On the morning of November 12th 2019, Hong Kong awoke a metropolis divided. Division was hardly new in a area that, since June of that yr, had been the positioning of large-scale civil unrest. This unrest might, within the easiest phrases, be described as a conflict between pan-democratic and pro-establishment pursuits. What had begun as peaceable protests towards an extradition invoice proposed by the HK Authorities, rapidly turned a motion towards police brutality. In the end, the motion morphed into one which sought to guard the autonomy of the HK area and outline (and in some ways, redefine) its relationship with Mainland China. It was on November 12th, as experiences of the day prior to this’s occasions circulated, that these divisions reached a climax. That earlier morning in Sai Wan Ho, a 21-year outdated pupil was shot by a policeman. The picture of the of the capturing went viral. That very same morning, in Ma On Shan, a building employee was doused in petrol and set alight throughout a verbal confrontation with a bunch of protesters. Within the media, two fully completely different representations of the occasions of this present day emerged, every portraying a distinct group because the antagonist. As this essay will discover, a lot of the polarised nature of this reporting could be attributed to the variations between mainstream and different media. This essay will examine these two kinds of media in HK, drawing consideration to the techniques of energy that work to affect their reporting. Then, recognising the polarised nature of reporting throughout the 2019 protests, this essay will argue {that a} rejection of the binary opposition logic employed by media organisations will permit observers to extra responsibly interpret and devour these evidently contradictory narratives.

Mainstream and different media

The association of capital inside mainstream media organisations cause them to inherently signify institutional pursuits. Utilizing a media ecology framework, Wang (2018, p. 3709) positions mainstream media inside broader social, financial and political constraints. Possession serves as one of many main constraints on a media organisation’s reporting freedoms, functioning as an institutional affiliation to a prescribed energy association (Wang 2018, p. 3709). In HK, media possession has turn out to be more and more concentrated within the palms of wealthy tycoons with ties to China’s political elite (Wang 2018, p. 3709). Promoting income additionally serves as an analogous constraint on journalistic freedoms. For the reason that handover of HK in 1997, the Chinese language Authorities has used its affect over Chinese language-owned or Chinese language-dependant firms to regulate the movement of promoting funds to media shops. In 2014, on the path of the Chinese language Authorities’s Liaison Workplace, Normal Chartered, HSBC and Dangle Seng banks ceased promoting with Apple Each day after the newspaper revealed dissenting views (The Economist 2014, p. 40). The HK authorities additionally makes use of its management over data channels to affect reporting. More and more, mainstream media will not be a worthwhile enterprise in HK and those that do function within the area depend on subsidised data and information materials from the federal government (Wang 2018, p. 3714). Media organisations are primarily enticed to keep away from criticism so as to keep favour with the federal government. As a result of mainstream media shops function in an ecosystem linked to capital and political favour, they invariably serve to guard institutional energy preparations.

This institutional energy inherent in HK’s mainstream media manifests within the type of self-censorship. Lee and Chan (2009, p. 112) outline self-censorship as “a set of editorial actions dedicated by media organisations aiming to curry favour and keep away from offending the ability stakeholders”. In 2014 the HK Journalists Affiliation labelled the previous twelve months because the “darkest for press freedoms in a number of many years” (The Economist 2014, p. 39). In a survey of native journalists, 79% believed that self-censorship amongst fellow journalists had risen within the area since 2005, and 36% reported having witnessed it or practised it themselves (The Economist 2014, p. 39). Such behaviour was notably evident throughout the 2014 Umbrella Motion. For instance, HK’s main free-to-air TV community initially aired a report that accused police of ‘dragging a protester right into a darkish nook and punching and kicking him’, however the voiceover for this phase was rapidly modified to report that ‘officers could have used extreme power’ (Kwong 2015, p. 285). This enhance in self-censorship would finally coalesce with the rise of avenue politics in HK to result in main change within the media panorama.

Different media emerged in HK to fill a void left by the failure of mainstream media to signify the more and more various views of the inhabitants. If mainstream media is characterised by its ties to institutional energy buildings, then different media operates exterior of such constraints and seeks to actively problem them. As Wang (2018, p. 3711) writes, “different media manufacturing accumulates symbolic assets to subvert hegemonic powers and creates an area for the cultivation of resistance”. Different media usually has a rebellious perspective, as Downing (2001, p. xi) neatly summarises, “If different media have one factor in frequent, it’s that they break anyone’s guidelines”. It sometimes takes the type of on-line broadcasting, underground press and citizen journalism. These three kinds of media have been to turn out to be essential throughout the 2019 protests.

Protection of 2019 protests

An understanding of mainstream and different media in HK helps to elucidate why reporting of the 2019 protests was so very polarised. In broad phrases, the views of the pro-establishment camp have been represented by mainstream media organisations, and the views of the pan-democratic motion have been represented in different media. That is merely a mirrored image of the origins of every media-type. Mainstream media is basically tied to the ability buildings that the pro-establishment camp search to guard. Equally, different media developed to signify subversive views that will finally turn out to be the inspiration of the pan-democratic motion. This essay will now discover how, throughout the 2019 protests, mainstream and different media superior two very completely different narratives by way of the usage of language, self-censorship and selective reporting.

One of the vital visible ways in which reporting of the protests turned polarised was within the language used. The HK Authorities persistently referred to these taking to the streets as ‘rioters’. This language was echoed in a lot of HK’s mainstream media, even by the supposedly ‘impartial’ South China Morning Put up (SCMP). SCMP’s protection was actually extra goal than that of its mainstream counterparts, however even it needed to make selections over its use of language – selections that finally revealed editorial preferences. The entrance web page of the October 6th 2019 version of the newspaper carried the headline, “Lam calls on public to sentence rioters”, with a by-line referring to “emergency measures within the battle towards lawlessness” (Chung 2019, p. 1). The language right here insinuates that the protesters are within the minority, and don’t signify the need of the ‘normal public. This text was written beneath a piece titled ‘social unrest’, with related articles that includes within the day’s newspaper that used language emphasising the disruptive impression of the protests (Sunday Morning Put up October 6 2019, p. 3-4). Media shops in mainland China used even stronger language to place the protesters because the antagonists. The state-backed World Occasions (2019a; 2019b) usually referred to the ‘terrorists’ and ‘black terror’ that had engulfed town. In distinction, different media reminiscent of HK Free Press (HKFP), Put up 852 and InMediaHK used the phrases ‘protesters’ and ‘freedom fighters’ and different language that harassed the emancipatory and consultant nature of the motion (Sham-Shackleton 2019). The usage of language performed a key function in shaping the polarised narratives that emerged from the 2019 protests.

Self-Censorship has beforehand been mentioned on this essay as the first approach wherein the ability of possession manifests in mainstream media. Historically, self-censorship enforced by the Chinese language state might be characterised by a listing of three ‘no’s’ (Kwong 2015, p. 277). Don’t discuss Taiwanese or Tibetan independence; don’t encourage subversion; and don’t insult management. In 2019, this checklist expanded to incorporate the protest motion. It was a bit of arduous for mainstream media in HK to utterly ignore the existence of avenue protests, but this was a lot simpler throughout the border in China. Chinese language media ignored the protests for a month earlier than lastly reporting their existence in its personal ideologically pushed method (BBC 2019). This was important for 2 causes. First, there’s a flurry of motion throughout the HK-Mainland China border daily. Individuals who devour their information throughout the closed-off Chinese language media ecosystem then arrive in HK with equally slender views of the unfolding battle and contribute to the divide at avenue degree. Second, some Chinese language diaspora use Chinese language media networks. This has seen divided representations of the protests prolong far exterior of China and HK and led to confrontations reminiscent of what occurred at College of Queensland in 2019 (Hamilton-Smith 2019). In HK, China and overseas, self-censorship practised by mainstream media has contributed to the polarisation of narratives represented in public area.

This essay argues that one other main contributor to the polarisation of media narratives in HK has been selective reporting. Selective reporting is much like self-censorship in that they each contain a selective method as to which incidents to acknowledge. But the 2 differ as a result of while self-censorship is practised to realize favour with increased powers, selective reporting is practised to advance one’s personal ideological place. On this sense, each mainstream and different media are responsible of such behaviour. It will be a mistake to conflate the independence of different media with neutrality. Different media carries subversive components by nature of its growth (Fuchs 2010, p. 188; Silverstone 1999, p. 103). The road between media and civilians additionally turned more and more blurred in HK in 2019 as citizen journalism proliferated (Vukovich 2019, p. 203). This isn’t to recommend that journalistic requirements are being compromised. However reasonably that the media is actually used as a device to advance ideological pursuits.

From a pro-establishment perspective, a story was constructed that accused Western powers of interfering in Chinese language home politics by inciting riots and violence. The illustration of this was made all the simpler by the ocean American flags that will invariably characteristic in avenue protests. Portraying the protesters as representing a minority was key within the growth of this narrative. Additionally key, was the portrayal of police as peacekeepers in a metropolis ravaged by violent anarchists. Nonetheless, largely absent on this narrative was any try and meaningfully acknowledge any human rights abuses inflicted by police or authorities.

From a pan-democratic perspective, the narrative superior by different media positioned peaceable protesters as victims of police violence and constitutional overreach from the Chinese language and HK Governments. There have been many visually putting and confronting photographs of avenue protests and clashes with police that served to assist this model of occasions. Absent, nevertheless, was any engagement with the duty born by the protesters for acts of violence and destruction. Additionally absent, was the acknowledgement of the xenophobic components of the protests that Vukovich (2019, p. 201) alludes to.

Rejecting binary opposition logic

The ultimate a part of this essay acknowledges the difficulties that people confronted in responsibly consuming and decoding media protection in regards to the protests. This essay will recommend a approach of establishing occasions that helps observers to reach at a conclusion that’s least-influenced by the ideological agendas of different events. It begins by rejecting the binary oppositional logic that D’Cruz (2020, p. 17) argues people have been conditioned into decoding the world by way of since early childhood. Certainly, this text is responsible of such behaviour by way of its use of a pro-establishment/pan-democratic dichotomy. However in actuality, this doesn’t embrace the complexity of the battle, nor acknowledge the whole spectrum of pursuits represented. Such a binary method permits the media (each mainstream and different) to make use of essentially the most excessive representations of every ‘aspect’ to classify its entirety. Evidently although, the employees becoming a member of in genuinely peaceable protests throughout their lunch breaks weren’t the identical protesters who have been burning down prepare stations and vandalising Mainland-linked companies at night time. Equally, not all who condemned the nightly violence have been supportive of the actions of police, nor have been they mouthpieces for the Chinese language Communist Social gathering. To conclude, if we are able to reject the binary oppositional logic of media organisations, it permits us to critique the best way wherein they use essentially the most excessive representations of the opposition to color them of their entirety.


This essay has explored mainstream and different media in Hong Kong and the techniques of energy that work to affect its reporting. It has then mirrored on the best way wherein this led to the polarised nature of media reporting throughout the 2019 protests. Lastly, this essay has steered that an method that rejects the binary opposition logic of media organisations will assist observers to develop convictions which are least-influenced by the ideological agendas of others. Within the 12 months because the 2019 protests reached a climax, press freedoms in HK have been additional constrained, not least by the imposition of the Hong Kong Nationwide Safety Regulation. This legislation has each posed a risk to the freedoms of different media, but in addition made it all of the extra vital in a area the place the narratives propagated by the mainstream media more and more don’t mirror the values of the final inhabitants.


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D’Cruz, C 2020, Democracy in Distinction, La Trobe College, seen 28 October 2020, https://library.latrobe.edu.au/ebureau/pdf/LaTrobe_Ebureau_DemocracyInDifference_LR.pdf.

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Written at: La Trobe College
Written for: Carol D’Cruz
Date written: October 2020

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