Council Meetings (Oral Question): Emergency Measures to Allay Public Resentment Immediately (2019.11.14)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): President, one major cause of the riots in Hong Kong is the fabrication of large volumes of fallacious but highly persuasive propaganda by certain people, which is then circulated widely on social media to incite hatred against the Police as well as justifying and glorifying violence, thus misleading many young people and members of the public and generating a great deal of hatred and anger. If Legislative Council Members also invert what is right and wrong and reverse the cause and the effect, they will only make the situation worse. If tomorrow, no one goes about setting fires and blocking roads, there is no violence and no one makes any report to the Police, why would it be necessary for the Police to be mobilized? I think this is the most fundamental issue, so why do Members still wrangle interminably here and make accusations against the Police all the time? I also do not understand why it is necessary to wrangle over this matter for such a long time. Therefore, if Members continue to invert right and wrong, this is actually not helpful to resolving this matter at all.

What I wish to ask the Government now is: In the riots this time around, we can see that the Government faces professional propaganda of international standards and the publicity measures taken by them were very powerful, yet I found that the Government still responded to them in the conventional way, so this is not helpful to the matter at all. May I know what powerful measures the Government has in times of emergency to counter vilifications and rectify propaganda that distorts the facts? Unfortunately, a lot of people in Hong Kong can hear only one-sided stories, so if the Government does not mount any all-round and powerful anti-propaganda campaign, nothing helpful can be done about the whole matter. The Government must take drastic measures to deal the fundamental problem by changing the misguided beliefs held by many members of the public. Only in this way can the whole matter be resolved, otherwise, no measure will yield any result. Please reply.

CHIEF SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATION (in Cantonese): Thank you, Mr CHAN, for having hit the nail on the head. The Government really must step up its propaganda efforts and it is true that we have to step up our efforts. Here, Members can see that the fake news that we have to respond to really never ceases coming through and it is pervasive in our daily life. Indeed, it is really difficult to judge which one is true and which one is false, or what is right and what is wrong. However, as soon as we have found out the truth, we will give a response immediately and at the earliest opportunity. No matter if the approach is conventional or not and in whatever way, the aim is always to disseminate the message, pointing out that a certain piece of news is fake rather than real and is sheer fabrication, that it is not the fact. We will disseminate the message immediately and the usual channel is the Information Services Department but no matter what, we will disseminate the message first and now, we are starting to do so through social media. Of course, we will adopt various ways and multiple channels for message dissemination and, through airwaves and electronic media, we will point out that something is not true at the earliest opportunity possible. If Members have paid attention, they will know that several pieces of fake news, for example, that about a withdrawal limit of $6,000 per person, or the one about the imposition of a curfew in Hong Kong, are all fabricated and we have also clarified them immediately. In some fake news items, it was even claimed that certain things had happened to certain people and they were also totally fake news items about which we made clarifications immediately. The press conferences held by the Police Force, usually at 4:00 pm, are also helpful because many fake news items target at the Police and seek to tarnish police reputation through fabrications.

However, I hope the public can distinguish between right and wrong wisely and they must by no means be indiscriminate. As the Honourable Member said, they must by no means invert result and cause but must approve of what is right and censure what is wrong. The Government admits there are areas where it has not done a good enough job. It will surely admit to its inadequacy, make appropriate improvements and keep doing self-reflection. We are very humble but people must not make things up or fabrications. This is not beneficial to Hong Kong. For this reason, I wish to say that if all people can stand united, after receiving the Government’s clarifications, they should use their personal networks to send the messages to their friends and make clear that a certain piece of news is fake and that the Government has made clarifications on it, saying that the matter is not true. This is also founded on facts, rather than a case of the Government saying something is fake then something is fake. The fact is, something really would not happen and did not happen.

On these instances, as I said just now, the whole society has to be mobilized, rather than relying solely on the Government’s power. However, there is really great room for improvement in the Government’s propaganda efforts. We are now strengthening the capabilities in this regard but we do not fabricate fake news, rather, we ensure that we provide correct messages and rebuke fake messages, as well as making clarifications on fake news and misrepresentations. I thank Mr CHAN. His page on Facebook is a job well done and highly successful.

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