Two Chinese state media outlets called for netizens to “renovate” the White House, in response to the United States passing a law supportive of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement—only to mistake the U.S. Capitol for the White House.
On Dec. 4, the country’s state broadcaster CCTV and Party mouthpiece People’s Daily Overseas both posted on Facebook an image with the following words: “The United States passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. You’re welcome to come ‘renovate’ the White House.”
The image showed the U.S. Capitol building engulfed in flames, and surrounded by men sporting black shirts and yellow helmets—the signature attire of Hong Kong demonstrators—smashing and throwing rocks at the building.
The posts were swiftly removed, but not before netizens spotted the mix-up.
Joshua Wong, leader of Hong Kong pro-democracy group Demosisto, posted a screenshot of the CCTV post, together with a side-by-side comparison of the White House and the U.S. Capitol.
Solomon Yue, national committeeman for the Republican Party of Oregon, took to Twitter to criticize Chinese state media for encouraging violence.
“Cancel People’s Daily and CCTV reporters’ [U.S.] visas for inciting vandalism against the White House,” he said.
For nearly six months, Hongkongers have taken to the streets in a bid to resist the perceived Chinese regime’s increasing influence in the city.
Beijing has fiercely criticized Washington for passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which could lead to sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials involved in rights violations in the city.
The measure, which President Donald Trump signed into law on Nov. 27, requires the U.S. administration to certify annually if Hong Kong should continue to be granted special trading privileges with the United States.
On Dec. 2, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it would deny the U.S. Navy entry to Hong Kong ports. The regime also imposed unspecified sanctions on multiple U.S. pro-democracy organizations, including Freedom House and Human Rights Watch, saying they had “played an egregious role in the Hong Kong amendment bill disturbance.”
The Chinese communist regime has routinely taken to Western social media as part of its overseas campaign to shape the narrative on the ongoing Hong Kong protests, which it has framed as “rioting” and the work of “terrorists.”
In August, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube—all of which are inaccessible in China—suspended hundreds of accounts tied to a Chinese state-backed disinformation campaign against the demonstrators.
In an Aug. 19 blog post, Twitter announced it closed 936 accounts linked with the Chinese regime that were “deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.”
Recent tender documents from the state-controlled China News Service showed the outlet offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to expand its reach on Twitter and Facebook. The Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, the top internet censor agency, also put out similar bids in August for carrying out “online promotion of crucial topics.”
State-run outlets such as CCTV, Global Times, and China Daily have also been actively posting on social media as part of efforts to undermine the protest movement.
On Dec. 4, state-run Xinhua news agency posted a Twitter video showing dozens of pro-Beijing demonstrators in Hong Kong waving the regime’s red flags in a march to the U.S. consulate. They trampled on a U.S. flag to express their anger at the passage of the bill, and also punched and burned an effigy of Trump.
Similarly, on Nov. 28, the day after Trump signed the Hong Kong legislation, the outlet’s Twitter account posted photos showing a small number of pro-Beijing activists rallying in protest in Hong Kong. One of the posts stated the bill “was strongly condemned and opposed in Hong Kong.” It made no mention of a rally held on the same day at Edinburgh Place, where thousands of Hongkongers expressed appreciation for the U.S. enactment of the bill.