Beijing Censors After Hong Kong Protest; Nationalism Rises

  • Allegedly more than one million participated in the protest.
  • Keywords remotedly related to the protest are all censored in the mainland.

Last Sunday an estimated 1.03 million people (230 thousands according to the police) participated in a mass protest in Hong Kong against a proposed law that would allow the extradition of suspects, either political or criminal, to mainland China for the first time. Protestors fear that the amendments would mark the end of the “one country two systems” era.

The extradition law was proposed after the case of Pan Xiaoying in Taiwan. Pan was murdered by her boyfriend Chen Tongjia (both from Hong Kong) on February 17 last year, while they were on vacation in Taiwan. Chen was arrested in Hong Kong one month later, admitting the crime. However, based on the current law, criminals cannot be transferred among mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau. The Hong Kong government proposed the amendments to the extradition law to facilitate the transfer of Chen to Taiwan. In this proposition, the extradition of suspects is not limited between Hong Kong and Taiwan, but also mainland and Macau. Fearing that the amendments would make it easier for Beijing to arrest and send political opponents to mainland, citizens in Hong Kong have been in action against it since the end of March.

Following the protest, Beijing started to censor everything related to this issue. Except for very few national media comments, this protest basically went unnoticed on the internet. Below is a screenshot of the comments by Hu Xijin, chief editor in Global Times, before it was deleted on Weibo. In this post, he wrote that this protest was something normal under “one country two systems,” but if the future of Hong Kong is decided with “street politics,” Hong Kong would be the next Kiev, Cairo, or Bangkok. Hu mentioned that political figures including the United States Secretary of State have shown their supports to the Opposition Party in Hong Kong saying this protest was just another example of how the United States is trying to pressure China with Hong Kong. He also listed two interesting numbers: 240 thousand of protesters against the proposed extradition law, versus 820 thousand of citizens signing in favor of it. As for the most voted comments, they were unanimously against the protest and stating how unreasonable Hong Kong has been acting lately.

Another anecdote is that in the past, whenever there was a protest in Hong Kong, there were always certain celebrities involved. For celebrities from Hong Kong (or Taiwan), once they are suspected being an “independentist” it usually means the end of their career in the mainland. Since the majority of their income comes from the mainland, celebrities are usually very prudent when talking about politics. In 2014, Du Wenze, a famous Hong Kong actor, showed his support for the Sunflower Student Movement in Taiwan and the Occupy Movement in Hong Kong. Hearing this, mainland internet users started to boycott him and soon he was put on a celebrity blacklist by the National Radio and Television Administration. Several movies in which he was the lead were forced to cut all his scenes, and all his planned events in the mainland were cancelled. This time Hong Kong actor Liang Jinghui was accused by many in mainland of having participated in the protest last Sunday. Even though Liang has stated that he did not join the protest, his Weibo and Instagram accounts still received thousands of comments asking him to quit showbiz. Liang has set his Instagram account as private and closed the comment function on Weibo now.

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