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The Detainment of Canadian Ex-Diplomat Michael Kovrig Triggers (Censored) Discussions on Weibo

“You take one of ours, we take one of yours,” some commenters write.

Manya Koetse

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The detainment of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig is generating major discussions on Chinese social media – but many comment sections have now been locked.

The news that former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig has been detained in Beijing is not only generating mass attention on Twitter and in English-language newspapers today; on Chinese social media, thousands of people have also responded to the issue.

Kovrig, who is known as Kang Mingkai (康明凯) in Chinese, served as a diplomat in Beijing and Hong Kong until 2016, and currently is a Hong Kong-based Senior Adviser at the International Crisis Group, where he works on foreign affairs and global security issues in Northeast Asia.

News of his arrest in mainland China came out through the International Crisis Group. In a media release on December 12, the International Crisis Group called for the immediate release of Michael Kovrig, and stated that Kovrig was detained on Monday night in the Chinese capital by the Beijing Bureau of Chinese State Security.

According to the Washington Post, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang (陆慷) told reporters during a regular press briefing on Wednesday that he had nothing to say about the issue, and that China and Canada have maintained “normal consular communication.”

Lu Kang during Wednesday’s press briefing.

Lu further said that the International Crisis Group was not legally registered in China, and that the organization had “violated Chinese laws” because “it was not registered.”

On Weibo, a post of the state tabloid newspaper Global Times on the issue became the most-read post on the account (17,7 million followers) on Wednesday. At the end of the day, it had more than 34,400 comments, 158,000 ‘likes’ and over 36,000 shares.

The post says:

[Foreign media: “Former Canadian diplomat Kang Mingkai has been detained in China”] According to Reuters, the International Crisis Group stated on Tuesday that its senior adviser in Northeast Asia and former Canadian diplomat Kang Mingkai (Michael Kovrig), has recently been detained by the Chinese government. According to the resources, Kang Mingkai is a former diplomat in Canada and in Hong Kong, who held a position as a strategic communications expert at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and is able to speak Mandarin. He joined the International Crisis Group last year as a senior adviser to Northeast Asia to study and analyze foreign affairs and global security issues in China, Japan, and the Korean Peninsula. He criticized China many times, and advocates a hard-line approach towards China.

Despite the many comments, the post’s comments section was locked for viewing by the Global Times on Wednesday night local time, only allowing some comments to remain visible, such as one saying: “This is most likely an old spy on a special agent mission.”

Other posts on the issue that generated much attention, such as the Beijing News post that received approximately 5000 comments, or the Toutiao post that received 11,000 comments, were also locked for viewing.

A later post by Global Times (China time December 12, 23:07) stated:

Confirmed! This Canadian is held for legal investigation. – Reporters have learned from relevant departments that Canadian citizen Kang Mingkan (Michael John Kovrig) is suspected of engaging in activities that are harmful to China’s security. As of December 10, he is held by the Beijing National Security Bureau for investigation according to law. Currently, the case is under investigation.”

“Well done,” a typical comment said, with many accusing Kovrig of being a spy.

But there are also more critical comments, with some saying: “This might not be a good thing,” and others suggesting that Kovrig is a “political prisoner.”

Elsewhere on Weibo, the many comments on this issue are also open, with one popular one saying: “They are using a legal way to tell Canada their behavior is illegal.”

On both Weibo and Twitter, as well as in the English-language media, Kovrig’s detainment is linked to the recent arrest of Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), the financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technology – which happens to have been founded by her father, Ren Zhengfei (任正非).

According to many, the detainment of Meng in Canada is linked to the detainment of Kovrig in Beijing.

Meng was detained on December 1st during a transit at the Vancouver airport at the request of United States officials. She is accused of fraud charges for violating US sanctions on Iran. According to CNN Business, Meng allegedly is accused of helping Huawei get around sanctions on Iran by misleading financial institutions into believing that subsidiary company ‘Skycom’ – which is active in networking and telecommunication in Iran – was a separate company in order to conduct business in the country.

Chinese officials, demanding Meng’s release, have called the arrest “a violation of a person’s human rights.” Meng has been released on bail on Tuesday, December 11.

“You take one of ours, we take one of yours,” one commenter replied to news relating to Kovrig’s detainment.

“Are we exchanging hostages like North Korea?” one Weibo user responded.

On the Weibo account of the Canadian embassy, there have been no direct mentions of Kovrig, but the embassy did dedicate a post to the celebration of human rights on December 12th, saying: “We commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Canada, China and all member states of the United Nations support this basic document of the United Nations.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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1 Comment

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  1. Avatar

    Sangwidge

    December 15, 2018 at 3:35 am

    We, Canada, should have ignored Trump’s paranoia regarding Huawei and China’s success and let Ms. Meng go on to Beijing in the first place. Our authorities should have let her pass through Vancouver and go home, and told Trump and his mess of a government we missed her. We should let her go now. The USA wanted her in the first place. We should have nothing to do with this. Now two Canadians might never be seen again. We are stuck between two superpower bullies.

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China and Covid19

“Goodbye, Health Code”: Chinese Netizens Say Farewell to the Green Horse

“For three years, I was able to guard my green horse,” some said after many places in China have now stopped checking Health Code apps.

Manya Koetse

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China’s Health Code apps and the green QR code have been a crucial part of China’s Covid strategy for nearly three years. Today, many Chinese bid farewell to the Health Code app and their lucky ‘Green Horse.’

Since 2020, China’s Health Code apps have become utterly ingrained in everyday life as a pivotal tool in the country’s ongoing fight against Covid-19. The Health Code system (there are at least 31 different regional health code applications across China) uses different sources of information, from self-reported health status to travel history and Covid test results, to determine whether or not a person gets a Green QR Code, a Yellow one, or a Red one.

Health Code scans are required when entering communities, malls, supermarkets, commercial buildings, and are basically key to moving around the city.

The Green color means you’re safe (low-risk) and have free movement, the Yellow code (mid-risk) requires self-isolation and the Red color code is the most feared one: it means you either tested positive or are at high risk of infection. Clinging on to one’s green code was also referred to as ‘Guarding the Green Horse’ (read all about this in our article on Health Codes).

‘Health Code’ in Chinese is jiànkāngmǎ 健康吗. ‘Green Horse’ in Chinese is lǜmǎ 绿马 , which sounds exactly the same as the word for ‘green code’ (绿码). In a social media environment where homophones and online puns are popular and ubiquitous, it did not take long for the ‘green code’ to turn into the ‘green horse.’

But a lot is changing when it comes to China’s fight against Covid. Following an unstoppable Omicron outbreak across China, earlier optimization of Covid measures in November, major Covid outbreaks and unrest at Foxconn in Zhengzhou, and protests in various Chinese cities, and a prior easing of Covid measures in various cities, Chinese central authorities announced far-reaching changes to the country’s dynamic Zero Covid policy on Wednesday.

These changes also include a stop to Health Code checks when traveling, and an end to the requirement of negative nucleic acid tests for many places (unless it is about special places such as nursing homes, orphanages, medical institutions, etc.)

On Thursday, December 6, Chinese social media users started saying goodbye to the Health Code system (#告别健康码#), posting photos and videos of QR posters and travel code information being taken down at stations.

Saying goodbye to health code is top trending on Weibo.

The hashtag “Saying Goodbye to Health Code” became a top trending hashtag on Weibo, and by 22:00 local time, had already received over 660 million clicks on the platform.

The Zhengzhou subway station is among the places that have already removed their Health Code posters (#郑州地铁撤下健康码海报#).

In the Guangzhou subway, posters were already removed on Wednesday.

Chinese media outlet The Observer (观察者网) also published various photos of station staff taking down QR code posters, using the hashtag “Many Stations Removing Health Code Posters” (#多地车站撤下健康码海报#).

“I didn’t need to scan the Health Code when entering university today. Bye bye, Health Code!” one netizen said, with another Sichuan-based blogger also writing: “The sport stadium, the mall, I didn’t need to scan anything today.”

“I’ve been waiting for this for so long, and it still came unexpectedly. From now on, we will need to protect ourselves,” one comment said. “This just feels amazing,” one Guangdong blogger wrote.

This idea of the government protecting people for three years, and that it is now up to the Chinese people to protect themselves, is a recurring one that you can see all over social media. Many people feel that zero Covid measures such as mass testing, local lockdowns, centralized quarantines, Health Code systems, 48-hour negative nucleic acid tests requirements, etc. were all government measures that were protecting the people.

Without this layer of protection, many say that individuals should now take responsibility for their own health.

But there are also those who criticize this line of thinking:

I particularly dislike that talk of ‘the nation has protected you for three years, you can’t count on them any more and will have to rely on yourself now,’ the people who say this are either stupid or spoiled. What is the nation? The nation is the people, the people are the nation, the three-year-long fight against the epidemic is one in which the masses sacrificed their time, space, money, and even their freedom. Every person paid their share of obligations. What is your talk of ‘they won’t look after us, it’s up to you now’? The best fight against the epidemic is one with an objective and scientific approach. Not a single country in this world really ‘laid flat’ [to be completely passive in light of epidemic]; every country has actively explored and sought for better ways to live with the virus. This is a people’s war. And in war, you’ll always have casualties. What we need to do is to balance between survival and development, to minimize the damage as much as possible.”

“There’s no use in saying goodbye to it,” one netizen said: “The most crucial time will be when the virus is gone.”

There are also those who expect the coming time is going to be strange: “I think most people will have a moment after this that they’ll take out their QR code for scanning whenever they enter a public place. After all, this wasn’t just a few days, it’s a habit we learned for three years.”

Some people are complaining that they are not seeing any differences yet in their area or city, from Changsha to Shenzhen, and that they are eagerly waiting for changes to be implemented.

Meanwhile, green horse images are circulating on Weibo, where many bid farewell to the mystical creature. “For three years, I was able to guard my green horse,” one person wrote: “Goodbye, green horse.”

“Goodbye and I hope never to see you again,” another Weibo user replied.

Read more about China’s Health Codes here. To read more about ‘Zero Covid’ ending, read here.

By Manya Koetse 

 

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China and Covid19

Announced Changes in Nucleic Acid Testing and Further Easing of Covid Measures Across China

Bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate.

Manya Koetse

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On Monday, directly after that noteworthy unrest-filled weekend, the hashtag “Multiple Locations Announce Nucleic Acid Testing Changes” (#多地核酸检测通知发生变化#) went trending on Chinese social media, receiving over 660 million clicks by Monday evening.

Immediately following demonstrations in Beijing and a second night of protests in Shanghai and elsewhere, various Chinese media reported how different areas across the country are introducing changes to their current Covid19 testing measures.

On Wednesday, November 30, China’s vice-premier Sun Chunlan made remarks at a meeting on epidemic prevention, underlining the importance of “constantly optimizing” China’s Covid-19 response and talking about a “new stage and mission” – without ever mentioning “zero Covid.”

This is what we know about easing Covid measures thus far:

▶ Strict lockdowns have been lifted in Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, and Chongqing.

▶ On November 28, Guangzhou announced that people who do not actively participate in social life will no longer need to participate in continuous nucleic acid screening. This includes elderly people who stay indoors for long periods of time, students who take online classes, and those who work from home. The change will apply to residents in seven districts, including Haizhu, Panyu, Tianhe, and Baiyun (#广州7区无社会面活动者可不参加全员核酸#).

▶ Guangzhou, according to Reuters, also scrapped a rule that only people with a negative COVID test can buy fever medication over the counter.

Harbin will follow the example of Guangzhou, and will also allow people who are mostly based at home to skip nucleic acid test screenings.

▶ Same goes for Shenyang, and Taiyuan.

▶ In Chongqing, various districts have done widespread Covid testing campaigns, but the local authorities announced that those communities that have not had a positive Covid case over the past five days do not need to participate in nucleic acid screening anymore. This means an end to district-wide testing.

▶ On November 30, Beijing also announced that it will start exempting some people from frequent Covid testing, including those elderly residents who are bound to home and other people who do not go out and have social interactions. This also includes younger students who are following classes online.

▶ Starting from December 5, bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate (announced on December 2nd).

▶ Although not officially announced, there have been various social media posts and reports about Covid-positive people in Beijing being allowed to quarantine at home if they meet conditions.

Chengdu Metro announced on December 2nd that it will no longer check passengers’ nucleic acid test reports. Passengers still need to scan their travel code and those with a green code can enter. Other public places will reportedly also start to accept the ‘green code’ only without a time limit on nucleic acid testing.

Tianjin metro announced that the 72-hour nucleic acid certificate check will be also be canceled for passengers on the Tianjin metro lines. As in other places, people will still need to wear proper face masks and undergo temperature checks.

▶ In Hangzhou, except for at special places such as nursing homes, orphanages, primary and secondary schools, people’s nucleic acid tests will no longer be checked in public transportation and other public places. They will also stop checking people’s Venue Codes (场所码).

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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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.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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