So this is what Trump meant by fake news – just look at reports about Hong Kong’s democracy activists

Yonden Lhatoo is starting to appreciate where Donald Trump is coming from when he calls out the biggest names in the US media for publishing fake news

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 August, 2017, 3:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 August, 2017, 7:17pm

One of life’s supreme ironies is how US President Donald Trump regularly calls out the giants of the American news media for biased reporting and “fake news”, considering that lying and peddling ludicrous “alternative facts” is second nature to him.

I mean, how can the long-trusted luminaries of international journalism be wrong and someone like Trump be right, right? Wrong. I’m beginning to understand where he’s coming from these days.

Just look at the Western media commentary on the recent jailing of young democracy activists by Hong Kong courts, with particular reference to the six- to eight-month prison terms for Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang.

The government succeeded in securing tougher sentences for the three musketeers after a lower court gave them slaps on the wrist for instigating and taking part in the clashes at government headquarters in 2014. That illegal and violent protest effectively triggered the Occupy sit-ins – 79 days of road blocks and all manner of lawlessness in the name of civil disobedience and democracy.

The New York Times dismissed due process of law in the city as “bogus charges” and called for the trio to be honoured with a Nobel Peace Prize. The Wall Street Journal went a step further to declare: “China forces local judges to send democratic activists to jail.”

Seriously? Our Court of Appeal judges were under orders from the Communist Party in Beijing to throw people in jail? And they complied? Give me a break.

All the jokes that are fit to print

Let me set the record straight for these astonishingly ill-informed bastions of balanced reporting, and anyone who’s lapping up the fake news they’re publishing.

We are all free to protest peacefully on the streets of Hong Kong, whether it’s over the plight of puppy dogs in pet shops or Beijing’s restrictions on electing our leaders by universal suffrage.

But the word “peaceful” is paramount here. In exerting our rights to freedom of assembly and expression, if we choose to climb over fences into restricted areas, smash our way into the Legislative Council building, or sit in the middle of the road and block traffic, there are laws in black and white entailing prosecution and punishment for such offences. It’s that simple, really.

Accusations of political motivation in activist jailings ‘totally unfounded’: Carrie Lam

Court of Appeal judge Derek Pang Wai-cheong couldn’t have made it clearer: “To treat long-standing and effective laws as unreasonable restrictions obstructing the freedom of expression, and to feel good about it after breaking the law as one wishes – such conduct does not allow the court for any reason to handle it with excessive leniency. People who hold such views not only break the law in conduct, but despise and transcend the law in spirit.”

How insulting that clueless commentators halfway across the world, with little to zero context about what’s happening here, get to casually dismiss respected judges like Pang as puppets under orders from Beijing.

Groups like Human Rights Watch have glorified the activists as “political prisoners” and suggested their jailing signals the end of peaceful protest in the city.

Again, seriously? On Sunday, more than 20,000 protesters took to the streets to decry the court ruling. They didn’t break any law, so there was no “repression” against them. As long as they remain peaceful like that, they are free to protest every day to their hearts’ content.

Like so many Hongkongers, I’m all for greater democracy, but let’s not kid ourselves. Take the hysterical headlines with dollops of salt: we have no Gandhi or Mandela in jail here.

Muppets, maybe, but martyrs? Sorry, no, not even close.

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post