China’s major state-run news outlets have voiced their “opinions” on the escalating street violence in Hong Kong. To no one’s surprise, their “coverage” of the unrest has been to portray the pro-democracy protesters as a small group of extremists holding the former British colony as an economic hostage against a majority of residents.

Some social media users called protesters “cockroaches” and “thugs” as the news outlets criticized teachers and politicians for emboldening the demonstrators. All three major outlets, the Communist Party’s Global Times, People’s Daily and Xinhua News Agency, have remained in line with Beijing’s approach of heaping scorn on the protesters while ignoring aspects of the unrest that appears unfavorable to the Chinese Communist Party, the pro-Chinese Hong Kong government and its police force.

They have made no mention of the shooting by the police at a protester who is now in critical condition. The Global Times did issue one accurate warning that Beijing might intervene militarily which probably means the deployment of the People’s Liberation Army or PLA. Once again, the threat of military action is not a secret to the global community.

About 115 years ago, the motto "All the news that's fit to print" took a permanent place in the masthead of the New York Times newspaper. In China, a more apt motto might be “All the news that we deem fit to print” with the “we” as the Chinese Communist Party.

Citizens of democratic countries, unlike their Chinese counterparts, will have access to multiple news sources with differing views that enables the reader to form an educated opinion. It may be that the lack of an alternate view might make the Chinese populace victims of the “illusory truth effect” which is the idea that if you repeat something often enough, people will slowly start to believe.

Examples from the three Chinese state-run news outlets include:

  • Hu Xijin, the Global Times editor-in-chief compared the protesters who have gotten into altercations with the police and set a man on fire to “ISIS-like terrorists.”
  • Again, from the Global Times, “The state has always been willing to control the situation in the special zone under the existing governance structure. If the mob arrogantly escalates the challenge, leading to more serious and widespread disorder and humanitarian disaster, direct state action will be inevitable.”
  • Xinhua said in a commentary. “Hong Kong is at its most critical juncture,” it said, adding that “if this anomaly is allowed to continue to ferment, there will be little time for society to correct itself.”
  • The People’s Daily, in an editorial, called on students to “keep their eyes open and remain rational,” lest they become “political fuel” for the opposition and fall victim to a plot by rebels to seize power in Hong Kong. The editorial was titled “Don’t Let The Campus Become a Shrine to Violence.” It continued by bashing teachers for selling “packaged reactionary ideas using western theories", and continuously promoting “civil disobedience” and “illegal justice, just like a cult, brainwashing young people.”
Masked university students protest against Chin's rule of Hong Kong at their graduation ceremony
Masked university students protest against Chin's rule of Hong Kong at their graduation ceremony AFP / Philip FONG