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China sends 30 letters to media companies in attempt to control Hong Kong coverage

China's President Xi Jinping. (Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS/Abaca Press/TNS)
August 22, 2019

China sent more than 30 letters to media outlets this week pushing them to correct what they consider biased reporting about Hong Kong.

The letters mailed on Tuesday included a “41-page dossier of news clippings” showing alleged bias toward the Hong Kong conflict, and urging the outlets exercise diligence to help “protesters ignorant of the truth to get back to the right path” according to South China Morning Post.

China said it had proof of “foreign interference” and added, “there is still some coverage based on selective facts or no facts at all.”

The letter was signed by Hua Chunying, the new head of foreign ministry information department in China.

Among the media outlets were Reuters, Bloomberg, and The Wall Street Journal, Reuters reported.

“Hong Kong is at critical moment,” the letter said, according to South China Morning Post. “The call for rule of law, order and tranquillity represents the mainstream public opinion in Hong Kong. The pressing task is to stop violence, end chaos and restore order, where I believe the media have an important role to play.

“I hope that you and the media agency you lead will take up your due social responsibility and make reports that are neutral, objective, impartial and comprehensive, so that your coverage may help those protesters ignorant of the truth to get back to the right path, and help those who have been seriously misled to come to a rational and fair judgment,” the letter added.

China’s dossier outlined the alleged biased incidents throughout more than 11 weeks of protests in Hong Kong.

“The documents included a timeline of how the protests began, saying that Hong Kong’s opposition and some ‘radical forces’ had used the pretext of peaceful demonstration to engage in violent protests, as well as articles which it said pointed to links between ‘foreign forces’ and protesters,” Reuters reported.

China has made other attempts at controlling the narrative surrounding Hong Kong via social media.

On Monday, Twitter announced the ban of 936 accounts as part of a massive 200,000-account campaign connected to the Chinese government for spreading propaganda about Hong Kong.

“These accounts 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,” Twitter said in a blog post on Monday.

Facebook also banned five accounts, seven pages, and three groups from individuals connected to the Chinese government, citing “coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a small network that originated in China and focused on Hong Kong,” according to a press release.

The protesters have been demonstrating in Hong Kong’s streets since June in response to a proposed extradition bill that would’ve allowed those charged with crimes to be extradited to China for prosecution. Although the bill was suspended after initial demonstrations, the protests have continued for more than two months as frustrated citizens show their rejection of Chinese control.

Frustrations have swelled as the police response is suspected of having amped up tensions. Riot police have responded to protesters by firing tear gas and water cannons in the streets and at Hong Kong International Airport where demonstrations shut down flights for two days earlier this month. China also deployed military vehicles just 18 miles from the Hong Kong border where they were spotted assembling troops for a massive anti-riot exercise.