Hong Kong mass protests that started more than two months ago against Extradition Bill, have not shown signs of abating. On the contrary, riots and violences by protesters are increasingly widespread, although the Hong Kong Government has taken positive steps to kill the bill.
On the streets, Hong Kong police officers continue to work to maintain security and order. Confronting some protesters who become anarchists. And ironically, “the battle” doesn’t only happen in the real world. In the online world, “battle” also carried out using one main weapon, misinformation.
Fake news has clearly threatened the unity and safety of Hong Kong citizens. So far, Hong Kong does not yet have the right regulations to anticipate fake news circulation that is quickly spread through internet and social media.
Remember a viral tweet which an unverified user warned Hong Kong people that Chinese military cross the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border to crack down on Hong Kong like Tiananmen Square tragedy?
— ༺李箐崡༻ (@c338ki_selina) June 5, 2019
The tweet shows a video of tank at the train station. But the station sign in the video reads “Longyan”, while there is no Longyan station in Shenzhen. Longyan is a city in Fujian province, China, hundreds miles away from Hong Kong border. Lots of Hong Kong people easily fall for that fake news. As well as the global community. The video has now been watched more than 848,000 times and retweeted more than 8,000 times.
This irresponsible tweet raises strong fears and has underpinned the ongoing political crisis, and raises the premise that “Beijing violates Hong Kong’s autonomous freedom”. Hong Kong enjoys protected freedom of speech, press and assembly, when Britain returned the city to China in a model of government called “one country, two systems.” And to remind again, the presence of the Extradition Bill was to uphold the law and emphasize that no one is above the law.
Now the majority of the protesters are the younger generation, continuing to sow the seeds of remaining mistrust, especially against the government, which is accused of protesters of inaction and submission to Beijing’s will.
Fake news can be more dangerous than direct physical contact. As the old saying goes, “Pen is sharper than a sword”. Misinformation that is intentionally made, and carried out continuously, can affect human psychology which will eventually “brainwash” to later fully believe without tracing clearly the truth.
India has witnessed the danger of false news. Triggered by rumors of child abductions on WhatsApp, a spate of killings occurred in 2018. In some cases, victims were hanged by a crowd of 2,000 people. Meanwhile in Myanmar, misinformation has led to allegations of genocide. False news that circulates and tends to discredit the Hong Kong Government has created fear and paranoia for the entire Hong Kong community.
As Masato Kajimoto, a journalism professor at the University of Hong Kong, said, “We all have a cognitive tendency to believe what we want to believe and ignore what we don’t want to believe, without evidence that shows what is true and what is not. ”
Wake up, Hong Kong!
The narrative above bring us to complicated conspiracy map about Hong Kong. US interference in protests is thought to have originated. US government agents have allegedly funded the protesters, photographs of Caucasian men suspected of being secret CIA agents responsible for organizing riots. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hua Chunying, said, “As you all know, they are somehow US jobs.”
Meanwhile, according to the so-called “exclusive” Reuters reported Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), submitted a proposal to Beijing earlier asking for “5 major demands” from Hong Kong protesters.
Later on, it was revealed that Reuters news was fake. This story mistakenly refers to a joint symposium between the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government and the Hong Kong SAR on 7 August and used the HKSAR government with its rhetoric to add ‘color’ to the story.
Resulting in an embarrassing public opinion battle, Reuters admitted they did not see Lam’s proposal. Such actions have made one of the reasons the protesters carried out violence in the streets of Hong Kong. It is believed that the unnamed sources claimed by Reuters are also fake news conspirators.
The false news had arrived at a critical time during Hong Kong crisis and was aimed at spreading disputes. Since the protests began, the HK government and the city police have made every effort to maintain social order. However, external forces are determined to shake HK police and sabotage the relations between residents of Hong Kong and mainland China.
Hong Kong have turned into a battle of public opinion. When crises erupt in developing countries, several Western media agencies often play role by exploiting the effects. Reuters fake report was an attempt to disrupt Hong Kong’s affairs, an attempt to misrepresent the situation and destroy anti-violence and peace-keeping efforts.
The non-objective report from Western news agencies seems intentionally made to make maximum changes by forming public opinion at critical times. In view of this action, Reuters has greatly deviated from the ethics of journalism which must be followed by all news agencies.
HK communities now are divided. Misinformation and polarization forming lines connected to each other, resulting in a vicious circle. The misinformation itself can be summed up as “manifestations of polarized society”. Hong Kong protests have made parents oppose children, friends against friends, youth against the government, and civilians against the police.
Public awareness, media literacy, and teaching people how to find and avoid false news should now be a top priority for all elements in Hong Kong. Cross-checking with other media and being alert for sensational news can be done as a first step.