An organiser gives 250 HKD to a ‘protester’
Tens of thousands protested in Hong Kong on Tuesday to demand the resignation of Leung Chun-ying, chief of the Executive Council of Hong Kong, which is an institution backed by Beijing. The very same day, thousands took to Hong Kong’s densely packed streets in a counter demonstration supporting the territory’s highest official. They ended the day 250HKD (€25) richer.
Anti-Leung protesters accuse the chief executive of having too snug a relationship with Beijing, and they deplore his decision to build an illegal extension on his Hong Kong home. Not only does the region suffer chronic housing shortages, Mr Leung chastised his opponent, Henry Tang Ying-yen, in last year’s election campaign for digging an illegal cellar beneath his villa.
Organisers say 130,000 protested against Mr Leung on Tuesday, but the police put the figure at 27,000. Waving banners and shouting ‘Leung Chung-ying, step down!’, some demonstrators wore Pinnochio masks, making clear they believe the leader is a liar.
On the same day, organisers claim a pro-Leung protest attracted 60,000 people, while the police said only 8,000 showed up. A few days before, this message was posted on Facebook
“January 1st protest….All those who attend will be paid 300 HKD (€30). The protest will take two hours. You’ll be paid on the same day. If you want to participate, contact Ah Long on Whatsapp 54070155”.
Intrigued, citizen journalists from the website House News decided to contact the so-called Ah Long. They used a hidden camera to film the protest and the moment when 250HKD was handed over. Here is their video:
Translations of the text shown in the video:
10am: One hundred people gather in Statue Square (centre of image). A man apparently organising the protesters rubber stamps their hands.
10.30am: The crowd at regional government offices (everyone hides their faces).
12.20pm: The protest ends, and participators wait to be paid behind a building housing the Legislative Council.
1.15pm: The participants queue in front of portable toilets. The man handing out the cash is the same one who rubber stamped the protesters’ hands. Everyone pockets 250HKD (€25).
An account of what happened is available here
Photo showing some protesters who have hidden their faces (Photo House News)
The website Passion Time
also posted a video of the event. From afar, it shows the same man paying the protesters for their services.
The New Territories Chamber of Commerce, an institution with close ties to Beijing, appeared to play a role in organising the counter demonstration. On the day, journalists from House News photographed
the organisation’s propaganda director with the young man who paid the protesters. They appeared to be counting the number of people taking part. The website
for House News claims the Chamber of Commerce made the payments, a claim vehemently denied.
Since Hong Kong seceded from the United Kingdom in 1997, the territory has technically been administered by Beijing under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. It maintains a special status and has managed to hold onto a free press. The island is also at pains to preserve its Cantonese culture, but some residents fear an ever closer relationship with mainland China could damage the freedoms they still enjoy.