report on the protests. While the initial clashes in Hong Kong have led to some relative peace Wednesday, observers warn that the tense situation could result in violence at a moment’s notice.