eChinacities expat website now a propaganda machine

5 min read

Expat websites have recently been targetted by the CCP as propaganda machines aimed at expats in China. An example is eChinacities. Once an invaluable source of information for expats, the site is now mostly Chinese propaganda, trolls seeking to entrap expats and advertisements for illegal employment.

I started working for eChinacities a few years back as a travel writer. In 2011, I was told to make my stories more pro-China, and not to mention that most tourist attractions are reconstructions of the originals, destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. In fact, I was told by George Xu, owner of eChinacities, to falsely state that they were, indeed, the originals. I refused, and was reassigned to the Answers section, where expats post questions and other expats answer them.

My job at the Answers section was stimulate to discussion on current events, such as pollution, trade and political matters. Four topics, however, were declared off limits: Tibet, Tiananmen, Taiwan and the Dalai Lama. While I was concerned at this censorship, I agreed, as there are many other topics of interest that are of importance to expats.

However, over the years, the list of topics that were taboo increased, to the stage where very little reality was allowed to be discussed. Corruption in the party was off limits, unless stating there was none. So too was China’s ridiculous territorial claims, unless stating that China was 100% correct in it’s claims. In effect, George was issuing party directives to myself and other paid contributors on the Answers section of what to write to support the party.

I again refused, and was publicly humiliated by another paid contributor using the name Hulk. Hulk appears to be an expat who agreed to George’s terms, and compromised basic principles of decency. Hulk regularly accuses critics of China, on the eChinacities forum, of being a wanted criminals and paedophiles, or of being gravely mentally ill. He has also accused China Daily Mail of being a scam to exploit expats. None of these accusations have any validity. When these accusations are refuted by Hulk’s victims, the replies are quickly deleted, but the accusations allowed to remain. In fact, Hulk’s other identities claim to have seen evidence that supported Hulk’s lies. Typical CCP practice, and totally orchestrated by George Xu and eChinacities.

In my own case, my profile was blocked completely from responding to eChinacities accusations through Hulk’s many different screen names. I was later contacted by George Xu, and told that the accusations would be deleted if I would make a public apology for negative comments I had made against China, and admit that China was a greater place than the west. I again refused this typical CCP practice.

Hulk’s accusations that China Daily Mail is a scam to exploit expats is typical of the hypocritical tactics employed by the CCP and eChinacities. In fact, eChinacities has recently instigated a new major money spinner, whereby it encourages sham recruiters and unaccredited schools to advertise for unqualified teachers to work illegally in China. At great profit to George, of course.

Such teachers unwittingly walk into what is virtually slave labour. Wages are unpaid, conditions are substandard, and contracts are not adhered to. If they complain, they can be arrested, fined, jailed and deported. I raised these concerns directly with George, who stated that it was the teachers fault for trying to cheat Chinese employment laws. George admitted he was aware of what was happening, but didn’t care. It seems money is more important to George, not the expats who built his site to what it is.

eChinacities claims to be run by expats, in an effort to give it more credibility, even though the owner is a Chinese national, controlled by the CCP. Over the past year, many of the expats who were employed, including myself, have either left or been removed by George, and replaced by Chinese nationals with good English. Many of the feature articles are written by writers with Chinese names, and the writers who have been there for years have all disappeared.

The articles these days praise the glory of China, denounce the west and portray expats (foreigners) in a bad light. Typical recent stories include: China’s International Image and Influence: What Foreigners “Really” Think (which claims that most foreign countries admire and support China’s aggression against it’s neighbours) and Booze Drinking Culture in China (which portrays all expats as binge drinkers, and deserving of contempt from Chinese people). Others include: Homebound: 10 Things Expats Miss About China When They Leave;  Foreigner Used Fake Passports to Get 7 Credit Cards, Sentenced to Prison; and KTV Hostess Dies After Jumping From Foreigner’s Car, Family Seek Compensation

In the Answers section, Hulk and others use multiple identities to give themselves credibility, and to agree with the dubious advice given. Hulk also claims to be a recruiter, which he is not. He encourages others working illegally in China to give him their details so he can help them find jobs, and then passes these details on to immigration authorities. Icnif, a Chinese national who claims to be an illegal expat teacher working in China, assures illegal expat teachers that immigration authorities helped him against the scam recruiters and schools (advertised on eChinacities) even though he was illegally working. He then encourages them to contact the Chinese authorities, in effect, reporting themselves.

Victoria, one of Hulk’s many aliases (Hulk assures everybody she is genuine, because he has personally met her), creates racial conflict, inciting expats to make racial slurs against the Chinese, thus portraying expats as racist, intolerant to the Chinese and sexist against Chinese women. This appears to give the CCP great delight.

The worst part is that many of the genuine expats have gone through a kind of “Stockholm Syndrome.” They have been bullied and even banned by eChinacities, and only allowed to continue posting there if they toe the party line. While many left, or refused to apologise and give false praise to China when banned, others have submitted to the party demands, and openly praise the “reforms” that the website has gone through.They even support the likes of Hulk, Icnif and Victoria, whereas once they agreed these posters were fake.

Of course, most of the “expats” on the site are not genuine any more, a tactic George has admitted to. The overriding principle is to give the false impression to China newcomers that the site is genuine, and that the ads and “advice” given by the likes of Hulk and others will help them. In this way, George and eChinacities can continue to entrap newly arrived expats. George Xu continues to make his money out of advertising for illegal schools and recruiters, as well as receiving kickbacks from the government for entrapment by Hulk, Icnif and others on the site.

eChinacities is not alone amongst “expat” sites in being taken over by the CCP to spread Chinese propaganda, but it is one of the best known sites. Newcomers to China should be wary of following advice or answering job ads on these sites. When looking for work, contact the schools direct. Never use agents or expat websites.

Tony Simon

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