Advertisement
The VICE Guide to Right Now

Chinese Broadcaster Uses Famous Holocaust Poem to Compare Hong Kong Protesters to Nazis

The state news agency tweaked a poem by German pastor Martin Niemöller’s anti-Nazi poem, effectively comparing protesters to cowardly Germans who didn’t stand up to the Nazis.

by Pallavi Pundir
21 August 2019, 10:23am

Riot police officers detain an anti-extradition bill protester during a demonstration in Tsim Sha Tsui neighbourhood in Hong Kong early this week. Photo via Reuters

CCTV, a Chinese state broadcasting network, used a famous 1946 poem on the Holocaust to compare Hong Kong protestors to Nazis. The controversial tweet, which has received a lot of flak since it was posted on August 17, borrows heavily from the poem by anti-Nazi German pastor Martin Niemöller called First They Came, which became famous after World War II, and spoke about the refusal of Germans to speak up against the persecution of minorities, especially the Jews, until “there was no one left/to speak for me”.

The post appeared right after the protesters at the Hong Kong airport had reportedly tied and beaten up two men suspected of being undercover agents from mainland China. The post, frequently references “attacks” on buildings, police forces, drivers, passengers and journalists. The poem also appears to take on the voice and appeal to Hongkongers who are supposedly “silent” bystanders, and urges them to “speak out” in favour of China. It ends with “And then they came and attacked me, And there was no one left to speak for me and protect me”.

The messaging is being seen as one of the several anti-protest messaging by the Chinese state media over the last 11 weeks, targeted at the historic mass protest against the extradition bill. Several state news agencies have also used words such as “terrorism” and “cockroaches” to describe the protests. But some reports call this particular post by CCTV “a whole new level” of criticism that draws parallels between the actions of Hong Kong protesters and that of the German Nazis before World War II to the Jews.

The same weekend, CCTV’s English-language wing, CGTN, had also posted a rap song in English that, again, targeted protesters, calling them “liars” who are supposedly supported by “foreign forces”. Another rap in Cantonese also prompted listeners to “say no to riots! Say no bad acts! Say no to evil!”

This poem received heavy criticism after it was tweeted to CCTV’s 777.9K followers. Beijing writer Frankie Huang told the South China Morning Post, “How dare they hijack and sully these famous words?? This is disgusting.” Hong Kong-based journalist Mary Hui of the international digital publication, Quartz, added to the criticism by writing, “Online, academics and journalists were quick to criticize CCTV’s post as ‘unsurprisingly fatuous’, ‘bizarre’, and making Niemöller'[turn] around in his grave', for the comparison between an atrocity in which six million people were murdered, and a movement in which there have been no deaths, and that represents a stand against authoritarianism.”

Follow Pallavi Pundir on Twitter .