One in seven people took to the streets in Hong Kong on Sunday, June 9, to protest the proposed extradition law.
The law, if passed, would give the central government in Beijing the authority to transfer alleged criminals, both Hong Kong citizens and foreigners, to mainland China.
Limited coverage in mainland China
While media coverage of the demonstrations was limited in China -- state broadcaster CCTV did not mention the protest -- state-run media outlets China Daily and Global Times both published commentaries on the protests in Hong Kong.
Their commentaries claimed the protests were instigated by "foreign forces" and were carried out in collusion by the opposition, or the Hong Kong "extremists".
Considering the proximity of Hong Kong to mainland China, discussion of Sunday's protests on China's Twitter-like Weibo platform was considerably muted, save for a few posts by China's hawkish tabloid, Global Times.
A post by Hu Xijin, Global Times' editor in chief, on Monday, June 10 generated a good amount of discussion in the Chinese online space -- it received more than 2,200 upvotes and about 2,000 comments.
Here's what he wrote:
1. Protests are normal under "one country, two systems"
"It is normal to have large scale protests under the “one country, two system” model, despite the existence of existing channels for people to express their opinions publicly.
Protests are protected by the system in Hong Kong."
2. Protestors do not represent majority of Hongkongers
"Although there were originally 560,000 people who signed a pro-extradition petition, the number increased to 730,000 prior to the anti-extradition law protest on Sunday, and then to 820,000 this morning.
They might not have gone to the streets to protest, but they truly represent part of the Hong Kong population.
If you ask me which side has more supporters and represent the majority of Hongkongers, I believe that “even a kindergarten kid can figure it out”.
Here's the basic principle of "public opinion": If there is at least 20 percent of people in society holding a certain view, and they are active in expressing their concerns, you can easily create the dominant narrative. But that doesn’t represent the genuine opinions from the general public.
I believe that the public are more concerned with their quality of life rather than political fights."
3. The U.S. is using Hong Kong to pressure China
"Politicians from the U.S. have openly expressed their support for the anti-extradition law camp, giving them motivation prior to their protest.
However, opinions from the West do not represent the opinion of the international community.
The U.S.' intervention in Hong Kong’s affairs shows that they are hoping to exert more pressure on China using Hong Kong."
4. Disastrous for Hong Kong if protests continue
"Hong Kong is governed by the rule of law. We need to uphold the rule of law to sustain its prosperity. Legal protests do no good nor harm to Hong Kong.
However, it is certain that it will be a disaster for Hong Kong if street politics continue to guide the future of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong cannot turn itself into Kiev, Cairo, and Bangkok."
Chinese netizens unsympathetic towards Hongkongers
Most Chinese commenters online agreed with Hu, with the majority of netizens criticising the behaviour of the Hong Kong people.
"It's time for the state to rein in the American forces, they were screaming with such gusto yesterday."
"Let them stir up trouble, that's when we can reform Hong Kong with socialism."
"Well said! We've spoiled them too much, did they get this much freedom in the past when they were still colonised by the British? This law is to target crime, do they really want to see Hong Kong become a hotbed of criminal activity? If that's the case, they really do have bad intentions."
China's MFA responds
Global Times wrote about the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs' (MFA) response to the Hong Kong protests on Monday, June 10, too.
Spokesperson Geng Shuang highlighted that the Hong Kong government has already responded to the protest and clashes, with the chief executive Carrie Lam expressing her views on the issue.
He reiterated the following two points:
- The central government will continue to provide the Hong Kong government with unwavering support, and
- Oppose any form of foreign intervention on Hong Kong's legislature.
In addition, Geng said some countries have given "irresponsible" comments regarding the extradition bill during the past few months.
"Foreign forces" at work
A good number of Chinese netizens who commented under the post also believe that "foreign forces" were responsible for the protests.
"Some people suspect everything has got to do with the "foreign forces". Many foreign organisations are stationed in Hong Kong. Anyone can tell what they're doing. It'll be weird if they are not involved in the issue."
"One China is one China. Anti-Chinese forces have used up all their tactics. Does the poop of your American daddies smell good? Interfering in Taiwan, and then Hong Kong, stop jumping around."
Comments by Chinese netizens elsewhere on the Chinese intranet regarding the Hong Kong protests are in the same vein too.
"Who's against the extradition law? Send them to meet their Maker."
"Some political forces in the west just loathe to see China stable and peaceful."
Empathising with the Hongkongers
There were, however, a number of positive comments, such as ones that acknowledged that Chinese citizens probably only had a limited access to the coverage of the events due to China's vast censorship apparatus.
"Most people in mainland China wouldn't know about this, the "wall" is pretty high eh?"
"I just want to say videos of police using tear gas are all over the internet outside the "wall". Have they really not used it? Even the police are lying."
Reply: "I might not know if they really used it, but so what if they did? Shouldn't they use it if the protestors are using violence against the law? This is my true opinion, not just disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing."
Information on the protests available to Chinese netizens within the country is limited without the use of software such as VPNs to circumvent China's Great Firewall.
Certain terms regarding the protests were blocked on Weibo, such as "Go, Hong Kong", "support Hong Kong", "anti-extradition to China".
Similarly, the comments section of some posts covering the events were blocked as well.
Top image via Antony Dapiran/Twitter