Critical comments on the Weibo of Taiwanese singer-songwriter Deserts Chang (張懸) may be part of an organized effort to attack the performer after she stirred up controversy by displaying the Republic of China (ROC) flag at a UK concert, some Chinese netizens wrote.
One user of the social media site, Sina Weibo, with the screenname “Anshi Ruanjian 17” wrote on Thursday that the criticisms are part of a campaign by China’s “50 cent party,” a colloquial term for Web users allegedly paid 0.5 Chinese yuan (US$0.08) per online post of government-directed propaganda.
In an interview with reporters, Anshi Ruanjian, 17, a Hebei native, said that Chinese authorities have accessed Sina Weibo’s administrative system to make negative and emotional replies on Chang’s page show up first.
CNA verified the claim by leaving a positive reply on Chang’s Weibo, which showed up at the very bottom of all comments, whereas the newest reply to a post should be displayed first.
Sina Weibo declined a request for comment.
News reports have indicated that Chang’s upcoming Beijing concert could be canceled by authorities miffed over the flag incident, a move that Wong Nguk-chung, head of an entertainment association in Hong Kong and Macau, said would be going “overboard.”
Wong admitted that entertainers from Hong Kong and Taiwan need to be careful when it comes to political issues in front of a Chinese audience, but said that Chang’s concert took place in a neutral location outside of China.
Beijing has shown more flexibility when it comes to entertainers with political stances in recent years, he said, though it is difficult to guess how ordinary citizens will react.
The incident unfolded on Nov. 2, when Chang angered Chinese audience members at a University of Manchester concert by displaying an ROC flag given to her by Taiwanese students among the crowd, referring to it in English as her country’s national flag.
Heckled by angry students, Chang said the flag “represents where these students and I are from” and her display of it was “not politics.”
A video of her response has gone viral on Facebook and Weibo and stirred sentiment over the ever-sensitive issue of Taiwan-China relations.
“I truly hope that someday, in somewhere, at some places and to anybody, we can always talk about anything to each other and we can always listen,” the singer later wrote in English on her Weibo.