Orlando Nightclub Attack Leaves 50 Dead – Weibo Responds

The attack on an Orlando gay nightclub that left 50 people dead, has become a much talked-about topic on Chinese social media. Many netizens respond in shock to what is called the worst mass shooting in US history, but there is also much anti-American sentiment amidst the reactions.

In a mass shooting during the night of June 12 in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, 50 people died and 53 people were injured. The attack, that has been classified as a “terror incident”, was carried out by Omar Saddiqui Mateen, a 29-year-old Florida resident of Afghan descent.

Authorities believe Mateen might have leanings to radical Islamic terrorism. The gay community is a target for Islamists, as congressman Devin Nunes told CNN. According to the FBI, the shooter was organized and well-prepared. The Orlando shooting shows resemblance to the shooting at the Bataclan theater in Paris last November.

The incident started around 2.00 AM at Pulse, a popular local gay club. Pulse Orlando posted on their official Facebook page: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running”. An hour later, one person stated: “I was there. Shooter opened fire @ around 2:00am. People on the dance floor and bar got down on the floor and some of us who were near the bar and back exit managed to go out through the outdoor area and just ran. I am safely home and hoping everyone gets home safely as well.”

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The shooter held people hostage in the club for some hours before a SWAT team eventually entered the club to rescue the hostages, during which the gunman was shot and killed.

The news has been covered by all major Chinese news outlets and is currently much talked about on social media platform Weibo under various hashtags such as “America Nightclub Shooting” (#美国夜店遭枪击#). Many netizens respond in shock, saying this news is just “too scary” (“太恐怖”).

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Many netizens see the Orlando mass shooting as an “institutional problem” (“体制问题”): “The government, media, culture, and higher education circles in Europe and America are caught in a completely politically left-wing realm. This left-wing leadership will eventually lead the country into disaster,” one netizen comments. Others comment: “America always talks about China’s human rights problem, but it’s time to talk about America’s human rights problem.”

“Commenting like a Fifty Center – I’ll say I’m just so happy China doesn’t allow guns,” one other netizen says. Fifty Centers (50 Cent Party) are Chinese Internet commentators who allegedly get paid 50 cents for every comment they make that is in favor of the Chinese Communist Party.

There are many netizens connecting the shootings to America’s existing gun laws. Earlier this week, American singer Christina Grimmie died after she was shot at a concert. But not everyone thinks it is all about US gun laws: “In America it’s guns, but here it’s knives or cars, but the outcome is the same. What a tragedy, my thoughts are with you.”

Many Weibo commenters respond to the shooting’s alleged connection to Islam religion, calling it “an evil cult” (“邪教徒”). There are also people saying the outcome of America’s presidential elections will be influenced by the fact the shooter was muslim, as it might win votes for Trump, who is known for his anti-muslim rhetoric.

Although many netizens respond to the news in shock, there are also many Weibo commenters expressing anti-American sentiments. Some critize America’s “so-called freedom”, and blame Americans for not paying more attention to terrorist attacks in China, such as the 2014 Kunming one that killed 29 and injured 130. Weibo commenters therefore state it is also not right to pay too much attention to American news, and instead tell other netizens to focus on the explosion at Shanghai airport earlier today.

Despite anti-American commenting, there is also a myriad of Chinese netizens posting digital candles and offering their sympathies. “Can I say – we’re all Americans tonight?” one netizen says. Another Weibo user says: “Tonight, we are all Americans under the flag of socialism. We must support, love and stand by the USA.”

– By Manya Koetse

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