A social media post by a powerful wing of the Communist Party of China (CPC) had ridiculed the Covid-19 humanitarian crisis unfolding in India, comparing the lighting of funeral pyres at an Indian crematorium with the launch of a Chinese rocket last week. The post has now been deleted.
The Commission for Political and Legal Affairs (CPLA) of the CPC’s central committee published a collage of two images on its Weibo account on Saturday, showing the Chinese rocket launch and the lighting of a pyre in India, side by side.
The caption to the collage reads something along the lines of – “When China sets things on fire vs. when India does it”.
The Weibo post, which has been taken off, was made a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he was concerned about the pandemic situation in India, and had conveyed his condolences.
The CPLA is a powerful organ in the CPC structure and oversees police officers, prosecutors and courts.
It is currently headed by Guo Shengkun, a member of the political bureau of the CPC’s central committee – two of the top decision-making wings in China.
London-based journalist and researcher Mengyu Dong, who tweeted the collage, wrote: “Someone apparently thought it was a good idea to make fun of the latest Covid-19 outbreak in India? An acct (account) affiliated with CCP Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission posted this on Weibo. Caption: When China sets things on fire vs when India does it.”
China Digital Times, which tracks China’s online world, reported: “Official accounts such as the Chinese Police Online and the Tianjin Municipal People’s Procuratorate have posted a picture on several platforms mocking India’s fight against the epidemic: ‘China’s Fire Shine Mountain, India’s Fire Shine Mountain.’”
Responding to a question from HT on the issue – which many Chinese citizens called “insensitive” – the Chinese foreign ministry said the post could not be found on Weibo.
“Regarding the relevant picture mentioned in your question, we currently cannot find it on the relevant Weibo account. It is hoped that the Indian side will pay attention to the Chinese government and mainstream public opinion supporting India’s stance in fighting the epidemic,” the Chinese foreign ministry told HT in a statement.
“What we want to emphasise is that China has been paying close attention to the development of the epidemic situation in India… China is doing its utmost to support India in fighting the new round of the epidemic,” the ministry said.
“In the next few days, more anti-epidemic resources will continue to be sent to India to support India’s anti-epidemic efforts. Many donations and purchases in this area are carried out through unofficial channels. This is enough to show that the Chinese government and all sectors of society are expressing their support for India’s fight against the epidemic with practical actions.”
Chinese official media, too, has a history of mocking Indians during times of bilateral tension.
During the Doklam standoff near the Sikkim border in 2017, news agency Xinhua had released a video with racist overtones that had mocked and parodied Indians.
The video in English ran a little more than three minutes and was titled “7 Sins of India: It’s time for India to confess its seven sins”.
It featured a man with a turban and a fake beard – an apparent attempt at mocking at an Indian Sikh person – speaking in English in the way in which Indians are perceived to speak the language.
Last Thursday, China sent to space a key module for its permanent space station, which it plans to complete by 2022 as part of its ambitious space programme.