- China is ramping up its propaganda campaign against the Hong Kong protests.
- These efforts include buying anti-protest ads on Twitter and Facebook, both of which are banned in China, as part of an effort to disperse misinformation to the international community.
- China has also moved thousands of troops to their border with Hong Kong to conduct public military exercises that many believe are meant to intimidate protestors in Hong Kong.
- On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators took to the streets of Hong Kong in one of the biggest peaceful marches seen in the city since the protests first began 11 weeks ago.
Mainland China has ratcheted up its efforts against the protestors in Hong Kong following several violent instances during protests at Hong Kong’s airport last week.
Last Monday, thousands of protestors flooded the Hong Kong airport, causing officials to cancel all flights. Limited flights resumed Tuesday and protestors began trying to block passengers from boarding planes.
The situation escalated after a group of demonstrators essentially held two men from mainland China hostage. The protestors reportedly believed one of the men was an undercover police officer, even though they had no confirmation of his identity or employment.
The other man who was seized by protestors has been confirmed as a journalist for the Chinese newspaper the Global Times. It was also reported that at one point, a group of demonstrators overwhelmed a police officer and beat him with his own baton.
These instances prompted police to violently crackdown on the protestors Tuesday night, using pepper spray and batons to disperse the demonstrators.
Flights resumed normally on Wednesday after airport authorities filed a court order to limit the protests.
Amid the protests at the airport, mainland China has significantly stepped up its misinformation and anti-protest propaganda campaign.
While China’s state media has always portrayed the Hong Kong protests in a negative light, they have recently increased their efforts to villainize the protestors.
In general, the Chinese media have portrayed the protestors as a small group of bad actors who engage in extremely violent demonstrations.
The official narrative in China is that the demonstrations have been planned and incited by foreign forces, including U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the CIA, who the Chinese government claim pay the protestors to engage in activities that are not supported by residents of Hong Kong.
That narrative obviously contrasts greatly with the fact that the protests are part of popular demonstration movement that at times has prompted two million people— nearly one-third of Hong Kong’s population— to take to the streets.
The Chinese media has also said the protestors in Hong Kong are calling for independence from China, which threatens the mainland’s sovereignty. However, as many have noted, none of the protestors’ demands include independence from China.
The Chinese media has also manipulated pictures and videos of protestors to make them seem more violent. In one recent example, a video showed a protester with a toy Airsoft weapon used in a paintball-like game that’s popular in Hong Kong.
The state-run newspaper the China Daily circulated that video, claiming it was evidence that the protesters had taken up arms and saying the toy was a grenade launcher used by the U.S. Army.
Over the weekend, it was reported that China’s largest state-run news agency, Xinhua News, bought ads on Facebook and Twitter to smear the protestors. Both Facebook and Twitter are banned in China, so the ads seem to be an attempt to influence the outside world to China’s favor.
One of the ads run on Facebook indicates that the violence from the protests is hurting Hong Kong’s economy, and goes on to say, “Calls are mounting for immediate actions to restore order.”
Another ad on Twitter also pushed the idea that everyone in Hong Kong wants “order,” claiming, “All walks of life in Hong Kong called for a brake to be put on the blatant violence and for order to be restored.”
Twitter addressed the misinformation campaign in a Twitter Safety blog post on Monday.
In the post, Twitter said they found “a significant state-backed information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong.”
According to the post, Twitter located 936 accounts “originating from within” China that were “deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.”
The post went on to say that Twitter had suspended all of the accounts for violating their platform manipulation policies, but also noted that those accounts were only the most active parts of the misinformation campaign, which they said consisted of around 200,000 accounts.
Propaganda is only one of the methods China is using to put pressure on Hong Kong.
Beijing has recently moved thousands of paramilitary troops to mainland China’s border with Hong Kong.
Those forces have since been seen running very public military exercises over the last week or so, and many experts have said it is a reminder to Hong Kong that the mainland has not ruled out the use of force.
The combination of the violence at the airport and the rising threat from mainland China caused many protest leaders worried that the actions taken by a few demonstrators would deter others from continuing to protest.
The opposite appeared to be true on Sunday, when hundreds of thousands of protestors demonstrated in the rain for one of the biggest peaceful protests in weeks. Protest organizers estimated that around 1.7 million people came out, while the police claim the number is closer to 128,000.
Despite the fact that the authorities had not given the protestors permission for the march, it still remained peaceful.
Police presence was limited, and the officers who were present did not try to stop the protestors. The protestors themselves encouraged each other to avoid confrontations.
Sunday’s massive protest seemed to indicate that the people of Hong Kong are not backing down, even amid what many have described as unprecedented use of force by police and escalating threats from mainland China.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Gizmodo)
Anti-Bullying Video Goes Viral and Starts Conversation Online
- A mother posted a video of her nine-year-old son Quaden Bayles, who was born with achondroplasia dwarfism, crying after being bullied in school and expressing suicidal thoughts.
- Many stars, like Hugh Jackman, rallied behind the child and expressed support for him. Comedian Brad Williams set up a GoFundMe to help both him and anti-bullying charities.
- While many supported Quaden, others took to debunked conspiracy theories online about his age. Some believed Quaden’s mother was exploiting him for online attention.
- In addition to the many anti-bullying messages being spread online, the story also started a conversation about whether or not it is okay to for parents to share videos of their kids on social media, especially ones that show kids in such a vulnerable state.
Video Goes Viral
After a mother took a now-viral video of her son after he was bullied at school, conversations about bullying and child privacy lit up social media sites.
Yarraka Bayles posted the video of her nine-year-old son Quaden to Facebook, where it gained online traction before being picked up by news.com.au, an Australian news site. Quaden was born with achondroplasia dwarfism and regularly gets bullied at school and in other public spaces.
The video, which may be hard to watch for viewers sensitive to content about bullying and suicide, shows Quaden in the car crying, expressing suicidal thoughts. His mom suggests that he actually has attempted suicide and urges parents to educate their children about the harmful consequences bullying has on children like her son.
Support for Quaden
Many celebrities spoke out in support of Quaden. Academy Award-nominated actor Hugh Jackman shared a video on Twitter telling him “you got a friend in me.”
“So everyone, let’s please be kind to each other, bullying is not okay,” the Wolverine star added.
Country-pop singer Kacey Musgraves and Walking Dead actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan also shared sympathy and words of encouragement on Twitter.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Brad Williams, a comedian who has the same form of dwarfism as Quaden, started a GoFundMe for the Bayles family.
“I’m setting up this GoFundMe to let Quaden know that bullying will not be tolerated, and that he is a wonderful human being who deserves joy,” he wrote. “I want to fly Quaden and his mother to America, get them a nice hotel, and bring them to Disneyland.”
“This isn’t just for Quaden, this is for anyone who has been bullied in their lives and told they weren’t good enough,” Williams added. “Let’s show Quaden and others, that there is good in the world and they are worthy of it.”
As of Monday morning, the GoFundMe had well exceeded the $10,000 goal and raised close to $470,000 from over 20,000 donors. Williams says that the excess money will go to anti-bullying charities.
Along with sympathy for Quaden came Internet users spreading conspiracy theories. Some alleged that he was not nine-years-old, but was actually an 18-year-old actor. They claimed the video was part of a scam.
Others also shared videos where it appears Quaden is showing off money and other expensive looking things. They implied that he came from money and was not being bullied.
The theory that he is an actor scamming people for money is not true, as several reports have confirmed that he is nine-years-old. He has appeared on news segments with his mother promoting awareness for dwarfism in the past.
Those who claim to know the family maintain that they are honest.
Rapper Cardi B posted an Instagram Live video defending Quaden.
“I really don’t think that he’s lying on his age,” she said. “And just because there’s videos of him flossing money and acting all gangsta and acting all cool and everything, it doesn’t mean that kids do not pick on him. Come on now.”
Is it Okay to Share Vulnerable Videos of Your Kids Online?
Still, some questioned Yarraka’s intentions in posting the video, thinking that she could have been exploiting her son’s condition and situation. She has actually since deleted the video from her Facebook page and removed her Instagram account, as well as Quaden’s, from the site.
Rogue Rocket spoke to author and motivational speaker Brandon Farbstein, who said he could specifically relate to Quaden’s pain, having dwarfism himself. He thinks that even though Yarraka may have had good intentions, the video was still counter-productive.
“She wants to do absolutely everything and anything she can to not only make this better but, she says, to try and raise awareness for the situation,” he said. “I personally don’t believe this is the way to do it. I believe that it is kind of digital exploitation of his, like I mentioned, darkest moment.”
Journalist and historian David Perry wrote an editorial for CNN saying that this video highlights huge problems we face in the digital age when it comes to the privacy of children online. Perry believed that Yarraka did this out of love, but should have refrained from sharing this vulnerable moment online.
“However loving the intention behind posting this video was (and I can well understand this mother’s desperation), the fact is that for the rest of the boy’s life his name will likely always be associated with it,” Perry wrote. “What’s more, the viral video is likely to encourage other parents to try to emulate it, continuing to break down the privacy rights of children.”
“Remember that your kids are going to grow up. They will Google their names,” Perry added. “You want them to be happy with what they find. So please stop sharing photos and videos of your child’s worst moments on the internet.”
Farbstein echoed that this video will now follow Quaden from places like school, to his first date, to his first job. He thinks that instead of a video like this, people who want to help kids in Quaden’s situation should turn to the people and places around them.
“Start with your own community, whether you’re in school, you are part of a company, a religious institution, whatever it is, see what they’re doing to prevent bullying,” Farbstein said. “Using what you’ve been given to do what you can is the most that all of us can do.”
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (People Magazine) (Insider)
Protesters Storm Latin America’s Largest Music Festival in Chile Over Economic Inequality
- On Sunday, Chile hosted Viña 2020, a yearly event that is Latin America’s largest music festival.
- Before it began, protesters stormed the area near the festival, looting businesses and trying to storm a hotel where many of the performers were staying.
- The protesters’ actions briefly delayed the concert before Ricky Martin, who was not scheduled to open the show, took the stage.
- Sunday’s protest was a result of a series of protests that have been raging since October and that have claimed the lives of 31 people.
Music Festival Protests
Thousands of protesters and police clashed outside of Latin America’s largest music festival on Sunday night in a protest over economic inequality in Chile.
The festival, commonly known as Viña 2020, took place in the seaside city of Viña del Mar and is one of the most-watched television events each year in Chile; however, Sunday evening’s protests were fueled by months of unrest over the rising cost of living prices.
As the event began, fans at the concert already faced increased security measures, including metal detectors, turnstiles, and high barriers.
Nonetheless, those measures did not stop people from protesting outside of the event or from trying to enter the festival grounds. After realizing they could not break in, many then resorted to attacking shops and the hotel where many of the performers for the festival had been staying.
According to the BBC, about 150 masked individuals set at least seven cars on fire in front of the O’Higgins Hotel. They then tried to get in the hotel, but hotel staff fought them off with fire extinguishers.
Protesters also clashed with police, who threw tear gas. Reportedly, tear gas then drifted into the hotel, forcing some guests to flee. Around 8 p.m., the hotel began to evacuate guests.
Around the same time, police began to deploy water cannons.
Despite not breaking into the actual festival grounds, the protests at the hotel ended up delaying the concert because the festival’s opening acts were caught up in those evacuations.
After the hotel, protesters then moved to municipal offices. There, they reportedly smashed windows, broke down doors and looted shops. They also targeted two car dealerships and set more cars on fire.
One video shows protesters at one of those dealerships driving a car out of a second-story window and flipping it.
By the end of the night, 15 people had been arrested and 23 officers had been injured.
Back on stage at Viña 2020, headliner Ricky Martin opened the show by telling Chileans that it’s “important to let the leaders of our countries know what we need, provided we do so in an orderly manner.”
Martin also told the crowd and viewers that he was “with you Chile, never silent, always with love and peace.”
What Has the Reaction to These Protests Been?
Several politicians have since denounced the protests, with the region’s governor, Jorge Martínez, calling protesters part of “radical groups which are very much in the minority.”
“They want anarchy, they want disorder and violence,” he added.
Viña del Mar’s mayor, Virginia Reginato criticized the protesters’ actions, saying, “You can have demonstrations but this is criminal and will be treated as such.”
Monday morning, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera called for Chileans to “live in peace.”
Piñera’s call for peace is especially relevant because the government is expecting a fresh wave of protests in March.
Those will likely come despite Piñera’s attempts to try to stop the protests. In November, after the Chilean government agreed to hold a national referendum to change Chile’s constitution, Piñera signed off on the measure.
Currently, Chile’s constitution still dates back to the time of the country’s military rule in the 70’s and 80’s.
While that referendum is scheduled to be held in April, its announcement has done little to please a nation that is calling for more than just a change to the constitution. In fact, many have said they feel like their government isn’t listening to them.
How Did These Protests Start?
The protests began in October when subway fares in Chile’s capital, Santiago, increased. Following that move, hundreds of college students swarmed subway stations and hopped turnstiles to protest the hike.
From there, the protests only got worse. While they started over the subway fare hike, they quickly became about a whole host of other issues, including healthcare, education, and many utilities like gas and electricity, which have also seen rising costs.
At the same time, many poor and middle-class families had not seen wage increases.
In October, Chile President, Sebastián Piñera, declared a state emergency in multiple cities. He then placed the city under curfew and placed the military in charge of the city’s security.
Later that same month, Piñera reversed the fare hike, but the move did little to stop the protests, which have now morphed into an all-encompassing public censure on rising living costs in Chile.
Since October, 31 people have been arrested, with thousands more injured and arrested.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (US News & World Report) (Jakarta Post)
Cambodian PM Orders Action Against Women For Revealing Clothing
- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called for authoritative action to be taken against women who wear revealing clothing in online posts.
- He said that these posts are offensive to Cambodian culture and said this behavior contributes to sexual violence in the country.
- Several rights groups have condemned Hun Sen’s comments, arguing that the women have not actually broken any laws and that he is perpetuating the problem of sexual violence by blaming victims.
In a speech given on Monday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered authorities to take action against women who wear revealing clothing in Facebook Live streams.
Hun Sen was addressing the Cambodian National Council for Women when he made his remarks. He said that these fashion choices are offensive to Cambodian culture and values and that this kind of behavior is to blame for sexual violence in the country. It is a popular trend for women across the country to wear revealing clothing to sell items like clothes and beauty products online, according to Reuters.
“Go to their places and order them to stop live-streaming until they change to proper clothes,” Hun Sen said on Monday.
The prime minister also seemed to suggest that these women will be tracked down through their online activity when he ordered authorities to locate and then “educate” them.
On Wednesday, police in Phnom Penh posted a video to Facebook of a young woman apologizing for the clothing she wears during her online streams upon being brought into their station. In the caption, the police wrote that the woman’s frequent posting in provocative clothing marred the customs and traditions of Cambodian women.
The police commissionary posted later in the day that shortly after her release, the woman had posted another revealing image online. On their Facebook page, they wrote that she had been arrested and brought in again for pornography charges.
“When we educate them and they still do not listen, we will implement the law,” a spokesman for the Cambodian National Police told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Many expect women in Cambodia to be quiet and submissive, an expectation that stems from an oppressive conduct code for women called the Chbab Srey that was part of school curricula until 2007.
Backlash to the Crackdown
Upon news of the “education” orders and the Facebook video from the police force, several rights groups condemned Hun Sen’s comments.
Nicholas Bequelin, Regional Director of Amnesty International, responded with a statement on the organization’s website. He called the prime minister’s remarks “dangerous” and accused them of “victim-blaming.”
“This rhetoric only serves to perpetuate violence against women and stigmatize survivors of gender-based violence,” Bequelin said.
He went on to warn that Hun Sen’s orders display how the government is abusing their surveillance systems to push a discriminatory agenda and said that Facebook must refuse any requests to block profiles of women for these reasons.
“These developments underscore the dire state of freedom of expression in Cambodia,” Bequelin added. “In recent years, the Cambodian authorities have increasingly weaponized internet surveillance to target human rights defenders and opposition supporters based on their Facebook posts and communications.”
Bequelin also argued that none of the women engaging in these online behaviors are breaking any laws and the police are responding solely to the whim of Hun Sen.
Also on Wednesday, several other rights groups released a separate open letter echoing Bequelin’s sentiments. The groups—which included the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and Gender and Development for Cambodia— accused Hun Sen of blaming victims and admonished his orders against women posting online in revealing clothing.
“Punishing women for their choice of clothing is therefore part of the root cause of violence, rather than its cure, and must be rejected,” the letter said. “We appeal to the Cambodian government to acknowledge that Cambodia Needs to Respect Women’s Rights to Self-Determination, Expression, and Bodily Integrity in order to achieve gender equality and end gender-based violence in Cambodia.”