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  • Hong Kongers Hold Tiananmen Vigil, Defying Police Ban

  • Commemorations of June 4 Influenced by COVID, U.S. Protests

  • Beijing Finds Propaganda Opportunity in Widespread U.S. Unrest

 


Photo: Untitled (Hong Kong, June 4), by Studio Incendo

Untitled (Hong Kong, June 4), by Studio Incendo (CC BY 2.0)


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Hong Kongers Hold Tiananmen Vigil, Defying Police Ban

On Thursday, around 10,000 Hong Kongers defied a police letter of objection blocking the traditional public vigil for the June 4 crackdown. Others held public or private commemorations elsewhere. The effective ban came ahead of planned national security legislation seen as a lethal threat to the territory’s treasured autonomy from mainland China, which many fear would criminalize future commemorations. Thursday also brought the passage of another law against irreverence for the Chinese national anthem. From Natasha Khan at The Wall Street Journal:

Thousands flooded into Victoria Park, the usual venue for the annual vigil, which this year was forbidden for the first time by police, who cited public-health concerns because of the coronavirus. The crowd roared support as speakers on microphones criticized China’s recent decision to impose national-security laws on the city, while a minute of silence observed for the victims was broken with loud chants of “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time.”

[…] Around 9 p.m. local time, undercover police officers seized a bunch of protesters gathered on a road in the city’s Mong Kok district, beating back others with pepper spray and batons. One man was pinned to the ground in a stranglehold by a plain-clothed officer.

The swoop marked a sudden violent turn to a hitherto peaceful evening, with police in most areas allowing gatherings despite earlier warning that those who gathered would be arrested. The police force said in a tweet that if protestors hadn’t blocked roads, the police wouldn’t have intervened.

[…] Other activities took place across the city late Thursday in public spaces, churches and universities. [Source]

Other alternative venues included the Nintendo Switch game Animal Crossing, which in recent months has offered sanctuary from the pandemic to groups ranging from Hong Kong protesters to Muslims breaking fast during Ramadan.

South China Morning Post’s Jeffie Lam, Lilian Cheng, Gigi Choy, and Sum Lok-kei described a renewed sense of the anniversary’s importance among young attendees who had rejected it as irrelevant to their distinct Hong Kong identity.

[One 22-year-old participant in Thursday’s vigil] said protesters across the political spectrum were putting aside their differences in the face of the new national security law.

“The freedom and democracy people fought for on June 4 [1989] is not so different from what we fight for now,” he said. “If we don’t commemorate June 4, maybe people will forget what my generation has done in a few decades’ time.”

Tobey Yau, 21, who works in social services, said she could sympathise with the alliance’s “end one-party rule” slogan after last year’s anti-government protests.

“What we’re facing now in Hong Kong is very similar to what the generation of 1989 was experiencing back then. The government won’t listen to your opinion and just does whatever it wants,” she said.

[…] “Looking back at history, I worry we will also face the same situation,” she said. “We are two generations walking the same path, but they failed. And now it seems like we will meet the same outcome.” [Source]

The Washington Post’s Shibani Mahtani described the shifts in the vigil’s attendance and its place in Hong Kong politics:

Last year’s crowd was especially large, as people both commemorated the 30th anniversary of the massacre and asserted their freedoms amid looming threats from China.

A few days later, hundreds of thousands gathered on Hong Kong’s streets to protest an extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be sent to mainland China, launching eight months of massive demonstrations and sometimes violent unrest.

“Every time there’s a crisis in Hong Kong and more suppression, people will turn out,” said Lee, who also co-founded the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.

This year, the gathering at Victoria Park was also marked by new slogans, notably: “Hong Kong independence, the only way out.” Independence before last year was a fringe idea; such slogans were heard on Hong Kong’s streets only after the announcement of the impending national security law. [Source]

The accusation of separatism has been central to official efforts to vilify Hong Kong protesters, particularly in the eyes of the mainland public. The New York Times’ Andrew Higgins wrote last year, in a profile of real independence advocate Edward Leung, that "support for declaring Hong Kong an independent country has remained a tiny, fringe cause. It exists largely as a trope in Communist propaganda, which has used it to tar protesters as traitors and curb any sympathies people in mainland China might have for the protests." Other prominent activists disavowed the cause: 2014 protest leader Nathan Law tweeted last year, for example, that "democracy and autonomy are what we are striving for. Stop labelling the protest as ‘independent movement.’" Independence was not among the "Five Demands" that emerged from last year’s movement, which focused instead on the extradition bill that sparked the protests—now revoked but likely superseded by the looming national security law—the authorities’ response to earlier protests, and universal suffrage. The reported spread of pro-independence sentiment now appears to be a response to a feeling of being "backed into a corner with no way out."

Defacement of national symbols has been another point of emphasis in the campaign to discredit Hong Kong’s protests: last year these included a national emblem splashed with ink at the mainland’s Liaison Office, and a national flag thrown into Victoria Harbor. There have also been public displays of contempt for the Chinese anthem at soccer matches and other public events. NPR’s Emily Feng and Bill Chappell reported that a long-anticipated law against such disrespect finally passed on Thursday, mirroring similar legislation introduced on the mainland in 2017:

Hong Kong’s legislature has passed a bill making it a crime to poke fun at China’s national anthem — a move that puts new limits on anniversary events marking the Tiananmen Square massacre. Under the ban, it is illegal to alter the lyrics of the anthem, or to sing it "in a distorted or disrespectful way."

The Beijing-backed anthem bill was initially introduced in January 2019, but it wasn’t approved until Thursday — the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. Making parodies of the Chinese national anthem has been a popular mode of protest; it’s now punishable by up to three years in prison and hefty fines.

[…] During debate over the national anthem bill in a legislative session last May, a council member expressed their view "that Hong Kong people should not be forced to respect the national anthem and the country through law and punishment," according to minutes summarizing the meeting.

But in Thursday’s vote, the council rejected more than 20 attempts to amend the bill and voted to adopt the ban, further reshaping Hong Kong’s relationship with mainland China. [Source]

At Harris Bricken’s China Law Blog, Fred Rocafort discussed Chinese authorities’ preoccupation with calls for independence, noting that elsewhere, “despite calling for Scottish independence, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon can sit down with the British prime minister without being told she will stink for 10,000 years”:

One of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) most persistent bugbears are separatist threats—real or imagined—on the fringes of its empire. The most recent manifestation of this concern has been the CCP’s response to the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong. On May 20, 2020, the National People’s Congress adopted a decision regarding “national security” in Hong Kong. According to the decision’s preamble, “illegal activities such as ‘Hong Kong independence,’ splitting the country, and violent terrorist activities have seriously endangered the sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of the country.” Such is the extent of the CCP’s agitation that it must combat independence even on the linguistic front, putting the characters in quotes to stress the unthinkable nature of the concept.

Elsewhere, the CCP has justified its reeducation camps in Xinjiang by “claiming they are for ‘education transformation’ and ‘vocational training’ in the fight against the ‘three evils’ of ‘separatism, terrorism and extremism.’” There are also “separatist elements” at work in Tibet. Even the CCP’s militaristic designs on Taiwan are framed in delusional “anti-secession” terms.

The existence of secessionist movements within China is not in question. Xinjiang and Tibet have had independence movements for a long time. And though Hong Kong independence was until recently a fringe idea, by December 2019 it was supported by 19% of Hongkongers—and it is reasonable to assume that support has only grown in the following months. Critics of CCP policies in places like Hong Kong point out that they should be free to have this stance. This would be consistent with international law. Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which China is a signatory [but which it has not ratified], declares,

All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. [Source]

Taiwan is independent. Like other countries including the U.S. and U.K., it is currently considering how it might offer shelter to Hong Kongers who feel they can no longer stay in the city. At New Bloom Magazine on Thursday, Brian Hioe examined how growing solidarity between the two societies shaped this year’s commemorations in Taiwan:

The Tiananmen Square Massacre is commemorated annually in Liberty Plaza in Taipei. Liberty Plaza is where the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial is located, but has also historically been a frequent site of protest for Taiwanese social movements. This includes the 1990 Wild Lily Movement, a weeklong student occupation that was a pivotal moment in Taiwan’s democratization, as well as other events, such as the 4-5-6 Movement (四五六運動), a weekly anti-nuclear demonstration that took place in the year before the outbreak of the 2014 Sunflower Movement.

Given the ongoing protests that have taken place in Hong Kong for the past year, which have begun to resume with the COVID-19 situation under control in Hong Kong, much of the commemorations this year were focused on Hong Kong. The Tiananmen Square vigil in Taipei this year takes place during the first year ever in Hong Kong in which the annual Tiananmen Square commemoration was banned by the government. […]

Many of the speakers at the event were Hongkongers residing in Taiwan, including Lam Wing-kee, the only one of the Causeway Bay booksellers to remain free, and who recently reopened Causeway Bay Books in Taipei. Likewise, half a dozen individuals wore gas masks, black clothing, and other hallmarks of Hong Kong demonstrators, and waved Hong Kong independence flags. Individuals wearing “full gear” are an increasingly common sight at protests in Taiwan.

A frequent chant from the crowd was “Restore Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times” (光復香港,時代革命). During the commemoration, Hong Kong protest songs such “Glory to Hong Kong” (願榮光歸香港), which became a “national anthem” for the Hong Kong protests in the past year, and “Flower of Freedom” (自由花), which is sung at the Victoria Park commemoration every year, were among those sung. […] [Source]

At The Abusable Past, Catherine Chou and Gina Anne Tam discussed Hong Kong and Taiwan’s historical relations with China, the limitations of viewing them solely through that lens, and the “fragile and improbable cross-border solidarity” emerging between them.

[…] Immediately interpreted as an attempted clampdown on Hong Kong’s cherished freedoms of speech and assembly, the news [of the new national security law’s imposition] was met with immediate outcry by city residents that such an act would violate the principle of “one country, two systems,” developed in the 1980s to facilitate the “return” of Hong Kong and Macau to the PRC from the UK and Portugal, their respective colonial rulers. The cornerstone of “one country, two systems”, as the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 outlined, was a “high degree of autonomy” for Hong Kong for the first fifty years after the 1997 handover. Yet only 23 years later, Beijing is making clear with its “national security” law that it believes it can unilaterally interpret, warp, and circumscribe the nature of that autonomy. To Beijing it seems, “one country” will always supersede “two systems.”

[…] The purpose of “one country, two systems”, after all, is to promote a vision of China as a nation-state, a cultural concept, and a global force that contains Hong Kong and Taiwan firmly within its orbit at all times. Beijing has so successfully set the terms of the discussion about these two places that both their histories and futures are imagined as inextricably bound to China’s. Indeed, even anti-CCP activists in both spaces have often allowed Beijing to dominate the narrative. Protest slogans like “Today’s Hong Kong, Tomorrow’s Taiwan” presume that the fate of one might predict the other and that both are dependent upon the whims of Beijing.

What if we were to question this entire premise? Rather than streamlining Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the PRC into a “Greater China” with “one country, several systems” as its natural zenith, we argue that they are better understood as possessing divergent, independent histories that have only recently and unexpectedly been brought together by the force of Beijing’s ambitions. Indeed, the idea that Taiwan and Hong Kong were both “lost” to China and need to be recovered is rooted in an anachronistic reading of late imperial Chinese history that downplays the extent to which both territories have been subject to colonial violence. […] [Source]


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Commemorations of June 4 Influenced by COVID, U.S. Protests

On the 31st anniversary of the June 4, 1989 military crackdown around Tiananmen Square, much of the world was focused on other topics, notably the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-racism protests in the United States. But within China, some people found ways to mark the occasion, both online and off. For the South China Morning Post, Mimi Lau reports on how activists in China are commemorating the protest movement and subsequent deaths while also dealing with other more immediate global crises:

“I haven’t been able to write as much as I would like in the past months during the pandemic. It’s not just my daily life that was affected but my mental capacity too, constantly occupied by thoughts such as ‘what if the US and China go to war? Will there be a global recession? Will liberalism eventually come to an end in China?’ [said political scientist and author Byron Chen Chun].

“[This] has kept any discussions about the June 4 anniversary exceptionally quiet this year.”

[…] But Zhou Fengsuo, a US-based activist and former Tiananmen student leader, said he saw a silver lining following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“What makes this year encouraging is that we saw an unprecedented number of young Chinese students showing an interest in learning more about June 4 on Telegram channels,” Zhou said, referring to an encrypted messaging app favoured by protesters and dissidents because of its freedom from government control.

Zhou said that previously mainlanders had shown little interest in talking to activists such as Wang Dan, another student leader in 1989, but the pandemic had driven more people to get over the “Great Firewall” to seek information from outside China. [Source]

At The Guardian, Lily Kuo tries to track down a young couple photographed dancing amid the protests on Tiananmen Square on June 1, 1989, and talks to those who were there about the “air of celebration” in those final days before the crackdown, and the imposed silence that followed:

On the morning of 1 June, those who stayed overnight to guard the square were relieved to find their tents and the Goddess of Democracy, erected just a few days earlier, still standing. “When they woke the next morning and the army didn’t come. There was this exhilarated feeling of, ‘we survived,’” says Mark Avery, who was the staff photographer for the Associated Press at the time, who took the picture of the couple.

That day would be one of the last moments of peace in the square. Children gazed up at the 10-metre tall Goddess of Democracy, made of wire and papier mache. Students, workers and residents talked and sang songs according to Jiang Shao, another former leader of the protests, who was there in the afternoon. “These scenarios were very rare after martial law,” he says.

After the crackdown, or the June 4 incident as it is now described in China, such scenes were expressly forbidden as authorities moved quickly to erase the chapter from the public memory.

“The thing that really floored me was the Orwellian silence afterwards,” says Avery, who stayed in Beijing until 1991, working under martial law that was kept in place until the year after the crackdown. “Afterwards, everything out of people’s mouths was the party line. Nobody was having conversations. It was just mind boggling.” [Source]

On his blog, David Cowhig has translated several documents about June 4, including a recollection by Ding Zilin and Jiang Peikun about their son, Jiang Jielian, a high school student who was killed in the crackdown:

He followed the 1989 democracy movement from almost the very start. He showed great interest in personally participating. On April 15, 1989 when Hu Yaobang died, the first big character poster about it hung up on the Renmin University of China campus drew his interest. He often went to Renmin University and Peking University campuses to read the big character posters and to hear talks that students gave. On May 17 when the student hunger strike in Tiananmen Square reached its climax, he and several classmates actively organized Renmin University middle school students to participate in the million man march to support the hunger strike students in Tiananmen. That day after class ended at 4 p.m., over a thousand bicycles left the middle school. Each bicycle carried another student on the back. An army of over two thousand students rode from Renmin University Middle School to Fuxingmen and then formed ranks to march to Tiananmen, circle once around the Square and then back to Fuxingmen and home. Jiang Jielian’s bicycle was in the front ranks with a classmate riding on the back holding up high the middle school flag. When the long line of students marched from Fuxingmen to Tiananmen, he still marched at the first row of Remin University Middle School students. Together with another student they held a large banner supporting the university students’ action for justice. On the flag was written, “If you should fall, we keep up the fight!” (A female classmate who took part in that demonstration took a precious historical photograph of this scene. When she heard that Jiang Jielian had been murdered, she gave us the negative of the photograph.) He loved the red headband he wore on his forehead in the demonstration that day and so his family members put that red headband around his head at his funeral and when he was cremated. [Source]

Cowhig also translated a list of 202 people killed that night and 49 wounded. The real death toll has never been released by the government, but activists estimate that hundreds and perhaps thousands died. Ding Zilin helped create a network of family members of victims, called the Tiananmen Mothers, who each year ask the government for an investigation and redress for the killings. Human Rights Watch reported that, as in years past, members of the Tiananmen Mothers have been put under heightened surveillance in recent days. Each year as the anniversary approaches, dissidents and activists are detained, put under surveillance, and otherwise monitored, while references to the events of 1989 are tightly censored online. Yet some netizens always find creative ways to pay homage to those killed:

After meeting a with a group of 1989 student leaders and protesters, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a “full, public accounting of those killed or missing.” Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen also called on the Chinese government to fully and openly confront its past:

At Foreign Policy, Rui Zhong draws a parallel between the 1989 protests and those occurring in American cities now:

Despite the selectivity of this remembrance, death and dissident life are not all there is to tell about 1989. The vividness of the Tiananmen movement’s life at the hands of the Chinese people, and its subsequent death at the hands of the Chinese army and the police who hunted down the movement’s supporters throughout the country, is seldom allowed breathing room. In the moments when the young were able to dance and chant for a brief moment in that Beijing Spring, a different future was present but not one unconnected from the past. They worked with one another in the spirit of their ancestors, who rallied against emperors and warlords and secret treaties.

They found a sympathetic ear in Zhao, who was then swiftly punished by Deng Xiaoping, a leader himself once exiled by the Communist Party. In the days and years afterward, Beijing mourned its dead children, the ones who dreamed of something else, shot on Changan Avenue, at Hufangqiao, at Qianmen. So did the parents of students in Chengdu, Lanzhou, and Xian, to name just three of the cities that were crushed in the aftermath.

It has been 31 years. In the United States, young protesters pour water into their eyes to clear out tear gas and tend to their wounds, inflicted by police and a military that demand acquiescence. Black Americans, restless from the unending burdens of systemic racism, demand that their lives matter. As I see Americans marching, singing, dancing, and asking the nigh impossible from their leaders, I think back to young people in a square doing the same many decades ago. [Source]

At China Law & Policy blog, Elizabeth Lynch drew a similar parallel and dedicated her annual June 4 post to George Floyd and other victims of police violence in the U.S.

Read more about June 4 through CDT’s Reading List and a round-up of recollections, reporting, and histories compiled last year for the 30th anniversary.


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Beijing Finds Propaganda Opportunity in Widespread U.S. Unrest

As protests against police violence and inequality sweep an increasingly divided U.S. following the police killing of yet another unarmed black American on May 25, Chinese authorities and state media are taking full advantage of the situation to make propaganda hay. Coming as diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing are highly strained on many issues, Beijing is seizing the American unrest as another opportunity to present its system as superior to Western liberal democracy.

Since it began last summer amid already strained Sino-U.S. relations, U.S. officials have been voicing support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, pressuring Beijing to recognize the city’s autonomy, and recenchinatly took moves to issue sanctions in response to Beijing’s imposition of controversial Hong Kong security legislation. As dozens of American cities enact curfews, police are accused of trapping peaceful protesters for mass arrest and using undue violence on reporters, demonstrators, and bystanders; and as President Trump threatens military force and urges governors to “dominate” demonstrators, Beijing is highlighting U.S. hypocrisy over human rights in domestic and outward-facing propaganda drives. At the Wall Street Journal, Sha Hua reports:

“Why did the U.S. have so many problems with the restrained and civilized way of law enforcement by the Hong Kong police but have no problem at all with threatening to shoot at and mobilizing the National Guard against its domestic protesters?” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday.

[…] Beijing has blanketed its domestic media with images of Minneapolis, Washington and other U.S. cities aflame in recent days.

[…] State broadcaster China Central Television’s Monday evening newscast featured footage of demonstrators in the U.S. protesting against Mr. Trump and, sometimes violently, police officers. “Many U.S. citizens say that America’s racial discrimination is deep-rooted,” the presenter said.

State media have also given prominence to Mr. Trump’s threat of a crackdown, with his tweeted warning that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The phrase faced bipartisan criticism because of its association with police violence against Miami’s black community in the 1960s.

Some of the messages from China’s diplomats have been far from subtle. […] [Source]

For example, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying quoted a U.S. protest slogan in reply to a recent tweet from her American counterpart on Beijing’s abandonment of Hong Kong:

CDT Chinese editors report that many Chinese web users took to Weibo to express their frustration with Hua’s official use of a platform banned in China, reminding her that they can’t even tweet in comments on state media’s coverage of her burn against the U.S.:

A later follow-up tweet from Hua appeared to demonstrate her misunderstanding of the reactionary nature of the slogan “all lives matter”:

Human Rights Watch last month reported on a surge of anti-African discrimination in China, where long-documented anti-black racism spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. The New York Times this week covered experiences of discrimination by black Americans in China, and compared protest against Chinese discrimination from African leaders to the Trump administration’s muted response.

At the South China Morning Post, Mimi Lau reports on official Chinese media’s in-depth coverage of the U.S. protests, and targeting of U.S. officials who expressed support of recent Hong Kong protests:

State news agency Xinhua described the chaotic scenes as “Pelosi’s beautiful landscape”, a veiled reference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s comments last year that the mass protests in Hong Kong were “a beautiful sight to behold”.

State broadcaster CCTV on Saturday referred to the protest cities as “warzones” and produced round-the-clock updates and analyses highlighting the racial divide in the US.

[…] On Saturday night, a prime time commentary on CCTV said US-style human rights were hypocritical and disgusting and also used the phrase “beautiful sight” to describe the spectacle.

It said American politicians should apologise to their people and described the chaos as a “self-inflicted wound”.

Meanwhile, party mouthpiece People’s Daily published a short video of the arrest of CNN journalist Omar Jimenez during a live broadcast in Minneapolis, and drew a contrast with a clip showing Hong Kong police retreating from a protest site last October. [Source]

The U.S. and China have also recently been engaged in a tit-for-tat battle, wherein the U.S. limited access for Chinese state media workers in retaliation for the Chinese government expelling several American reporters. for the other’s overseas reporters, which comes after years of increasing pressure on foreign journalists in China. In Hong Kong, where concerns have been mounting for years over the erosions of press freedoms and increasing physical risks for reporters, journalists covering protests last month were attacked by police, a practice that was common in the city during last year’s demonstrations. Meanwhile, reports of the use of violence against reporters covering U.S. protests over the last week have been widespread, and Australia has opened an investigation into U.S. police violence after a crew of foreign correspondents were struck with rubber bullets.

The recollection of Pelosi’s “beautiful sight” comment on the Hong Kong anti-extradition protests last June was made widely by Chinese state media, officials, and nationalists. CDT Chinese notes a Weibo comment from the official Communist Youth League Central Committee account asking if photos from weekend violence in Minnesota were “a beautiful sight?”, and also rounds up earlier state media disinformation on the nature of Pelosi’s comment. NBC News notes that a Global Times editorial also used the term, and relays comments from the nationalist state-affiliated tabloid’s vocal chief editor:

China’s Global Times newspaper, seen as a mouthpiece for the Communist Party, ran an editorial on Saturday entitled: “Watch out! ‘Beautiful sight’ in HK is spreading across the U.S.”

Editor Hu Xijin compared the two situations in the column, writing that it was “as if the radical rioters in Hong Kong somehow snuck into the U.S.”

“Let’s wait and see which country will encounter more chaos,” he wrote.

In a tweet on Saturday, Hu also urged President Donald Trump not to “hide” behind Secret Service officers after the president thanked them for maintaining their cool as protesters converged near the White House.

“Go to talk to demonstrators seriously,” Hu said. “Negotiate with them, just like you urged Beijing to talk to Hong Kong rioters.” [Source]

Reuters’ Huizhong Wu reports on the prominence of news on the topic on the highly-controlled Weibo social media platform, and compares the aims of state media focus on the U.S. protests to its coverage of the U.S. coronavirus epidemic:

On China’s social media platform Weibo, at least five news items on the protests were among the top 20 trending topics by midday, led by reports Trump had been temporarily taken to a bunker as protesters surrounded the White House.

[…] For some analysts, the Chinese media coverage of the protests echoed their reporting on the coronavirus situation in the United States.

“The number one thing they want to show is that the Communist Party is doing a better job in terms of fighting the coronavirus and managing society,” said Alfred Wu, associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

“That’s the main message: the U.S. is not doing good.” [Source]

The coronavirus pandemic is the source of perhaps the most heated and globally consequential ongoing diplomatic fight between Beijing and Washington. The Trump administration has criticized Beijing for covering up the initial outbreak and attempting to profit off of it. Trump has castigated China for lying to the World Health Organizationand the WHO for publicly believing China’s word—and for causing early Taiwanese warnings of potential human-to-human transmission to be ignored. He has also threatened to pull all funding for the WHO as a result (though, after a raft of criticism, has appeared to backtrack on that threat). Trump, who is the target of domestic censure for early inaction and misinformation about the coronavirus, has also led efforts to blame Beijing for the origins and spread of COVID-19, and hold them responsible for the damage of the pandemic.

While Chinese authorities are similarly the target of much domestic anger for early pandemic inaction and opacity, their public opinion work has drowned out criticism while amplifying nationalism online and in the real world. At The New York Times, Javier C. Hernández reports on how state media and goading from government officials contribute to a declining public opinion of the U.S., and further fuels nationalism and anti-Americanism:

“This situation in the U.S. will make more Chinese people support the Chinese government in its efforts to denounce and counter America,” Song Guoyou, a scholar at Fudan University in Shanghai, said in an interview. “The moral ground of the United States is indeed greatly weakened.”

[…] “The violent protests in the streets of urban America are further discrediting the U.S. in the eyes of ordinary Chinese,” said Susan Shirk, chair of the U.C. San Diego 21st Century China Center. “The propaganda depicts American politicians as hypocrites living in glass houses while throwing stones at China.”

[…] “Even without the propaganda, Chinese people nowadays find little to admire in the U.S.,” she said. “As the U.S. model is tarnished, the voice of Chinese liberals is silenced.”

[…] Some worry that the propaganda campaign may further inflame tensions between the two countries. He Weifang, an outspoken law professor in Beijing, said that even some critics of the government are becoming more sympathetic to the official line. [Source]

China’s criticism of the U.S. and highlighting of its violent crackdown on demonstrators comes on the eve of the 31st anniversary of the violent June 4, 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, an incident that U.S. officials have steadily condemned since the day it occurred while Beijing has taken all means possible to erase it from memory. As the Hong Kong government blocked the city’s annual June 4 vigil this year, The Nation’s Wilfred Chan reminded his Twitter followers of Donald Trump’s post-June 4, 1989 comments, and urged caution:


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