China embassy says account ‘falsified’ after US Grim Reaper tweet

The tweet with the caption ‘Who’s next?’ was removed and followed by a clarification. (Twitter pic/FallaitPasSuppr)

PARIS: China’s embassy in Paris said Monday its Twitter account had been “falsified” after a tweet portraying the US as a bloodthirsty Grim Reaper sparked disquiet over the diplomatic mission’s conduct on social media.

The embassy has already been under scrutiny for a sequence of provocative tweets during the coronavirus crisis, which resulted in the summons of the ambassador to the foreign ministry.

Late Sunday, a tweet appeared on its account showing a picture of the Grim Reaper cloaked in a US flag and armed with a scythe going past doors marked Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, all with blood pouring out of their thresholds.

The Grim Reaper was now knocking on the next door marked Hong Kong with the caption “Who is Next?”

“Clarification,” the embassy wrote in a pinned tweet after the controversial post was removed.

“Someone falsified the official Chinese Embassy Twitter account by posting a cartoon entitled ‘Who is Next?’ The Embassy would like to condemn it and always abides by the principles of truthfulness, objectivity and rationality of information.”

It did not provide any details on how the alleged falsification had taken place, but its statement did not use the word “hacked”.

The tweet was posted as tensions between Beijing and the United States spiral further as China moves to tighten control over Hong Kong.

The embassy also courted controversy in recent days by posting a tweet wishing “Eid Mubarak” to Muslims celebrating the Eid al-Fitr festival marking the end of Ramadan.

This was met by a storm of angry responses by Twitter users defending the rights of the Muslim Uighur minority, which Beijing stands accused of repressing in the west of the country.

China’s embassy to France has been leading a high-profile public relations campaign in recent weeks to vaunt the country’s success in largely quelling the coronavirus outbreak while criticising the handling of the crisis by Western countries.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said while summoning the ambassador last month that comments made by the embassy were not in line with the “quality of the bilateral relationship” between France and China.