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 12 months, had been the positioning of large-scale civil unrest. This unrest may, 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 stories of the day gone by’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 That earlier morning in Sai Wan Ho, a 21-year outdated pupil was shot by a policeman.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 taking pictures 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 gaggle of protesters. Within the media, two fully totally different representations of the occasions of today emerged, every portraying a special group because the antagonist. As this essay will discover, a lot of the polarised nature of this reporting will be attributed to the variations between mainstream and different media. This essay will examine these two forms of media in HK, drawing consideration to the methods of energy that work to affect their reporting. Then, recognising the polarised nature of reporting through 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 into more and more concentrated within the fingers of wealthy tycoons with ties to China’s political elite (Wang 2018, p. 3709). Promoting income additionally serves as an identical 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 manage the stream of promoting funds to media retailers. In 2014, on the path of the Chinese language Authorities’s Liaison Workplace, Normal Chartered, HSBC and Dangle Seng banks ceased promoting with Apple Day by day after the newspaper revealed dissenting views (The Economist 2014, p. 40). The HK authorities additionally makes use of its management over info channels to affect reporting. More and more, mainstream media isn’t a worthwhile enterprise in HK and people who do function within the area depend on subsidised info and information materials from the federal government (Wang 2018, p. 3714). Media organisations are basically enticed to keep away from criticism so as to preserve favour with the federal government. As a result of mainstream media retailers 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 facility 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 significantly evident through 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 might have used extreme drive’ (Kwong 2015, p. 285). This improve in self-censorship would in the end coalesce with the rise of road 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 constructions, 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 angle, 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 forms of media have been to turn into essential through the 2019 protests.

Protection of 2019 protests

An understanding of mainstream and different media in HK helps to clarify 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 essentially tied to the facility constructions that the pro-establishment camp search to guard. Equally, different media developed to signify subversive views that might in the end turn into the inspiration of the pan-democratic motion. This essay will now discover how, through the 2019 protests, mainstream and different media superior two very totally different narratives via using 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 constantly 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 Submit (SCMP). SCMP’s protection was actually extra goal than that of its mainstream counterparts, however even it needed to make choices over its use of language – choices that in the end 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 combat 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 underneath a bit titled ‘social unrest’, with comparable articles that includes within the day’s newspaper that used language emphasising the disruptive influence of the protests (Sunday Morning Submit October 6 2019, p. 3-4). Media retailers in mainland China used even stronger language to place the protesters because the antagonists. The state-backed World Instances (2019a; 2019b) usually referred to the ‘terrorists’ and ‘black terror’ that had engulfed the town. In distinction, different media corresponding to HK Free Press (HKFP), Submit 852 and InMediaHK used the phrases ‘protesters’ and ‘freedom fighters’ and different language that careworn the emancipatory and consultant nature of the motion (Sham-Shackleton 2019). Using language performed a key position in shaping the polarised narratives that emerged from the 2019 protests.

Self-Censorship has beforehand been mentioned on this essay as the first means through which the facility of possession manifests in mainstream media. Historically, self-censorship enforced by the Chinese language state could possibly 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 just a little exhausting for mainstream media in HK to utterly ignore the existence of road 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 vital for 2 causes. First, there’s a flurry of motion throughout the HK-Mainland China border each day. Individuals who devour their information inside 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 road stage. 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 corresponding to 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 house.

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 achieve favour with greater 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 could be a mistake to conflate the independence of different media with neutrality. Different media carries subversive parts by nature of its improvement (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 counsel that journalistic requirements are being compromised. However fairly that the media is actually used as a software 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 might invariably characteristic in road protests. Portraying the protesters as representing a minority was key within the improvement of this narrative. Additionally key, was the portrayal of police as peacekeepers in a metropolis ravaged by violent anarchists. Nevertheless, 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 hanging and confronting photographs of road protests and clashes with police that served to assist this model of occasions. Absent, nonetheless, was any engagement with the duty born by the protesters for acts of violence and destruction. Additionally absent, was the acknowledgement of the xenophobic parts 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 counsel a means 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 via since early childhood. Certainly, this text is responsible of such behaviour via its use of a pro-establishment/pan-democratic dichotomy. However in actuality, this doesn’t embrace the complexity of the battle, nor acknowledge your entire 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 evening. 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 through which 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 methods of energy that work to affect its reporting. It has then mirrored on the best way through which this led to the polarised nature of media reporting through the 2019 protests. Lastly, this essay has prompt that an method that rejects the binary opposition logic of media organisations will assist observers to develop convictions which can be 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 Legislation. This legislation has each posed a risk to the freedoms of different media, but additionally made it all of the extra necessary 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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