Beijing says Hong Kong protests ‘show signs of terrorism.’ If you only watch state media, you probably agree

Hong Kong CNN  — 

Out-of-control mobs beating up police. Crazed separatists throwing petrol bombs and vandalizing government buildings. The symbols of the country insulted and humiliated. Local authorities overwhelmed and in need of assistance.

This is the picture consumers of Chinese state media have been receiving of the Hong Kong protests, now approaching their 11th consecutive weekend. While there is some truth to it – there have been numerous incidents of violence, and protesters have targeted Chinese flags and government buildings – it remains a highly selective and incomplete take.

Crucially, it appears to distort the reasons behind the unrest. Protests were initially sparked by opposition to a now-shelved extradition bill, but have since expanded to include demands for an investigation into police brutality and long-running calls for greater democracy and political reform.

It also ignores the many peaceful marches and the reciprocal, seemingly self-perpetuating cycle of violence, with both protesters and police deploying increasingly forceful tactics.

While many Hong Kongers are concerned about the escalating violence, and many have been inconvenienced by transport shutdowns and other travel disruptions, there is little sense of danger in the city beyond the protest front lines, and it is certainly far from the war zone often depicted in Chinese state media.

The presentation of the protests in mainland China – where propaganda combines with the vast online censorship apparatus of the Great Firewall to allow the government to construct a narrative of its choosing – has evolved significantly over the past two months.