I have been interviewed by a reporter recently and talked about things I thought were very ordinary. Afterward, the reporter was extremely thankful and commented on how difficult it was to find someone willing to be interviewed or open their mouths to talk these days.
If you have been paying even a little bit of attention to the news, you would realize many different voices have vanished.
Many of the most fearless and outspoken people are either in prison or have been denied bail, which means they are serving jail terms before even being convicted. Their voices have been extinguished behind bars. Even those who have been granted bail could not speak up because of the harsh bail conditions.
Then there is another group of people who have been arrested but not charged. The media could interview them as they wish because they are not in a trial period according to the law. But some media bosses decided to apply new rules out of nowhere and decided that these people could not be interviewed because they are “involved in criminal cases.”
Many people are still free to talk. But in this tense atmosphere with red lines everywhere, and people can easily commit an “offense,” they decided to speak less to be safe.
More people know that it is not the time for reasoning and analyzing rationally, or even emotional mobilization, because those in power can do whatever they like. It is useless trying to argue.
Fewer people are willing to speak, and fewer things are allowed to be spoken about. The red lines have formed a web that covers almost everywhere. The topics about Xinjiang independence, Tibet independence, and Taiwan independence have long been the forbidden areas for discussion, except to criticize these ideas or passively refer to the government’s stance. A couple of years ago, RTHK actively looked for some Uyghurs to talk about their experiences in the re-education camp for its English featured program, which has been dug out and denounced by the wumaos (five cents brigade) recently. In the end, the reporter involved in the program resigned.
Reports about the leaders’ personal affairs, the wealth of the Party’s senior officials, and the scandals of the Princelings have long been extinct from Hong Kong’s newspapers. Looking through Wisenews, I have discovered that Apple Daily is the only media, among numerous outlets in Hong Kong, that has reported the latest “EsuWiki case.” It was about Niu Tengyu, a netizen who has revealed the personal details of Xi Jinping and his daughter online, who has been sentenced to 14 years in prison. It is public information released by the court and definitely has news values. What is the press afraid of?
Regarding big debates such as national security law, the political system reform, brainwash education, and media “clean-up,” the so-called mainstream media would only discuss small details like implementation issues. Not many will talk about the big “right or wrong” principle.
There is also a “celebration” mentality. The great motherland has all the grand plans worth celebrating such as the Greater Bay Area, the Belt and Road initiative, and the newly added Winter Olympics, the 14th Five-Year Plan, and the 100th anniversary of the CCP establishment. The media, receiving substantial financial sponsors, helps play the happy and harmonious tunes by writing reports full of praise and nearly never a word of criticism.
Do not get used to the information black hole. When you see Carrie Lam hogging the TV channel as a show host trying to build up momentum for her re-election, or the media being full of new-age programs that only say “the Party is always right,” please keep a clear mind. Listen to those voices that have disappeared, observe what you no longer see, understand the tiny waves that have escaped the black hole, and remember the freedom that used to be there and think of the people whose voices have been stamped out.
(Au Ka-lun, veteran journalist)
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