A viral WeChat post is catching heat for drawing parallels between the bushfires currently devastating Australia and the 1987 Daxing’anling wildfires in China. The supposedly “patriotic” article has been labelled brazen and unnecessary by numerous Chinese netizens.
The blog, called “If it weren’t for the Australian bush fires, I would’ve never known that China was so powerful 33 years ago,” emphasizes that the Daxing’anling fires only lasted a month. The fires, in northeastern China, claimed more than 200 lives, left another 200 injured, and rendered 50,000 people homeless.
The author of the controversial post criticizes Australian firefighters for taking days off as the country battles with some of the worst bushfires in decades, and implies that they are less hardworking and patriotic than the Chinese firefighters who fought the Daxing’anling blaze. They also state that “because of so-called ‘human rights and democracy’” in Australia, the firefighters are allowed to rest and celebrate the holidays, causing the fires to continue.
The blog was posted on Youth Courtyard, a zimeiti or “self-media,” news account that is usually run by a member of the public. The inflammatory post garnered 23 million views and over 100,000 likes within days.
But some commentators and netizens have called out the post for invoking nationalism for shock value. Others are debating the accuracy of the purported “facts” used in the Youth Courtyard report. One NetEase commenter writes, “Haven’t we been duped by this no-good self-media?”
Elsewhere on the Chinese internet, many are reacting to the fires with sympathy and compassion. Three out of the top 50 trending topics on microblogging platform Weibo are in support of the animals suffering in the wildfires, including #KoalasMightBeListedAsEndangeredSpecies, #AustralianPossumNoseBurnedInFire, and #KoalaDrinksWaterWithPetDog.
Australian officials say that the number of animals affected by the fires could be as high as one billion nationwide, and nearly a third of the koalas in the state of New South Wales may have been killed. Videos of rescue workers saving koalas and possums have been shared thousands of times on Chinese social media. One Weibo user lamented, “This is the saddest news of the month” in reference to the koalas’ dire situation.
So far, a total of 28 people have died in the fires, including several volunteer firefighters. Because Australia’s summer season has just started, it may be months until the fires fully abate.
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