Tea Leaf Nation

Chinese State Media’s Favorite New Video

'Stop it and come home,' a construction worker pleads with Hong Kong protesters.

Fair Use/Tencent
Fair Use/Tencent

Chinese state media can’t get enough of a new online video, dated Sept. 30, that asks Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters to quit it. "Hong Kong’s anxious uncle tearfully asks children to return home, moving countless millions of netizens," reads the headline on an Oct. 3 article by state service Xinhua. The article has been syndicated widely, and a search for the term "anxious uncle" on Baidu, the country’s main search engine, now yields over 9 million results.  The video shows an unnamed, middle-aged man standing before what looks like a construction site, hardhat in hand, who  pleads with protesters. "Your voices have been heard," he says. "Has it ever occurred to you that your parents and children are waiting for you to go home? They are worried about you."

The clip also contains a hint of violence. The man says that "those who wish to see chaos in Hong Kong" are eager to see "blood flow and people die. Is that what you want?" He then urges parents and children to send one another text messages. The clip ends with the man shouting at the camera, bowing, and possibly crying as he pleads with protesters to "stop; I’m begging you." 

It’s true that the video has been played many, many times, getting over 70 million views on the Tencent video platform alone. But despite the gaudy numbers, the video seems to be eliciting little chatter on Chinese social media, which would, presumably, be ground zero for a video’s spread. Whatever the video’s provenance, it’s fair to say that Chinese state media is happy to play up its significance. The video’s underlying message — that (despite evidence to the contrary) the protests lead to chaos, combined with a message of filial piety — plays into a mainland state media narrative eager to marginalize or villify Hong Kong demonstrators. So far, the strategy seems to have worked, with most Chinese mainland response to Hong Kong’s protesters veering between indifference and disdain.

Watch the full (Chinese language) video here:    

 Twitter: @SidneyLeng

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