As photographs and video of three-year-old Omran Daqneesh made waves on social media around the world and refocused public opinion on the human toll of Syria’s civil war, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV suggested in a report on Saturday that footage of Omran may have been staged for propaganda purposes. The suggestion is the latest in a string of accusations of Western manipulations from state media and other official voices. AFP reports:
China’s official broadcaster CCTV questioned the video of Omran in a weekend report, showing the harrowing footage with the subtitle “Video suspected of being fake”.
“Critics have suggested that [the video] is part of a propaganda war, aimed at creating a ‘humanitarian’ excuse for Western countries to become involved in Syria,” the voice-over to Saturday’s report said.
“The workers did not make rapid rescue efforts and instead quickly set up a camera,” it added.
Such accusations by Chinese media are not unknown. The official news agency Xinhua has previously accused the Tibetan government in exile of issuing fake videos.
[…] The CCTV report alleged that the Syrian Civil Defence group which shot the video, also known as the “White Helmets”, is of “questionable independence” and has links to the British military. [Source]
On Chinese social media, some netizens derided the accusation and mocked the report. From Beimeng Fu at Buzzfeed:
“This ‘debunk’ is actually spreading a rumor,” one Weibo user commented.
Another said that the rescuers shouldn’t be blamed for taking video: “to rescue and to record [the rescue] doesn’t have to be contradictory, okay?”
A few sympathizing souls got really angry including one person who demanded to know whether the person responsible for the segment would stage their own child in that situation.
“What is this trying to say?” Weibo user “Forevermili” asked. “Should we raise more concerns about the cruelty of the war or attack the West?”
“Even if this is indeed faked, this photo broke people’s hearts, and brought out the mercy in us. Isn’t it enough that we understand the brutality of the war?” another said. [Source]
More from Sina Weibo:
@aipangdezhanghada: But is the war fake? Are refugees fake? This is about understanding the significance behind the photo and not about figuring out whether or not it is fake.
@guangpudelanfengbao: As long as there is war, pain and bloodshed will not stop. Even if this is a propaganda film, so what? What is the difference between what is real and what isn’t?
@aichijiemodexiaomiaotou: Staged? Who cares! Didn’t the boy become like this because of the war? The media should not get itself into this type of speculation.
@wxzygnpy365：If sympathy needs to be faked, then it suggests that the world has been indifferent for too long. [Chinese]
However, not all netizens were sympathetic. Many Chinese internet users posted cynical comments on Zhihu, the Chinese equivalent of Quora, criticizing the media attention that Omran has received.
Reuters’ Ben Blanchard reported last week that China is seeking to forge closer military ties with Syria, citing an announcement made by Chinese military official Guan Youfei during a meeting with Syrian Defence Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij in Damascus.
Guan Youfei, director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China’s Central Military Commission, met Syrian Defence Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij in Damascus, China’s Xinhua state news agency said.
Guan said China had consistently played a positive role in pushing for a political resolution in Syria.
“China and Syria’s militaries have a traditionally friendly relationship, and China’s military is willing to keep strengthening exchanges and cooperation with Syria’s military,” the news agency paraphrased Guan as saying.
Both also talked about personnel training and “reached a consensus” on the Chinese military providing humanitarian aid, Xinhua added, without elaborating. [Source]
South China Morning Post’s Liu Zhen has more on China’s provision of aid and training assistance to the Syrian government:
Although no details were given, the military’s “humanitarian aid” was most likely to be medical supplies, observers said.
“China’s military involvement will still be low profile and limited,” Shanghai International Studies University Middle East affairs specialist Liu Zhongmin said.
“The goal is still to promote a political and peaceful settlement [in Syria].”
Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said he will invite representatives of the Syrian government and opposition for talks to promote a political settlement.
[…] Wang Jian, a Middle East specialist at the ChineseAcademy of Social Sciences, said China’s help to Syria would give China a bigger say in both a solution to the Syrian issue and in the Middle East. “And that would be good for better protection of China’s interests in this region,” Wang said. “To become a so-called responsible world power, more proactive gestures are needed.” [Source]