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Hong Kong fact checkers urge citizens to be vigilant of online falsehoods

Hong Kong fact checkers remind citizens to be vigilant against content spreading online that could be fabricated with the intent of pitting people each other, a strategy commonly used by the Communist Party to divide the masses.

Even as the people in Hong Kong continue to push for the total withdrawal of the controversial Extradition Bill, pro-establishment social sites are spreading falsehoods in an attempt to undermine the movement and win support from the grassroots middle ground, according to Hong Kong news site, Appledaily.

In one example, a video published on 21 June was spread virally by pro-establishment social sites.

The video titled ‘To young people’ shows a person born in the 90s named ‘Louis Yen’ questioning why only young people are showing up to protest while their parents are hiding at home. The person in the video concluded that it’s because ‘parents no longer love their children’.

This video became a powerful weapon used to create discontent and uncertainty in progressive Hong Kong youths. It went viral in pro-establishment group chats where people in those groups criticised the youths at the protests as being disrespectful, going “against their parents” and even “against Hong Kong and the nation”.

However, a fact-check media site 求驗傳媒 actually revealed that the video was fabricated. The Facebook page of ‘Louis Yuen’ was only created only 15 June and has only 28 likes and 43 followers. With such a minor following, how could the video have gone viral this quickly?

The fact-check website said they respected this Louis Yuen’s right to freedom of expression but also questioned the claim that Yuen had attended the protest on 9 and 12 June which was made with no proof. They also questioned the lack of background given.

Attempts to reach out to the facebook account “Louis Yuen ” were unsuccessful. Netizens and HK media have since searched for his background and discovered the real name of this “Louis Yuen” is probably Louis Yeung 袁萬聲, an ex- student of Yan Chai Hospital Tung Chi Ying Memorial Secondary School.

Some netizens accused the video produced by a pro- establishment director Lee Lik-chee, who is also BOD of Tung Chi Ying Secondary School. But when questioned by Apple Daily Lee had refuted the accusation and asked the media to go verify themselves.

Appledaily spoke to Vincent Tsui, CEO of Toast Communications, who pointed out that the youngsters in the videos appear to be looking from left to right, which is a sign that they might be reading a script.

There were other videos as well which tried to imply that the protestors were “creating riots” or have been “manipulated by foreign influence” by showing foreigners staying with protestors. These videos were also widely spread by pro-establishment groups.

Hong Kong media veteran Dr. Allan Au expressed that although unable to prove if the said videos were indeed produced by the establishment, he remembers an incident five years ago when the Umbrella movement took to the streets. A listener had called into a radio station to complain that protestors had blocked the road which resulted in her not being able to arrive in time before her daughter-in-law passed away. Just 30 minutes after this listener complaint aired, the recording had spread virally among senior citizens.

Dr Au said that going for people emotions is a much more effective approach than trying to convince people with rational anti-Extradition Bill arguments.

“They don’t need to discuss the truth, they can exaggerate, or even create fake info.”

Another commenter, Ching Cheong pointed out that the video were probably released with a hidden agenda to ‘provoke people against people’ – a tactic often used by the CCP (Communist Party). Even within the establishment there’s a difference in opinion about the Extradition Bill, so they don’t talk about policies anymore. Instead, they use emotion as a weapon to fight public opinion.

Hong Kong fact-check sites are urging people to check relevant sources before sharing or forwarding news. For example, verifying the information with other news sites or within the group chat or using Google search to look up the sources of the photos and news that’s being shared.