Anti-black racism, Hong Kong riots, and America’s decline: Chinese conversations about the George Floyd protests

Society & Culture

In many parts of the world, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police has prompted mass protests and global calls for an end to police brutality and racial injustice. The worldwide movement also took off in China — in the form of critical editorials published by state media, scathing tweets from Chinese officials, and an enormous number of comments on social media.

In many parts of the world, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police has prompted mass protests and global calls for an end to police brutality and racial injustice. The worldwide movement also took off in China — in the form of critical editorials published by state media, scathing tweets from Chinese officials, and an enormous number of comments on social media.

Over the weekend, discussions related to the demonstrations have erupted on Chinese social media. As of June 1, a hashtag meaning “America Riots” (#美国暴乱#) generated over 1.6 billion views and more than 330,000 posts on social media platform Weibo, where it remains a top trending topic displayed to all users.

But unlike countries such as Britain and Germany, where thousands of protesters took to the streets to show their solidarity with Floyd, many people in China — with little experience in political activism, limited knowledge about race issues, and an impulse to criticize the U.S. — saw the movement in a different light than their Western counterparts.

U.S. hypocrisy

Inspired by state media such as the Global Times, a large number of internet users seized on the news to mock the “double standards and hypocrisy” of the U.S. They argue that the U.S. now has no credibility to lecture China on human rights after its mishandling of the upheaval at home.

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.17.10 AM“All the things America criticized us for happened to itself eventually. It’s like a slap in the face. 2020 is truly magical.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.17.19 AM“Should we publish a white paper on human rights in the U.S. to show some concerns for the living conditions of American people?”

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.17.40 AM“[This is] freedom and democracy. People are crazy and Trump is stupid.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.26.45 AM“This is more than a beautiful sight. It has become a scenic area.”

Protests in U.S. vs. Hong Kong

Some internet users compared the unrest in the U.S. with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, saying that the violent crackdown on the protests in the U.S. proved that Hong Kong “thugs” picked the wrong role model to look up to when it comes to democracy and human rights.

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.16.33 AM“Hong Kong thugs should take a look at how America dealt with people like them. They are ungrateful, brainless, and being taken advantage of.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.20.19 AM“Same flavor, same ingredients. The only difference is that American police are more brutal and merciless than Hong Kong police.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.26.54 AM“Karma is no joke! Everything that occurred on Hong Kong streets last year eventually came to its origin in America.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.33.37 AM“I can’t believe there are people who used the protests in the U.S. to excuse the riots in Hong Kong. America exploded with widespread protests because people were angry about a police officer killing a black person. What reasons did Hong Kong protesters have? Our country gave Hong Kong people all the privileges. Did our country kill any Hong Kong people? All I see is those thugs in Hong Kong pouring gasoline over an old man.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.33.49 AM“Those protesters in Hong Kong want privileges, not equality. Societal contracts are not one-way agreements. What they wanted was never included in the contract. Just go read the basic law. What they did was actually in violation of the contract. They wanted to use violence to have their articles added to the contract.”

Racist messages

In ironic contrast to the anti-racist aims of the protests, some Chinese people weighed in on the topic with flat-out racist and hateful messages about black people. Given recent news about widespread discrimination faced by the African community in China, this eruption of racist comments shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.16.03 AM“I really think that our country needs to think carefully about it. I’m not a racist, but I think they [black people] are hard to manage. They are a race of great unity. They tend to jump to conclusions and get together to cause a disturbance. If they live in China in large populations, there’s no guarantee that we won’t face similar situations in the future. Don’t bring them here for temporary economic growth. It will be very troublesome once they live here in large groups. [I’m thinking about] the policies recently…Hmm…”

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.16.50 AM“I think there’s a lack of manners in those who support the protests. Those black people used this moment as an opportunity to wreak havoc and loot. The business owners who suffered destruction are innocent. The businesses they spent their life savings to build were destroyed by these ruffians. Don’t support black people just because you hate America. You’ll get an idea of how bad-mannered black people are in real life when you go to Guangzhou.”

Sympathy for the protesters

Not all the comments are driven by nationalism, schadenfreude, or bigotry. Plenty of people expressed sympathy for the protesters and said Trump was emblematic of all the issues that the demonstrations were about. Some raised concerns about the health risk of attending protests in the middle of a pandemic.

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.16.14 AM“We stand with the black communities in Minneapolis.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.16.22 AM“Someone needs to beat up that fat guy in the While House. He’s the root of all evils.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.19.35 AM“COVID-19: Folks, I’m still here.”

Feminists identify with the oppressed

While racism is probably not one of China’s most urgent problems, the frustration and anger of the protesters struck a chord with “the oppressed” in China, especially among women who feel passionately about women’s rights and gender equality.

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.33.21 AM“I am very sympathetic to the issue from the perspective of a woman, someone who faces discrmination. How does it help to loot? How does it help not to loot? What can we achieve by showing our punches? What can’t we gain from showing our punches? You can’t fight oppression like a spring breeze kissing someone’s face. We have to stand up for ourselves because there’s no spring breeze in our world.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 10.34.18 AM“In China, men are like white people and women are like black people. How bad is gender discrimination in China? Just like black people dying because of systematic injustice, many female babies are sentenced to death before birth. On the topic of gender discrimination against women, the contract of ‘gender equality’ is breached every single day. I’m thinking about ‘cool-off divorce periods’ at this moment. Before asking about the benefits of objection, ask yourself what benefits you will have by supporting it. Is it only for good statistics on paper?”