Facebook page of Taiwan's new president bombarded by hostile comments
"Great Firewall" no obstacle to China's Facebook trolls
Facebook trolls. Live-fire military drills.
Taiwan’s new President Tsai Ing-wen hasn’t been sworn in yet but China’s apparent response to her election couldn’t be called subtle.
This week, her Facebook page was bombarded by tens of thousands of hostile messages in what Chinese state media termed “an online crusade” or “holy war,” while state broadcaster CCTV released images of military exercises in the Taiwan Strait – the narrow stretch of water that divides Taiwan and China.
The Facebook campaign was organized by a popular Chinese online forum “Li Yi Tieba,” which has a membership of 21 million, according to People’s Daily.
“Taiwan has been an inseparable part of China since ancient times,” declared a typical post by Wenjing Mo.
Others posted the lyrics of China’s national anthem, an essay by former Chinese President Hu Jintao on official conduct, and described Tsai as the governor of Taiwan. Some were in multiple languages.
Tsai’s party has traditionally favored formal independence for the island, although Tsai is regarded as a pragmatic politician and is expected to take a more moderate approach.
Taiwan is independently governed but China views it as a key part of its territory and has vowed to use force against the island if necessary.
“Chinese netizens, please be rational,” a user in Taiwan fought back. “You guys can’t change anything by making vicious comments on Facebook; it will only increase the gap between us.”
‘Jumping the firewall’
China’s state-run media didn’t exactly condone the Facebook trolling.
In an editorial published late Thursday, the tabloid Global Times concluded the campaign was a “fun normal incident” that showcased young people’s passion for politics.
Tsai didn’t give a direct response to her Facebook detractors but posted a picture of her supporters with the words: “The greatness of this nation lies in the fact that everyone has the right to be themselves.”
Others couldn’t resist the irony of Chinese citizens jumping the vast online censorship apparatus known as “Great Firewall of China” to practice freedom of expression taken for granted in Taiwan.
Facebook is banned in China and users would have had to make a concerted effort to circumvent Internet controls.
“Welcome to a democratic and free Taiwan,” Yang Chia-liang a spokesperson for Tsai’s Democratic Progessive Party posted.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense appeared unfazed by footage from Chinese broadcaster CCTV showing long-range rockets, amphibious vehicles, tanks and helicopter units.
The ministry said it was aware that China had conducted a routine military drill but said that CCTV had used video footage of an exercise that was conducted last year to give an “exaggerated and false” report.
CNN’s Beijing intern Jessie Jiang contributed to reporting.