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Official Weibo Account Sends Out Controversial, Insensitive Post on India Covid Crisis

The Weibo post put an image of the Chinese rocket launch besides that of a mass cremation in India.

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On May 1st, a Weibo hashtag titled “More than 400,000 new cases diagnosed in India in a single day” (#印度单日新增确诊超40万例#) made its rounds on the Chinese social media platform, discussing India’s battle with a devastating second wave of COVID19.

One official Party Weibo account, namely that of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (‘China Chang’an Web’ 中国长安网), used the hashtag in a post saying: “Lighting a Fire in China VS Lighting a Fire in India” (“中国点火VS印度点火”).

The post came with an image that showed a rocket in China on the left side, and the mass cremation of bodies in India on the right side.

China Chang’an is a Weibo account with over 15 million followers. The post was sent out on Saturday afternoon, and it was shared at least 9000 times before it was deleted.

The post and its image have triggered controversy on Weibo. Although it was deleted, screenshots of the post still circulated on social media on Saturday night local time.

A popular legal account with over 390.000 followers (@王鹏律师) posted: “Such an inappropriate comparison, show some respect for life. Every country encounters disasters! Not to mention that in times of [this] pandemic, every country is involved.”

“I don’t know what is wrong with the online editor of China Chang’an today, from the propaganda point of view this is a classic case of propaganda failure,” one Weibo commenter said.

“This is so inappropriate for an official account,” others wrote.

“That post gave me chills. I know some people have a very low bottom line, but I could’ve never expected it would be so low, so low that they can openly sneer at the passing of life, so low that they are devoid of conscience and proud of it,” another blogger wrote.

“It’s inhumane,” others said.

At the time of writing, the official Chang’an account has not responded to their previous post on their Weibo page yet, but comments condemning their insensitivity keep flooding in, both on their Weibo page and under the hashtag #中国长安网#.

“‘China Chang’an Web’ does not represent the people of China,” one Weibo user wrote: “I hope the people of India can soon break away from the COVID19 epidemic.”

By Manya Koetse

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©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 World

Meng Wanzhou “Back to the Motherland,” Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor Return to Canada

Meng Wanzhou is coming home to China.

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Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟) is coming home to China. It has been nearly three years since the CFO of Huawei, and the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei (任正非), was first detained in Canada during transit at Vancouver airport at the request of United States officials.

Meng Wangzhou was accused of fraud charges for violating US sanctions on Iran. Ever since late 2018, Chinese officials have been demanding Meng’s release and called the arrest “a violation of a person’s human rights.” Meng was under house arrest in Vancouver while battling extradition to the United States.

At the same time, in December of 2018, Canadian national Michael Kovrig was detained in the Chinese capital by the Beijing Bureau of Chinese State Security. Kovrig, who is known as Kang Mingkai (康明凯) in Chinese, served as a diplomat in Beijing and Hong Kong until 2016, and then became a Hong Kong-based Senior Adviser at the International Crisis Group, where he worked on foreign affairs and global security issues in Northeast Asia.

Kovrig was accused of espionage in China, although many called the arrest a case of “hostage diplomacy” (“人质外交”). In late 2018, Kovrig’s case went trending on Chinese social media. Although many online discussions were censored, popular comments said: “You take one of ours, we take one of yours” (more here).

Also detained in December of 2018 was the Canadian Michael Spavor (迈克尔‧斯帕弗), a China-based consultant and director of Paektu Cultural Exchange, an organization promoting investment and tourism in North Korea. In August of this year, a Chinese court sentenced Spavor to 11 years in prison after declaring him guilty of spying, while Kovrig had still been awaiting a verdict in his case.

Michael Spavor (left) and Michael Kovrig (right).

Now, as announced by Canadian PM Trudeau on Friday night, the two Michaels and Meng are free and on their way home. Meng was discharged by the Supreme Court in British Columbia after an agreement was reached with American authorities to resolve the criminal charges against her. While Meng boarded a flight to Shenzhen, Kovrig and Spavor were heading back to Canada.

On the Chinese social media platform Weibo, Meng’s return to China became the top trending topic of the day. “Meng Wanzhou About to Return to the Motherland” became the no 1 hashtag (#孟晚舟即将回到祖国#), receiving 1.5 billion views by Saturday afternoon (CST).

State media outlet People’s Daily was one of the main accounts pushing hashtags related to Meng. They also released the hashtag “Meng Wanzhou Just Updated her Moments” (#孟晚舟刚刚更新朋友圈#), referring to a social media post by Meng on WeChat, in which she wrote that she was on her way home to China and just crossing the North Pole, adding “under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, our motherland is becoming glorious and flourishing; without a strong motherland, I would not have had my freedom today.”

State media also issued online images featuring Meng, welcoming her back home after 1028 days.

While Meng’s return triggered thousands of posts and comments on Weibo, the release of Kovrig and Spavor did not get nearly as much attention on Chinese social media – it also was not reported on social media by any Chinese official media accounts at time of writing.

In some online discussions on Weibo, commenters called the release of Kovrig and Spavor an “exchange” or “a business deal,” with others writing: “This is better, as long as Meng returns home, it’s alright.”

Meng Wanzhou’s detainment became one of the biggest topics on Chinese social media back in 2018, and it sparked anti-American sentiments – many netizens expressed how the United States was allegedly using the judicial system in a battle that was actually all about politics.

A political satire image of Meng Wanzhou being rescued by the Chinese authorities as an American shark is trying to eat her alive also circulated on Chinese social media this weekend. The image (“归舟”) was created and posted by digital artist Wuheqilin (乌合麒麟), who also welcomed Meng back home.

Meanwhile, some social media users in China have started a countdown to Meng’s arrival, tracking the flight on live tracking maps. Her CA552 plane is scheduled to arrive in Shenzhen at 21:14 local time, September 25.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)

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 Media

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.

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