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Beijing Visit of Kim Jong-un Goes Trending on Weibo, But Comments Are Highly Controlled

The number one topic of the day, yet no discussions allowed.

Manya Koetse

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It was called a “surprise visit” to China; this week North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made his first foreign trip since rising to power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

China’s state-run CCTV stated the leader and his delegation are in Beijing from March 25 to March 28 for an “unofficial visit” (“非正式访问”). The leaders met in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to talk about their bilateral relations and denuclearisation. Kim Jong-un also attended a banquet and a luncheon held by Xi Jinping in Beijing.

screenshot CCTV News

On social media platform Sina Weibo, the meeting received ample attention today and became a number one searched topic. The hashtag “Xi Jinping Meets Kim Jong-un” (#习近平会见金正恩#) was viewed nearly 38 million times by Wednesday afternoon; the hashtag ‘Kim Jong-un Visit’ (#金正恩访华#) received more than 32 million views.

“The ties between China and North Korea go back to ancient times,” some netizens responded to the meeting (“中朝友谊源远流长”), which many called a “historical visit,” while others also said that Kim Jong-un is “welcome” in China.

But online censorship was also at its height when news of the meeting was released by Chinese state media. Although the news articles received thousands of comments on social media, most of them were no longer able to view on Wednesday late afternoon (Beijing time), while other comment sections only showed the “carefully selected comments” (“以下为博主精选评论”). Individual posts about the event were hard to find.

One video, posted by the Chinese Wall Street Journal on Weibo, focused on a supposed meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un – saying it would be a “big breakthrough” – and was soon taken offline after it was already viewed 30,000 times.

Featured image of the video by WSJ that was taken offline.

“Are we being harmonized?”, some netizens wondered; ‘harmonized’ being an online slang term referring to censorship.

According to Free Weibo, a site tracking what’s blocked on Weibo, the hottest searched word on Wednesday was “Third Fattie” (“三胖”), a popular nickname for Kim Jong-un. The term itself is not allowed to be searched on Sina Weibo. Another nickname used for Kim Jong-un by Chinese netizens is ‘Little Fattie’ (小胖).

Creative netizens circumvented censorship by referring to the North Korean leader as a ‘fat post-80s’ [born after 1980]. While many showed support for the meeting between China and North Korea, there were also those who were somewhat skeptical of its timing. “The one profiting most from the current trade war is ‘Third Fattie’,” some users suggested.

Another commenter was more positive. He posted two North Korean propaganda posters, and wrote:

An all-powerful millennial [post-1980s] has just visited China. Although he’ll soon have another historical meeting with Trump, he chose Beijing for his first visit. A few months ago, North-Korea and the US were still on the verge of war. It seems the tide has changed, and that he [Kim Jong-un] has the ability and courage to steer difficult situations. His choice to come to Beijing first shows his diplomatic skills, and he has expressed that he is committed to denuclearizing. This might very well be a historical visit.

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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China and Covid19

The ‘Blank White Paper Protest’ in Beijing and Online Discussions on “Outside Forces”

As people in Beijing, Shanghai, and other places take to the streets holding up white papers, some have dubbed this the “A4 Revolution.”

Manya Koetse

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A majority of social media commenters support those who have recently taken to the streets, using blank sheets as a sign of protest against censorship and stringent Covid measures. But there are also online voices warning Chinese young people not to be influenced by ‘external forces.’

Over the past few days, there have been scenes of unrest and protest movements in various places across China.

While there were protests in Shanghai for the second night in a row, Beijing also saw crowds gathering around the Liangmahe area in the city’s Chaoyang District on Sunday night.

Some videos showed crowds softly singing the song “Farewell” (送别) in commemoration of those who lost their lives during the deadly inferno in Urumqi.

Later, people protested against stringent Covid measures.

“The crowds at Liangmahe are amazing,” some people on Weibo commented.

Photos and videos coming from the area showed how people were holding up blank sheets of white paper.

Earlier this weekend, students in Nanjing and Xi’an also held up blank paper sheets in protest of censorship and as the only ‘safe’ way to say what could otherwise not be said. This form of protest also popped up during the Hong Kong protests, as also described in the recent book by Louisa Lim (Indelible City: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong).

The recurring use of blank paper sheets led to some dubbing the protests an “A4 Revolution.”

“When can we have freedom of speech? Maybe it can start at Beijng’s Liangmahe,” one person on Weibo wrote on Sunday night.

Another Beijing-based netizen wrote: “Before going to sleep I saw what was happening in Liangmahe on my WeChat Moments and then I looked at Weibo and saw that the Xicheng area had added 279 new Covid cases. I started thinking about my own everyday life and the things I am doing. I can’t help but feel a sense of isolation, because I can’t fight and do not dare to raise my voice.”

“I didn’t dare to believe this is happening in 2022. I didn’t dare to believe this is happening in Beijing. I do not dare to believe that again it will all have been useless tomorrow morning,” one Weibo user commented.

During the night, various people at the scene shouted out things such as “we want to go out and work,” and other hopes they have. One person yelled: “I want to go out and see a movie!”

“I want to go and see a movie.”

The phrase “I wanna go watch a movie” (“我要看电影”) was also picked up on social media, with some people commenting : “I am not interested in political regimes, I just want to be able to freely see a movie.” “I want to see a movie! I want to sit in a cinema and watch a movie! I want to watch a movie that is uncensored!”

Despite social media users showing a lot of support for students and locals standing up and making their voices heard, not everyone was supportive of this gathering in Beijing. Some suggested that since Liangmahe is near Beijing’s foreign embassy district, there must be some evil “foreign forces” meddling and creating unrest.

Others expressed that people were starting to demand too many different things instead of solely focusing on China’s zero Covid policies, losing the momentum of the original intention of the protest.

Political commentator Hu Xijin (胡锡进) also posted about the recent unrest on his Weibo account on Sunday night:

The people have the right to express their opinions, and you may have good and honest aspirations and have the intention to express legitimate demands. But I want to remind you that many things have their own rules, and when everyone participates in the movement, its direction might become very difficult for ordinary participants to continue to control, and it can easily to be used or even hijacked by separate forces, which may eventually turn into a flood that destroys all of our lives.”

Hu also called on people to keep striving to solve existing problems, but to stay clear-headed, suggesting that it is important for the people and the government to maintain unity in this challenging time.

The term “outside forces” or “external forces” (外部势力) increasingly popped up in social media discussions on late Sunday night.

“I worry a lot of meddling by external forces. Let’s be vigilant of a color revolution. I just hope things will get better,” one netizen from Hubei wrote.

“Young people should not be incited by a few phrases and blindly follow. Everyone will approve of people rationally defending their rights, but stay far away from color revolutions.”

The idea that foreign forces meddle in Chinese affairs for their own agenda has come up various times over the past years, during the Hong Kong protests but also during small-scale protests, such as a local student protest in Chengdu in 2021.

The term “color revolution” is recurring in these kind of discussions, with some netizens suggesting that foreign forces, such as the CIA, are trying to get local people to cause unrest through riots or demonstrations to undermine the stability of the government.

“It’s not always external forces, it can also just be opposition,” one person on Weibo replied: “In every country you’ll have different opinions.”

“What outside forces?” another commenter said: “I’m not an external force! I am just completely fed up with the Covid measures!”

Read more about the “11.24” unrest in China here.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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China and Covid19

Tribute to Urumqi at Shanghai’s Wulumqi Road

In Shanghai, people paid tribute to the victims of the Ulumqi fire by lighting candles, and also found other ways to vent their frustrations.

Manya Koetse

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Image by @导筒directube

It has been a restless Saturday night in several places across China. Following the unrest in Urumqi after a devastating fire, various places across the country have seen people gathering, chanting together, and taking their anger to the streets.

There is anger about excessive Covid measures, long lockdowns, and how it has all brought suffering to many people.

One place where people gathered is Shanghai’s Wulumuqi Road, a street named after Urumqi (it is actually ‘Urumqi Road’ but the English name is commonly spelled as Wulumuqi).

In Shanghai, people paid tribute to the victims of the Urumqi fire by lighting candles, but also found other ways to vent frustrations related to the current Covid measures.

Some at the scene, for example, wore face masks with ‘404’ written on them – referring to the recurring online censorship in light of various epidemic-related incidents (404 is the common error code given when a page or file can no longer be found).

They also chanted for “freedom,” told the Covid QR ‘venue codes’ to go f*ck themselves, sang the The Internationale in Chinese, and held up white papers in protest (this has been a recurring sign of protest).

On Weibo, there was a flood of comments related to the Shanghai gathering.

“Don’t let history repeat itself. Please, everybody, protect yourself, go home and rest in time, remember this passion of yours and change your surrounding by following your own goals.”

Although social media users showed support for the protest in Shanghai, a majority of commenters also were worried about people placing themselves in harm’s way, reminding those on the streets to “protect themselves” no matter what.

After 3:00 AM, local time, Weibo shut down live commenting on the Shanghai topic.

On Twitter, Shanghai-based journalist Eva Rammeloo (@eefjerammeloo) reported that around 4:00 am local time, police reinforcement arrived at the scene to disperse the crowds, with some people allegedly being arrested.

“We’re all mourning Urumqi in our own ways,” one person on Weibo commented: “I think you’re really brave.”

Read more about the “11.24” unrest in China here.

By Manya Koetse 

If you appreciate what we do, please subscribe here or support us by donating.

Featured image by @导筒directube

 

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

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