COLUMN: Hong Kong journalists and the psychology behind governmental control

Theo Edwards, Opinions Editor

It is said that humans can be selfish creatures, but as displayed through many protest efforts in history time again, people don’t speak out just for themselves but for the hope that life will be better for future generations to come. 

When people speak out, despite the consequences of potential arrest or violence, it requires major empathy for fellow people. 

Last month consequently to efforts of free media and coverage of protests, Stand News in Hong Kong was raided by around 200 police officers, according to Al Jazeera Media Network. 

These journalists are not terrorists. Large enforcement was not needed. They were raided by a large number of police officers to be made an example of and it worked. 

Citizen News, another independent Hong Kong news outlet followed in shutting down on January fourth due to concerns about staff safety. 

Both Stand News and Citizen News were part of covering pro-democracy protest movements in Hong Kong, especially during protests to the extradition bill China tried to put in place in 2019. The bill has since been redacted but protests continue for full democracy. 

After the protest movements were riddled with major arrests and national security law (a law where virtually anything deemed a threat to “national security” could bring any suspects to mainland China to be handled within the mainland’s criminal justice system and tried under mainland law), the news outlets turned the focus to the courts and put dozens of criminal cases against protesters and opposition politicians into the public eye. 

The Chinese government shutting down independent journalism this way is not just a political and democratic issue, but it must be acknowledged that specific fear tactics are being used. There is a psychological angle to this. 

There is a baseline violation to making people fear to speak up as well as restricting people’s access to information on what is going on in their country. 

By taking away information and knowledge it limits citizens from being able to talk about or even think about what is going wrong. This is not new when it comes to China. 

Trying to gaslight citizens into believing a modified version of history as such by the erasure of Tiananmen Square Massacre, a student-led protest in 1989 for greater accountability, constitutional due process, democracy, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. 

According to History television network online, “Chinese troops and security police stormed through Tiananmen Square, firing indiscriminately into the crowds of protesters. Turmoil ensued, as tens of thousands of the young students tried to escape the rampaging Chinese forces. Other protesters fought back, stoning the attacking troops and overturning and setting fire to military vehicles. Reporters and Western diplomats on the scene estimated that at least 300, and perhaps thousands, of the protesters had been killed and as many as 10,000 were arrested.”

To this day the Chinese government refuses to acknowledge it and censors it on the internet there.

It is important to look at this from a psychological standpoint and that the Chinese government is not enacting these laws and conducting raids for safety, but enacting fear in people to make them behave the way the government wants them to. 

Theo Edwards is a junior psychology major. They can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]