The ongoing political protests in Hong Kong, which has rocked this Special Administrative Region of China for around half a year now, has also led to the rise of an uncomfortable shade of patriotism from Chinese citizens online. Despite the Chinese internet being mostly isolated from the world by the Great Firewall, any overseas online news construed to be critical of the Communist government and supportive of the HK protesters are almost immediately spread nationwide, leading to loud censures against the people who have caused offense: politicians, athletes and pop culture celebrities. A K-Pop band member recently experienced this backlash.
Inquirer.net has it that Choi Siwon of the K-Pop boy group Super Junior has become yet another international pariah on the Chinese online community, causing fans to publicly avow their jumping ship on Super Junior. Choi’s mistake was in liking a post this Sunday, November 24, by South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo about the Hong Kong protests on its Twitter page. This action has been construed as potentially troublesome by Chinese media watchdogs, and as has been the trend lately the post went viral on the country’s secluded internet space. Choi quickly became top topic on China’s Twitter local counterpart Weibo with 260 million views.
Unfortunately, this spike in popularity for Choi was only for the sake of savaging him by zealous Chinese who repeatedly point out that Hong Kong is already part of China, its troubles are an internal affair, and the attention of the world upon it is an invasive intervention at their sovereignty. Despite Choi going to his own Weibo account to apologize twice for liking the news tweet (which he already unliked), and agreeing that China and HK are inseparable, Chinese netizens are in no mood to forgive any mistake even once. A Weibo-based Choi fan group disbanded following haranguing criticisms of the Super Junior member.
The faux pas has also reached the level of official state media, such that China’s state-run Global Times newspaper interpreted Choi Siwon’s unfortunate Twitter like as “glamorizing Hong Kong rioters.” Weibo posters also accused Choi of being insincere in his apologies. This concerted reaction has been typical of China which is trying to downplay the now-violent protests calling for greater democratic freedoms in HK since June. The last major celebrities to be given this treatment are the NBA team Houston Rockets. Despite being the one-time home squad of Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming, its popularity plummeted following a Twitter post from their GM supporting HK.
Of course, the vitriol over overseas focus on the Hong Kong protests can go both ways. Liu Yifei, the lead star of Disney’s upcoming live-action “Mulan” adaptation, expressed support for the reportedly-brutal HK police actions in social media, and has since been targeted by HK residents in return, calling for a boycott on 2020’s “Mulan.”
Image courtesy of Philippine Star