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‘Wo Shi Chali’ – China’s Response to Je Suis Charlie

Freedom of speech has always been a complicated issue in the PRC. The terrorist attack of January 7th on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo quickly became a trending topic on Sina Weibo. One netizen angrily says: “You are quick to report foreign affairs, but if Chinese are killed you just cover up.”

Manya Koetse

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READING TIME: 2 MINUTES, 38 SECONDS

 

Freedom of speech has always been a complicated issue in the PRC. In spite of that, or perhaps exactly because of it, the terrorist attack of January 7th on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo quickly became a trending topic on Sina Weibo. One netizen angrily says: “You are quick to report foreign affairs, but if Chinese are killed you just cover up.”

International media have published countless supportive messages after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. The same messages are reposted and reiterated by Chinese media and netizens. Not all Chinese netizens, however, seem to be impressed by the enormous media upheaval over the massacre. Online responses vary from “I used to walk there everyday, perhaps I’ll stay inside until tomorrow” to “Why all this excitement? There was an attack in Yemen with fifty casualties, but that is not reported.” But there are also those voices that emphasise the lack of freedom of speech in China in light of current events and the “Je Suis Charlie” statement. One netizen says: “Foreign affairs you report immediately, but if Chinese are killed you just cover up, cover up, cover up…”. Another netizen reminds us: “Every time something like this happens, everyone says they are against terrorism, but then they just start quarrelling. Some people use this incident to impose their own views, saying that the victims triggered it themselves.”

The topic, tagged as ‘Attack on French Magazine’ (#法国杂志社遇袭#) has been read over a billion times on Sina Weibo, triggering nearly 30,000 reactions (January 8). China Daily (January 8th, 2015) also features a headline story on the attack. In their article, “Attack on Magazine Charlie: The Power of Criticism” (查理周刊袭击案:批评的力量), they state that the terrorist attack has had an opposite effect, further isolating the attackers in their “war against freedom of speech”.

China has had a long history of censorship (弥谤) and organisations such as Human Rights Watch and China Aid have reported that serious issues still exist regarding freedom of religion and freedom of speech in China. In this instance, Premier Xi Jinping shifted the focus to terrorism instead of freedom of speech, and expressed his condolences to France over the attack: “Terrorism is a common enemy of all mankind and a common threat to the entire international community, including both China and France”, Xi said (China Daily, January 8th).

 

woshi‘Wo Shi Chali’ – I am Charlie, as posted by Weibo’s netizens

 

Only recently, China launched a campaign against puns, supposedly to avoid learning difficulties in children (The Guardian, November 28th). David Moser, academic director for CET Chinese studies at Beijing Capital Normal University, expresses his concerns over the new governmental campaign: “[…] I wonder if this is not a preemptive move, an excuse to crack down for supposed ‘linguistic purity reasons’ on the cute language people use to crack jokes about the leadership or policies. It sounds too convenient.”

This also calls into mind the precarious situation in Hong Kong, in which the Umbrella Revolution was to protect the democratic rights of the Hong Kong people. The Guardian (December 26th, 2014) reports that the protests have returned and that another 37 people have been arrested. Although the situation in Paris cannot be compared with what is happening in Hong Kong, one can only wonder if leaders of the world truly realise the importance of freedom of speech. China’s netizens have taken over the Je Suis Charlie message, and turned it into something they understand all too well – millions of Chinese netizens shared the statement in their own language: “Wo Shi Chali“.

1charlie

– by Maaike de Wijs

Follow What’s on Weibo on Twitter.

 

References

The Guardian. November 28th, 2014. http://gu.com/p/43yyc
China Daily. January 8th, 2015. http://world.chinadaily.com.cn/2015-01/08/content_19273609.htm
China Daily. January 8th, 2015. http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2015-01/08/content_19276401.htm
The Guardian. December 26th, 2014. http://gu.com/p/44ehy

©2014 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 Insight

Exchange Student to Be Deported from China for Harassing Young Woman at University

An exchange student studying at the Hebei University of Engineering has been expelled and will soon be deported after harassing a female student.

Manya Koetse

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An exchange student from Pakistan who was studying at the Hebei University of Engineering (河北工程大学) has been expelled and detained after harassing a female student at the same university.

The incident, that is attracting much attention on Chinese social media this week, adds to the wave of recent controversies over the behavior and status of overseas students in mainland China.

On July 31, a female student at the Hebei university filed a police report against a Pakistani student who allegedly harassed her and attempted to forcefully kiss her and touch her breasts.

Screenshots of a supposed WeChat conversation between the exchange student and the female student, in which the man apologizes and claims the interaction is a “requirement for friendship,” are being shared on social media.

According to various reports, the police initially tried to mediate between the two students, which the female student refused.

Together with the school principal, the police then further investigated the case and found ample evidence of harassment after examining the university’s surveillance system.

On August 1st, the Hebei University of Engineering announced that they had expelled the student and that he will be deported from China. The announcement received more than 14,000 reactions and 150,000 ‘likes’ on Weibo.

The student is now detained at the local Public Security Bureau and is awaiting his deportation.

A photo of two officers together with a man in front of the detention center in Handan is circulating on social media in relation to this incident.

At time of writing, the hashtag page “Exchange Student to Be Deported after Molesting Female Student” (#留学生猥亵女学生将被遣送出境#) has been viewed over 310 million times on Weibo.

Among thousands of reactions, there are many who praise the Hebei university for supporting the female student after she reported the exchange student to the police.

“This may not be the best university, but at least they stand behind their students!”, some say, with others calling the university “awesome.”

Many say that the Hebei university should serve as an example for other Chinese universities to follow, with Shandong University being specifically mentioned by Weibo users.

Shandong University was widely criticized earlier this summer for its “buddy exchange program,” which was accused of being a way to arrange Chinese “girlfriends” for male foreign students.

Another incident that is mentioned in relation to this trending story is that of an exchange student who displayed aggressive behavior towards a Chinese police officer in July of this year. The student was not punished for his actions, which sparked anger on Chinese social media.

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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