Behind the Facade of Violence

This past week media outlets reported that a Hong Kong police officer shot an 11th grade student with a live gun.

This past week media outlets reported that a Hong Kong police officer shot an 11th grade student with a live gun. This use of lethal force marks a change in tone in Hong Kong’s four months of escalating violence. As a Hong Kong citizen myself, I’m troubled by what I see on the

The different media often portrays each event differently, selectively choosing evidence from the same event and drawing conclusions that do not represent incidents as a whole. Even in the incident of the police officer shooting the 11th grade student, each media outlet construed the event differently. After the incident, pro-protest media alleged that the police officer quickly deserted the protester, leaving the student absent of medical attendance. Many protestors claimed it showed the disheartening reality of police brutality. At the same time, anti-protest news sources rejected this interpretation and stated that the police officer had to desert the wounded protester to escape the violent mob, and in fact, the incident had occurred in defense of a colleague. The difference is seen when analyzing a full-length video of the incident, where segments featured on each respective media outlet’s websites are noticeably cut to portray each side more favorably. This becomes concerning for a third party, an unbiased reader who is ultimately swayed depending on their news source. While media bias is present in all forms of journalism, in an issue as contentious as Hong Kong, the schism between the headline and reality only grows. Amidst a topic as contentious as Hong Kong’s protests, the nature of violence is often inflated by the radical views of a small minority. Media sources often report news that offer a change in the narrative, moments that can grab interest. So while millions of protestors continue to occupy the streets, such a passive form of protest quickly grows old in the eyes of media outlets. Instead, more radical, new moments, such as the cutting down of surveillance poles, replace the old on the front page. From a third person’s perspective, there is often no context to see the prevalence of a certain act. Each article holds the same weight. Thus, while millions gather in the streets, a small minority of less than a hundred is featured on the news. This bias, also, is inherent to forms of media with a large audience. However, it is important to recognize the validity of news intended to grab the readers’ attention, the depiction of sensationalist moments: protestors lighting a fire and throwing petrol bombs and bricks at police officers. As the media only underscores the many violent acts performed by a small group of protestors and not the people as a whole, one must not forget that the protests also involve millions of citizens who gather in the streets for peaceful marches.

Taking a step back from the chaotic protest scenes and looking at the government and the people as a whole, the partisanship in media reporting has driven the split between the people and the government. All throughout the protests, the government and protestors are totally unwilling to listen to one another, with the government calling for violence to stop and the people rallying for the five demands. There are even two separate daily press briefings: one by the government and police force and the other by the protestors! Despite the government claiming it has started conversations with its citizens, it is obvious that the two sides have not initiated actual and meaningful communication to ease the tensions. What results is a greater rift in the media’s portrayal of events, influenced by a set of two simultaneous narratives from which one is ultimately chosen. For a third party, this is the final facet to understand.

In short, if one is seeking to truly understand the nature of the Hong Kong protests, one should stop to consider the differing views in the media. Information in any secondhand form is arguably biased to some degree. However, in an issue as contentious as Hong Kong, the schism between the front page and reality only grows.