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Published: 00:51, September 07, 2021 | Updated: 09:51, September 07, 2021
Hard lessons from the '831' fake murder story
By Tony Kwok
Published:00:51, September 07, 2021 Updated:09:51, September 07, 2021 By Tony Kwok

Recently, a picture showing a group of Hong Kong people dressed as typical black-clad rioters in the 2019 social unrest was being circulated on social media. It showed them gathered around Piccadilly Circus in London, commemorating the two-year anniversary of the so-called “831 incident”. 

They put up a cardboard model of the Prince Edward MTR station at the center of the Circus fountain, turning one of the most popular landmarks in London into an open funeral parlor to mourn the imaginary dead people in the incident. Apparently, the event was organized by one of the Hong Kong fugitives now seeking political asylum in the United Kingdom as he is wanted by Hong Kong police for his misdeeds in connection with the unrest. Not surprisingly, one of the speakers at the event was Benedict Rogers, the co-founder of the virulent anti-China Hong Kong Watch, who never misses an opportunity to smear China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government. How he stooped so low by using an obviously fake story to pursue his questionable political objective speaks volumes about his personal moral decay. There is little doubt that the event was organized with his help.  

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, the comparable scene could not be more different. Despite repeated appeals on social media for people to attend the so-called commemorative event at the Prince Edward MTR station on Aug 31, not a soul turned up despite the presence of a large group of “media reporters”, with two possibly fake reporters arrested for causing a nuisance in public and obstructing police officers.

This subdued scene was a stark contrast to the days before the enactment of the National Security Law for Hong Kong, when on almost every 31st day of the month since the non-event of Aug 31, 2019, there was a dramatic but absurd fake mourning of imaginary murders reportedly perpetrated by our police officers within the MTR complex. Despite the display of flowers and incense in memory of the imaginary victims, this sham ritual would often deteriorate into violence, oftentimes resulting in arson, and vandalism to the MTR infrastructure, leading to the station’s temporary closure, and sometimes engulfing the nearby Mongkok Police Station.

There are several obvious conclusions that any reasonable person can draw from this sharp contrast. First, people have finally wised up to the reality that they have been conned into believing the extrajudicial killings as the police tried to suppress the rioting inside the station. Many were fooled by the time-honored adage, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth”. And let’s face it, the opposition politicians and activists display a greater mastery of social media than their pro-establishment counterparts! This despite repeated denials from police, the MTR management, the Hospital Authority and the Ambulance Service, and that no dead bodies were ever found, nor were there any reports of missing persons. The opposition even floated the fake story that the police had speedily removed all the dead bodies and had them all cremated and buried. Finally, the identities of six people who were said to have been killed in the incident were found to be alive and well, including the organizer of the Piccadilly Circus memorial event! This pathetic charade of mourning did not end until the National Security Law was enacted last year.

This mass deception came crashing down once its main pillar of support was taken away. This came with the arrest of Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and the closure of his Apple Daily group, which provided most major opposition activities with financial and publicity support

Second, this mass deception came crashing down once its main pillar of support was taken away. This came with the arrest of Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and the closure of his Apple Daily group, which provided most major opposition activities with financial and publicity support. It has been revealed that the beneficiaries of Lai’s largesse include the Civil Human Rights Front, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and other high-profile groups; most of them have since disbanded on their own or are staying out of the limelight.

Third, many opposition politicians and rioters had counted on the United States to support their “democracy” movement. During the 2019 social unrest, US flags were carried by throngs of marchers to the US consulate general seeking its support. It is no secret that American consulate officials were actively helping them behind the scenes, and were egging them on to start a “color revolution”. But in the wake of the US’ messy and humiliating retreat from Afghanistan, the world has woken up to the reality that America is not a reliable ally, and it will have no compunction dumping a loyal ally if it serves its own interest. Many of its former allies among the opposition parties and activists in Hong Kong must now feel a grave sense of betrayal and have lost motivation to fight on. 

But the nail in the coffin of the opposition’s anti-establishment campaign is the National Security Law’s deterrent effect. In the latest social unrest court case, seven opposition activists and former lawmakers were jailed for up to 16 months for organizing unauthorized anti-government protest marches in 2019 that degenerated into vandalism and violence. They are all household names and have all been active public protest organizers for years, such as the CHRF convener, Figo Chan Ho-wun; ex-lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung, Albert Ho Chun-yan, Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Avery Ng Man-yuen and Yeung Sum; and activist Raphael Wong Ho-ming.

Their prison sentences are well deserved, actually on the light side, in my view. Particularly heinous is the fact that these defendants, in their appeal to the public, emphasized that peaceful and violent protesters were equally welcome to join them in defying a police ban by attending the Oct 20 rally, marching from Salisbury Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui to the West Kowloon terminus on Austin Road. An estimated 350,000 people responded to their appeal and turned up, with some protesters vandalizing the Tsim Sha Tsui police station, traffic lights, shops, restaurants, banks and train stations along the way. The total repair cost and loss amounted to HK$7.3 million (US$940,000).

As the District Court Judge Amanda Woodcock said in her sentencing remarks, an immediate prison term was only appropriate, given the criminal and violent acts committed by the hardcore protesters, whose presence had been anticipated by the leaders of the march before it commenced.

One stark contrast to the previous sentencing of these activists is that there is complete silence from the foreign governments and politicians who used to respond vociferously to any sentencing of opposition politicians or activists. It’s clear that once they realized that their pawns in Hong Kong were no longer useful, they were unceremoniously discarded. In any case, there is not much these foreign puppet masters can do or say since the defendants have all willingly pleaded guilty to the charges of organizing an unauthorized assembly and incitement, and to knowingly taking part. 

Hong Kong people should thank the central authorities for enacting the National Security Law, which is now a bedrock of peace and order. Meanwhile, the SAR government should speed up the enactment of a fake news law to prevent another “831” fake murder story from spiraling out of control, causing great harm to society.

The author is an adjunct professor of HKU Space and council member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies. He is a former deputy commissioner of the ICAC and an international anti-corruption consultant.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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