In the early days of the 2016 US election campaign, Fang Kecheng, a former journalist at the liberal-leaning Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly and then a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania, began fact-checking Donald Trump’s statements on refugees and Muslims on Chinese social media, hoping to provide additional context to the reporting of the presidential candidate back home in China. But his effort was quickly met with fierce criticism on the Chinese internet.
Some accused him of being a “white left” – a popular insult for idealistic, leftwing and western-oriented liberals; others labelled him a “virgin”, a “bleeding heart” and a “white lotus” – demeaning phrases that describe do-gooders who care about the underprivileged - as he tried to defend women’s rights.
“It was absurd,” Fang, now a journalism professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the Observer. “When did caring for disadvantaged groups become the reason for being scolded? When did social Darwinism become so justified?”