Friday, May 6, 2022

"I face the lies" Chinese reports from Odessa – Beijing wants to silence him

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Jixian Wang has been living in Odessa since the beginning of the year. In his videos, he sharply criticizes the Russian attack on Ukraine – and has to expect reprisals for it in his Chinese homeland.

“I just don’t understand, why are you so happy that Putin is sending his troops here? What do you get out of it? Not even the Russians are so behind Putin.” In his videos, Jixian Wang not only takes on the Chinese government, but also many of his compatriots. The 37-year-old is being violently attacked on social media, but he doesn’t want to remain silent.

At the beginning of the year, the programmer moved to Odessa from China. After the Russian invasion of his host country, Wang started posting videos from the port city on Chinese social media. What Wang reports there doesn’t fit at all with depictions of the war in the Chinese state media. They stick to the Russian propaganda lies about the “military special operation” for the “denazification” of Ukraine. They do not provide reports on Russian wartime atrocities in Bucha, Mariupol and other places.

Very different Wang. In his videos, he mostly reports on everyday life in Odessa. The Black Sea city is not under Russian occupation, but the threat is ever-present. The air raid alarm went off regularly, and bombs and rockets kept falling near the city. Anyone who sees Wang’s encounters with the people in the city will find it hard to believe that they have to be liberated from a nationalist dictatorship, as the Russian side claims and as it is being circulated in China.

But Wang goes even further in his reports. He shows pictures of destroyed Russian tanks, poorly equipped or captured Russian soldiers – contradicting the official Chinese narrative that the invasion is proceeding entirely in Moscow’s interests. Initially, the Chinese censors let Wang do his thing, but since the end of March at the latest, the blogger has been under massive pressure.

On March 28, he posted a video in which he spoke of rapes by Russian soldiers in Bucha – and directly criticized the leadership in Beijing. As a result, not only did the Chinese censors block Wang’s account on the WeChat platform, YouTube also stopped Wang from uploading videos. Reason: He shares “violent content” there. “I find it inexplicable,” Wang told Radio Free Asia. “Where is the violence? I didn’t show any images of violence in the video at all.”

Wang has since got his YouTube channel, which has more than 116,000 subscribers, back after a complaint, but the hostilities are getting worse, and not just from the government in Beijing. In China’s social media, Wang is often accused of being a traitor, some users warn him against criticizing the Chinese leadership, others wish him “to be caught by the Chechens”. His family fears that Wang will face reprisals in China if he returns to his homeland. Still, he doesn’t want to stop.

“If an authoritarian state wants to intimidate you, you have to fight back as best you can,” Wang said. “Panic can be contagious and spread like a virus. I counteract the lies and panic by reporting from the front lines.”

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