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  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 5:01am
Malaysia Airlines flight 370
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Flight MH370

Are Chinese celebrities stoking resentment against Malaysia over MH370 disaster?

Some weibo stars blamed for stoking incendiary war of words by calling for boycott against Malaysia

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 March, 2014, 3:29pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 March, 2014, 3:41pm
 

Bloggers and columnists warned against inflammatory speech and urged some celebrities to refrain from stoking further tensions, as calls on social media to boycott Malaysian tourism and products continued to gain traction.

Sina Weibo users today lashed out against those who launched attacks at Malaysian citizens - including Malaysian celebrities of Chinese descent - in retaliation over Malaysia's handling of the search for flight MH370.

They urged “rational patriotism”, where instead of blindly boycotting Malaysia and fanning hatred, people should focus on finding the truth for the sake of the passengers' families.

Watch: China's Zhang Ziyi makes a plea for "the truth" about flight MH370

Some mainland internet users have left slurs and insults on the Sina Weibo pages of famous Malaysian-Chinese singers including  Fish Leong and Victor Wong.

Just months ago in October, Leong, who identifies as Malaysian, received glowing coverage from the Chinese media and netizens after Chinese president Xi Jinping mentioned her name on a diplomatic visit to Kuala Lumpur partly to illustrate pop culture parallels between the two nations.

But now she became the subject of vitriol. “What are you hiding from us?,” one blogger wrote on Leong’s page, in one of the milder comments on her page.

Others left obscenities. One called Malaysians "inferior" and said they were "not welcome in China".

Malaysian officials have been criticised for giving confusing information, or are sometimes accused of witholding information, and failing to adequately comfort the families of the mostly Chinese passengers on the crashed jetliner.

Some opinion writers suggested a handful of mainland celebrities, many with millions of weibo followers, have played a part in encouraging the public to vent their anger at Malaysians.

Chen Kun, a mainland film star with 70 million Sina Weibo followers, has said he would boycott Malaysian products and tourism until the Malaysian government “takes down their clown-like mask and tells the truth” about MH370.

Famous TV show host Meng Fei expressed similar sentiments.

But Pan Caifu, a well-known columnist and microblogger, called attacks against Malaysians “stupid” and urged public figures to stop adding fuel to the fire.

“Celebrities were irresponsible for provoking anger," he said in a column published on The Beijing News today.

“Malaysia has always been China’s loyal friend, and the Malaysians have also criticised their government after the crisis," he said.

Zhao Chu, a columnist with 10 million Sina Weibo followers, cited more constructive ways of venting anger.

“If you really care about the Chinese passengers onboard, you should pressure the Chinese government into better co-ordinating with the Malaysians and make explicit demands."

Zhao also cautioned that celebrities should refrain from “abusing their influence”.

Part of the social media debate also centred on how Chinese anger against Malaysia could be pushing the Southeast Asian ally closer towards the United States.

Microbloggers cited a Twitter message posted by the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur, saying: “Not giving up. We're with you Malaysia."

“Even if the US was only pretending to be friends [with Malaysia], I think it might be working,” one microblogger wrote.

The difficult search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 began after it disappeared from civilian aviation radars on March 8. Tensions have flared between aggrieved Chinese families staying in Beijing and Malaysian authorities since.

Mainland travel agencies have reported a sharp drop - some as much as 50 per cent - in the number of Chinese visitors to Malaysia compared to the same period last year.

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This article is now closed to comments

wailunscmp
People say that you really kinow who your true friends are when tragedy strikes.
It's not just the Malaysians who are watching. Other Asian nations are also watching silently and making their own conclusions. China has shown itself as a fair weather friend. Seems like the US and the West are more reliable friends after all. The latter response has been search & rescue first while the former has shown itself to be a loud bully. You help your friends, not step on them, when they are down. Don't forget, the Malaysians are also victim of this tragedy. So instead of screaming at Malaysia daily, China should remember that there are also 38 Malaysian victims (and families) here, not to mention the airline and country. Seems like China thinks this is a Chinese only tragedy. So much for soft power
ianhuayensee
It is sad to note that whilst there certainly is room for improvement on how the Malaysian (political/airline) side handled the MH370 affairs, the torrent of criticism from all corners of Mainland China has been nearly overwhelmingly one of revenge and boycott. This is particularly sad when Chinese celebrities such as Zhang Ziyi and Chen Kun did not help the situation by not encouraging the Chinese people to show passion, support and understanding. They should capitalise on their public role. Interestingly there is very little negative reaction from the Malaysian side during the tragedy. i want to remind all of you that when China encountered disasters such as the Wenchuan and the Qinghai earthquakes, Malaysians, including those of Chinese descent, donated generously to the cause, funds being abused notwithstanding. We should allow our cool heads to prevail and to allow time for healing, reconciliation and mutual support. A relationship is never a one way street. There is the political relationship and more importantly there is also the people to people relationship between any two countries. For China and Malaysia, the people to people relationship started about 600 years ago when Zheng He visited the South Seas. Today, you see Mainland Chinese and Malaysians each swearing their oaths to their respective countries but this does not affect their bilateral relationship. Despite the differences, let's cherish this.
Ian See
azman.ibrahim
And China has been sooooooooooooooo transparent in its dealings with disasters, where hundreds if not thousands have lost their lives or limbs. That's why its citizens -- including these celebrities -- have remained so quiet. Yup. Not a pip nor squeak.
adam.foster.9809672
It so sad to have the tragedy of MH370. All blamed should no be put to all malaysian. Malaysian itself had criticized their goverment in handing this tragedy. Malaysia and China had became a friend since hundred years ago (during Malacca era). So its unfair for the Chinese to cut the friend relationship because of this tragedy. Anger and finger-pointing will not solve the problem.
Macro75
See elsewhere in the SCMP for an article about an activist who questioned the Chinese government over the death of thousands in the Beichuan quakes that might have been prevented if not for shoddy construction. He was in jail for 5 years for daring to raise questions. The families in China and other countries who have suffered devastating losses as a result of this presumed crash are rightly questioning the information made available to them without consequence. An interesting point of contrast. May peace soon come to the families around the world affected by the MH370 tragedy.
lzbong1@gmail.com
Very irresponsible behaviour from people who live their lives in the public's eye. Attack the parties who deserve it? Yes fine. Attacking other people who have NO CONTROL over how the incompetent the Malaysian authorities are? Literally retarded. Might as well have a go at a random person on the street in China because Mainland tourists pollute and destroy every place they go to on holiday -.-
khaliff.aziz
It is full of shame to see the way these Chinese behaving them self. That is what will happen when people has no God and pray to the idols.
hillson.tami
My prayer and thought to all the families and friends of MH370. How ever the manner in which some of the Chinese express themselves is way overboard and I am afraid this is not going to gain them sympathy later. As Malaysian I find some of their behaviour very unbecoming and crude.
mankydanky
Malaysia should learn from China - literally bury the evidence, like what they did after the high speed rail crash.
Hollander323
China has the highest number of its nationals on board the plane that is why Chinese government is so concerned. Obviously the Malaysian government has not been handling the incident properly and with transparency. Anyone who has followed the incident in the past weeks will believe that the Malaysian government has held back a lot of the facts and not disclosing to the public not even to China and to the countries taking part in the search. Why the Malaysian government is so secretive in this matter and it still is. It is not about blames that are deserved or not, it is about transparency, otherwise people will have suspicions on their mind. Just want to put the facts right, China is among the earliest nation joined the search deploying their satellites and ships, whereas the USA, the country having the most advanced satellite and radar search technologies only join the search operation rather lately.

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