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Chinese Vloggers Glorify Hamas with Cosplay and Posts

FILE - Hamas militants scale a hill a at a location given as Juhr Al-Dik, Gaza, in this still image from video said to be from Dec. 15, 2023. Some Chinese vloggers depict Hamas as heroic and capable on the battlefield. Hamas Military Wing via REUTERS
FILE - Hamas militants scale a hill a at a location given as Juhr Al-Dik, Gaza, in this still image from video said to be from Dec. 15, 2023. Some Chinese vloggers depict Hamas as heroic and capable on the battlefield. Hamas Military Wing via REUTERS

With a green headband, a camouflage uniform and a Palestinian flag patch, a man dressed as a Hamas fighter appears in a social media video pointing a rifle and a knife at the camera. However, he is not a member of Hamas or any other armed group but a vlogger on the Chinese video website Bilibili.

Over the past two months, netizens in China have cheered for Hamas and shared cartoons featuring Hamas fighters on Bilibili and other Chinese social media platforms.

Some have posted images of themselves dressing as Hamas fighters. In one cartoon, three smiling cats dressed like Hamas fighters sit on the ground in a tunnel, each eating a can of beans.

An automatic weapon lies nearby. One commentator gushes in response: “how cute!” another says: “When you sacrifice yourself for the people you have nothing to fear.”

The videos, which keep coming in each day, highlight how many in China accept the narrative that Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the United States and other countries, is engaged in a legitimate national liberation struggle.

In the weeks after the Israel-Hamas conflict broke out on Oct. 7, overwhelming support for the Palestinian side flooded the Chinese Internet accompanied by strong antisemitic sentiments.

However, Manya Koetse, founder and editor-in-chief of the news website "What's on Weibo" and a Dutch Sinology scholar, said antisemitic comments on the Chinese Internet have decreased significantly since a meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in mid-November.

She said it may be because the Chinese government has tightened controls or because the war is no longer a hot topic on social media.

"Since around the Biden-Xi meeting, it seems like Weibo and Douyin [the Chinese version of TikTok] have been making efforts to make antisemitic videos and posts less visible. I also do a lot of video scrolling and barely come across videos related to Palestine anymore. Compared to October, it went from all over to slightly noticeable."

At a routine press briefing on Oct. 30, China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China's laws “unequivocally prohibit disseminating information on extremism, ethnic hatred, discrimination and violence via the internet."

Still, VOA found many videos on Bilibili depicting Hamas in a positive light. The videos depict an image of Hamas as heroic and capable on the battlefield. The title of one video read, "Hamas marched barefoot into an Israeli military post, killed ten people, and escaped unharmed."

A compilation video of attacks launched by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is called "Thirty Best Goals of the Hamas Al-Qassam Brigade and the Jihad Al-Quds Brigade," depicting the attacks as soccer games. Such videos don't always credit the sources of the images, but some have the Al Jazeera logo.

In the comment section of these videos, netizens left messages praising Hamas. They compared Hamas's attacks on the Israeli army to the Chinese Communist Party's counterattack against the Japanese during World War II.

One highly liked comment read, "It can be said that in them, we can see the figures of the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army fighters among the white mountains and black waters in the old days."

Under a video that appeared to show Hamas fighters greeting a child, one comment said, "Only by fighting a way out for children can the children grow up healthy and happy."

Netizens use the affectionate term "fellow countrymen" to describe Hamas fighters. Videos of Hamas attacking opponents on the battlefield are often described as "blockbusters."

In late November, a Hamas cartoon video went viral on Bilibili. In the short video, which has now received more than 160,000 views and 14,000 likes, a Hamas fighter appearing as a cartoon cat attacks an enemy tank with a rocket launcher.
Pictures of Hamas cartoon cats were also reposted on Weibo.

Netizens affectionately refer to these Hamas cartoon cats as "Ha Meow Si" or "Meowmas."

"Hope all the cats are safe and complete their mission," one comment read.

The author of this animation is the influencer "National Juche Party" on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. The influencer, who posted in English, claimed to be in North Korea. VOA was unable to contact the author to confirm his identity.

In the original post, the National Juche Party stated that the cat in the animation was made by artificial intelligence. The animation on the battlefield comes from the Japanese anime "Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01."

On Bilibili, some netizens posted videos of themselves dressed as Hamas fighters. A vlogger named "AK-74mOfficial" wore the costume of a Hamas soldier and explained in front of the camera how to destroy Israel's main tank, "Merkava."

Under these videos of Hamas cosplayers, netizens discussed how to buy Hamas clothing. Some netizens said they were sold on Chinese e-commerce platforms Pinduoduo and Xianyu. Others posted photos of themselves cosplaying as Hamas fighters in the comments section.

VOA confirmed that there are indeed merchants on Xianyu selling the same green headbands worn by Hamas fighters. On Taobao, another Chinese e-commerce platform, merchants are selling Hamas flags.

Some Bilibili vloggers who support Hamas admit their thinking is shaped by Beijing’s official position on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

"There is no clear designation of Hamas in China,” wrote one. “I think it is a resistance group, maybe because of the empathy from the anti-Japanese war. In the future, if China designates it as a terrorist group, I will delete all of [the posts]."
Yang Han, an Australian commentator and former Chinese diplomat, told VOA that support for Hamas on the Chinese Internet is the result of Chinese official propaganda.

"China's official narrative is to support Palestine, criticize Israel, and downplay the terrorist acts of Hamas. Therefore, young people, especially those with a nationalist wolf-warrior complex, naturally admire and worship Hamas as a symbol of national liberation and resistance to colonization," he said in an email to VOA.

"Especially in the context of the confrontation between China and the United States, the United States is anti-Hamas, so [the young Chinese] must support Hamas."

In a survey released by China's state-run Global Times last year, 72% of Chinese young people aged 14 to 35 said their opinion of the United States was "poor" or "very bad."

People in this age group are the main users of Bilibili. Data released by Bilibili in July showed that its users are concentrated under 30, with an average age of 22.8.

Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.