Hong Kong activists use 'Pokémon Go' and Tinder to organize as police crack down on protests

  • Protesters in Hong Kong have made creative use of technology like AirDrop and Tinder to spread information about the pro-democracy protests, despite increasingly brutal tactics by the Hong Kong police.
  • China is also using tech platforms to distribute information about the protest to mainlanders — pro-military propaganda videos shared via the Chinese version of TikTok.
  • While China has not yet intervened in the protests, which started in response to a proposed extradition bill that would allow Hong Kongers to be sent to mainland China for trial, officials have warned against continued protest. A representative for China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Bureau sent a warning to protesters, saying that "those who play with fire will perish by it."
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As protests in Hong Kong continue into their third month, the police response has become more violent, masked men with gang ties have beaten protesters, and the Chinese government is making veiled threats. And as the crackdowns get more severe, activists are becoming more creative with their organizing tactics, using Tinder, "Pokémon Go," and the iPhone's AirDrop feature to organize.

Tinder, the popular dating app, is one method of sharing information about demonstrations. Gavin Huang, an editor for Goldthread, shared a photo of a Tinder profile he encountered on Twitter.

The South China Morning Post reports that, while most online organizing is still done on LIHKG, Hong Kong's version of Reddit, protesters are exploring new ways of sharing information, including with Chinese mainlanders visiting Hong Kong.

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Because most information mainlanders receive about the protests is limited to government propaganda, Hong Kongers are using AirDrop to share information with them about why the protests are happening — namely, the desire for more democratic freedoms for the semiautonomous territory.

Protesters are also using the Apple feature to share protest information with one another, the South China Morning Post reported.

The Hong Kong police are using new tactics meant to deter protests and target activists, including marking protesters with colored ink, which makes them easier to track. Protesters have been using green lasers to obscure their faces on facial-recognition cameras.

While the Chinese government and armed forces are not directly involved in the protests, the government is also using 21st-century tech to spread its message about the protests. According to the outlet Abacus, the Chinese government is using Douyin, its version of TikTok, to share video of an anti-riot drill by the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison. The video got 88 million likes.

A representative for China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Bureau warned protesters that "those who play with fire will perish by it," according to The Independent. The representative, Yang Guang, released a document warning pro-democracy protesters that punishment from the mainland was "only a matter of time."

"I would like to warn all of the criminals: don't ever misjudge the situation and mistake our restraint for weakness," he wrote.

Yet the protests continue. When the Hong Kong police refused to allow a demonstration in a suburban neighborhood, protesters told them they came to play "Pokémon Go."