Chinese State Media Criticize Facebook for Deleting Hong Kong Misinformation

By Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.
September 16, 2019 Updated: September 17, 2019

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpieces criticized the social media platform Facebook on Sept. 16 for deleting a bevy of accounts that spread false information about the Hong Kong protests.

Meanwhile, the Facebook page belonging to Dot Dot News, a pro-Beijing news site operating in Hong Kong, was shut down.

Since early June, millions of Hongkongers have taken to the streets against a controversial extradition bill that would allow the Chinese regime to seek extradition of criminal suspects. The since-withdrawn bill drew widespread opposition due to many citizens’ concerns that city authorities could be pressured to transfer individuals to face trial under China’s opaque legal system.

The former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, but was promised a high degree of autonomy.

In August, Twitter and Facebook announced that they dismantled a Chinese state-backed information operation on their platforms that sought to undermine the protest movement in Hong Kong.

Many of the accounts that spread misleading information about the protests echoed the Chinese regime’s propaganda—which has sought to vilify protesters, depicting them as criminals in need of punishment, while applauding the actions of Hong Kong’s police.

Protests are ongoing as citizens call for their other demands to be heard, including for the Hong Kong government to establish an independent investigation into police use of force against demonstrators.

CCP Mouthpieces

Haiwai Net, the overseas edition of the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily published a commentary on Sept. 16 condemning Facebook for “supporting the rioters publicly.” Chinese state media have consistently referred to Hong Kong protesters as rioters.

The Global Times, a tabloid published under People’s Daily, published a similar commentary on the same day, saying that “[Facebook] was consciously playing the role of ‘back-up team’ for Hong Kong rioters… threatening and damaging China’s national security.”

The commentary also criticized Facebook for continually getting advertising dollars from Hong Kong and mainland China. “Facebook is acting like they can eat our food and smash our pots at the same time.”

The article urged Chinese authorities to add Facebook to its Unreliable Entity List. Back in May, Beijing announced that it would create a blacklist of foreign enterprises, organizations, and individuals who damage Chinese firms—in apparent retaliation for the United States’ decision to place Chinese tech giant Huawei and its subsidiaries on an “entity list” that effectively banned it from doing business with American firms.

Banned Accounts

The Haiwai Net commentary alleged that Facebook “had its political purpose” in shutting down Dot Dot News’ page. The pro-Beijing website was founded in August 2016. Local media have reported that Dot Dot News is affiliated with Wen Wei Po, a local newspaper financed by the Hong Kong Liaison Office, Beijing’s representative agency in the territory.

On Sept. 13, Facebook closed the news outlet’s public page, which has promoted Beijing’s propaganda about Hong Kong protesters throughout the extradition bill crisis. The outlet then set up a new page the following day, alleging in a new Facebook post that the shutdown was “political oppression,” while suggesting that the social media platform was assisting protesters.

On Monday, a Facebook spokeswoman told local newspaper South China Morning Post in a response that it applied company rules “fairly and consistently,” and removed content that violated its policies.

CCP’s Purpose

Tang Jingyuan, a U.S-based China affairs commentator told The Epoch Times on Sept. 16 that Dot Dot News had spread hateful speech consistent with Chinese state media. “It’s not a surprise that a Beijing propaganda media was blocked by Facebook,” he said.

On its new Facebook page, for example, Dot Dot News shared a photo on Sept. 16, claiming that a foreigner at the scene of recent protests is suspected to be a CIA agent. The post claimed that he was ordering black-shirt protesters to surround onsite photographers and force them to delete photos from their devices. But the photo showed the foreigner talking with a group of journalists.

Tang said this kind of misinformation was dangerous, noting the irony of the recent state media commentaries, which claimed that Facebook was hurting free speech by deleting the pro-Beijing accounts.

“In fact, the CCP’s mouthpiece and other Chinese state-run media are the ones that wrongly use the claim of free speech to spread the ideology of communism and the CCP’s political purpose [overseas],” Tang concluded.

Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.