Conduct a search on Weibo today for “Meng Wanzhou” (孟晚舟), the chief financial officer of the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, who was indicted by the US Justice Department today along with her company, and you are treated to a list of search results top-loaded with the official state view on the affair.
Right at the top is a report from the nationalist Global Times, a tabloid published by the official People’s Daily. The report says that the Chinese Embassy in Canada has “expressed its intense displeasure and resolute opposition.” “The Meng Wanzhou affair,” says the Global Times, “is not an ordinary legal case, but rather a serious political incident.”
Next up comes a post by China Central Television, again channeling the words of the Chinese Embassy and suggesting that Meng’s arrest back in December was “a serious violation of the legal rights and interests of a Chinese citizen.” After another post by the Global Times, the stories follow a familiar pattern, laying blame squarely at the feet of the US for politicising a case they say is really about economic competition.
“Just as the Chinese government has said before, this incident is about the United States abusing extradition treaties, and it is a violation of the personal security and legal rights of a Chinese citizen, and a naked attack on Chinese high-tech,” says the post right below the second Global Times story, an article written by a columnist named Li Guangman (李光满).
Meanwhile, even the simplest and most straightforward of posts about the Meng Wanzhou case today can fall under the axe of social media censors, particularly if the post is from a prominent figure likely to serve as a magnet for attention and commentary. So it was this morning as Caixin founder and publisher Hu Shuli (胡舒立) sent out the following Weibo post:
2019-01-29 10:50:21 | [U.S. Justice Department formally indicts Huawei and Meng Wanzhou, submits extradition request to Canada] U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said at a press conference on January 28 that the Justice Department indictment of Huawei is a legal case, and is separate from trade talks between US and China http://t.cn/Et6CXRh (from the Caixin app)
2019-01-29 10:50:21 | 【美司法部正式起诉华为及孟晚舟 将向加拿大提引渡要求】美国商务部长罗斯在1月28日的一场新闻发布会上表示，美国司法部针对华为的指控“是执法行为，与我们和中http://t.cn/Et6CXRh（来自财新客户端）
Posted at 10:50 AM, the post was deleted about 45 minutes later. Presumably, the sin Hu Shuli’s Weibo post commits is to quote US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross as saying the Huawei charges were not linked to ongoing trade negotiations. Gainsaying the official narrative — now that’s a no-no.