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Chinese State Media Features German Twitterer “Defamed by Evil Western Forces”

European media call the 21-year-old Heyden a CCP propagandist, Chinese media call her a victim of the Western media agenda.

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The German influencer Navina Heyden has been labeled “a propagandist for the Chinese government” by European media outlets. She is now featured by Global Times for preparing a lawsuit against German newspaper Die Welt for “defaming” her.

A 21-year-old woman from Germany has been attracting attention on Chinese social media this week after state media outlet Global Times published an article about her battle against “biased journalism” in Europe.

She is known by her Chinese name of Hǎiwénnà 海雯娜 on Weibo, but also by her German name, Navina Heyden. On Twitter (@NavinaHeyden) she has around 34K followers, on Weibo (@海雯娜NavinaHeyden) she has over 15800 fans.

According to the Global Times story, which is titled “21-year-old German Girl Debunking China’s Defamation Is Tragically Strangled by Evil Western Forces” [“21岁德国女孩驳斥对中国抹黑,惨遭西方恶势力绞杀”], Heyden has been on a mission to “refute Western media’s smear campaign against China” for the past year.

The same article was also published by other Chinese state media outlets this week, including Xinhua, Xinmin, and Beijing Times.

Recently, various European news outlets reporting about Heyden’s online activities described her as a Twitter influencer acting as an advocate for “pro-CCP narratives.”

It started with the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag publishing an article on June 15 of 2021 titled “China’s Secret Propagandists” [“Chinas Heimliche Propagandisten”], in which Heyden was accused of being a propagandist. That same story was translated into French and published by Le Soir on June 23.

An article by London-based think tank ISD (Institute for Strategic Dialogue) dated June 10, titled “How a Pro-CCP Twitter Network is Boosting the Popularity of Western Influencers” (link), also featured Heyden and her alleged role in a coordinated Chinese online propaganda campaign.

The article focuses on Heyden’s Twitter activity and her supposedly inorganic follower growth, using data research to support the claim that she is more than just a young woman siding with Chinese official views.

Heyden claims that she agreed to do the initial interview with Die Welt about her views on China and the online harassment she experienced by anti-China activists, but that the reporters eventually published something that was very different from the actual interview content, describing Heyden as a Chinese government propagandist and disclosing names and locations without her consent.

Heyden says she is now preparing a lawsuit against the newspaper and its three journalists for violating her rights. In order to do so, she started a crowdfunding campaign to help her fight media defamation. That ‘Go Fund Me’ campaign was also promoted on Weibo on July 5th, and she soon reached over 13,000 euros in donations.

The main take-away of the Global Times story is that Heyden is an active social media user who has bravely refuted Western bias on China and exposed the supposed media hysteria regarding the rise of China, and that she has been purposely targeted by European media outlets for doing so.

Heyden joined Twitter in March of 2020 with her bio describing her as a “German amateur manga drawer, studying business economy, grown up within Chinese community since age 15.”

Since then, she has tweeted over 1000 times and has spoken out about many issues involving China, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the situation in Xinjiang, the national security law in Hong Kong, the India-China border conflict, and the status of Taiwan. She sometimes also tweets out more personal information, such as the time when she shared photos of herself and her Chinese partner.

Her very first tweet on the platform – one about China not falsifying Covid-19 numbers – was sent out on April 1st of 2020 and received 52 likes. Over the past year, her account has only gained more likes and followers.

A later tweet in which Heyden wrote “I can testify that Chinese Muslims are not persecuted like what western media claimed” (link) received over 870 likes.

In another tweet, Heyden wrote: “China is unfairly treated because she’s always put in a trial without chances to defend. Her words must be propaganda, her people must be brainwashed. After confirmation with Chinese sources and my experiences, I’m enraged about how wrong our media is. This is harmful to us all.” That tweet received over 1.4K likes.

Besides the fact that Heyden’s tweets are often retweeted by the Twitter accounts of Chinese diplomats and other prominent Chinese channels – sometimes within just a few seconds of one another, – the aforementioned ISD article claims that Heyden’s account has grown in a relatively short time due to sudden spikes in followership by accounts that were created in batches at specific times and in short sequence.

For a Twitter post of August 2020, Heyden recorded a video in which she explained why she wanted to open up her Twitter account in the first place and counter those accusing her of being a “CCP agent” or a “fake account”. She said:

I’m not getting paid by anyone so stop wasting your time on proving something which I am not. A lot of people may wonder why I say so many positive things about China in the first place. The reason is that when I was around 15 years old I was introduced into the Chinese community and I got to learn a lot of Chinese people, what they think about China, and also what they think about their government. And I found that the China I visited is so much different from the China that the media is describing. It’s almost as if the media is describing a whole different country. Now, it wouldn’t be so bad if only people would not buy those false narratives, and I’m having a problem with it, because a lot of my close friends and also my family are believing all those false narratives. And this is causing me to have some conflicts with them from time to time. So I’ve decided to open this Twitter account to debunk all those false narratives.”

At this time, Heyden describes her own Twitter account as “one of the most influential ones to show people what real China is like.”

The story about Heyden’s online activities seems to suit some ongoing narratives in both European and Chinese newspapers. For the first, it upholds the idea of China secretly attempting to infiltrate and influence democratic societies in new ways; for the latter, it confirms the belief that biased Western media will do anything to defile China while serving the interests of their political parties.

Meanwhile, on Weibo, hundreds of netizens have praised Heyden for defending China and standing up against Western media.

“China has 1.4 billion people, Germany just has [tens] millions, of course, you’re gonna get a lot of fans if you support China,” one popular comment on Weibo said.

One influential Weibo blogger (@文创客) wrote about Heyden, calling her a victim of a “deranged” situation where Western media outlets have used her for their anti-China narratives.

“When will you come and live in China,” some people on Weibo ask, with various other commenters saying: “Just come to China!”

Plans to move to China seem to be on the horizon for the German influencer. In an earlier tweet, she confirmed: “We are already on the path to live in China PERMANENTLY. Really feel much safer there.”

Despite sharing her strong support for China on Twitter, the 21-year-old recently also expressed some frustrations with the Chinese social media climate when she encountered censorship on Sina Weibo and experienced some difficulties posting on Bilibili and Toutiao.

On Twitter, she wrote: “To CPC, you can’t lock your citizens in an information greenhouse forever.”

Sharing some of her frustrations regarding the Chinese social media sphere on Weibo, where she even admitted to missing Twitter, some Weibo users offered their support: “We’re on your side.”

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Media

Chinese Tennis Star Peng Shuai Attends Fila Kids Junior Tennis Finals

Peng Shuai shows up at the Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenge Finals in Beijing.

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Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai (彭帅) has ‘reappeared’ on Chinese social media for the first time her post of November 2nd (link) sent shockwaves across social media before it was taken offline.

Although her Weibo account has no new posts and searches for her name still do not come up with any recent content, Peng attended the Junior Tennis Challenge Grand Finals event while keeping a relatively low profile. Photos of Peng Shuai attending the Beijing event were shared by various accounts, including that of China Open (@中网ChinaOpen).

The Junior Tennis Finals are meant to cultivate Chinese tennis talent.

The event that Peng attended is the Diamond Cup Junior Tennis Challenge, which is meant for the 6-12 age group.

Peng’s appearance is noteworthy; over the past two weeks, international concerns have grown over the whereabouts of the Chinese tennis star. Famous tennis players including Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams used the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai in joining the calls to locate the “missing” Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.

Peng had not been seen or heard from publicly she described the affair she allegedly had with former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli (张高丽) in her November 2nd Weibo post, in which she also claimed that Zhang once forced her into having sex.

While the issue was completely silenced in Chinese (social) media, the English-language state media outlet CGTN did address the commotion on Twitter on November 17, when they shared a screenshot of an email allegedly sent by Peng to WTA Chairman Steve Simon, saying she was not missing and not unsafe.

While many people still raised their concerns on Twitter and a White House spokesperson even said the Biden administration was ‘deeply concerned’ about the reports alleging that Peng Shuai had gone missing, photos of Peng Shuai in her home showed up on Friday (November 19th), posted on Twitter by Chinese journalist
Shen Shiwei (沈诗伟) claiming the tennis star posted them on her WeChat moments.

One day later, a video was also shared on Twitter by Shen, showing Peng having dinner and having conversations in which it was clearly indicated that the date was November 20, 2021.

Later, news came out that Peng also attended the Junior Tennis Finals during the weekend. After the email, the home pics, and the dinner, this was the fourth time news of Peng’s whereabouts made its rounds on Twitter, but it was the very first time in 19 days that she ‘reappeared’ in mainland China’s online media spheres.

“A familiar face came to the Diamond Cup,” one comment said, with others writing “long time no see” and “she showed her face!”

“She lost a lot of weight,” others said, not explicitly mentioning Peng Shuai’s name.

Some commenters just expressed they were happy to see the tennis champion “doing well” and being “safe and sound.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Local News

Online Outrage after Pet Dog Gets Killed by Anti-Epidemic Workers in Shangrao

An official response to the Shangrao incident that called the killing of the dog “harmless disposal” only added fuel to the fire.

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A pet dog was killed by anti-epidemic workers in Shangrao this week while its owner was undergoing quarantine at a nearby hotel. Chinese netizens are outraged, not only about the dog being killed during extreme efforts to contain Covid19, but also about the seemingly cold response of local authorities after it happened.

This weekend, a case in which a pet dog was killed by epidemic prevention workers in the city of Shangrao has sparked outrage on Chinese social media.

The incident occurred in the Golden Phoenix Garden community (金凤花园小区) in the Xinzhou district of Shangrao, a medium-sized prefecture-level city located in the northeast of Jiangxi province. Due to a new confirmed case of Covid19, the community is undergoing a lockdown and its residents are being quarantined while apartments are being disinfected.

On November 12, one of the community residents named Mrs. Fu (傅) shared on Weibo how her pet dog was presumably killed by anti-epidemic workers while she was undergoing quarantine at a local hotel that did not allow pets. She shared security footage recorded inside her residence from Friday around 16:45, showing how two epidemic workers enter her apartment and then begin to beat her pet dog on the head with iron bars.

The story and video sparked anger online, and the official response to the incident only added fuel to the fire.

On Saturday, November 13, Shangrao’s Xinzou district released a statement via its official Weibo channel (@信州发布). The statement, posted as late as 23:37, explained that residents of the community were supposed to leave their doors open while being quarantined, but that the door of this particular resident was closed. Anti-epidemic staff then received police assistance in entering the house to disinfect it, which is when they discovered the dog was at the home. The notice writes that the workers then proceeded to deal with the dog through “harmless disposal” (the literal words “无害化处理” could also be translated as ‘handling [something] to be made harmless’).

The statement also says that the worker has since been removed from his post and has apologized.

Very similar wording can be found in an article addressing the controversy in the English-language version of Chinese state media outlet Global Times, where the incident is described as a staffer who “culled a pet dog during anti-epidemic mission,” and that the staffer “gave harmless disposal on a pet dog without having fully communicated with the pet owner.”

Other reports in Chinese media about the incidents received criticism from netizens for emphasizing anti-epidemic policies and the otherwise “humane” treatment of animals.

“Don’t you think you’re laughable? You have some nerve to report on this like this,” one top comment said.

By now, the incident has attracted the attention of thousands of netizens using various hashtags, with one of them gaining over 170 million on views on Weibo, becoming one of the top trending topics on Sunday (#居民在外隔离期间家中小狗被扑杀#, #上饶正调查隔离人员宠物狗被扑杀#, #上饶回应隔离宠物狗疑似被扑杀#).

“The government of Shangrao leaves me speechless,” one Weibo user (@爱吃火锅的邓邓) writes: “This dog was not even confirmed of having Covid19. Nevertheless, they just beat him to death. How can you be so cruel?!”

In September of this year, three pet cats that tested positive for Covid19 were put down in the Chinese city of Harbin. That incident also led to a social media backlash at what some viewed as overkill in local efforts to contain the virus. This case, however, is still different because the dog involved was allegedly killed before even getting tested for Covid19.

“You just ‘dispose’ of the dog and that’s it? The dog’s life is over! We don’t even know how many dogs were killed like this,” others responded.

“Prying open people’s doors, killing people’s pets, and then pressuring people to delete their posts on the matter, forcing them to settle (..), – Shangrao government is really putting itself on display here,” one commenter said, referring to online rumors that Mrs. Fu was pressured by authorities into deleting her social media post – she posted about being threatened herself.

The dog owner claims she is being threatened and pressured into deleting her social media post.

The dog owner also claims that at least one other cat and dog by residents living in the same community have also been “disposed of.” At the time of writing, this claim has not been confirmed by official sources.

Meanwhile, a poster showing a cat saying “I can’t transmit covid19, please don’t abandon or hurt me” is circulating on social media. The Shanghai Center for Disease Prevention and Control reportedly stated it is unlikely for small pets to get Covid19, and that they therefore should not need to be screened.

I can’t transmit covid19, please don’t abandon or hurt me.”

The terms “harmless disposal” (无害化处置) and “culling” (扑杀) that have been used by some Chinese state media and local authorities in describing the Shangrao incident are also circulating online, with many people expressing disbelief in the seemingly cold and careless way in which the unnecessary killing of pets is being portrayed.

Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin also posted about the issue, writing: “In my opinion, even from the perspective of crisis communication, this was certainly not a successful notice. It is not surprising to see it trigger controversies online.”

At the same time, Hu also called on people not to condemn China’s zero-covid19 approach over this controversy, writing: “We cannot deny the overall hard work of the grassroots pandemic prevention workers because of a specific case.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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