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Fake news, sex and a Hong Kong student protester

A small gap in Hong Kong’s revolutionary repertoire was filled last week: sex stories.

This is a universal feature of respectable revolutions, let alone disreputable ones: conservative observers are convinced that the revolutionaries are at it all the time, breaking the rules of sexual behaviour just as they break those of politics and law.

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A protest against alleged police sexual harassment. Photo: Inmediahk.net.

This casts a slightly disreputable air over what might otherwise seem an idealistic enterprise, and also appeals to a fundamental curiosity which humans share with monkeys, apes and other group-dwelling animals: who is doing it with who?

I do not doubt that such stories were told of the “sans-culottes” in the 1790s. Certainly it was a recurring theme in reports of 20th-century student protests, although in my years as a student protester I never saw any sign of politically sanctioned intercourse.

Of course, some people did have extra-marital sex – this was the 60s – but nobody connected this with politics. In fact, the more political people were, generally speaking, the more puritanical they were about sex, drugs and booze.

The rumours had a certain utility. When I was studying in Lancaster the wildest rumours had circulated about student social life and it was easy to hitch lifts, usually from men who were alone in the car and thought you might be able to wangle them an invitation to “one of them orgies”.

Hong Kong critics of the revolution have been surprisingly slow to get round to this traditional trope, but it arrived on Monday from the lips of Ms Fanny (no giggling please) Law Fan Chiu-fun, a member of the Executive Council.

Fanny Law

Fanny Law. Photo: Apple Daily.

Those of you who have been holding your breath waiting for this to come up can now relax and breathe more easily – or more heavily if you prefer; whatever floats your boat.

Ms Law was on a radio phone-in programme. Somebody sent in an email saying that he or she had heard a video recording posted on the internet, saying that many girls aged 13 or 14 had been told they were “angels of the revolution” and should offer free sex to comfort “the warriors”.

“You may not believe a 14-year-old girl shared her story on social media; schoolgirls like her were labelled as angels tasked to provide comfort services to frontline protesters,” the email read.

“It was the girl’s first time. The schoolgirl said she then offered services to other protesters, every time a different man. She recently found herself pregnant.”

This particular case was apparently a reference to a “letter of confession from a 14-year-old girl”, tracked down by the Standard’s intrepid reporter (thank you Cindy Wan, good work), in which the author claimed she had had sex with seven protesters, who did not use condoms, “under the influence of alcohol and marijuana”. She then became pregnant and had an abortion.

Exciting stuff, but you might think a bit sketchy. It seems that the writer of the email had read the “confession”, so this internet gem was the only evidence for the whole story. The Standard’s indefatigable Miss Wan also found a picture of a set of willing and eager “angels” in facemasks, but reported that this had already been diagnosed as a screengrab from a Vietnamese porn movie.

So the only thing this story has going for it is the “confession”. There are two problems with this. One is that, as they say, on the internet nobody knows if you’re a dog. So the author could be a remorseful 14-year-old girl, or it could be a dog, or a 40-year-old truck driver with a lurid taste in erotic fantasy, or a political mudslinger, or a Macedonian teenager who has discovered the pay-per-click racket. We don’t know.

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Photo: May James/HKFP.

And the timing is a bit suspicious. Street fighting didn’t really get going until the second half of June. That leaves our “angel” with a mere ten weeks or so for grooming, multiple indiscretions, discovery of pregnancy, abortion, and penning of confession.

Ms Law might in the light of this have legitimately questioned whether there was anything in the story. She might, being a well-intentioned mature lady with maternal instincts, have got away with a few warning words to youngsters about ensuring that post-riotous euphoria is not followed by post-coital regret. But she went further than that.

“We have confirmed that this is a true case,” she said. “I am so sad for these young girls who have been misled into offering free sex.”

And who, one wonders, is the “we” who have confirmed this is a true case? Is the Executive Council now investigating? Ms Law wears so many hats. Other possibilities include the National People’s Congress of the PRC, the China-US Exchange Foundation, the China Development Bank, and the Hong Kong X-Tech Startup Platform. Or could it be one of the companies of which she is a director: China Resources (Holdings) Co. Ltd. CLP Holdings Limited, China Unicom (Hong Kong) Limited, DTXS Silk Road Investment Holdings Company Limited or Nameson Holdings Limited?

No such luck. The “we” was royal. Law said the girl in question was the daughter of a friend’s friend, although she admitted that was “second-hand knowledge”.

“But it’s direct. It’s real,” she said. No it isn’t. Second-hand knowledge is not direct and real. Connoisseurs of urban myths (for whom this website is indispensable) will know that there is nothing too outlandish or ostentatiously fictitious to be passed around on the basis that “I know it’s true because my friend heard it from her friend who knows the victim.”

Actually it seems the situation is a bit worse than that. Explaining herself to Avery Ng, the League of Social Democrats chairman, Ms Law said that the confirmation came from a “cruise buddy” who said that the girl in question was the daughter of a friend’s friend.

It is difficult to know what to make of Ms Law’s conduct in this matter. Clearly “we have confirmed” was misleading. “I have heard a similar rumour” might have been acceptable. She then told radio listeners that she would not receive any interviews from the press.

But later she turned up in a newspaper (not the Standard, which is often discriminated against in this manner, the other one) which reported her as saying that “people are free to decide whether or not to believe it. Of course, I can trace the origin of the information through a trusted friend’s friend who knows the girl, but to reveal more details would be traumatic.”

She also said that “Preventive advice cannot be wrong. Girls have to be alert and stay away from alcohol and marijuana in gatherings with ‘new’ friends whom they only met in various protest activities. They have to protect themselves and avoid being abused.”

With which no sensible person would disagree. But preventive advice should come in the form of advice, not lurid scare stories which stink of fiction. Notice the smooth elision from “this case” to “these young girls” in the plural.

I do not doubt that romance sometimes blossoms on the barricades. A certain number of Hong Kong girls get pregnant unintentionally all the time and with so many youngsters engaging in protests of one kind or another there will no doubt emerge individual cases in which protest and pregnancy overlap.

It is I suppose quite possible that there is one case out there in which the unfortunate victim is aged 14. But that does not justify Ms Law’s attempts to thrill the world with a pandemic of dope-fuelled statutory rape. She clearly succumbed to the temptation to descend into dog-whistle politics and discredit all the protesters by casting aspersions on their morality.

On the surface, maternal concern for young things at risk. In the understanding of many listeners the subliminal message that protesters are not only vandalising tube stations and throwing things at policemen – they may be younger and prettier than you but the men are rapists and the girls are slags.

Would she have been so eager to pass on a rumour that JPC police groupies were offering freebies to heroic constables?

It is unfair to generalise about a group from one example. I do not, for example, wish to suggest that all the members of Exco are gullible hypocrites, tempting though that theory may be. Just one of them.


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Fake news, sex and a Hong Kong student protester