Disinformation

Pro-Beijing trolls target Hong Kong

Hong Kong protests disinformation trolls Beijing China democracy Trump
Photo: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

We don’t just follow stories, we follow up. Chaewon Chung has been reporting about how online activists are aiding the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Tensions between Beijing and Hong Kong have mounted since China recently approved a controversial new security law. Though details are still emerging, activists in Hong Kong have expressed concerns that the new legislation could effectively stamp out protests that have dominated the city for the past year.

While demonstrators took to the streets in response, pro-democracy activists like Jeffrey Ngo warn that pro-Beijing internet users have launched new disinformation campaigns about the latest round of protests.

Ngo says that some pro-Beijing internet trolls have deliberately mischaracterized the Hong Kong protesters as supporters of President Donald Trump.

“They try to frame Hong Kong and the Hong Kong protests as somehow being seen as xenophobic, pro-racism, and pro-Trump, to drive a wedge between the Hong Kong and the U.S. protesters,” said Ngo, a Hong Kong activist now based in Washington DC.

The U.S. has condemned the Hong Kong government’s oppression of protesters. Last November, some pro-democracy protesters and activists held a rally in support of President Trump’s signing of a U.S. law that imposes sanctions against China and Hong Kong officials considered responsible for human rights abuses in the territory. 

“There’s a very small group of pro-Trump protesters in Hong Kong,” said Ngo. “They wave American flags and pictures of Trump and huge banners that say, ‘Please President Trump, liberate Hong Kong,’ at protests. Some Chinese amplify that kind of image, and brand the Hong Kong protests as fighting for something completely antithetical to what the U.S. Black Lives Matter protesters are fighting for.”

A tweet by the Qiao Collective, a group of diaspora Chinese “challenging U.S. aggression on China” is one example of a pro-Beijing post. The tweet accused protesters in Hong Kong of being aligned with the U.S. government: “HK protesters have repeatedly allied with the Trumps, Pompeos, Rubios, and Pelosis of the world — the architects & enforcers of the US regime of anti-Black death.”

The post generated more than 1,600 retweets and 5,200 likes.

The story you just read is a small piece of a complex and an ever-changing storyline we are following as part of our coverage. These overarching storylines — whether the disinformation campaigns that are feeding the war on truth or the new technologies strengthening the growing authoritarianism, are the crises that Coda covers relentlessly and with singular focus. We work with dozens of local and international reporters, video journalists, artists and designers to bring you stories you haven’t seen elsewhere, provide you with context missing from the news cycle and illuminate the continuity between the crises we cover. Support Coda now and join the conversation with our team. No amount is too small.

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Chaewon Chung

Chaewon is a multimedia journalist with Coda Story. She graduated with a Master’s in journalism from Columbia Journalism School and has also reported with SCMP, BUST, Korea Exposé, and others.

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