As Beijing peddles the narrative on the mainland that the city’s long-running protest movement is the work of outside agitators, a local pro-establishment lawmaker has been spreading similar (unsubstantiated) allegations much closer to home, claiming foreign spies are seeking to make “Hong Kong the next Syria.”
Pro-Beijing politician Junius Ho — who has a long and proud tradition of saying things that are batshit crazy — circulated an image on Facebook last night containing photos of 10 apparent foreigners alleged to be “American agents” fomenting “revolution” in the SAR.
“American agents inciting Hong Kong people,” text accompanying the images in Ho’s post reads. “Providing 60 [million] to students and democrats for revolution. Making Hong Kong the next Syria.”
It was unclear whether Ho created the image — which has since been pulled down — or was simply recirculating it, but either way, let’s imagine for a second that it isn’t completely unnecessary for us to dissect how startlingly ignorant that remark is, and just go through the motions, shall we?
The Syrian civil war actually began when its undemocratic government refused to address the concerns of a popular protest movement (OK, now that part does sound familiar), instead launching a bloody crackdown on dissent. In fact, a UN Security Council resolution aimed at halting the violence in its early days was blocked by Russia and — no points for guessing — China.
Just for further comparison — again, as though it were necessary — while several dozen people have been treated for injuries in relation to protests in Hong Kong since mass demonstrations first kicked off in early June, some 400,000 people have been killed in Syria, with nearly 12 million more displaced.
Ho’s office today did not respond to requests for comment from Coconuts HK today as to the source of the allegations.
While most of those whose photos were included in Ho’s post couldn’t be identified, one appeared to be a foreigner named Brian who actually gave an interview to Ming Pao back in June, in which he said he’d lived in Hong Kong for 12 years, was raising two children here, and had come out to show his support for his adopted hometown.
Meanwhile, Ho’s post, unsurprisingly, drew widespread ridicule online.
“OMG there are so many foreign spies in Central, and even among my colleagues!” a user on the Reddit-like forum LIHKG quipped.
“Pretty sure there are many more weapons in Syria,” another drily noted. “Since we’re turning into the next Syria, can they send some over?”
Ho’s post echoed past attempts by the pro-Beijing camp to undermine the legitimacy of the Hong Kong protests, which were sparked by a controversial extradition bill and have since evolved into to include broader fears of Beijing’s encroachment on the city’s unique freedoms.
Pro-government outlets in recent weeks have claimed — without proof — that protesters were paid to take part in the record-breaking demonstrations, and to storm the LegCo at an unruly protest on July 1.
Prolific Hong Kong Twitter user Hong Kong Hermit, who has documented the protests extensively, was also singled out as a foreign agent today, first by a local pro-government politician, and again in a tweet by the Beijing-backed Global Times.
Why were foreigners there every time when riots occurred? Why did this foreigner command on the scene? #HongKong lawmaker CHIANG Lai-wan asked in a post showing that a foreigner videotaped clashes on Sunday night in Sha Tin and gave some instructions pic.twitter.com/saAHkdtjYj
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) July 15, 2019
“Why were foreigners there every time when riots occurred? Why did this foreigner command on the scene?” the Global Times’ tweet read, alongside the photo posted by the local pol.
Responding to the flap, Hong Kong Hermit said in a tweet that he was unaware he had been subversively directing protests behind the scenes.
“Even I have no idea what I was doing. Apparently I have more nervous tics than I thought.”
NOTE: This story has been updated to include Ho’s removal of the original Facebook post.