China Uncensored: Chinese Media’s Strange Response to Ferguson

August 26, 2014 Updated: September 2, 2014

Now, bootlegs and cheap knockoffs are pretty common in China. And so I would have thought, if ever there were a golden opportunity for the Chinese regime to put out an imitation of this column called “America Uncensored,” this would have been it.

Earlier in the month, Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, was shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. It’s resulted in mass protests, a “don’t shoot” meme, and a police response that looks like something out of, well, China.

This was a story laid out on a silver platter for Chinese state-run media to launch into a mass criticism campaign of the United States. But their actual response was … subdued. Yes, China watchers everywhere were surprised that the Chinese regime wasn’t criticizing the United States enough.

I mean, sure, Xinhua News Agency, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, published an editorial about Ferguson that said the United States was a hypocrite because it “assaulted almost 200 countries across the world for their so-called poor human rights records.” But it didn’t really seem like their hearts were in it.

So what is going on? One problem is, the Ferguson issue hits a little too close to home for the Chinese regime. Racial tensions have been flaring in Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghur population, as well as in Tibet.

So one way that Chinese media is portraying this is that “even in the U.S., there are racial tensions.” So if you read between the lines—of course there’s going to be similar problems in China. It’s no big deal! Forget about it. Also, quit criticizing us.

So what that the Chinese regime banned Ramadan fasting for Uyghur government employees. So what that they’re banning beards. So what that they’re trying to eliminate the Tibetan language by not letting it be spoken in schools. These kinds of racial … misunderstandings are bound to happen.

Another issue is that the Party has learned the hard way that it has to be careful about how it spins anti-American news pieces. It used the Occupy Wall Street movement as proof of the utter chaos democracies can descend into and about the need for the regime’s favorite buzzword, “stability maintenance.”

Oh, wait, I’m sorry. You’ve probably never heard of the Occupy Movement, since Western media never covered it. At least that’s what an opinion piece for state-run China Daily, titled “U.S. media blackout of protest is shameful,” by Chen Weihua claimed.

Epoch Times Photo
Capt. Ronald Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who was appointed by the governor to take control of security operations in the city of Ferguson, walks among demonstrators gathered along West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 14, 2014. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

But then some Chinese people started supporting the movement, and criticizing the lies in Chinese media. Yang Hengjun, one of China’s most popular political bloggers wrote, “For a paper like China Daily, supported by taxpayers, to publish such an irresponsible editorial—well, drawing the scorn of others is one thing, but if you blatantly lie and deceive to this degree, that reflects badly on China’s government! It reflects badly on the Chinese people! It is completely shameful!”

So, well, maybe it’s just best if Chinese media doesn’t say too much about Ferguson.

But sometimes they just can’t help themselves. Like earlier this week, when State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf was asked about Ferguson. She responded that since this was a domestic issue that didn’t involve the State Department, she couldn’t really comment on it.

The next morning, state-run CCTV ran with “the U.S. State Department spokeswoman said that Ferguson is a domestic affair, which other countries have no right to interfere with.”

Now, if that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same thing that the Chinese authorities do all the time when they are criticized: condemn other countries for “interference in China’s internal affairs.”

The thing is—that’s not what Marie Harf said. What she actually said was, “As I said—and this is really a domestic issue—but briefly, when we have problems and issues in this country, we deal with them openly and honestly. I don’t have any further comment on a process that is a purely domestic one and does not involve the State Department.”

A little different from the CCTV version.

Regardless, the reports sparked heated discussion on microblogs, where the term “U.S. domestic affairs” started trending. According to the LA Times, many netizens criticized the U.S. government for hypocrisy. That is, until people started posting translations of what Marie Harf actually did say. That’s when netizens started to turn on Chinese state-run media, for lying. I guess trying to score points by misrepresenting the truth backfired yet again.

And that’s the thing. You don’t have to misrepresent the truth. What happened in Ferguson was a tragedy, and it does point to lots of issues that we have in the United States, ones that we need to address. I for one am glad that we can have the opportunity to do so.

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Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.