Nury Vittachi – “the other side of the story”
I started my blog after one of my business trips to Hong Kong in October 2019. Hong Kong had been troubled by protests since the summer and these had turned to riots. I kept a diary for my family of what I observed, because it was so different from what the western media were reporting. Little did I know that another Hong Kong diarist, far more famous and skilled than me, was also recording his impressions. He has recently published those – and revealed the truth behind the events in Hong Kong. Nury Vittachi’s book, “The Other Side of the Story”, is required reading for anyone with an interest in Hong Kong.
Nury’s book proves beyond doubt that almost everything you have read or heard (and still read and hear) in western media about the Hong Kong riots is misleading. Most of it is untrue or distorted and reflects badly on the lazy journalists who report each other’s news without investigating the facts. The real stories, based on Nury’s first-hand observations, investigations, and discussions with local people, are what this book is about.
Nury is an experienced journalist and writer. He did his homework thoroughly and placed himself in danger often. In summer 2019, he attended many of the demonstrations. He reflected on strange inconsistencies that he and his correspondents noticed about the protestors, their behaviour, and communications.
The extradition law
The, initially peaceful, protests in the summer of 2019 were about a proposed Hong Kong Government bill allowing extradition of criminals to other countries, including China. Every state has such laws. Most already have an extradition agreement with each other and with China. But some people believed this law was different. China was ‘telling the Hong Kong Government’ to snatch any ‘Hong Kong people who might disagree with the Chinese Communist Party’ and ship them off to a Chinese jail, ‘never to be heard of again’.
Nury, a veteran protester, was also worried by the proposed bill. He joined the protests. Reading the reports in the western media, he was astonished to see that the marchers numbered ‘a million people’. In a later protest, after the Hong Kong Government had withdrawn the bill, ‘two million people’ apparently marched.
Nury was puzzled. One million people? Two million? He was there! He examined the route the marchers took. It is impossible to fit that number in the streets. Any rational count would show that the numbers could never have been more than a few hundred thousand.
OK, said Nury, so the protesters exaggerated; they always do. Two million people means over one quarter of Hong Kong’s population protested. That would be impressive. If the highest figure could only have been 750,000 – that would mean that 90% of Hong Kong’s population stayed away. Why did no-one in the western media spot that?
What exactly was in this bill to make it so alarming? Nury asked around. Nobody had read it! Not the lawyers proclaiming its wickedness, not the protesters and certainly not the journalists. Nury finally read it. There were at least twenty legal steps that could take over three years before anyone is extradited, anywhere, at any time. Anything involving a death penalty was specifically excluded. Hardly draconian (a much over-used word when the media talks about China). Big fuss about nothing. But why?
Nury’s network asked more questions. The posters protestors carried seemed curious. Some said: “Free Hong Kong: Democracy now”. Others, “Liberate Hong Kong – defend our constitution.” Some called for Donald Trump to “Save Hong Kong”. They were all in English, all printed on glossy, expensive material. But the English was not ‘Hong Kong English’. Any local could see that.
Each culture uses English differently. This applies even to those with English as their native language. If you know ‘the code’ you will know, in most cases, where the author of an English phrase originated.)
Hong Kong has no constitution – nothing there to defend. The path to democracy (albeit long and slow) is written into the Joint Declaration agreed between Britain and China in 1984. Britain of course was not keen on democracy in its colonies. Hong Kong has never been democratic in its history until promised it by China (eventually).
So, who wrote these ill-informed words, paid for the printing and distribution? “These hundreds of placards were clear, physical proof that something bad was happening,” writes Nury.
The ‘guiding hands’
Of Hong Kong people, Nury believes that perhaps 15-20% are ardent democrats and genuinely struggle to make an impact. 15-20% are strongly pro-China and aggressively dismiss all contrary opinions. The vast majority are just interested in getting on with their lives. They dislike being disrupted by civil unrest. Nury argues convincingly that they do not want young rioters pretending they represent their views and damaging their lives and the Hong Kong economy.
Nury shows us how outsiders planned, financed, and organised the civil unrest in Hong Kong. Most Hong Kong people knew this but had no proof.
Violence and criminal damage
As public support faded, the riots grew more violent. Racial hatred against China and mainland Chinese people that would have resulted in jail sentences elsewhere became commonplace. One man was set on fire; another died when hit by a protestor’s brick. Thousands of injuries and millions of dollars of damage received almost no coverage in western media.
But what about the Hong Kong police…. the ‘brutal oppressors of freedom-loving young people exercising their right to peaceful protest?’ That must surely be true: it was in every western newspaper.
By careful examination of photographs and videos, it became obvious that the media chose sections of footage that suited their reports of ‘police brutality’ and ignored the rioters’ violence. Nury proves that the Hong Kong police, men and women, far from being the aggressors, were deliberately targeted by rioters. The police may not have always behaved correctly, he agrees. But he cites the many violent protests around the world in 2019 in which people died because of police action. In Hong Kong no one was killed or seriously injured by government forces, suggesting a remarkable degree of restraint under very difficult circumstances.
The rioters’ weapons included sharpened batons, tubes spiked with nails, lasers deployed to blind, Molotov cocktails and lethal bombs and chemicals. However the protests may have begun, this was close to terrorism. Fortunately, the passing of the Security Law in June 2020 has brought a measure of peace.
Why should we believe Nury’s version of events? He provides clear evidence to back his interpretation. Nury Is a well-known trained and experienced journalist, sceptical by nature. He seeks to be both balanced and entertaining. He has access to many ‘real’, non-vocal people, in Hong Kong, ‘the Hong Kong Mums’ – locals and foreigners. They write to him because they know him and read his columns. Above all, he knows the media. He is part of it. He cannot understand why the western media persists, to this day, in deliberately falsifying stories about Hong Kong.
The ‘guiding hands’ have been all too successful.
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