Women at the forefront of Hong Kong protests are being subjected to rape threats, body-shaming, sexist trolls and doctored photos, they told news agency AFP. Most of them suspect pro-Beijing trolls to be behind the abuse, as the majority of messages were in simplified Chinese — predominantly used in mainland China.
“They are not attacking my views or anything, they just attack me because I am female,” said Hong Kong student Mickey Leung Ho Wun. The 17-year-old discovered a doctored picture of her at a pro-democracy rally was being spread on Facebook via a page supporting the city’s police. In the original, Wun is standing next to a banner reading ‘I am a secondary school student’ but in the altered version, the sign reads ‘I am not wearing any underwear.’
Celebrity Hong Kong singer turned activist Denise Ho said on Facebook the aim of the online attacks against her was to “ignore her will, ignore her vision, focus on her exterior and dress, and then demonise.”
Another young female protester, Ka Yau Ho, said a photograph shared online of her being detained by the police during a rally was altered so it appeared her nipples were showing.
Last week, thousands rallied against alleged police sexual violence, holding aloft purple lights in solidarity with abuse victims. The attendees used the #ProtestToo hashtag to highlight their plight.
It is not only pro-democracy demonstrators who have endured abusive gendered attacks. Photographs of Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, have been superimposed onto scantily-clad models’ bodies and pasted on walls in the city.
Earlier this month tech giants Twitter and Facebook said they had suspended nearly 1,000 active accounts emanating from China, aimed at undercutting the legitimacy of the Hong Kong protest movement. A Twitter spokesperson told AFP that “abuse, harassment and hateful conduct have no place on our service”.
(With inputs from AFP)