HK activists face the Beijing propaganda treatment

by: Ben Bland / OCTOBER 24, 2016 / Financial Times

If they put down their smartphones for a few minutes and picked up a local newspaper last week, young Hong Kong lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung would have received a nasty surprise. 

Normally staid organisations such as the Chinese Banking Association of Hong Kong and the Plastic Products Merchants United Association had filled the press with vituperative advertisements attacking the newly elected legislators over their support for independence from China.

A youth association said they had “darkness and dirt in their hearts”. A group of education and cultural heavyweights called for the pair to be banished.

The Hong Kong branch of the All-China Women’s Federation said Ms Yau had not just “insulted the nation” but “hurt the emotions of all Chinese people in the world” as well as “losing face for all Hong Kong women”.

The public denouncements were eerily similar to the propaganda that China’s Communist party deploys against its enemies.

As support for independence from China grows in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, so the local business and political establishment is acting more and more like its Communist counterparts north of the border.

From Beijing’s point of view, the crackdown in Hong Kong is a justified reaction to the growing support for separatism, something it fears not just in the former British territory but also in the Chinese regions of Tibet and Xinjiang and in de facto independent Taiwan.

Pro-Beijing loyalists accuse Ms Yau, 25, and Mr Leung, 30, of insulting China during the swearing-in ceremony for Hong Kong’s legislative council earlier this month, when they pledged allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation”, held banners that read “Hong Kong is not China” and pronounced “China” in a purportedly offensive manner.

The president of the legislature asked them to re-swear their oaths but the Hong Kong government is seeking a judicial review to stop them from taking up their seats.

Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawmakers walked out of the council on Wednesday, effectively stopping the two from retaking their oaths. It is not clear if these actions are being taken independently or under direction from Beijing’s Liaison Office, which does the Communist party’s bidding in a territory where the party does not officially operate. Read more…

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