Decoding Mainstream and Various Media Accounts of Hong Kong’s 2019 Protests

Decoding Mainstream and Various Media Accounts of Hong Kong’s 2019 Protests

On the morning of November 12th 2019, Hong Kong awoke a metropolis divided. Division was hardly new in a area that, since June of that yr, had been the location of large-scale civil unrest. This unrest might, within the easiest phrases, be described as a conflict between pan-democratic and pro-establishment pursuits. What had begun as peaceable protests towards an extradition invoice proposed by the HK Authorities, shortly turned a motion towards police brutality. Finally, the motion morphed into one which sought to guard the autonomy of the HK area and outline (and in some ways, redefine) its relationship with Mainland China. It was on November 12th, as experiences of the day before today’s occasions circulated, that these divisions reached a climax. That earlier morning in Sai Wan Ho, a 21-year outdated pupil was shot by a policeman. The picture of the of the capturing went viral. That very same morning, in Ma On Shan, a building employee was doused in petrol and set alight throughout a verbal confrontation with a bunch of protesters. Within the media, two completely totally different representations of the occasions of this present day emerged, every portraying a special group because the antagonist. As this essay will discover, a lot of the polarised nature of this reporting might be attributed to the variations between mainstream and various media. This essay will examine these two sorts of media in HK, drawing consideration to the methods of energy that work to affect their reporting. Then, recognising the polarised nature of reporting through the 2019 protests, this essay will argue {that a} rejection of the binary opposition logic employed by media organisations will enable observers to extra responsibly interpret and devour these evidently contradictory narratives.

Mainstream and various media

The association of capital inside mainstream media organisations cause them to inherently symbolize institutional pursuits. Utilizing a media ecology framework, Wang (2018, p. 3709) positions mainstream media inside broader social, financial and political constraints. Possession serves as one of many main constraints on a media organisation’s reporting freedoms, functioning as an institutional affiliation to a prescribed energy association (Wang 2018, p. 3709). In HK, media possession has turn into more and more concentrated within the fingers of wealthy tycoons with ties to China’s political elite (Wang 2018, p. 3709). Promoting income additionally serves as the same constraint on journalistic freedoms. Because the handover of HK in 1997, the Chinese language Authorities has used its affect over Chinese language-owned or Chinese language-dependant corporations to manage the circulation of promoting funds to media retailers. In 2014, on the route of the Chinese language Authorities’s Liaison Workplace, Normal Chartered, HSBC and Grasp Seng banks ceased promoting with Apple Each day after the newspaper revealed dissenting views (The Economist 2014, p. 40). The HK authorities additionally makes use of its management over info channels to affect reporting. More and more, mainstream media shouldn’t be a worthwhile enterprise in HK and those that do function within the area depend on subsidised info and information materials from the federal government (Wang 2018, p. 3714). Media organisations are primarily enticed to keep away from criticism so as to keep favour with the federal government. As a result of mainstream media retailers function in an ecosystem linked to capital and political favour, they invariably serve to guard institutional energy preparations.

This institutional energy inherent in HK’s mainstream media manifests within the type of self-censorship. Lee and Chan (2009, p. 112) outline self-censorship as “a set of editorial actions dedicated by media organisations aiming to curry favour and keep away from offending the facility stakeholders”. In 2014 the HK Journalists Affiliation labelled the previous twelve months because the “darkest for press freedoms in a number of many years” (The Economist 2014, p. 39). In a survey of native journalists, 79% believed that self-censorship amongst fellow journalists had risen within the area since 2005, and 36% reported having witnessed it or practised it themselves (The Economist 2014, p. 39). Such behaviour was significantly evident through the 2014 Umbrella Motion. For instance, HK’s main free-to-air TV community initially aired a report that accused police of ‘dragging a protester right into a darkish nook and punching and kicking him’, however the voiceover for this phase was shortly modified to report that ‘officers could have used extreme power’ (Kwong 2015, p. 285). This improve in self-censorship would finally coalesce with the rise of road politics in HK to result in main change within the media panorama.

Various media emerged in HK to fill a void left by the failure of mainstream media to symbolize the more and more numerous views of the inhabitants. If mainstream media is characterised by its ties to institutional energy buildings, then various media operates exterior of such constraints and seeks to actively problem them. As Wang (2018, p. 3711) writes, “various media manufacturing accumulates symbolic assets to subvert hegemonic powers and creates an area for the cultivation of resistance”. Various media typically has a rebellious perspective, as Downing (2001, p. xi) neatly summarises, “If various media have one factor in frequent, it’s that they break any person’s guidelines”. It sometimes takes the type of on-line broadcasting, underground press and citizen journalism. These three sorts of media had been to turn into essential through the 2019 protests.

Protection of 2019 protests

An understanding of mainstream and various media in HK helps to elucidate why reporting of the 2019 protests was so very polarised. In broad phrases, the views of the pro-establishment camp had been represented by mainstream media organisations, and the views of the pan-democratic motion had been represented in various media. That is merely a mirrored image of the origins of every media-type. Mainstream media is essentially tied to the facility buildings that the pro-establishment camp search to guard. Equally, various media developed to symbolize subversive views that might finally turn into the inspiration of the pan-democratic motion. This essay will now discover how, through the 2019 protests, mainstream and various media superior two very totally different narratives by way of using language, self-censorship and selective reporting.

One of the crucial visible ways in which reporting of the protests turned polarised was within the language used. The HK Authorities constantly referred to these taking to the streets as ‘rioters’. This language was echoed in a lot of HK’s mainstream media, even by the supposedly ‘impartial’ South China Morning Put up (SCMP). SCMP’s protection was actually extra goal than that of its mainstream counterparts, however even it needed to make selections over its use of language – selections that finally revealed editorial preferences. The entrance web page of the October 6th 2019 version of the newspaper carried the headline, “Lam calls on public to sentence rioters”, with a by-line referring to “emergency measures within the combat towards lawlessness” (Chung 2019, p. 1). The language right here insinuates that the protesters are within the minority, and don’t symbolize the desire of the ‘common public. This text was written below a bit titled ‘social unrest’, with related articles that includes within the day’s newspaper that used language emphasising the disruptive influence of the protests (Sunday Morning Put up October 6 2019, p. 3-4). Media retailers in mainland China used even stronger language to place the protesters because the antagonists. The state-backed World Instances (2019a; 2019b) typically referred to the ‘terrorists’ and ‘black terror’ that had engulfed the town. In distinction, various media resembling HK Free Press (HKFP), Put up 852 and InMediaHK used the phrases ‘protesters’ and ‘freedom fighters’ and different language that burdened the emancipatory and consultant nature of the motion (Sham-Shackleton 2019). Using language performed a key function in shaping the polarised narratives that emerged from the 2019 protests.

Self-Censorship has beforehand been mentioned on this essay as the first approach through which the facility of possession manifests in mainstream media. Historically, self-censorship enforced by the Chinese language state might be characterised by a listing of three ‘no’s’ (Kwong 2015, p. 277). Don’t speak about Taiwanese or Tibetan independence; don’t encourage subversion; and don’t insult management. In 2019, this listing expanded to incorporate the protest motion. It was slightly arduous for mainstream media in HK to utterly ignore the existence of road protests, but this was a lot simpler throughout the border in China. Chinese language media ignored the protests for a month earlier than lastly reporting their existence in its personal ideologically pushed method (BBC 2019). This was important for 2 causes. First, there’s a flurry of motion throughout the HK-Mainland China border on daily basis. Individuals who devour their information throughout the closed-off Chinese language media ecosystem then arrive in HK with equally slender views of the unfolding battle and contribute to the divide at road degree. Second, some Chinese language diaspora use Chinese language media networks. This has seen divided representations of the protests prolong far exterior of China and HK and led to confrontations resembling what occurred at College of Queensland in 2019 (Hamilton-Smith 2019). In HK, China and overseas, self-censorship practised by mainstream media has contributed to the polarisation of narratives represented in public area.

This essay argues that one other main contributor to the polarisation of media narratives in HK has been selective reporting. Selective reporting is just like self-censorship in that they each contain a selective strategy as to which incidents to acknowledge. But the 2 differ as a result of while self-censorship is practised to realize favour with larger powers, selective reporting is practised to advance one’s personal ideological place. On this sense, each mainstream and various media are responsible of such behaviour. It will be a mistake to conflate the independence of different media with neutrality. Various media carries subversive parts by nature of its improvement (Fuchs 2010, p. 188; Silverstone 1999, p. 103). The road between media and civilians additionally turned more and more blurred in HK in 2019 as citizen journalism proliferated (Vukovich 2019, p. 203). This isn’t to recommend that journalistic requirements are being compromised. However relatively that the media is actually used as a instrument to advance ideological pursuits.

From a pro-establishment perspective, a story was constructed that accused Western powers of interfering in Chinese language home politics by inciting riots and violence. The illustration of this was made all the better by the ocean American flags that might invariably characteristic in road protests. Portraying the protesters as representing a minority was key within the improvement of this narrative. Additionally key, was the portrayal of police as peacekeepers in a metropolis ravaged by violent anarchists. Nevertheless, largely absent on this narrative was any try to meaningfully acknowledge any human rights abuses inflicted by police or authorities.

From a pan-democratic perspective, the narrative superior by various media positioned peaceable protesters as victims of police violence and constitutional overreach from the Chinese language and HK Governments. There have been many visually placing and confronting pictures of road protests and clashes with police that served to help this model of occasions. Absent, nonetheless, was any engagement with the duty born by the protesters for acts of violence and destruction. Additionally absent, was the acknowledgement of the xenophobic parts of the protests that Vukovich (2019, p. 201) alludes to.

Rejecting binary opposition logic

The ultimate a part of this essay acknowledges the difficulties that people confronted in responsibly consuming and deciphering media protection in regards to the protests. This essay will recommend a approach of setting up occasions that helps observers to reach at a conclusion that’s least-influenced by the ideological agendas of different events. It begins by rejecting the binary oppositional logic that D’Cruz (2020, p. 17) argues people have been conditioned into deciphering the world by way of since early childhood. Certainly, this text is responsible of such behaviour by way of its use of a pro-establishment/pan-democratic dichotomy. However in actuality, this doesn’t embrace the complexity of the battle, nor acknowledge your complete spectrum of pursuits represented. Such a binary strategy permits the media (each mainstream and various) to make use of essentially the most excessive representations of every ‘aspect’ to classify its entirety. Evidently although, the employees becoming a member of in genuinely peaceable protests throughout their lunch breaks weren’t the identical protesters who had been burning down practice stations and vandalising Mainland-linked companies at night time. Equally, not all who condemned the nightly violence had been supportive of the actions of police, nor had been they mouthpieces for the Chinese language Communist Social gathering. To conclude, if we are able to reject the binary oppositional logic of media organisations, it permits us to critique the best way through which they use essentially the most excessive representations of the opposition to color them of their entirety.


This essay has explored mainstream and various media in Hong Kong and the methods of energy that work to affect its reporting. It has then mirrored on the best way through which this led to the polarised nature of media reporting through the 2019 protests. Lastly, this essay has prompt that an strategy that rejects the binary opposition logic of media organisations will assist observers to develop convictions which can be least-influenced by the ideological agendas of others. Within the 12 months for the reason that 2019 protests reached a climax, press freedoms in HK have been additional constrained, not least by the imposition of the Hong Kong Nationwide Safety Legislation. This legislation has each posed a menace to the freedoms of different media, but in addition made it all of the extra vital in a area the place the narratives propagated by the mainstream media more and more don’t mirror the values of the overall inhabitants.


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Written at: La Trobe College
Written for: Carol D’Cruz
Date written: October 2020

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