Reading Between the Crowds


Summary generated on August 20, 2020

    Earlier this week, I looked at how party-state media in China have been flagrantly one-sided in their reporting of the ongoing protests in Belarus, clearly standing with embattled President Alexander Lukashenko.

    Though a small-scale rally in support of the Belarusian leader over the weekend was dwarfed by large-scale demonstrations calling for his ouster, a headline in the official Xinhua News Agency on Monday read: "Large-scale rallies held in Belarusian capital to support the government."

    Outside perhaps a handful of stories from the likes of Caixin Media, which reported on Monday that opposition demonstrations "Surpassed 100,000," the pro-Lukashenko narrative has seemed to dominate.

    Today we have a delightful example in an article posted by the WeChat public account "Lao Yu Chui Niupi" that looks more critically at official news coverage of the demonstrations in Belarus.

    The article does not directly criticize China Central Television for its clearly misleading suggestion this week that "Huge street demonstrations are held in Minsk in support of the government." It does offer a knowing wink to the reader as it shows rather convincingly on the basis of photographic evidence that the pro-Lukashenko rally over the weekend was dwarfed by opposition demonstrations.

    Turning to Shanghai's Dragon Television, operated by the state-owned Shanghai Media Group, the post is more direct, noting that the network even mis-identified footage of opposition demonstrations in Minsk as showing pro-government demonstrators.

    The "Lao Yu Chui Niupi" story remains on WeChat, but can also be found archived over at China Digital Times.

    In recent days, Belarusian citizens have taken to the streets in protest because they are dissatisfied with the results of the recent election and suspect that Lukashenko falsified.

    Lukashenko has been very busy these days, asking his old pal Putin for assistance, and then calling his own supporters out onto the streets.

    An awkward picture has emerged as massive crowds have taken to the main square in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, to oppose Lukashenko, contrasting with sparse groups in support of the leader.

    Even though the nation of Belarus is quite far from us [in China], our country's media must of course report on such a major story when it unfolds.

    So yesterday we had this news from a number of television stations.

    In fact there were street demonstrations in support of Lukashenko, though the idea of using "Street demonstrations" to voice support for leaders is a somewhat strange concept.

    The scenes following on the channel include a few close-up shots of groups of demonstrators, but anyone who understands a bit of Belarusian could easily detect the problem.

    Dragon Television has taken footage of the opposition and made it out to be that of the crowd supporting Lukashenko.

    I would imagine that the editor here, an expert on international news, isn't without knowledge of foreign languages - so he is certainly pulling the wool over the eyes of those of us who don't understand Belarusian.

    There is an even easier way to make out which are the Belarusian demonstrators opposing Lukashenko, and which are the ones supporting Lukashenko.

    This is the national flag of Belarus, with its classic pattern and bands of red and green.

    The flag was originally designed in this way to show that the Belarusians are descendants of nomadic Scythians, who later migrated to the Eastern European plains.

    The people in this image [from CCTV] are all hoisting the red-and-green flag, which is the current national flag of Belarus.

    This is the flag of the short-lived Belarusian Democratic Republic of 1918 and the First World War.

    These colors derive from the historical Grand Duchy of Lithuania, mirroring the current national flag of Lithuania, which is also white and red - because Belarus was once part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

    After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, this flag was used for a short time by Belarus.

    The current national flag dates back to 1995, used only after Lukashenko became president.

    The opposition side uses this flag to express its rejection of today's leaders.

    Oh, Dragon TV, you can support Lukashenko if you wish.

    Facing the current situation, Lukashenko has remained firm.

    There won't be new elections "Until you kill me," he said.

    The people of Belarus, it seems, are not to be cowed.

    As the situation develops, he is now saying he would be prepared to entertain new elections and hand over power if there was a constitutional referendum.