Burden of ‘Proof’: Pro-Beijing group mocked over apparently faked evidence of paid protesters

Screenshot via Facebook/Silent Majority.
Screenshot via Facebook/Silent Majority.

A pro-Beijing group has been mocked online after posting a “news article” claiming that the pro-democracy camp was paying actors to join Sunday’s enormous anti-extradition protests, supporting the scandalous allegation with some, shall we say, dubious evidence.

On Saturday, the Silent Majority for Hong Kong posting to their Facebook page what they claimed was a screengrab of a WhatsApp message from an unspecified pro-democracy organizer offering HK$500 (about US$64) to people willing to take part in Sunday’s march, which ultimately saw tens of thousands take to the streets to protest legal changes that would allow Hongkongers to be extradited to the mainland.

The only problem with the seemingly damning revelation was that the screengrab shows a sent message, not a received one, implying that the purported evidence was staged. (For those unfamiliar with WhatsApp, sent messages appear in green bubbles in conversations, while received messages appear in white ones.)

While the article itself appears to have been removed, a photo of the screengrab is still on the group’s Facebook page, and many netizens have been leaving comments poking fun at the embarrassing error.

“So you’re the yellow terror!” said one commenter, referring to the color associated with the pro-democracy camp.

Another user called attention to the obviousness of the error: “Even my grandma knows that when the background is green it’s a message you’ve sent!”

Some, meanwhile, commended the group for being “bold” enough to post something that was so clearly fake, while others accused the group of trying to brainwash Hongkongers like modern-day Red Guards.

The discontent even extended to some of Silent Majority’s supporters, who expressed disappointment that the group has refused to issue a retraction, and urged it to apologize as soon as possible.

One person asked: “Why would you contribute to fake news in Hong Kong? Do you want to deceive Hongkongers?”

The Silent Majority for Hong Kong was founded in 2013 as an anti-Occupy Central group that claimed that mass occupation of the city’s busiest districts would lead to chaos and death in the melodramatic video below. (It’s worth a watch if only for its very literal depiction of Central as the “heart of Hong Kong” — which is then stabbed with a huge knife.)

The group also publishes blog posts and attack pieces targeting individual members of the pro-democracy camp. A recent one criticized Joshua Wong for going to see Avengers: Endgame on Wednesday instead of supporting his fellow pro-democracy activists who were being sentenced for their roles in the 2014 mass protests known as the Umbrella Movement.

In his own defense, Wong wrote on Instagram that he felt physically and mentally exhausted that day thanks to numerous media interviews and needed to recharge. Even pro-democracy activists occasionally need a break, apparently.

Silent Majority’s claim that the pro-dem forces were paying protesters was particularly ironic given that pro-Beijing “blue ribbon” groups have been caught doing just that, as this Coconuts HK report from August of 2014 shows.

Sunday’s march saw tens of thousands of people hit the streets of Hong Kong protesting a government plan to allow extraditions to the mainland. The large turnout was also partly attributed to public anger over last week’s sentencing of eight activists for their roles in the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests.

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CITY: HONG KONGCATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: POLITICS, VIRAL, WEIRD

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