Social media in Hong Kong, a privileged but controversial space for freedom of expression

Hong Kong has never been the center of attention as much as since June 2019. This independent region is especially known for being a major financial hub for Asian business. However, the proposed law to extradite political opponents to China has triggered a wave of demands among the population.

These clashes take place in the stree. But Hong Kong residents have found a privileged space on social networks for communicating their demands. An estimated 49% of demonstrators are young people. And by young people, we mean those under 30 years of age.

It’s therefore not unusual that they would express themselves, disseminate information and even denounce police violence on social media. But now, social media is also being used by the government as a propaganda tool.

 

Twitter: the network for pro-government activism

Surprisingly, Twitter is not the preferred network for demonstrators. This social network is considered unsafe because it’s been “Infiltrated” by China. This is despite unofficial figures indicating that 10 million subscribers would live in China.

Monitoring the slightest tweet from a resident or even an expatriate, this type of media (like so many others) is subject to increased surveillance by the Chinese government. We’re getting closer and closer to a George Orwell remake…

In fact, the Chinese and Hong Kong governments have implemented two techniques to control social media information.

 

Censorship

China is accustomed to this sort of practice. Its stranglehold over foreign social networks such as Twitter is just another example. Moreover, no form of media has escaped the absence of articles in the Sino-Hungarian press on the demonstrations taking place in Hong Kong during the month of June….

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has also published a study on the use of Weibo by the Chinese Communist Party.

Weibo is, in fact, the 1st Chinese microblogging site. Besides it holds the world record for the number of registered users with more than 340 million people. Since 2017, it has surpassed Twitter with its 330 million subscribers (figures from the first quarter of 2019).

This microblogging site is subjected to scrutiny from the Chinese government, which is particularly vigilant with regard to comments from diplomatic representatives of foreign countries. The institute even confirms that there are 13,000 Weibo employees dedicated to censorship within the famous company. Indeed, Weibo is already known as the Chinese Twitter.

If 75% of the posts are censored due to the fact that they mention a Chinese leader, imagine what must be happening with the demonstrations.

 

A  monopoly of information

The second form of authoritarianism applied by the government is the control of information. Censorship is the first step. IN second, you’ll fnd the diffusion of pro-government messages or those in support of the Hong Kong police.

Some say that the Twitter posts come from the Chinese government in order to spread propaganda through the international media. Yet the accounts are more problematic than the content. Between those whose creation coincides with the beginning of the movement and those declared inactive, the most skeptical decry the manipulation of information through false accounts run by the government…

Criticized and kicked around in Europe for their superficial side on the other side of the continent, social networks make perfect sense:

  • For protesters, it’s a question of creating social unity. In order to resist the intrusive gaze and systematic repression of the Hong Kong police by reporting unfiltered news from the demonstrations.
  • For the government, it consists of using this channel as a medium for the dissemination of the information it chooses to broadcast.

 

The virtual ideological debate should not obscure the root of the problem…. If the dissemination of information is necessary, the situation remains worrisome to say the least. And the use of social networks is ineffective in the face of growing concern among Hong Kong residents. Especially about what’s already being called the “next Tienanmen Square”.

 

To read: China a Big Brother State