Chinese Weibo users jump on Canadian PM’s Lunar New Year message

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Lunar New Year message on social media met with a mixed reaction from Chinese internet users, some of whom used it as an opportunity to air their feelings about Canada's troubled relations with China and its part in an extradition row involving the US.

Trudeau began his message with "Happy New Year" in Mandarin and English in the 50-second video that appeared on his Weibo feed on Tuesday evening, the first day of the new year.

"2019 is the Year of the Earth Pig, a symbol of good fortune, honesty and success," the 47-year-old leader said.

"As friends and families kick off the new year together and celebrate new beginnings, it's also a chance to honour the many contributions Chinese Canadians have made to our country.

"From coast to coast to coast, Chinese Canadians build a strong, more inclusive Canada every day."

He concluded with "Gong Hey Fat Choy", uttering the phrase with sounds similar to Cantonese pronunciation.

As one of the most active world leaders on Weibo, Trudeau has made more than 2,000 posts and has more than 530,000 followers on China's most popular social media platform.

While it was not Trudeau's first festive video on Chinese social media since he took office in late 2016, this year's greeting came at a time of tensions between Beijing and Ottawa after the detention of a Huawei executive at Vancouver Airport on December 1.

Beijing demanded the immediate release of chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, who is accused of fraud relating to breaches of US sanctions against Iran.

The detention of Meng, and a US extradition request, has triggered a diplomatic crisis. Canada said 13 of its citizens, including former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, had been detained by Beijing since Meng's arrest.

The Canadian government issued a travel warning to its citizens to China last month after a Chinese court sentenced a Canadian, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, to death for drug trafficking.

In response, Beijing issued its own advisory to its citizens travelling to Canada.

Trudeau's video message - which was reposted by the Canadian embassy in Beijing - drew more than 4,000 comments and 7,000 "likes". By midday on Wednesday, the message had attracted a variety of responses.

While one blogger asked if the Canadian prime minister should have subtitles in Chinese in his video rather than in English, others seemed to focus on the Huawei situation.

"Please release Ms Meng immediately!" another user wrote.

"I'll give you a break for this post for the sake of Lunar New Year, but to your next post my comment would be, 'release'," a third wrote.

US President Donald Trump also sent greetings, saying the Lunar New Year "is a sacred time for many people of Asian descent, and it is an opportunity for all Americans to honour the important contributions these communities have made to the story of American greatness".

His daughter Ivanka used Twitter to say "Happy New Year" in Chinese and English. But her greetings were low key compared to two years ago, when she attended the Chinese embassy in Washington's spring reception.

on Twitter

British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a video that Lunar New Year was one of the highlights of Britain's cultural calendar, celebrating the diversity of a multicultural society.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in his greeting that the relationship between China and Japan had improved, and he looked forward to more exchanges between the two nations.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.

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