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China’s state broadcaster has been running a series of evening reports criticising the protesters in Hong Kong. Photo: CCTV

China’s top television news show runs week of reports slamming Hong Kong protesters

  • CCTV’s prime-time evening programme takes aim at all aspects of recent marches and violent clashes
  • Mainland journalist says media companies under strict orders to use only Communist Party approved content in reports on situation in Hong Kong

China’s most watched daily television news programme has aired a series of damning reports about the anti-government protesters in Hong Kong and blamed “external forces” for helping to disrupt order in the city.

State broadcaster CCTV’s prime-time evening news programme Xinwen Lianbo began the run on Saturday with a report promoting the “Protect Hong Kong” rally organised by Beijing supporters at Tamar Park in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong.

Subsequent reports covered the violent protests outside Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong on Sunday night when protesters sprayed anti-China slogans on the wall of the building and splashed black paint on the national emblem.

On Thursday, the programme interviewed businesspeople and Hong Kong residents who said the city’s economy would suffer if the protests continued.

Johnny Wei, 45, a businessman who lives in Zhaoqing in the southern mainland province of Guangdong, said he was in tears when he watched the reports.

“I knew about the protests in Hong Kong but I was still shocked when I saw the national emblem covered in black paint,” he said.

“I had tears in my eyes. This was too much. I respect their right to protest but they should not insult our country,” he said.

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On CCTV’s official Weibo account, most of the 3,000 comments that accompanied the video clips of the protests at the liaison office were critical of the protesters.

Other state media, including People’s Daily and Xinhua, also carried strongly worded commentaries on the protests.

Xiake Dao, a social media account affiliated with the overseas edition of People’s Daily, published a commentary accusing Hong Kong and Western media of “playing a disgraceful role” in fanning the flames of the month-long unrest in the city.

A Communist Party official, who works at the liaison office and was on duty on Sunday night, said he was shocked by the violence and the rage shown by the protesters.

“Things are very different this time [compared with previous protests],” he said. “This is the first time since the 1997 handover that the national emblem has been vandalised and I heard [the protesters chanting] slogans like, ‘It’s time for revolution’ and ‘recover Hong Kong’.”

“I see this as a watershed event and I am not the only one here who feels that way,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Xinwen Lianbo did not interview any Hong Kong government officials or police about the protests.

On Tuesday, the programme’s reports included criticism by China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying who claimed Washington had instigated the protests in Hong Kong, but did not elaborate.

A journalist who works for the Guangzhou Daily group but asked not to be identified, said that newspaper editors in the mainland had been told they must toe the official line when reporting events in Hong Kong.

“On reports about Hong Kong, we are under strict orders to use copy provided by state media like Xinhua or CCTV, and we can only carry official statements released by official departments,” said the journalist, who asked not to be named.

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Wu Junfei, deputy director of the Tianda Institute, a think tank in Hong Kong, said: “Xinwen Lianbo is the most important channel for Chinese leaders to communicate their agenda to the public. The lengthy reports and commentaries about Hong Kong show that the leadership in Beijing is taking the situation very seriously and wants to communicate a clear position to the mainland and the rest of the world.”

Despite the criticism, Beijing had shown some restraint, he said.

“We can see that the central government has been cautious on Hong Kong, and has only called the protests ‘violent incidents’ and not ‘riots’ in the hope that order can be restored in the city soon.”

But Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, said he believed the storming of the Legco building on July 1 and Sunday’s protest at the liaison office had pushed Beijing’s leaders to take a tougher stance and send a strong message on the importance of stability.

“The storming of the Legco building and vandalising of the liaison office have given Beijing the justification to attack the anti-government protesters, who are now being described as violent people who destroy public property, attack the police and cause great losses for the Hong Kong public.

“But the reports have not provided a proper explanation [of what caused the protests],” he said. “So mainlanders who watched the programmes will get the impression that the protesters who opposed the extradition bill are troublemakers who want Hong Kong to break away from China, and that is obviously against the will of almost all mainland Chinese.”

Beijing may take tougher line on Hong Kong following violence

Wu said that as Beijing blocked access to many foreign news sites and other sources of information, most mainlanders did not have access to unbiased information and tended to believe Beijing’s propaganda.

“Even in the case of the mob attacks in Yuen Long on Sunday night [when a gang of thugs randomly attacked Hong Kong subway users], most mainlanders believe that the ‘unpatriotic’ protesters deserved to be beaten as they only have access to one side of the story.”