Hong Kong’s police chief wants law banning fake news, saying it makes the city safer

  • Commissioner of Police Chris Tang has voiced opposition to a Reuters photo published by ‘Apple Daily’, saying it ‘incited hatred’
  • The photo was likened to a scene during the 2019 anti-government protests, when police stormed the MTR at Prince Edward station

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Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung speaks to the media in Wong Chuk Hang. Photo: SCMP/ May Tse

Hong Kong’s police chief said he would back a new law banning fake news, doubling down on his criticism of local paper Apple Daily, which he said “incited hatred” with its coverage of National Security Education Day last week.

Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung escalated his attacks against the tabloid-style newspaper on Tuesday, two days after it said its reporting of events was based on facts, and that a free press is promised in Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

Tang’s accusations stemmed from the newspaper’s front page coverage of last week’s security day, and the Reuters photograph it published of children playing with toy guns. Citing online comments, it likened the scene to an incident during the 2019 anti-government protests.

The debate over the police’s National Security Education Day activities

On August 31 that year, officers used pepper spray against people in a train carriage at Prince Edward MTR station.

The coverage prompted the police chief to warn against the spread of fake news, while over the weekend newspapers supportive of Beijing demanded Apple Daily, owned by Next Digital

founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, be outlawed.

When asked on TVB show Straight Talk if authorities would pass a law against fake news, Tang said: “I think it’s good to have such a law,” and said it would help make Hong Kong safer.

Student concern groups voice opposition on NSL education day

Tang said the city needed to have a discussion on the subject, and that there should be “a clear definition of fake news”.

In February, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor vowed to bring in new laws to combat the spread of misinformation, which she said had increased amid the coronavirus pandemic and the protests in 2019. But she did not single out any media organisation.

While some parents’ groups and educators also voiced concerns about children being given sample weapons to play with, Tang told the show there was nothing wrong with it, as the force only wanted them to know more about its work.

Government says teachers can be held responsible for ‘biased’ teaching materials

He said the problem came with the media linking the scene to the protests and questioned its motives for doing so, saying “Is it trying to incite hatred? Is it trying to split society?”

Chris Yeung Kin-hing, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, said the group had always opposed the idea of a fake news law, which he said had been used by many regimes to crack down on dissidents.

He said it was worrying that Tang and officials went after the newspaper’s handling of a picture, but not the facts. “The picture itself is real,” he said. “The authorities are only unhappy with the story angle, which is not positive in the eyes of the police. This severely erodes press freedom.”

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