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Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 23:41
#save12hkyouths campaign peddles deceptive narratives
By Tom Fowdy
Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 23:41 By Tom Fowdy

Over the past few weeks there has been a campaign circulating on social media called #save12hkyouths. The campaign, shared by prominent Hong Kong protest leaders, anti-China voices, some British politicians and even Greta Thunberg, alleges that 12 Hong Kong residents have been “arbitrarily detained” On the Chinese mainland following an attempt to escape by boat to Taiwan. Those advocating for the campaign portray those who have been caught as innocent refugees fleeing persecution, and also allege that the arrests are a violation of the “one country, two systems” arrangement by exposing them to the mainland’s legal system.

However, those pushing this aren’t giving you all the facts. Instead, there’s a large omission and act of deception going on. Clouded by the persistent assumption that all Hong Kong residents who face legal trouble must automatically be innocent, Western commentators who are peddling the campaign are not being told the facts that those arrested are facing criminal charges for acts that would be constituted as blatant terrorism in any Western country, and that they are not refugees but are in fact fugitives who were caught in the mainland’s territorial waters. It’s time to look at the facts.

Western media and governments have painted a narrative that the National Security Law for Hong Kong is unjust and is nothing more than oppression. In doing so, they have further peddled the assumptions that every single person prosecuted under the law is an innocent victim of political persecution, and that the provisions of the law that include fighting separatism, foreign interference, insurrection and terrorism must be illegitimate. Therefore in turn, every Hong Kong resident who flees the city facing arrest is automatically a refugee, hence the cancellation of extradition treaties by Western governments.     

For example, on the first day of the National Security Law’s implementation, a Hong Kong resident attempted to flee to Britain after stabbing a police officer. Although he was caught on the plane and arrested, if he had succeeded and escaped, authorities in London would have treated him as a refugee and denied the Hong Kong authorities the chance to pursue justice. The point being, the law is not being given a balanced assessment, and narrative is superseding fact; there is a belief, as there has been with the violent protests from the beginning, that Hong Kong activists can truly do no wrong, no matter how heinous their criminal acts.

And this could not be more the case with these so-called “12 Hong Kong youths”, who are not refugees, but fugitives. What the Western narrative is not telling you is that some of these individuals were part of a radical, ultraviolent group known as the “Dragonslayers”. As the name suggests, the group set out to pursue violent activities against police officers and the public at large. Members of the group who had fled the city are accused of planting bombs in public places, including at a college in the Wan Chai district. Second, reporting from the South China Morning Post also details that the authorities had confiscated firearms from the group. Next, the Hong Kong Standard sets out that the group was also involved in money-laundering activities, and observed the extortionate fees used to try to smuggle themselves out of the city. 

In any country, such a group pursuing violence and planting bombs for political gain would be considered a terrorist organization; there is no ambiguity about it. Yet the world is drip-fed the narrative that these people are unjustly persecuted. The group was caught in the mainland’s territorial waters; as the West advocates “one country, two systems” so strictly, it should realize the mainland has a separate immigration and border system to Hong Kong and therefore is allowed to respond to people who are entering its territory illegally, as well as those who are a security threat. Boats full of fugitives in America, or Australia, would not be tolerated, so why should the mainland tolerate it? There is no arbitrary or unjust detention here.

Given this, once again the world is being misled over Hong Kong by assuming the binary take of “good Hong Kong residents” versus “bad China and the National Security Law”. The #save12hkyouths campaign pretends that those accused of terrorist activities are innocent refugees fleeing persecution, and the term “youth” is used to try to push this narrative. Facts are being seriously omitted. These people were wanted by authorities for wrongdoing that is objectively a danger to the public; in turn, they also illegally entered the waters of the mainland in the attempt to escape to Taiwan. There has been a great deal of misinformation pushed to glorify the unrest in Hong Kong, and this particular incident could not be a more clear-cut case of deception on behalf of the likes of Joshua Wong Chi-fung. 

The author is a British political and international relations analyst. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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