The Atlantic – 9 September 2021
Early one morning a couple of years ago, at the height of Hong Kong’s prodemocracy protest movement, Ta Kung Pao, a Chinese-government-owned newspaper based in Hong Kong, published what it claimed was a major scoop. An American diplomat had met with a group of high-profile activists, including Joshua Wong. A photo accompanied the piece, a low-angle shot from across the lobby of the hotel where the meeting had ostensibly taken place. For Beijing, which at the time was promoting the baseless theory that foreign forces were behind Hong Kong’s protests, the gotcha moment was a juicy story.
Western media largely ignored the meeting: A diplomat talking with activists is not typically news. Once trumpeted by Ta Kung Pao, however, the story was picked up by other pro-Beijing outlets and twisted as it reverberated across Chinese state media. The meeting eventually made its way to English-language outlets; the far-right website ZeroHedge published a story that was subsequently posted on the website of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, an organization founded by the former Texas congressman.
Basic facts, however, were incorrect from the start. According to a State Department official, who requested anonymity for fear of being targeted by the newspaper, Julie Eadeh, a political counselor at the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, was assisting a delegation of congressional staffers who were meeting with Wong and his colleagues. She had simply arrived a few minutes ahead of the delegates and was waiting with the activists.
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