“Foreign forces,” indeed. On the same day that Chinese propaganda authorities issued a warning that widespread online and offline anti-censorship protests were being driven by “foreign forces,” a user with a handle meaning “strange Chinese news” (@中国奇闻) has taken to Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, to share this image of an American flag flying on Chinese soil.
The photo purports to come from Taizhou, a prefecture-level city of about 4.6 million in Jiangsu province. “Strange news” writes:
Villager flies U.S. flag to oppose illegal forced demolition: Mao Jingquan (pseudonym) says that in order to build ‘Taizhou Chinese medicine city,’ starting in 2009 the government has joined with private developers to undertake a large-scale project of forced removal and demolition aimed at local villagers. … Many of those land parcels [were] seized in [Mao's] village having never received legal approvals. After many fruitless appeals and petitions, [he] chose this method to express disappointment with the local government and judiciary.
The image has been shared about 2,300 times.
In a number of follow up posts, “Strange news” jokes about “American imperialists” and “foreign forces” planting the flag, predicts that Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou will come take down the flag to defend China’s honor, dares conservative Global Times editor Hu Xijin to come remove the flag himself, and asks users to report the matter to Chinese marines.