A meme calling the protests currently roiling Hong Kong a “shame” blew up the Chinese internet today. The image — which reads “I support Hong Kong police, you can hit me” in traditional Chinese characters, with “What a shame for Hong Kong” written in English underneath — was released this morning at 1:50 AM Beijing time by People’s Daily, China’s largest newspaper and an official paper of the country’s ruling Communist Party.
Stoking fury in response to last night’s clash between police and protestors at Hong Kong International Airport, the People’s Daily meme has blown up in part due to widespread anger among the general mainland populace, but also thanks to support from an unlikely corner: clout rappers
Rap of China champion PG One, for example, re-posted People Daily’s Weibo this afternoon with the caption: “Support Hong Kong police, resist violent atrocities!!! I hope everyone is safe and secure!”
Another Rap of China star, VaVa, posted the meme to her 253,000 Instagram followers with the English caption: “Hong Kong is part of China forever.” The hashtag #VAVA INS# is currently one of Sina Weibo’s trending topics, with more than 300 million re-posts — somewhat ironic given that Instagram is blocked in mainland China, and inaccessible without VPN software (something some commenters have pointed out on her post).
Yet another famous-because-of-TV rapper, After Journey, joined the fray as well, ‘gramming the image with the caption (in Chinese): “Compatriots, remember this day, remember this moment.”
Less directly, two members of what is arguably Chinese rap’s hottest overseas export, Higher Brothers, shared images of China’s national flag on their Instagram accounts this afternoon. Melo from the Sichuan trap group shared the flag with the English caption “Once again.I’m proud i’m a Chinese.”, later responding to a commenter in Chinese (and Sichuan-dialect slang), “Hong Kong has been part of China’s territory since ancient times, you dumbasses should recognize your ancestors and origins”.
Three hours later, fellow Higher Brother DZ Know shared the same image with the Chinese caption “send me a [Chinese flag emoji],” promptly followed up with a comment (also in Chinese) reading, “China first [fire emoji]”.
Though such blatant — and, frankly, puerile — displays of nationalism might seem surprising coming from rappers who’ve been busy building an international following, keep in mind that some are reflecting a sentiment that has been growing on the mainland in recent weeks as State media outlets have devoted increasing attention to events in Hong Kong. Another consideration is that signalling allegiance to a pro-Communist Party meme heavily affects the domestic bottom line for rappers like Higher Brothers and VaVa, who need to remain on the right side of Chinese authorities and fans alike.
As RADII contributor Lauren Teixeira, who got to know Higher Brothers while profiling them for VICE music offshoot Noisey last year, put it:
Well sorry to report that the Higher Brothers, heroes and inspirations to a whole generation of Chinese youth, have gone full on nationalist. No doubt some coercion was involved but core sentiment seems disappointingly genuine pic.twitter.com/VabbxQ2Ul8— Lauren Teixeira (@lrntex) August 14, 2019
Well sorry to report that the Higher Brothers, heroes and inspirations to a whole generation of Chinese youth, have gone full on nationalist. No doubt some coercion was involved but core sentiment seems disappointingly genuine pic.twitter.com/VabbxQ2Ul8
— Lauren Teixeira (@lrntex) August 14, 2019
Cover image: VaVa
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