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Dutch China Correspondent Accused of “Fake News” by Former Assistant

The news assistant of a prominent Dutch China correspondent has lashed out against his former employer on Chinese social media, saying he has fabricated news stories about China during the time he worked for him.

Manya Koetse

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The news assistant of a prominent Dutch China correspondent has lashed out against his former employer on Chinese social media, saying he fabricated news stories about China during the time he worked for him. As the controversial story has since been shared by Chinese state media outlet Global Times, Beijing’s BTime website now says that “time is up” for the Dutch “story king.”

On September 4th, Zhang Chaoqun (张超群), the former assistant of China correspondent Oscar Garschagen, published an article on Chinese social media platform WeChat in which he accuses the Dutchman of fabricating news.

Garschagen is a well-respected Dutch journalist who has been working as a China reporter for Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad (NRC) for ten years. He previously also worked as a correspondent in the US and Israel. He is currently based in Shanghai.

Zhang, who says he worked with Garschagen for two years, first published his accusations in a Chinese WeChat post (“我炒了写假新闻的外媒记者“) via the ‘Foreign Media in China’ account (抢占外媒高地). After making its rounds in China’s journalism circles through the WeChat app, the story was also shared on Weibo and Twitter.

Zhang published an English version of his story on China Data Insider later on Monday and publicly contacted the NRC newspaper’s public advocate through Twitter, saying he wanted to expose “serious news fabrication.”

In his English post, titled “A Correspondent’s Guide to Making Fake News in China,” he writes:

“Being a news assistant who helps with pitching stories, conducting researches, conducting/arranging interviews, and translating any necessary Chinese materials but never gets to write a story or have a proper byline (not even a research byline), I dare not say I have mastered the dark art of making fake new. But I have the luck of working with one of the greatest masters of the dark art for two years and watching him fabricating, twisting and distorting stories on many occasions.”

In the article, Zhang then accuses Garschagen of bringing “fake news” in his reports on at least seven occasions. In one case, Zhang alleges that an interview included in a 2016 featured article about rising tensions around the South China Sea conflict actually did not take place at all:

“In June, 2016, as the South China Sea Arbitration Case became a global trending story, Mr Garschagen went to a small fishing town Tanmen, Hainan, with the hope of talking to Wang Shumao, deputy company commander of the maritime militia in Tanmen town. Mr Wang declined the interview request point blank. But why should a rejection get in the way of a good story? In the published story, Mr Garschagen said he waited for three days and finally “interviewed” Mr. Wang with the help from the provincial publicity department. Of course, the interview did not happen at all.”

In other examples, he says that the Dutch reporter made up names of persons included in his work, wrote about scenes he did not actually witness, quoted people saying things they had never said, or combined stories of separate individuals.

Zhang also alleges that for a report about the economically weakening coal city of Lüliang in 2015 – which was triggered by an initial story by NPR.org – Garschagen and Zhang visited three places together: the airport, a coal mine, and the ‘Zhongfen Liquor City.’

Garschagen’s later report about the trip, however, focused on a cement factory in crisis which Zhang says they actually never visited – only the reporter of the original NPR story of four months earlier allegedly had been there.

The NPR story of September 2015 by international correspondent Frank Langfitt includes an interview with a cement factory’s lower-level manager named Gao, while Garschagen’s piece of January 2016 also includes an interview with the cement factory’s former manager (and security guard) named Gao.

Both interviews show various similarities, and both stories include a fragment on a domestic appliance shop owner by the name of “Lei” (“Lei Lili” in the NPR piece and “Lei Li” in the NRC article), who says her business is doing bad because the people of Lüliang have no income anymore.

“I’ve fired my boss today and I’m proud of this decision,” Zhang concludes his online complaint. The news assistant confirmed to Chinese English-language news site Sixth Tone that he emailed his resignation to Garschagen on Monday morning.

In response to the issue, Associated Press correspondent Gerry Shih tweeted on Monday: “Be nice to your news assistant today. Especially if you depend on him/her for everything. And you happen to make a lot of stuff up.”

After state media tabloid Global Times reposted Zhang’s article on WeChat and Weibo, news outlet Beijing Time (北京时间 Btime.com) also reported the story under the title “Time’s Up for ‘Story King’ Foreign Reporter” (“外媒记者当“故事大王”的日子已经不多了”).

Although some Chinese netizens believed Zhang’s account and said that foreign journalists often discredit China for their own political agenda, there were also people who questioned the story and wondered why it was republished by the Global Times, an outlet owned by official Party newspaper People’s Daily.

“I started to wonder when I saw the source,” one person wrote on WeChat. Others asked if the author might have written this to “to highlight their own justice.”

On Btime.com alone, the story was viewed over 7,5 million times by Monday evening. Zhang’s original post was also republished on other Chinese news media sites such as Sina News and Phoenix News.

Beijing Time wrote that although the truthfulness of Zhang’s allegations had not yet been verified by a third party, “there are [indeed] some ‘story kings’ amongst foreign reporters, who are wasting their time relying on their imaginations and prejudice about China.”

Garschagen, who has an account on Twitter (@oscargarschagen) and Weibo, has not yet responded on social media to the allegations that were made against him by his former assistant. He did tell Sixth Tone that he was “surprised” and “did not understand the accusations.”

He also told Sixth Tone: “This attack on my integrity contains many distortions and untruths.”

In a 2014 interview with Dutch blog The Post Online, Garschagen said about his Chinese colleagues that he had a “very positive” view on them.

UPDATE:

By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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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 Insight

From Hong Kong Protests to ‘Bright Future’ – The Top 3 Most Popular Posts on Weibo This Week

These are the most-read posts on Weibo this week.

Manya Koetse

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The three most-read posts on Weibo over the past week – an overview by What’s on Weibo.

The protests in Hong Kong have been dominating Chinese social media throughout August, and the past week has been no different. Two out of three most-read posts on Weibo, one of China’s most popular social media platforms, were about Hong Kong this week.

A wrap-up:

 

#1 Hundreds of Hong Kong Taxi’s Flying Chinese National Flag

Image shared by CCTV on their Weibo account.

While Hong Kong is gearing up for the 13th consecutive weekend of mass anti-government demonstrations, there are no signs of the protests fizzling out any time soon.

The Hong Kong protests started in March and April of this year against an extradition bill that would allow local authorities to detain and extradite people wanted in mainland China, and have intensified over the past weeks.

Although authorities in mainland China initially remained quiet on the topic, the Hong Kong demonstrations have been dominating the trending streams on China’s popular social media platforms for all of August.

Through videos, online posters, and slogans, Chinese state media have propagated a clear narrative on the situation in Hong Kong; namely that a group of “separatists” or “bandits” are to blame for the riots that aim to “damage public security” in Hong Kong and are “dividing the nation.”

News outlets such as People’s Daily and CCTV are sharing many stories that emphasize the One China principle and praise the Hong Kong police force. Those voices in Hong Kong speaking up for the police force and condemning protesters using violence have been amplified in Chinese media.

One story that became the number one trending post on Weibo this week is that of dozens of Hong Kong taxi drivers hanging the Chinese national flag from their cars (video).

On August 23, the taxi drivers reportedly formed a rally against violence at Tsim Sha Tsui, waving the flags and putting up signs saying “I love HK, I love China.”

The hashtag “500 Hong Kong Taxi’s Hanging up Chinese National Flags” (#香港500辆的士挂上国旗#), hosted by CCTV, attracted over 700 million views on Weibo. The CCTV post reporting on the event received over half a million likes and 47000 shares.

The commenters mostly praise the Hong Kong taxi drivers for “standing up for Hong Kong” and flying the Chinese flag.

In English-language media, it has mostly been Chinese state media reporting on the rally. Xinhua, Women of China, ECNS, and Global Times all reported on the August 23 peace rally.

CNN only shortly reported how “a number of taxis have been spotted driving around the city displaying Chinese flags — something that has not happened on this scale during previous protests” (link).

 

#2 ‘Bright Future’ Title Song for Upcoming Movie ‘The Moon Remembers All’

Over 266.000 Weibo users have been sharing a post by Chinese actor Li Xian (李现) on the title track for the new Chinese movie The Moon Remembers All or River on a Spring Night (Chinese title: 春江花月夜).

The upcoming movie itself is a very popular topic on Weibo recently, attracting 430 million views on its hashtag page alone. The movie just finished shooting and will be released in 2020.

The song titled “Bright Future” (前程似锦) is sung by Taiwanese singer Chen Linong (陈立农) and Li Xian, who are both the leading actors in the fantasy movie. The song was released on August 29.

The Moon Remembers All is produced by Edko Films and directed by Song Haolin (宋灏霖), also known for Mr. Zhu’s Summer (2017) and Fatal Love (2016).

 

#3 Interview with Hong Kong Pro-Beijing LegCo Member Junius Ho

The third most popular Weibo post of this week comes from Xia Kedao (侠客岛), a popular commentator account for the People’s Daily Overseas Edition, and concerns a live broadcasted interview with Hong Kong lawmaker and Legislative Council (LegCo) member Junius Kwan-yiu Ho.

Junius Ho (何君尧) is known as being ‘pro-Beijing’ and stirred controversy earlier this summer when a viral video showed him shaking hands with men wearing white T-shirts who allegedly were linked to the mob attacking people at the Yuen Long MTR station on July 21.

Xia Kedao describes Junius Ho as a “straightforward” politician who “speaks out for justice” and denounces “reactionaries.”

In the August 28 interview, that was live-streamed on Sina Weibo and later also written up, the Hong Kong legislator discussed the background of the protests.

Ho argues that the people with “ulterior motives” used the extradition bill for their own power struggle, distorting and exaggerating the facts behind the regulation.

The politician also partly links the protests to a “weak national consciousness” in Hong Kong due to its education curriculum and says that there have not been enough legal consequences for those participating in illegal activities and riots.

Thousands of commenters on Weibo write that they appreciate Ho for speaking out against the “pro-independence riot youth” and praise him for his “deep understanding” of mainland China.

By now, Junius Ho, who is also active on Weibo with his own account, has gathered more than half a million fans on his page.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Media

CCTV Launches Dramatic Propaganda Video Condemning Hong Kong Protests, Praising HK Police Force

This CCTV video leaves no doubt about what narrative on the Hong Kong protests it’s trying to convey.

Manya Koetse

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This week, while the protests in Hong Kong were intensifying, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV published a video on its social media channels in support of the Hong Kong Police Force. The hashtag used with the video is “HK Police, We Support You!” (香港警察我们挺你#).

“Evil will not press [us] down! A Sir [HK Officers], 1.4 billion compatriots support you!” is the sentence used to promote the video.

The video was initially issued by Xiaoyang Video (小央视频), CCTV’s short video platform, on August 13. There is a Cantonese and a Mandarin version of the same video, which is spread on various channels from Weibo to Bilibili, from YouTube to iQiyi.

“Hong Kong is not a place you can do whatever you please with” is the other message promoted in the video, that uses words such as “terrorists” and “bandits” to describe the Hong Kong protesters.

The sentence that Hong Kong is not a place “to do whatever you like with” (“香港,不是你们为所欲为的地方”) comes from one of the movie scenes incorporated in the video (Hong Kong movie Cold War 2 / 寒战2).

The video is a compilation of footage using TV dramas and movies combined with actual footage from the recent protests.

By using spectacular images and dramatic film scenes, the video conveys a dramatic narrative on the Hong Kong protests, clearly portraying the Police Force as the good guys fighting against evil.

As the video is being liked and shared by thousands of web users on various platform, one popular comment on video platform Bilibili says: “No matter whether it’s a natural disaster, or a man-made disaster, we can overcome this.”

Some of the footage used in this video comes from Firestorm, a 2013 Hong Kong action film (the first 3D Hong Kong police action film). Hong Kong police thriller films Cold War and its sequel are also used, along with Hong film The White Storm (2013), Shock Wave (2017), Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms (2009), Kill Zone (2005), crime drama Line Walker, L Storm (2018), Project Gutenberg (2018), The Menu (2015), and Chasing the Dragon and its sequal (2017/2019).

All of the fictional segments are from made-in-Hong Kong productions.

Watch the propaganda video here.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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