[For the Record]: New wave of fake news in Hong Kong

If you have been keeping up with the news about the ongoing riots in Hong Kong, you would know that things have not changed for the better.  On the false news front, a new surge of videos has surfaced, focusing on suggestions that the People’s Liberation Army (“PLA”) has been sent in from mainland China to boost the Hong Kong Police Force in curbing the riots.

There seems to be a trend in how and when various bits of fake news develop.  Usually, it is in response to an official statement from the HK authorities, and is designed to boost messages such as:-

(a) China is stepping in (through various ways) to overcome the HK protests;

(b) HK authorities are trying to make it seem that the protesters have gone overboard and create a “just cause” for China to step in;

(c) HK protesters are subject to excessive use of force by HK police;

(d) HK police have deliberately stepped away from assisting the public for protest-related matters;

(e) HK protesters are garnering significant support from even celebrities in HK;

(f) HK protesters are being led by foreign elements.

Note that just because there is fake news surrounding the above messages, that does not by itself, mean that the messages are false.  In some instances, we note that the aim of the fake news seems to be to strengthen the messages and make them more believable.  Overall, the greatest damage done by fake news is to cause confusion and increase suspicion and fear in opposing camps against each other.

We have sighted a number of recent mainstream media articles on this topic:

  • Coconuts HK – Debunking a pro-Beijing group’s allegation that HK protesters were paying actors to take part in protests (29 April 2019)
  • Buzzfeed news – Compilation of alleged fake news (14 June 2019)
  • Straits Times – Surge in online fake news regarding PLA entry into Hong Kong (30 July 2019)
  • South China Morning Post – Observations on fake news and hoaxes regarding HK protests (23 July 2019)

Some of the notable pieces of fake news in recent weeks are the following:

(The following list is not exhaustive)


PLA entering Hong Kong (30 July 2019 – Developing)

 

 

You may have seen a number of videos, including the above videos, embedded in tweets and Facebook posts, suggesting that the PLA has entered Hong Kong to crackdown on the protests.  These are untrue.  Each of the above videos (and other videos) were filmed in earlier time periods and at different locations but are now described to seem as though a PLA crackdown is ongoing.

The first video you see above is actually a video taken in 2012.  Other sources such as the Hong Kong Free Press, ChannelNewsAsia and AFP Fact Check, have debunked the other videos based on close observation of images of other parts of China.   In fact, we note that if you were to closely look at a number of the links above, a number of commenters have pointed out in each of the tweets/videos that the videos actually show PLA troops / vehicles in other parts of Mainland China or Macau, and were taken from years ago.

In 1 particular video we came across, the commenter stitches the various videos together to rally people in Hong Kong to park cars and obstruct HK police and PLA troops from cracking down:

The background to such false videos

It is important to highlight where the opportunity came for these fake videos to come about – Just last week (24 July 2019) various media reported that the Chinese defence ministry’s spokesperson, Wu Qian, had stated that under Article 14 of the HK Basic Law, the Chinese military can be deployed upon HK’s request.  This was seen as a “red-line” warning that China could intervene (see various reports here, here and here).

Note that the point made about Article 14 is true (you can read Article 14 here). It is also true that HK has, since the handover from the British in 1997, always had a garrison of PLA troops on standby to defend HK.  However, they are rarely seen in public, and it appears that the HK government intends for it to remain that way.  The HK government has made it clear, in response to concerns raised, that there is no need to ask for help from the garrison.  Earlier, on 9 July 2019, Reuters also reported that the Chinese military had made clear that it would not interfere in HK’s affairs.

 


Foreign journalist claimed to be a “Foreign Protest Commander” (29 July 2019)

A number of Chinese news portals featured the image below and commented that this was proof of foreign interference in the HK Extradition Bill protests.  This news is still circulating, see this example.

This was very quickly dismissed by the NY Times:

The caption speaks for itself.


Allegations that HK Police planned to allow protesters to storm the Legislative Council (1 July 2019)

We had dealt with this in our previous factcheck.

When the Hong Kong Legislative Council Building was stormed, a police statement issued and broadcast after the protesters’ storming of the legislative council was rumoured to have been pre-filmed before the actual storming.  This rumour came about because of the misleading face of the watch worn by the HK Police spokesperson.

The HK Police’s detailed explanation appears to have put this matter to rest – Though some question whether it was satisfactorily answered. See the clarification below:


Rumour that HK Police dressed in plainclothes tried to force open entrance to police station to incite protesters (26 June 2019)

The tweet from the HK Police Force clarifying this rumour is self-explanatory:


Female HK protester made to seem improperly dressed (May 2019)

Ho Ka Yau, an outspoken HK citizen who protested 2 months ago, had been dragged away during one of the protests.  An image of her being dragged away was apparently digitally manipulated to seem as though she did not wear a brasserie and posted online on an anti-protester Facebook page.

She responded to the humiliation shortly:

 

This is the actual image we found from her Facebook page, posted by her supporters:

The incriminating article has since been taken down and we cannot locate any trace of the offending article.


 

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