NBC News

NBC News 13 Aug 2019

Trump Calls Hong Kong Protests A 'Very Tough Situation'


President Trump commented on the clashes between protesters and police in Hong Kong, calling it a "very tough situation" and that he "hopes it works out for everybody."

"The world is watching" - that is the chant on the streets of Hong Kong as images of mega-protests are beamed around the globe.

Two million people in a territory of seven million went out to stop the passage of a controversial law that would allow suspected criminals to be extradited to mainland China.

But even though the extradition bill was suspended, the black-clad, helmet-wearing protesters haven't stopped their demonstrations.

Global news outlets have covered the movement's additional demand that Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, to resign and their accusations against police for using undue force against protesters.

"Hong Kong's situation has been taken up by the international media, almost uniformly ... saying that Hong Kong is being threatened. They say this is a David and Goliath story," says Einar Tangen, a political and economic affairs commentator.

When Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, the "one country, two system" framework that came into force promised citizens a "high degree of autonomy for 50 years" - which explains the lack of an extradition treaty with mainland China.

But critics say there have been plenty of signs that Beijing is already influencing politics and the state of the media in Hong Kong.

"It's not just about the bill but about China's attitude towards press freedom and its understanding of judicial independence," says Shirley Yam of the Hong Kong Journalists Association. "Several journalists and editors from Hong Kong have been harassed or even sentenced to jail by mainland authorities with charges that have nothing to do with their reports."

According to Yuen Chan, a Senior Lecturer at the City University of London, "We've seen creeping self-censorship, we've seen businesses withdrawing their advertising under pressure from needing to do business with China. So, all those things are very real threats. But at the same time, compared to the press in mainland China, the Hong Kong media is far more vibrant, is out there exposing scandals and people are very proud of that. And the fact that the media can report on these demonstrations is very important to the people of Hong Kong."

Yet, regardless of the extensive international news coverage, state-run news outlets in mainland China either ignored the demonstrations or echoed the party line, claiming that there's a Western conspiracy at play.

"Some people ... have really been completely brainwashed into thinking that all these protests are initiated by 'foreign influences'. But that's just ridiculous. Like two million people on the street ... of course, that is not true and, but that's what they're trying to tell the public in China," says Denise Ho, singer and pro-democracy activist.

The numbers on the streets of Hong Kong are considerably higher than the 2014 mass protests over proposed electoral reforms, because the stakes have grown larger with the passage of time.

The city-state is now five years closer to losing what autonomy it has - the remnants of a democracy, the semblance of a free media - five years closer to 2047 and direct rule by Beijing.

If Hong Kong were in control of its own future, those two million people on the streets would amount to real political power, a force to be reckoned with.

But it's not. And there is a country of 1.4 billion people next door and a government in Beijing that, like the media that the state controls, is treating Hong Kong's protests as a non-story.
In Hong Kong, protests against a controversial extradition bill continue, but China is looking to downplay the unrest. According to BuzzFeed News, Chinese state media has published a series of stories with false information. CNET senior producer Dan Patterson joined CBSN to explain what China is doing and why.
On The Listening Post this week: As Hong Kongers come out in millions, China seeks to downplay the protests. Plus, the B-scheme films - movies of South Africa's apartheid era.

Covering the Hong Kong protests
"The world is watching" - that is the chant on the streets of Hong Kong as images of mega protests are beamed around the globe.

Two million people in a territory of seven million went out to stop the passage of a law that would allow suspected criminals to be extradited to mainland China.

We examine the dissonance between the coverage of the protests in Hong Kong and mainland China, as well as the effect the bill could have on journalists in the Special Administrative Region.


Denise Ho - singer and pro-democracy activist

Yuen Chan - senior lecturer, City University of London

Shirley Yam - vice chairperson, Hong Kong Journalists Association

Einar Tangen - political & economic affairs commentator

On our radar:
Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Meenakshi Ravi about how arguably the biggest news story of the year in Egypt went barely noticed by Egyptian media - deliberately; and Heshmat Alavi is back - the reportedly fake Iranian activist is reinstated by Twitter

The propaganda films of apartheid-era South Africa
We look at a slice of history: film-making in South Africa during the era of apartheid.

Among the subsidies the government offered to the film industry back then was the so-called "B scheme". To qualify, filmmakers - who were mostly white back then - had to produce films with black casts, for black audiences, in a black South African language such as Zulu, Xhosa or Tswana.

But why would the apartheid government - with its policies of racism, oppression and segregation - help bankroll movies that were made - ostensibly - for the entertainment of black South Africans?

The Listening Post's Nic Muirhead explores.


Charles Mokatsane - cinema owner

Benjamin Cowley - CEO, Gravel Road Productions

Gairoonisa Paleker - senior lecturer, University of Pretoria

Tonie Van der Merwe - filmmaker
China said the U.S. should remove its "black hand" from Hong Kong's protests, in some of its most pointed criticism yet against what it says is American interference in the city's affairs.

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