Trolls get creative after WHO censors Taiwan

·2-min read
Tawian is frozen out of the WHO by Beijing, which regards the island as its own territory
Tawian is frozen out of the WHO by Beijing, which regards the island as its own territory

Alleged censorship of Taiwan on the World Health Organization's Facebook page inspired some creative trolling Thursday, with special characters and foreign scripts used to bypass filters that also censored Winnie the Pooh, a character used to poke fun at Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The deluge came after Taiwan politicians and social media users shared screenshots showing messages containing "Taiwan" or "Taiwan can help" failing to upload underneath a banner advertising a WHO livestreamed event on the coronavirus.

Taiwan has previously accused the global health body of prioritising politics over health, saying Chinese "obstruction" had prevented it from attending a key meeting focused on the coronavirus.

The self-ruled island of 23 million has seen remarkable success in combating the pandemic, with only seven deaths and fewer than 600 confirmed cases.

But it has been frozen out of the WHO by Beijing, which regards Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to take it by force if necessary.

Social media users in Taiwan used extra characters to get around the block, and to proclaim that "Taiw@n can help" the global health body in combating the virus.

In Hong Kong -- also increasingly in the shadow of authoritarian Beijing -- others posted "Taiwan" in the Vietnamese script that is similar to the Roman alphabet.

Others complained they were unable to share the words "Winnie the Pooh" -- A.A. Milne's self-described "bear of very little brain", who has been used in the past to make fun of China's President Xi Jinping on social media.

Images of the bear, however, slipped through the firewall.

"Acting like authoritarian governments, @WHO is now actively making efforts to silence dissent," tweeted lawmaker Wang Ting-yu of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

Foreign minister Joseph Wu said Taiwan had lodged a protest with the WHO to express "strong dissatisfaction and regret".

"It censors (posts) to such an extent... WHO is corrupt and tries to silence netizens," a Taiwanese social media user said.

Between 2009 and 2016, Beijing allowed Taiwan to attend the WHO's annual top meeting as an observer under the name "Chinese Taipei".

But it has been blocked from participating since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, who has refused to acknowledge Beijing's stance that Taiwan is part of "One China".

Facebook said Thursday it "did not take any action against a livestream on the World Health Organization's Facebook Page earlier today (including restricting keywords or disabling comments)".

In a statement sent to AFP on Thursday, the WHO said its social media team had applied filters to its Facebook page "to avoid being spammed through cyberattacks."

It had "restored the ability of users to post" the word "Taiwan", it added.

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