Meng Wanzhou Arrest, Return Used as Patriotic Talking Point in Chinese Schools

The country's patriotic education machine gears up to paint the Huawei exec as a national hero who returned due to China's growing national clout.
By Yitong Wu and Chingman
2021.09.29
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Meng Wanzhou Arrest, Return Used as Patriotic Talking Point in Chinese Schools Students gather to watch a livestream of Hwawei executive Meng Wanzhou's return to China after nearly three years of detention in Canada in a fraud case, at Ganxi Vocational Institute in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi , Sept. 26, 2021.
Ganxi Vocational Institute
Students in China are being taught the "correct" patriotic response to the return of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou to China following her release from house arrest pending an extradition process requested by U.S. federal investigators.

Meng had been held been under loose house arrest pending an extradition request from U.S. federal investigators, who have charged her with misleading HSBC Holdings about Huawei's business dealings in Iran.

She reached a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the U.S. Department of Justice on Sept. 24, in which she admitted to wrongly claiming that Iran-based Skycom was only a business partner of Huawei, rather than its wholly-owned subsidiary.

Meng landed at Shenzhen's Bao'an International Airport on Sept. 25 on a government-chartered jet to a red-carpet welcome, with her livestreamed return watched by around 400 million viewers, the Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), reported.

It described her return as "a hard-fought victory for the country and its people against the Western hegemony."

The Ganxi Vocational Institute in the eastern province of Jiangxi said it had gathered its students together to watch the livestream, and to provide patriotic analysis of the reasons behind Meng's "unprovoked detention."

It quoted students as saying they shed tears to see Meng arrive back in China, and that "it is an honor to be part of such a great and powerful country" that protects its citizens overseas.

"If Canada wants to mess around and make unreasonable demands, China will never agree to it!" a report on the college website quoted one student as saying.

Supporters wait for the arrival of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the Bao'an International Airport in Shenzhen, Sept. 25, 2021. Credit: AFP
Supporters wait for the arrival of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the Bao'an International Airport in Shenzhen, Sept. 25, 2021. Credit: AFP
'Patriotic education'
Meng's case has now been included for discussion in "ideological and political" class debates, as part of "patriotic education," the report said.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-based China Digital Times (CDT) published several photos showing a primary school assignment at a school in Zouping city in the eastern province of Shandong, that asks students to answer questions about Meng's case.

"Who is Meng Wanzhou? Who detained her? Why was she detained? How was she rescued?" the assignment asks, including: "What can we learn from the Meng Wanzhou incident."

An employee who answered the phone at the Zouping No. 2 Experimental Primary School on Wednesday confirmed that the photo was genuine.

"This was just for classwork; it's not a school-wide assignment," the staff member said.

There was no mention in official reports that the Chinese authorities arrested eight Canadian nationals, including Kovrig and Spavor, and handed down a death sentence to convicted Canadian drug trafficker Robert Schellenberg, who had been serving a 15-year jail term, just days after Meng's arrest.

The CDT also published a translation of a leaked central propaganda department directive to news platforms dated Sept. 25, calling on editors to limit reporting on Meng's arrest and return to copy pre-approved by the foreign ministry.

"Give the matter generally low-key and watered-down treatment; do not extrapolate, interpret, or comment without prior arrangement; and do not cite information from foreign sources," the leaked directive said.
Outside China: 'hostage diplomacy'
The arrests and re-sentencing sparked criticism around the world that the moves were a form of "hostage diplomacy" on the part of Beijing, and raised concerns that Beijing might seize nationals of other countries with disputes with China.

Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said the Meng Wanzhou case was a natural choice for the "patriotic education" program at every level of education in China.

"[They will treat it as being about] patriotism, love for the CCP, and the rise of a superpower," Hu said.

"Many people believe that Meng Wanzhou is a hero who stood firm for the national interest, and that the countermeasures have meant that the U.S. has paid a huge price for containing China."

"They have no understanding of the CCP's hostage diplomacy," he said.

U.K.-based writer Ma Jian said the propaganda around Meng was like a "political joke."

"Online surveillance and the government’s nationalistic brainwashing have been so successful that these kids have no way of knowing the truth," Ma told RFA.

"[China's] 1.4 billion people are completely cut off from the outside world, and everyone who grew up in that environment has a different way of thinking [from those outside it]," he said.

"Nobody dares to speak, nobody dares to think, and everything gets distorted," he said.

But Ma said Meng herself could face political repercussions, including restrictions on her movements, after her usefulness as a propaganda topic expires.

"Nobody -- not the parents, not the children -- gets that the entire Meng Wanzhou affair was about an exchange of hostages, about state terrorism," Ma said. 
"The CCP threw everything into getting her back, but it will all die down in a month or so, and she will disappear, only to live like a bird in a cage."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
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