Perspective Reporter's Notebook

Chinese news coverage of Orlando shooting may reflect nation’s attitude toward gays

NEW YORK, New York, U.S.A. – In the deadliest attack in the U.S. since 9/11, a gunman named Omar Mateen shot more than 100 people at Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando, leaving 49
people dead and the rest wounded

Pulse is a gay club, in case you hadn’t heard.
Adding the phrase “gay” in front of “club” can be a center of the argument, such as, why don’t we add ‘straight’ when talking about a ‘straight club?’
To be noted, this is an important feature of Pulse, and it has fueled another heated discussion on western social media about LGBTQ issues. For both those who are homophobic and those who are allies, it is a chance to sit down at the table again and exchange the opinions in either violent or calm ways.
But for countries that do not usually talk about LGBTQ people, adding the “gay” or not can backfire.
Particularly in China, where the Western world has pointed its fingers and pens on the problem of human rights, the language, tone and focus of the news coverage can influence public opinion.
In China, where I am from, the initial news coverage of the shooting at Pulse unfolded differently than it did in the U.S.
CCTV (China Central Television), inarguably the most famous, if not popular, Chinese state-owned media company: On the night of the shooting, the Orlando mass shooting news was in bold on the website, but you had to scroll two pages down to see it. The headline didn’t include the word ‘gay,’ and in fact, CCTV television news did not mention the LGBTQ factor at all.
In one news clip, a Chinese Orlando correspondent from CCTV said that he thought about the gunman’s incentives, and he believed that there were three: “America’s gun control problem, lack of comprehensive anti-terrorism strategy, and the negligence of FBI.”
CCTV has always been the traditional and representative Chinese state-owned media and reflects the government’s attitude.
On Baidu, the Chinese version of Google, the next day there were two news headlines about how the murderer couldn’t tolerate gay guys kissing, which was said by the gunman’s father.
The father also was quoted saying that his son’s attack had “nothing to do with religion.” However, this is not mentioned in the news headlines. The preference for choosing homophobic hatred over religious hatred may carry certain implications.
Xinlang and Xinhua, two other famous Chinese news pages, both did not include the “gayness” of the Orlando nightclub in the headline but did have the news on the first page of their websites.
Sina news, a more popular news site among young people because of its popular social media site Sina Weibo, not only had the news headline in bold and bigger font, but also put in on the top of the news on the first page.
The coverage from China, in general, did not specifically target LGBTQ issues. Instead, most raised the question of gun control and used the words and phrases that criticize America while at the same time glorifying China.
One piece from Baidu said that American gun control problems reflect the success of Chinese government in controlling guns. To be fair, China does have very strict gun-control laws.
The comments on the news related to Orlando shooting mostly were hate speech directed at Americans or America as a country. There were homophobic comments, but compared to the
number of comments directly critical of America, the homophobic ones could be easily ignored.
After President Barack Obama’s speech following the killing, Baidu and Sina news actually specifically pointed to him saying, “This is an especially heartbreaking day for our friends – our fellow Americans – who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender … this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American – regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation – is an attack on all of us…”
One news piece from Baidu even left out “race, ethnicity, religion,” and only translated the “sexual orientation.” It gives out a feeling that attacking gay people in America is attacking America.
It is unclear why the translation omits three other important background components, but surely indicating the importance of protecting the LGBTQ community in America may imply the attitude of the media companies themselves.
The Chinese media’s reaction to the Orlando attack does mirror the Chinese government’s attitude about LGBTQ issues: we care about it, but we don’t really support it. The news companies that target an older audience are more conservative about reporting the LGBTQ side of the issues, but the new media favored by young people are not obviously backing away from it.
Yiping Holly Wang is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.
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1 Comment

  • Well written and tremendously insughtly to those in the United States who take for granted the freedoms-most critically Freeedom of Speech- which we are privileged to enjoy. This piece is thought provocative not merely from it's newsworthy content but, as an American who has visted many countries including China, what "Freedoms" (Amendments) do we and should we hold most dear. Kudos!