Satirical Facebook page set up for apologies to China

Japanese- American actress Kiko Mizuhara apologising to China in a video.
Japanese- American actress Kiko Mizuhara apologising to China in a video.PHOTO: YOUTUBE

BEIJING • Chinese leaders have often accused those who disagree with them of "hurting the feelings of 1.3 billion Chinese". Getting into the spirit, Taiwanese and Hong Kongers are responding enthusiastically to a satirical Facebook page calling on them to say "sorry" to China.

Sorry for anything, and everything.

The reasons for contrition so far have included living under a blue sky (China's skies are chronically polluted); eating clean food (food safety is a major challenge in China); and locking the door when using the toilet (not always done on the mainland).

"I'm sorry, I don't write simplified characters," wrote commenter Ziyou, referring to the writing style of the mainland, but not Hong Kong or Taiwan, in apologising for being different from Beijing. Ziyou means "character travel" in Mandarin, but is also a homophone for "freedom".

The Facebook page comes as actors and other celebrities across Asia and the United States find themselves the target of rising Chinese nationalism, their careers vulnerable to the scrutiny of thousands of "patriots" ready to sniff out perceived disloyalty to the Communist Party.

They may be accused of being "poisonous", "traitors" or "antiChina elements", often for gestures or statements that are considered normal in their place of birth. Some have been pressured to issue videotaped or written apologies.

On Facebook, the person identified as a founder of the #First AnnualApologiseToChinaContest described himself as a farmer and philosophy student in Taiwan named Wang Yi-kai.

"If you have any thing want to apologise to China, (you are) welcome to attend the first annual 'Apologise to China' contest," the page reads in English. The contest began last Saturday and ends on July 30 and the winner will be crowned "the first king of apologise to China!", the page said.

Recently, the trolling reached a saturation point for Kiko Mizuhara, 25, a Japanese-American model and actress who, separately and in earnest, apologised to those who said she had expressed anti-China sentiments. She stood accused of "liking" an image by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei of a lifted middle finger on Tiananmen Square, among other things.

Online, some sprang to her defence: "China really is a damnable pile of mentally ill people and crazy dogs," wrote Chuang Viki underneath the video broadcast on YouTube, which is blocked by Chinese censors.

Another recent high-profile target who has been obliged to issue an apology is Taiwanese actor Leon Dai. Tens of thousands of Weibo posts have accused him of supporting independence for Taiwan and Falun Gong, a spiritual group banned on the mainland.

"You are not good enough to be Chinese," wrote one person in a typical comment. "You Taiwan independence separatist won't have a good death."

Last week, Chinese film-maker and actress Vicki Zhao said she was dropping Dai from her movie No Other Love over the uproar.

In January, Taiwanese pop singer Chou Tzu-yu, of K-pop girl band Twice, apologised after being excoriated by Chinese commenters online for holding a Taiwanese flag during presidential elections on the island.

For many Asian artists, the Chinese market has become a core part of their sales, exposing them to threats of boycott.

"Apologised yet today?" a person wrote on the Facebook page, summing up the mood.

Online wrath for those who cross China surged after a ruling last week by an international tribunal rejecting the country's claims to most of the South China Sea.

On its official Weibo site, the Communist Youth League praised the waxing patriotic fervour.

"The Leon Dai scandal and the South China Sea tribunal ruling have flooded China's social media," it wrote. "The young people rushing onto centre stage are changing the rules of the game of social media.

"They have built a path of national territorial integrity and sovereignty that are core interests of the country and constitute a red line that cannot be crossed.

"And that's the own choice of a new generation."

Over the weekend, a popular Beijing-based Taiwanese journalist, Gong Ling, committed suicide. She left a note saying: "There is nothing in China that is not political."

She reportedly had depression, but said she had been the target of criticism by mainland Chinese who applied "trumped-up labels" to attack her pro-Taiwan politics.

But even that was an occasion for nationalistic criticism online, with some on mainland Chinese site Zhihu saying she lacked resilience and that the tragedy reflected that China was becoming powerful and Taiwan weaker.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2016, with the headline 'Satirical Facebook page set up for apologies to China'. Print Edition | Subscribe