Taiwan water army incites argument between Chinese mainland and Thailand netizens
Published: Apr 15, 2020 03:14 AM

Promotional material for Thai boys' love drama 2gether: The Series Photo: Maoyan

A massive war of words between Chinese mainland and Thailand netizens sparked by expressions of politically sensitive topics about Taiwan and Hong Kong was actually used by Taiwan and Hong Kong separatists' internet water army, said analysts on Tuesday.

Analysts noted that China and Thailand are actually countries with a deep traditional friendship but most Thai people, who are used by troublemakers, have no idea about the sensitive topics of China's sovereignty , and they urged netizens of the two countries not to be pawns of the separatists.

The online argument between the netizens of Chinese mainland and Thailand was caused by Thai actor Bright, from Thai "boys love" TV drama 2gether, which could be introduced to China, as his girlfriend Nnevvy made comments on Taiwan separatism which seriously offended Chinese and was spotted by Chinese mainland web users on Facebook and Twitter. Bright's girlfriend also retweeted a post containing conspiracy comments about Wuhan and COVID-19.

Bright also mistakenly listed Hong Kong as a country on his Twitter account on April 10, which was criticized by Chinese mainland web users. He later deleted the tweet and apologized to people who were offended and although some Chinese web users understood he didn't mean to offend anyone and reminded him to be careful next time when talking about Taiwan and Hong Kong, the argument on social media didn't stop.

Many Twitter and Facebook users from Taiwan also joined the war of words using offensive terms like "Wuhan virus," "Chinese virus" and "Taiwan is a country" or "Hong Kong is a country" to provoke Chinese mainland netizens.

Some new accounts listed in Thailand that only commented in English and were familiar with Chinese politically sensitive topics joined in to provoke Chinese mainland netizens and their comments were broadly praised by Taiwan and Hong Kong Twitter users rather than those in Thailand.

An anonymous expert on cybersecurity who is closely following the incident told the Global Times that this is a typical ploy of anti-China separatists in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

"They know how to anger Chinese mainland netizens and incite mainland web users to attack others and then stand with the country being attacked to criticize Chinese patriots or attack China's political system. This is how they use some individual incidents online to incite conflict between China and another country."

The expert also said that, "These internet water army warriors consist of two different forces. The first group is radical net users in Taiwan and Hong Kong who are deeply motivated by separatism and anti-China sentiment.

"The second group is the internet water army founded by the separatist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of Taiwan. They are professional in creating fake news and using sensitive incidents to incite online conflicts. They are widely used by the DPP to conduct online propaganda warfare against its rivals," he noted.

According to previous Taiwan-based media's reports, this water army that serves the DPP was also involved in starting rumors and fake news to hype online hatred against the pro-reunification KMT and its candidate for the Taiwan regional leader election 2020.

Now the Thai TV drama is being boycotted by Chinese netizens and the war of words hasn't stopped. "This is the first transnational geopolitical Twitter war Thais have engaged in," Prajak Kongkirati of Bangkok's Thammasat University, told Reuters.

Some rational web users are urging the two sides to calm down and avoid being used by the troublemakers. They also remind angry Chinese netizens to avoid targeting the country as Thailand is a traditional friend of China and its people have been very supportive of China's fight against the COVID-19 from the very beginning.

Yue Han, a Chinese journalist at a Chinese-language newspaper Xintai Daily in Thailand, wrote in an article posted on the newspaper's WeChat account that "most people, especially the youth, in Thailand have no idea about the Taiwan question just like people in most foreign countries. Although governments are respecting the One China principle, schools and media are not very sensitive to these topics. So, many people just don't know what is going on between Chinese mainland and Taiwan, or Hong Kong."

That's why Thai netizens cannot understand why Chinese mainland netizens are so angry, and they can be used by Taiwan and Hong Kong separatists to further provoke the mainland on other issues, Yue said in this article.

Due to Taiwan's presence and people-to-people exchanges with Thailand being very influential, and the Thai media being deeply impacted by Western media, Thai people would not understand some of China's core interests, which is also very normal, Yue said.

The Chinese Embassy in Thailand also released a statement Tuesday night in Chinese, English and Thai, relating to the online statements.

"I have noticed there have been many online statements related to China recently. First of all, I want to underline that the One China principle is irrefutable, and China is firmly opposed to anyone making any erroneous statement inconsistent with the One China principle anytime, anywhere. Having said that, I want to point out that the One China principle is a long-standing principle consistently recognized and supported by the Thai government and the Thai general public," said an embassy spokesperson.

"The recent online noises only reflect bias and ignorance of its maker, which does not in any way represent the standing of the Thai government nor the mainstream public opinion of the Thai people. The scheme by some particular people to manipulate the issue for the purpose of inflaming and sabotaging the friendship between Chinese and Thai people will not succeed," the statement read.

Yue noted that "The actor's girlfriend is not the prime minister of Thailand," and "there are some crazy people in this world, but if we get infuriated by every single word from every crazy person, there will be no peace for us."

He urged Chinese not to be infuriated by a group of radical and separatist forces and not to target the whole of Thailand, otherwise only people like Joshua Wong, a Hong Kong separatist activist who was involved in multiple riots in Hong Kong, would be happy as they want to see other countries' people be hostile to China and support their anti-China and separatist political stance. Yue's article on his WeChat account got more than 100,000 views and was praised by many Chinese mainland netizens.

The statement from the Chinese embassy continued, "At the most critical moment of China's campaign against COVID-19, we are blessed with valuable support from the Thai royal family, the Thai government and various sectors of society. Now that the situation in China is turning around, the Chinese government, Chinese enterprises and social organizations are rallying to provide Thailand with assistance to defeat the virus, despite enormous domestic pressure of an epidemic rebound. The people from both countries feel deeply indebted and grateful to each other's kindness."

Virus respects no borders, and there is no "sin" when it comes to this epidemic. Working together with concerted efforts is the only right way forward.

We deeply believe that the long-standing China-Thailand friendship will withstand the trials of this epidemic, and the kinship of "China and Thailand as one family" will emerge stronger with more vitality after we jointly overcome this challenge, read the statement.