A group of pro-Beijing Hongkongers have urged authorities to launch a national security investigation into US-funded media outlet Radio Free Asia (RFA), accusing it of spreading one-sided and “poisonous” information to “imperceptibly influence” the public.

pro-beijing protest police radio free asia
Members of the group hold up a banner accusing Radio Free Asia of “spreading poison” and appealing for police to “earnestly investigate” the outlet for national security violations outside the Wan Chai police headquarters on August 12, 2022. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Meeting reporters outside the police force’s headquarters in Wan Chai on Friday morning, the group’s spokesperson Zorina Kwong said the outlet had been publishing anti-China reports and was not the independent outfit it claimed to be.

The group prepared print-outs of content shared by RFA, among them a screenshot of a YouTube interview with exiled pro-democracy activists who had launched a committee to establish an overseas “Hong Kong Parliament.”

“Everyone knows that the ‘Hong Kong Parliament’ aims to overthrow the Hong Kong government’s regime,” Kwong said. “RFA gave them a platform for them to spread their message and increase their exposure.”

The three organising members of the committee, businessman and commentator Elmer Yuen, journalist Victor Ho and ex-lawmaker-elect Baggio Leung were suspected of “contravening the offence of subversion” under the national security law, authorities said last week.

The group also handed a petition addressed to police chief Raymond Siu. An officer accepted the petition and posed for photos for reporters.

pro-beijing protest police radio free asia
A group of Hongkongers handed a petition to a police force representative calling on the National Security Department to investigate Radio Free Asia. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Police officers were present at the 20-minute press conference. An HKFP reporter was asked by an officer which media organisation they were from.

Founded in 1996, RFA is a non-profit news service funded by the US government to provide news about events in Asia. The outlet publishes in nine languages – including Burmese, Khmer, Korean, Uyghur and Vietnamese – and has won awards for its journalism.

pro-beijing protest police radio free asia
Zorina Kwong said Radio Free Asia had given a “platform” to pro-democracy activists in exile. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Earlier this year, the outlet announced the suspension of some Cantonese programmes and commentaries, citing concerns about press freedom in Hong Kong and the “red lines” of the national security law.

Pelosi visit, Covid-19 origins

Kwong told HKFP that her group did not have any particular name, only that it comprised Hongkongers concerned about their city.

During the demonstration, she referred to an article published by RFA last week after US house speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial Taiwan visit. The headline said Pelosi was “worried about Hong Kong’s future.”

“[RFA] is right. We’re worried about Hong Kong’s future. We’re worried that the US… will make a mess of Hong Kong,” she said.

Kwong recalled a comment Pelosi made during the 2019 anti-extradition protests, when she described a march – that organisers said drew two million people – as a “beautiful sight.”

“She described chaos as a ‘beautiful sight,'” Kwong said.

pro-beijing petition zorina kwong
Zorina Kwong calls on police to investigate US-funded news outlet Radio Free Asia outside the police headquarters in Wan Chai on August 12, 2022. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

The spokesperson also said that while RFA reported on possible links between Covid-19 and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, it “did not mention that the US has hundreds of biochemistry laboratories” including in Fort Detrick, Maryland, home to laboratory facilities owned by the US Army.

Fort Detrick is the subject of a conspiracy theory suggesting that Covid-19 was leaked from facilities there. Beijing officials, including foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, have called for an investigation into Fort Detrick.

pro-beijing protest police radio free asia
Hongkongers urging police to investigate the US-funded news outlet Radio Free Asia outside the police headquarters in Wan Chai on August 12, 2022. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Kwong added that RFA did not use a “radical” tone, a method that was “successful” in keeping people reading the US-funded outlet while “imperceptibly influencing” them.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s local press scene has seen the closure of three major news outlets – Apple Daily, Stand News and Citizen News – as well as several smaller publications since the passing of the national security law.

The founder of Apple Daily, Jimmy Lai, has been remanded in custody since December 2020 and will stand trial over national security and sedition charges at the city’s High Court, where the maximum sentence is life in prison.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.