HONG KONG: A week, it’s often said, is a long time in politics. In China today, it’s long enough for the tide of public opinion to turn viciously against someone who was celebrated not long ago as a ‘national heroine’.
Barely a week ago, Jin Jing, a disabled Chinese woman fencer who was one of the Olympic torchbearers in Paris, was being hailed in China as a “saviour of national honour” for defending the torch from pro-Tibet demonstrators who attempted to seize it from her.
Images of the pretty, one-legged Chinese woman rising from her wheelchair to valiantly hold on to the torch were plastered all over Chinese newspapers. Jin, who was christened “the smiling angel on a wheelchair”, was interviewed by all the official media.
In a nation seething with wounded pride over the protests against the torch relay in London and Paris, Jin was instantly embraced as a symbol of Chinese revolve to make the Olympics a success despite the effort of “anti-China forces” to “disrupt” the Games later this year.
But all that has changed today. Jin is now being targeted for abuse as a “race traitor”, and in the colourful language that characterises contemporary Chinese political discourse, as “an utterly brainless, evil-eyed wolf.”
What has changed since last week? It turns out that in one of the many interviews she gave during the short time she was savoured as a celebrity, Jin cautioned against the virulent mobilisation of Chinese citizens for a boycott of French supermarket chain Carrefour.
The campaign began initially as a call to boycott Carrefour on May 1, Labour Day, on the charge (since denied by the supermarket chain) that its parent company had donated funds to the Dalai Lama, who is reviled in China as a “splittist”.
But in recent days, the boycott call has gained momentum, and thousands of protesters have been gathering at Carrefour outlets to protest against Tibetan independence and alleged Western media bias in the coverage of developments in the troubled region in China’s west.
Jin said that the call to boycott Carrefour was unwise because the company employs many Chinese people, who would be hurt economically by a widespread boycott. For speaking out against the boycott call, which has proved hugely popular in China, Jin became the target of China’s army of “cybernationalists”, who have branded her a “traitor”.
“Jin Jing must have been paid off by the French,” posted one Netizen. “First she lost her leg; now, she’s lost her mind,” said another. “Are you capable of representing the Great Han Race?” asked a third.