Chinese posing as Taiwanese have issued online apologies to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for “personal attacks” and “racist abuse,” Taiwanese authorities said yesterday.
Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau officials presented the findings at a media briefing to rebut accusations by Tedros, who on Wednesday accused Taiwan of engaging in personal attacks against him.
Tedros said that he over the past three months received death threats and racist abuse, and claimed that it originated from Taiwan.
Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau
Within hours of Tedros’ remarks, Twitter accounts traced to China began posting apologies to the WHO head on behalf of the Taiwanese public, which were then circulated on Chinese social media, amplifying their reach, Cyber Security Office head Chang Yu-jen (張尤仁) said.
The first such messages found by the bureau originated from the Twitter accounts @TMGNews_CN and @RFXZ_China, whose Chinese-language descriptions respectively purport them to be a news outlet and a radio station in Xuzhou, China, Chang said.
Chang said both posted apologies in Chinese, while one was accompanied with an English-language translation that read: “Be [sic] a Taiwanese, I feel extremely ashamed that we attacked Tandse [sic] in such a malicious way. I apologize to Tedros on behalf of Taiwanese and beg for his forgiveness.”
Comments on the messages called for other Chinese social media users to “use the statement as a template to copy and pass off as Taiwanese issuing an apology,” with some even copying online pictures of a Taiwanese national identification card to accompany social media posts, Chang said.
Chinese social media users then issued rallying calls with comments including: “Remember to use the format,” “Please disguise yourself more realistically” and “It is fun to play this game” to encourage others to impersonate Taiwanese as part of an online “fake apology” campaign to “admit” perpetrating the alleged attacks against Tedros, Chang said.
In addition to the messages, other evidence pointing to Chinese social media users include Internet protocol addresses traced to China, the use of simplified Chinese characters and phrasing that is different from that commonly used by Taiwanese, Chang said.
The bureau combed through three months of posts on Facebook, Twitter and other popular social media platforms, but did not find any personal or racist attacks against Tedros originating from accounts of Taiwanese, Chang said.
While the investigation is still ongoing, all indications are that the attacks most likely came from China or other countries, Chang said, citing bureau statistics from earlier this week showing that since the COVID-19 outbreak began, a misinformation campaign against Taiwan has been relentless, with more than 70 percent of misinformation about the disease originating in China.
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