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Twitter is running paid ads from China’s state news agency criticising the Hong Kong protests

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Twitter has been distributing ads from Chinese state media criticising the Hong Kong protests, as spotted by the account of social media bookmarking site Pinboard, run by entrepreneur and developer Maciej Cegłowski.

The posts are from China’s Xinhua News Agency, which is state-run. “Two months on, the escalating violence in Hong Kong has taken a heavy toll on the social order,” one tweet reads, adding that “all walks of life in Hong Kong called for a brake to be put on the blatant violence and for order to be restored.”

Read more: A protester takes us inside the demonstrations in Hong Kong

A second sponsored tweet portrayed the public sentiment in Hong Kong to be at odds with the protests, saying “Hong Kong citizens call for stopping violence, ending chaos and restoring order in the city,” while another pushed a video which described Hong Kong’s economy as deteriorating, although it did not explicitly link this to the protests.

The ongoing Hong Kong protests, now in their eleventh week, were sparked by now-shelved new extradition laws which would allow citizens to be extradited to and tried in mainland China, where they would not be privy to the civil rights protections preserved in Hong Kong.

Protesters were out in force in a peaceful protest on Sunday, with as many as 1.7 million in attendance according to CNN.

Protesters make way for an ambulance on Sunday.
AP Photo/Vincent Thian

There have been eruptions of violence in the protests, with police spraying teargas, beating protesters, and firing beanbags.

Twitter is banned in China, blocked by the country’s “Great Firewall” along with Facebook, Google, and numerous other US tech companies. It’s likely that the sponsored tweets are looking to convince a more international audience of the Chinese government’s stance on the Hong Kong protests.

Cegłowski, who attended the protests, described the promoted tweets from Chinese outlets as “lies.”

“I just came home from a completely peaceful march where possibly a million Hong Kong residents came out, with no police in sight, to call for basic democratic rights, ” he wrote. “What greets me is straight up lies from Xinhua about “bands of thugs”, courtesy of Twitter advertising.”

It’s not clear how long the ads have been running, or exactly where in the world they’ve been distributed using Twitter’s marketing tools.

Twitter was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.

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