Beware: Our government wants to brainwash you

March 12, 2020 08:02
Chief Executive Carrie Lam has been silent about a viral media report alleging that she sent a secret report to her Beijing bosses complaining about her own Executive Council and establishment camp allies, says the author. Photo: HKEJ

Don’t believe everything you read online. This is the government’s message to Hongkongers. Everyone who watches television or listens to the radio will have seen or heard it numerous times. It’s one of the government’s so-called announcements of public interest, or APIs, which TV and radio stations are required to broadcast for free.

How should we decide what to believe if we shouldn’t believe everything online? The answer lies in the tone of the API. Our government, which is headed by an undemocratically elected leader, wants us to believe that it alone provides factual information. Everything else critical of the government is either fake news or not based on facts. That’s the hidden aim of the government’s API.

This Orwellian thinking may work on the mainland but our government surely must be living in la la land if it believes Hong Kong people will buy such brainwashing propaganda. Ever since anti-extradition protests morphed into a wider anti-government movement last summer, the government has used its dictatorial powers to turn APIs into political ads supporting its own spin.

For months now, we have been bombarded with APIs labeling ordinary protesters as rioters, urging people to stay away from protests, and saying no to violence. Political parties are not allowed to counter such ads on TV and radio even if they pay for it.

Last Sunday, a video clip went viral on social media showing a group of seven policemen surrounding a young man in Tseung Kwan O. Hundreds had gathered there in memory of student Chow Tsz-lok who fell to death in a carpark last November during a police operation against protesters. The video showed policemen hurling obscenities at the young man, forcing him to apologize to all seven, one at a time.

Should we believe the video or is it fake? Here is the exact wording of the government’s API: “Do you believe everything you read online? Are you sure it's true? Does the number of followers guarantee credibility? On the internet, anyone can share anything. What we read might not be true. So, we need to look more from different angles. Check facts before jumping to conclusions, and try not to let emotions sway your judgment. If fake news goes viral, it can have severe repercussions.”

After having seen and heard this API countless times on TV and radio, I want the government to tell us whether we should believe the video of a policeman swearing at a young man. Those who saw it have let their emotions sway their judgement. They see the police as foul-mouthed bullies. If the video is fake, the police should immediately say so. It has not. The police's silence speaks for itself.

Some weeks ago, there was a viral media report that said Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor sent a secret report to her Beijing bosses that backstabbed her own Executive Council and establishment camp allies, saying they were not supporting her. Should we believe this report? Need we look at it from different angles?

The only way to believe or not to believe the report is for Lam to tell us with hand on heart whether it is true or not. As a Catholic, she should have no problem telling us the truth. She has not done so. Instead, she has deflected every media question about it. Her silence has told us the truth.

Mainland respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan claimed the coronavirus may not necessarily have originated in China. His claim went viral. Should we believe it? If it didn’t start in Wuhan, where did it start? If it started elsewhere, how come that place didn’t have the huge numbers of infections and deaths like in Wuhan?

Police have in recent days seized a large amount of bomb-making materials and arrested over a dozen people. A senior superintendent claimed the bombs were meant to target the police but gave no evidence to back up his claim. Should we believe him? All those arrested belong to a Telegram group which had earlier claimed responsibility for two bomb plots.

Should we believe the online claims of this Telegram group? After every arrest and seizure of bomb-making materials, the police implicitly suggested the protest movement was behind it. Should we believe that? Could triads have been responsible instead? Or even mainland agents wanting to turn the public against the protest movement?

A video showing a policeman in riot gear knocking down a female TV reporter with his shield last Sunday went viral. The chief executive asked everyone to show tolerance, claiming the policeman had done it accidentally and that the police were working under great stress.

The video clearly showed the policeman had deliberately knocked down the reporter. Should we not believe our own eyes? Showing tolerance is a two-way street. There are numerous viral videos showing police intolerance towards young protesters. Should we treat such videos as fake?

Hong Kong people are also under great stress, caused by the city’s most incompetent leader since reunification. If Lam wants us to be tolerant towards the police, then she should also be tolerant towards young people fighting to protect their freedoms instead of having them arrested.

Every time I see or hear the API asking us not to believe everything online, I change channels. I suggest you all do the same.

– Contact us at [email protected]


A Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London.