China is not happy with Tsai Ing-wen, the president-elect of Taiwan.
Almost a week after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader was elected, netizens of mainland China launched a Facebook campaign to counter the pro-Taiwan independence sentiments shared on social media.
As of Thursday morning, Facebook users had flooded Ms. Tsai’s Facebook page with more than 40,000 comments. Foreign sites including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and others are blocked in mainland China. But users found ways to surpass the Great Firewall, the country’s vast network of censors and spying technology used to control Internet traffic, through VPN software.
"Taiwan is such a poor and backward place, do you still have any face to talk?” a user commented, according to the Washington Post. “What is the use of talking about this without any power? Do you have a say in the international community? If you have guts, declare independence."
The campaign was organized by Liyi Ba, an online community with more than 20 million members, and targeted pages of more than 10 organizations including Taiwan and Hong Kong media outlets, as well as the BBC, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“This is a self-organized cultural communication from members of Liyi Ba,” the organizers of the campaign wrote in a statement on their official Weibo microblog, the Journal reported. “We aimed to close the cognitive gap between netizens from both sides.”
Since the election on Saturday, Beijing has been concerned that Tsai and her independence-leaning DPP may push for independence from China. Xinhua, China's official news agency, wrote an editorial that described Taiwan’s independence aspirations as “poison,” while a Global Times editorial described them as being “hallucinations,” the Monitor reported.
Taiwan has been self-governing since 1949, but the Communist Party of China regards it as a territory that belongs to the mainland, and Beijing’s strict “One China” policy would not allow Taiwan to seek independence.
Tsai, in her victory speech, said that she wants good relations with China and is willing to meet Beijing halfway. But the Chinese government and many citizens remain wary of Taiwan.
“What they are saying is that something close to ‘One China’ has to come out of Tsai Ing-wen’s mouth eventually,” Shelley Rigger, a professor at Davidson College in North Carolina who studies Taiwanese politics, told the Monitor.
Ruan Chao-hsiung, a spokesman for the DPP, said that the users were exercising their freedom of speech, while Tsai wrote that "The greatness of this country lies in how every single person can exercise their own rights."
Taiwanese reacted to the Facebook comments with sarcastic messages congratulating the Chinese Netizens for being able to get past government censorship.
"We have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and personal freedom," a user commented, according to Reuters. “You people have none of that."