An interesting media strategy

A distinct extra whiff of shoe-shine is in the air, as Chinese Communist Party apologists plead for the Foreign Correspondents Club to see sense and bar Hong Kong National Party activist Andy Chan from speaking there.

The South China Morning Post op-ed writer takes a cringe-inducing (‘as a Gweilo…’) approach and says we must respect China’s limits on free speech and its ‘culture and identity’ and not impose Western values on it. Spurious comparisons: terrorist beheadings on YouTube and death threats against UK politicians on Twitter.

The China Daily contributor robustly recites the ‘red line’ line, which means whatever we say it means, but in this case: separatist opinion = national-security threat = absolutely impermissible. He also suggests that an evil lurking foreign power might be engineering the FCC event in order to embarrass China (the NYT, Guardian, Time and others are already covering this story, so the ‘embarrassing China’ bit is probably right). Spurious comparisons: corruption, drugs and terrorist group ISIS.

The key point both make following their hackneyed ‘free speech has limits/ISIS’ blather, is that the FCC is in the wrong. (The subtle distinction is that the SCMP columnist says it’s because Andy Chan is perceived as a national threat, while China Daily is pretty sure he just is one.)

Neither examines the reason the press might consider Andy Chan newsworthy in the first place – that if the authorities succeed in their actions against his group, they will weaken the rights of Hong Kong people to assemble and to express opinions, and it will set a major precedent. This is potentially the biggest repressive step Beijing has taken in Hong Kong so far – a ‘red line’ indeed.

So both these columns (and probably others out there) are aimed at making the story about the FCC (‘located in publicly owned premises’, etc) rather than about the degradation of Hong Kong people’s rights.

You can see why Beijing and the local-administration minions – especially when combining their different PR skill-sets – would spin the story like this. It’s a diversion.

The problem is that the FCC and the media are to a great extent the same thing. The spin-doctors are trying to shift the media’s attention away from Andy Chan onto… the media. In other words, from Threat to Freedom of Speech to Threat to Freedom of the Press (in guise of Threat to Lease on Clubhouse).

Did they think this through?


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7 Responses to An interesting media strategy

  1. Henry says:

    As a gweilo I’ve always found the term gweilo to be highly offensive. It says a great deal about Hong Kong and Chinas propensity to casual racism and the idiotic bleatings of many gweilos who call themselves gweilos. If you need to refer to me by my skin colour or ethnicity, then I’m white or caucasian.

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    Again…if all the aggrieved and highly sensitive parties had just IGNORED the whole event, it would have passed by with nary a head turning and be forgotten the next day.

    But NO…idiots as they are, the hurt feeling crowd and sellout GWEILOS bit the bait and exposed their own weak insecurities and turned this exercise in local discourse into what may become an international story in the “lamestream” media.


    (“Graeme Maxton is a full member of the Club of Rome, a global network of renowned independent thinkers dedicated to addressing the challenges facing humanity” Laughing my ASS off right now at this. Reminder: there actually ARE people in the world that take themselves MUCH TOO SERIOUSLY)

  3. reductio says:

    @Chinese Netizen

    You beat me to the punch. I was going to paste exactly the same BS blurb about His Highness Maxton. How do people get selected for such august bodies? Do they have funny handshakes like the masons?

  4. Knownot says:

    Carrie Lam’s statement at the weekend that the invitation to Andy Chan was “regrettable and inappropriate” was reported on the BBC World Service news.

  5. Landesverraeter raus!

    But keep stirrin’ it!

    We will see you in the Oval Office getting a medal one day for sure.

  6. steve says:

    The Club of Rome, despite the vaguely Illuminati-esque name, is actually a rather toothless and widely ignored think tank dedicated to rethinking dominant global economic policy. To their credit, they claim not to like neoliberalism. On the other hand, their list of “honorary” members includes several prominent neoliberal vampires (and hereditary monarchs, etc.), and their foundation principles prominently feature a commitment to a pretty radically Malthusian understanding of the world.

    The only people who seem to pay them much attention are the loonies who grab you by the lapels and start ranting about the world government cabal.

  7. Ït’s telling that Maxton is apparently oblivious to the irony of his assertion that stifling Andy Chan’s opinions will somehow preserve the FCC as a “home of open debate”.

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