A Chinese state-run newspaper has been blasted after claiming that anti-government protesters were planning massive terror attacks in Hong Kong on September 11.
China Daily made the allegation along with a picture of burning Twin Towers on Facebook, citing 'leaked information'.
The newspaper later said that the post had been based on one post on a messaging platform popular among demonstrators.
The controversial post from Monday said: 'Anti-government fanatics are planning massive terror attacks, including blowing up gas pipes, in Hong Kong on September 11.
'The 9/11 terror plot also encourages indiscriminate attacks on non-native speakers of Catonese [sic], and starting mountain fires.
'The leaked information was part of the strategy being schemed by radical protesters in their online chat rooms.'
The source post was said to come from social media app Telegram, which has been used by many demonstrators to coordinate rallies.
The post said protesters should start killing people indiscriminately if the government failed to meet their demands.
Beijing has previously labelled Hong Kong protesters 'near terrorists' and their rallies 'political terrorism'.
The September 11 attacks, or 9/11 attacks, were a series of airline hijackings and suicidal attacks on the United States in 2001 committed by Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed by the events, which have been the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil in US history.
Both of New York's iconic Twin Towers were reduced to dust after being hit by two hijacked planes. A third plane crashed into Pentagon and a fourth plane was brought down by heroic passengers in Pennsylvania.
The United States is marking the 18th anniversary of the attacks today.
'We don't even need to do a fact check to know that this is fake news,' one Hong Kong protester, Michael, 24, told Reuters referring to the China Daily post.
'The state media doesn't care about its credibility. Whenever something they claimed to have heard on WhatsApp or friends' friends, they will spread it right away.'
Activists in the Asian financial hub have called off protests planned for today in remembrance of the 9/11 attacks.
'In solidarity against terrorism, all forms of protest in Hong Kong will be suspended on Sept. 11, apart from potential singing and chanting,' they said in a statement.
The city's students and pupils are continuing to stage peaceful demonstrations today by forming human chains in support of the pro-democracy movement after starting a city-wide school strike last Monday.
The China Daily report was worrying, said another protester, Karen, 23.
'When they try to frame the whole protest with those words, it alarms me,' she said. 'They are predicting rather than reporting. I think people calling it off today is a nice move.'
Patrick Poon, a researcher from Amnesty International, also denounced the national English-language newspaper which is run by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party.
He said: 'The state-run newspaper has obviously gone too far in the attempt to discredit the frontline protesters in Hong Kong without providing any hard facts to support their claims.
'It once again shows the importance of recognising the differences between real news and propaganda.'
Last month, Twitter announced it had suspended more than 200,000 accounts that it believed were part of a Chinese government's influence campaign targeting the protest movement in Hong Kong.
Facebook and YouTube have also banned accounts and channels that allegedly ran pro-China propaganda to undermine protests in the semi-autonomous city.
Hong Kong has been rocked by an anti-government movement since the beginning of June.
The rallies were first sparked by a law bill that would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. But the city's residents are now demanding for wider democratic reforms.
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam last week promised to formally withdraw the much-hated extradition bill.
But protesters are continuing to urge Lam to respond to all of their five demands, which also include an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, immediately release of arrested protesters and the right for Hong Kong people to choose their own leaders.
China has accused the United States, Britain and other Western countries of plotting and fomenting the unrest.
Beijing yesterday lodged stern representations with Germany after leading activist Joshua Wong, 22, held talks in Berlin with the German foreign minister and gave public speeches to call for support for the Hong Kong movement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents should be protected during an official visit to China last week.
Carrie Lam said in a speech on Wednesday that Hong Kong was grappling with significant challenges, from the trade dispute between China and the United States to the recent unrest.
'My fervent hope is that we can bridge our divide by upholding the one country, two systems principle, and the Basic Law, and through the concerted efforts of the government and the people of Hong Kong,' she told business leaders.
The Basic Law is Hong Kong's mini-constitution.
The protests spread to the sports field on Tuesday, as many football fans defied Chinese law to boo the national anthem ahead of a soccer World Cup qualifier against Iran.
Several peaceful protests are planned for the next few days, combining with celebrations marking the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.