Chinese-language media worldwide sign statement condemning Hong Kong demonstrations

According to a post dated 3 October on the Xinhua News Agency’s mobile platform and circulating on the Chinese Internet, 142 Chinese-language media organisations around the world issued a declaration condemning the demonstrations in Hong Kong and “calling on overseas Chinese around the world to take action to stop extremist violence” (直至极端分子的暴行)by protesters.

The declaration was signed by the Chinese International Media Association (海外华文传媒协会), but interestingly, there is no trace of it on CIMA’s website, which shows no activity since 2010. The site states that CIMA was registered in Canada in 2007 and aims, among others, to create “positive propaganda for the political, economic, and social situation in China on both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait.” Between 2007 and 2010, CIMA has hosted several “world Chinese media summits.” CIMA’s contact address is in Burnaby, the Vancouver suburb heavily populated by recent Chinese immigrants. The language used on the site is typical of media founded by new Chinese migrants worldwide in that it uses the highly formulaic language of PRC officialese. There is no indication of ties to Chinese government organisations, but the aims of the media summits — bringing together overseas and “mainstream” mainland media and creating “unity” — parallels those of the summits hosted by China News Service, the news agency under the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Department. These summits have been hosted under the name World Chinese-Language Media Alliance (世界华文媒体合作联盟), but the duplication of organisations and names is common in both China itself and among the new diaspora’s feverishly proliferating associations.

Although the best-known Chinese-language media have not signed the declaration, mustering 142 signatures from organisations across all continents is an undeniable feat, even if some of the signatories exist in name only. Others, like Cambodia’s Jian Hua Daily, are locally fairly important. In the Netherlands, the declaration has been signed by United Newspublished by a man who used to be a journalist at a municipal paper in mainland China. Such profiles are fairly common in new migrant media.

The declaration is a further demonstration of the efforts made by the Chinese government to propagate its view of China and the world in overseas media, but it is more remarkable for its language. The text is variously (and sometimes confusingly) vindictive, patronising and threatening, alternating between comparing the demonstrators to children testing the limits set by their parents, calling them traitorous agents of “Western anti-Chinese forces” who try to foment a “colour revolution” and then run to the British for protection, and warning them that Hong Kong has enjoyed too many special rights and it belongs to “the entire Chinese nation.” This is not so much the anemic official language of People’s Daily as of Global Times, its popular offshoot that “tells it as it is” and has directly accused the U.S. of instigating unrest in Hong Kong. In this instance, the language is frankly repulsive and borders on the fascistic, in the sense that its main charge against the demonstrators is simply that they have broken the ranks of the Chinese people.

Such language is now being exported overseas with some success. I have long drawn hope regarding the limits of Chinese nationalism from some of my migrant friends from lower class backgrounds, like the former fisherman from Fujian who has lived in Hungary, Morocco and Romania for twenty years and has in the past been rather skeptical about the Chinese authorities, recalling less than positive experiences in his native village, and resisted being drawn into the photo ops with visiting Chinese officials that many other migrants favour. But Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign is to his liking, and he now resends pro-government, antiforeign opinion pieces on his WeChat account.

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