Media outlets that endanger the security of Hong Kong by publishing “fake news” will be investigated, Hong Kong’s top police officer has said.

Commissioner of Police, Chris Tang, gave as an example photographs of children with toy guns at Thursday’s National Security Education Day which were juxtaposed with images of armed police during the 2019 protests in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong police chief Chris Tang
Hong Kong police chief Chris Tang. File photo: via CC2.0.

Tang, who was speaking at a special meeting of the Legislative Council’s finance committee on Friday, described “fake news” as a matter of national security, adding that police would enforce the law should evidence of violations be found.

“Agents of foreign forces disseminate fake news and disinformation to drive a wedge in the community, cause division in society and to incite violence,” said Tang. Referring to a speech he gave on Thursday’s National Security Education Day, the police chief added: “What I said yesterday has come true, if you look at the newspapers today.”

Apple daily April 16, 2021 front page
The newspaper’s Friday frontpage.

“For those endangering Hong Kong’s security using fake news, we will launch an investigation right away, and when there is evidence, we will pursue a prosecution,” he said.

“Today in one of the newspapers, the headline news shows a picture of school children visiting a police facility for yesterday’s National Security Education Day. A photo of them playing innocently and joyfully was painted as being related to black violence,” Tang said.

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Tang appears to have been referring to side-by-side photo collages published by Apple Daily that compared children holding toy guns in a mock train car at the police training college, to widely-circulated images of anti-riot police firing pepper spray onto passengers on a train at Prince Edward Station on August 31, 2019, during a protest.

“I think this is very unethical and is hurtful to children, and shows that some people want to use threatening ways to smear whoever that wants to be close to the police. Citizens need to see this clearly or a danger against Hong Kong and the nation’s security will always be present,” Tang said.

On Thursday, Tang also accused the media in Hong Kong of colluding with foreign countries — the United States in particular — to undermine national security.

‘The US causes security threats’

China and Hong Kong officials, pro-establishment politicians and media have made repeated claims that the protests in Hong Kong were incited and funded by foreign countries, even though there has been no evidence that support such a claim, and police have not made related prosecutions.

September 29, 2019 anti-totalitarian march protest US flag
Hong Kong protesters wave US flags at a march in opposition to totalitarianism on September 29, 2019. File Photo: Studio Incendo.

“I am not making allegations. I am talking about facts. The United States is one of the countries that tries to cause security threats in Hong Kong and China,” Tang said. “This is not something really secret.”

“These foreign forces will identify some sectors or media in Hong Kong that would serve their political objectives, with a goal to influence and plant in Hongkongers thoughts that may endanger China,” Tang said.

“Typically these media would constantly search for issues in society where they could sow division and hatred,” he said. “Then these media would use misleading and sensationalist ways to disseminate incorrect information, to cause even more hatred.”

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.