THE Facebook page of Taiwan’s president-elect has been flooded with tens of thousands of pro-China comments after a campaign by young mainlanders to jump the country’s “Great Firewall” into normally forbidden overseas social media.
President-elect Ms Tsai Ing-wen is from a party that is less friendly towards Beijing and the notion of eventual reunification than the previous one, angering many residents in China, which considers Taiwan to be part of its territory.
A youth-dominated online forum on the mainland with millions of members launched the crusade late on Wednesday to flood Ms Tsai’s Facebook page as well as news sites, including Taiwan’s SETN.com and Hong Kong-based Apple Daily, with comments and conversation. Thousands of mainland web users appear to have answered the call.
One of Ms Tsai’s Facebook posts drew 42,000 comments, with most warning that China “firmly opposes any independence”.
Some taunted the island to declare formal independence so Beijing has an “excuse to annihilate the bandits”.
Though some Chinese have long resented internet restrictions aimed at insulating residents from forbidden, harmony-eroding ideas from outside, this is the first major public groundswell to scale the wall in the opposite direction, for Chinese internet users who want to flaunt their unswerving nationalism abroad.
Chinese authorities tolerate eruptions of nationalist sentiment but they also do not like to see them spiral out of control. Beijing is wary of efforts to break out of the confines of the Chinese cyberspace and has hinted that the use of virtual private networks, or VPNs, to access banned websites could be considered illegal.
Beijing-based journalist Zhang Heng said the outpouring among young Chinese was the result of youthful exuberance and being “brainwashed for more than a dozen years by thought and politics courses” in school.
The crusade’s silver lining was that many young people are learning how to access the global internet, he said.
“I think that’s a good skill to have,” Zhang said. “At least some of the young people will see a more colourful world on the other side of the wall. When they are exposed to more information, they won’t be easily manipulated by a single political thought.”