June 1, 2020 / 10:30 AM / 2 months ago

In China, U.S. protests a hot topic on state, social media

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese state media is giving extensive coverage to violent protests roiling cities across the United States, while the unrest has also featured widely in Chinese social media.

FILE PHOTO: Protesters rally against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Portland, Oregon, U.S. May 31, 2020. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester/File Photo

The death of George Floyd, a 46-year old black man, while in police custody last week has sparked demonstrations and unrest across the politically and racially divided country.

China’s state-run CCTV aired parts of an interview that his brother, Philonise Floyd, gave to U.S. news channel MSNBC in its noon broadcast on Monday, where he said U.S. President Donald Trump did not give him the opportunity to speak during a phone call and where he cried at the mention of his brother.

While the unrest in U.S. cities has been widely reported by international media, China’s interest comes at a time when relations between the two are particularly strained.

CCTV featured reports from one of its reporters running with protesters in Minnesota, as well as short videos shot by Americans depicting police violence against protesters.

On China’s social media platform Weibo, at least five news items on the protests were among the top 20 trending topics by midday, led by reports Trump had been temporarily taken to a bunker as protesters surrounded the White House.

On Twitter, the protests also featured widely among the top 20 trending items, with the hashtag #BunkerBoy at a prominent second place.

For some analysts, the Chinese media coverage of the protests echoed their reporting on the coronavirus situation in the United States.

“The number one thing they want to show is that the Communist Party is doing a better job in terms of fighting the coronavirus and managing society,” said Alfred Wu, associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

“That’s the main message: the U.S. is not doing good.”

Some Chinese media have made comparisons between the U.S. protests and those in Hong Kong, the latest flashpoint in U.S.-China tensions. Trump has begun the process of eliminating special U.S. treatment for Hong Kong to punish Beijing’s decision to impose new national security laws on the territory.

The state-run China Daily posted a political cartoon showing a coronavirus patient saying “I can’t breathe” - the dying words of Floyd - as a figure resembling Trump walks away after cutting the line to an oxygen tank labelled “WHO”.

That was a reference to his decision to withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization on Friday.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying wrote on Twitter on Saturday “I can’t breathe” in response to a tweet from U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus criticising China’s actions in Hong Kong.

Reporting by Huizhong Wu; Editing by Tony Munroe and Ana Nicolaci da Costa

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