Conspiracy theories have always been rife in Hong Kong. But it’s rare to find one of those in circulation to slip into mainstream Western media. Sadly, when it comes to reporting on China, critical or common sense is often thrown out the window. The latest is that the police deliberately let violent protesters into the legislature to wreak havoc to discredit their weeks-old campaign against the extradition bill, now suspended indefinitely, and against the government in general. In reality, though, whatever the police did or didn’t do, the people who set up those youngsters to fail and discredit themselves are the very same individuals – the yellow-ribbon pundits, opposition politicians, parents and teachers’ groups – who had goaded them on. Extent of rampaging protesters’ destruction in legislature revealed According to a Financial Times analysis: “[The] orderly and deliberate retreat by the police from their defence of the building, a calculated decision … allowed excited young protesters with no clear objectives to run amok. “It is inconceivable that the police abandoned their posts without the consent of Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive, Carrie Lam. It is also very unlikely she made that decision without first seeking Beijing’s permission … “Ms Lam, presumably with Beijing’s backing, appears to be gambling that the scenes of violence and senseless destruction will turn the majority of Hong Kong’s population against the young activists.” Most local critics I know blame the anti-riot officers’ withdrawal on the police and government, but the Financial Times now says the decision was made all the way up at the top – in Beijing! You read similar musings in The New York Times , Asia Times and Asia Sentinel, the latter with a headline, “Hong Kong’s demonstrators protest themselves into a trap”. Quite! But who’s ultimately responsible? Having won unexpectedly by forcing Lam to concede on the bill, many young people were not satisfied, so they escalated their fight and made more demands, which were not necessarily shared by the hundreds of thousands who marched against the bill. Without an ounce of political nous, their political elders refused to tell them they had won. Instead, young protesters were encouraged to confront the police and government with no clear purpose or time limit. Even without the vandalism at Legco, the public would eventually grow tired of their obstructionism and destructive antics. Thanks to the opposition’s cluelessness and opportunism, many young people are no longer seen as heroes, but hooligans being hunted by police.