Occupy Central

Wiser to shut out Hong Kong's media echo chamber

Lau Nai-keung says extreme views and horror stories only distort reality

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 March, 2013, 3:18am

Recently, some visitors from the mainland recounted their happy experiences here in Hong Kong. Contrary to their impressions from the media before they came here, they found that Hongkongers are, on the whole, courteous and helpful. During their short stay, the tourists encountered no hostility or discrimination.

Of course, such stories are anecdotal, but no more so than the horror stories reported in the media and the "war cries" on the web. If our hospitality towards mainland visitors is as poor as some people want us to believe, how can you explain that, on average, some 100,000 of them continue to flock here every day?

In this vein, when I saw a recent online poll in this newspaper indicating that 95 per cent of respondents (at the time of writing) believed Hong Kong people favoured reverting to British rule, the figure was so incredible that I didn't even laugh; I just rolled my eyes in exasperation.

If the figure had been around 10 per cent, I would have taken a serious look, and if the figure was perhaps 35 per cent, then I would have laughed. But 95 per cent? I know the results are from a highly biased sample of English speakers, but still …

Much of the media nowadays resembles a mirror at a funfair, which never renders the truth of what is actually around us, but instead reflects distorted images.

This is especially true given the now fashionable brand of journalism where facts and commentary are frequently mixed together and reporters who are mostly young and inexperienced tend to fuse their political bias into their reporting. Many intentionally use their self-righteousness as a political weapon. Some people have become so engrossed in this game that they do not take the distortions at face value but instead use them to attack others who do not share their perceptions.

The internet exacerbates this phenomenon as it tends to group together like minds. On Facebook, for example, practically all an account holder's friends share similar views and, as a result, that person tends to think they are right and their views represent those of the majority. There is also a feeling of power when, at a click, you seem to be able to summon thousands of people into concerted action.

What you see through the media is somewhat divorced from the real world. This is especially true for outsiders, and that is why so many books have been written by outside observers forecasting the collapse of the Chinese economy and its government, yet it has never come to pass. The anecdotal evidence is there and the analysis is compelling, but the authors write from the other end of a long, long tunnel and see only a limited view.

For those who live in the real world and do not get most of their information from the media (that is, most people), they do not buy this rubbish, no matter how hard it is pushed.

Amid all the fanfare, you may have been led to believe that Hong Kong citizens are on the whole against national education. But talk to parents; they know where the opportunities lie and where their children will have a better career, and they fight to get their children into Putonghua play groups and kindergartens.

And if you think most people share the view that the food across the border is totally unsafe, just look at the popularity of gourmet tours to the mainland.

Given this background, do many people really support the dissidents' unrealistic demands for universal suffrage in 2017 to the point that they will participate in civil disobedience, occupy Central and precipitate a "colour revolution" of some sort?

I think you know the answer already. Personally, I just cannot help but roll my eyes again.

Lau Nai-keung is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee, and also a member of the Commission on Strategic Development