Beijing has been putting additional resources into establishing a harmonious media environment in Hong Kong.
Its latest move is to build up its presence in the virtual world via different online news platforms, aiming to convert online public opinion from a pro-democracy stance to a pro-Beijing stance.
This is part of the Communist Party’s latest united front policy.
President Xi Jinping said the government will seek to improve the work of new media professionals, who should form a “patriotic united front”, and encouraged them to contribute to “cleaning up cyberspace”.
Several pro-Beijing online news media have emerged in Hong Kong in the past few months to take the opportunity to win the blessing of Xi and other top leaders.
Orange News, an online news outlet run by state-owned Joint Publishing Group that leverages its huge publishing industry connection, is a clear example of Beijing stepping into the new media battlefield.
But the website has yet to draw much attention from the public, and Orange has done little marketing to promote itself.
Another example is HKGPao.com, founded by Robert Chow Yung, who organized three signature campaigns in the past year to oppose the Occupy movement.
The new website positions itself as a credible information source promoting the goodness of Hong Kong and spreading positive thinking about the city.
But what is the definition of the “positive thinking” or “positive energy” Chow mentioned at the debut of HKGPao?
It’s quite clear the site doesn’t carry any news or stories critical of the Hong Kong government or condemning the Communist Party and its supporters.
But HKGPao does spend a lot of time badmouthing politicians who hold negative views of the central government.
These include pro-democracy politicians and Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Media.
When HKGPao debuted, it wasn’t a surprise that it played up the news of Next Media’s profit warning, with the angle that the firm was suffering from a drop in advertising revenue in Hong Kong and Taiwan due to the participation of its boss in the Occupy movement.
On Sunday, the Silent Majority of Hong Kong, also founded by Chow, will organise a public demonstration to support Chris Wat Wing-yin, the columnist who abandoned her column in Ming Pao Daily earlier this week, citing the lack of respect from the newspaper’s readers for her pro-establishment and pro-police stance.
Chow said, “We are all Chris Wat”, and urged Hongkongers to take to the streets to protect Wat’s freedom of expression.
It is quite interesting that the pro-Beijing camp is playing a game like that of the pro-democracy camp.
When former Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau Chun-to suffered a brutal attack last year, journalists were united under the slogan “They can’t kill us all”.
But readers should understand the two issues are not the same.
Lau’s attack could have been due to his role as a newspaper chief editor, but Wat gave up her column because of her failure to persuade readers to accept her viewpoint.
So, are such news stories sending positive energy to Hong Kong?
The answer is no.
The new websites are just following the direction of the central government to continue the political struggle in the online world.
Far from bringing society together, they are further splitting it apart.
Given the nature of internet users, many of whom are young people with higher education, Beijing will find it difficult to win their trust through websites badmouthing pro-democracy figures.
It may backfire by strengthening these netizens in their pro-democracy stance.
In the past decade, Hong Kong newspapers, television channels and radio stations have been taking a more Beijing-friendly approach, spreading the good news of the Communist Party and avoiding negative news harmful to the country’s image.
Hongkongers know that almost all media in the market hold a more or less pro-Beijing stance, and only Next Media’s publications can be considered anti-Beijing.
Readers and audiences are not foolish, and they know what they want to read.
That has led to the birth of several outspoken online media outlets in Hong Kong; for example, Stand News, Post 852.com, Next Media’s action news website, and online radio station D100.
The new websites launched by the pro-Beijing camp may help to diversify the content offerings in cyberspace, but they should have no impact in changing the minds of people who want to read the truth.
– Contact us at [email protected]