The Hong Kong protests have escalated dramatically since June and things won’t be calming down any time soon given the stalemate between lawmakers and the pro-democracy protesters, as well as China’s influence on events.
The conflict has since spilled out into countries around the world, particularly in Australia. Demonstrations by Chinese communities and uni students in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne have become regular sights.
Much like what’s happening in Hong Kong, some of these demonstrations in Australia have occasionally gone a bit unruly due to tensions between pro-Beijing and pro-democracy crowds, though no tear gas cannisters have been shot at people yet, thankfully.
The reasons for this conflict isn’t as simple one side versus another, but a major factor for why this is happening in Australia can at least be partially attributed to China.
China has attempted to silence the pro-democracy protesters by spreading pro-Beijing propaganda and essentially stirring up conflict between among the Chinese community. But this tactic isn’t just confined to Hong Kong and China as propaganda has also spread to Australia and is having a similar effect.
Speaking to an international uni student from China, Crystal, they reveal that not only is there constant discussion about what’s happening in Hong Kong among Chinese students on a daily basis, there is a considerable amount of pro-Beijing material and Chinese media reports being spread around on online platforms like Weibo and WeChat.
Within Crystal’s friend groups, which comprises of people from both Hong Kong and China, material from both sides is rife but pro-Beijing propaganda makes up a much larger proportion of the stuff that’s being spread around.
While many demonstrations across Australia have been reported as peaceful, Chinese media reports have exaggerated them as being “violent”, mischaracterised protesters as being unruly and toxic, and have spread misinformation about alleged conflicts that never actually happened.
When I asked about how her Hong Kong friends and other international Hong Kongers are reacting to the protests, Crystal says while they’re understandably on the pro-democracy side, they are also unwilling to speak out due to the increasing number of pro-Beijing people opposing them, which is progressively getting worse due to the discord being sowed by China’s dissemination of fake news and propaganda.
It’s difficult to peacefully protest when not only are you largely outnumbered but the opposing side has been fed on a diet of misinformation that paints you as the spawn of Satan.
Everything that’s going down in Hong Kong right now is also happening in Australia, albeit on a smaller scale. And just like how tensions over there aren’t going to ease up any time soon, there’s conflict simmering underneath the surface here Down Under that won’t be going away just yet.