Protests erupted in Hong Kong this week, with organizers estimating over 1 million people attended a June 9 rally in opposition to a proposed extradition bill. Critics of the bill fear political opponents will be targeted and worry there aren’t enough safeguards to protect legal and human rights for defendants once extradited to the mainland. China’s previous behavior toward Hong Kong, such as abducting booksellers in 2016, has only fueled tensions.
As police and protesters clashed on the street, different types of disinformation began spreading online. Here’s a look at the hoaxes and falsehoods.
1. Chinese state media outlet China Daily falsely said the protests were in support of the extradition bill.
This article from Chinese state media is blatantly untrue and footage from that day unequivocally proves it was an anti-extradition rally.
Access to information is severely restricted in mainland China, and this shows how the government can use propaganda to mislead people and paint a false narrative.
2. A photoshopped image was used to falsely suggest a female activist was arrested for being “indecent.”
Ka Yau Ho is an activist and a member of the pro-democracy party Demosisto. That’s the same party Hong Kong’s best-known activist, Joshua Wong, belongs to.
A pro-police Facebook page, Salute to HK Police, shared a photo of Ho with nipples photoshopped on her shirt. This led people to speculate she was arrested for being “indecent.” But it’s an obvious fake and has since been deleted.
In a response on Facebook, Ho posted a real photo of herself from that night and said:
“The comments were basically comprised of people calling me a prostitute, saying that the police were cleaning out sex workers, and people saying that they were ashamed for my parents. The easiest way to attack a woman is through sexual insults. Ignore her will, ignore her vision, and focus on her appearance and way of dress, and then shame her from there.”
3. A viral video said to show Chinese troops stationed near the Hong Kong border is fake.
A video said to show a convoy of Chinese military tanks near the Hong Kong border went viral on Twitter. But the footage was not taken near the border, it was filmed at Longyan station in Fujian Province, over 320 miles from the border. A sign for Longyan station is clearly visible in the footage.
China’s foreign ministry also confirmed it is not sending troops to Hong Kong.
4. In a viral claim, people suspected that a police officer was actually a Chinese agent in disguise.
People used an outdated database to check the badge number of a Hong Kong police officer. When the database showed his badge number belonged to a woman officer, people speculated the officer was a Chinese agent in disguise. But the database used is 13 years old and not official. It only collects data on awards given to officers for long-term service and is therefore not a reliable source for current information.
5. China did launch a cyberattack against Telegram, the primary messaging app used by protesters.
During the protest, a DDoS attack targeted Telegram, the primary app protesters used to organize and communicate with each other. Telegram CEO Pavel Durov confirmed on Twitter that the cyberattack came from Chinese IP addresses.