After Bytedance apologized for disrespectful ad content about China’s war heroes, the People’s Daily, one of China’s largest state-owned media, forwarded the post on its Weibo page and commented, “Apologies won’t ease the situation with immediate effect.”
People’s Daily said, “The mistake made people tremble with anger and shock”. It also accused the company of making the same mistakes again and again and doubts whether the apology was sincere enough. The official account concluded by quoting President Xi Jinping’s “advertising campaigns should also be oriented in the right direction” and asked the company to “firm its stand in the right values so that there won’t be any fatal errors in where the company is heading.”
The ad originally appeared on Douyin(抖音), China’s trending short video platform owned by Bytedance. It displayed the phrase “Jokes about flaming Qiu Shaoyun.” Qiu Shaoyun was a war hero in the Korean War who let himself burn alive while he laid perfectly still so that his platoon wouldn’t be exposed. The government later awarded him several metals. The ad was immediately taken down after it was reported by an anonymous user.
China implemented laws in late April to protect authorized heroes and martyrs who have made contributions to the nation. Under the provision, the names, portraits, reputations of the heroes and rewards they received are protected by the law and people are forbidden to deny, distort or slander and they can’t be used for commercial purposes.
Douyin isn’t the first application to suffer a stern rebuke. Baozou Comic’s site and official accounts on different China’s social platforms were forced to close down in mid-May, due to jokes on another war hero even after its Chief Executive Officer Renjian led his team to apologize in front of the hero’s memorial monument.
Before falling foul of war heroes, Bytedance has received criticism for displaying vulgar content. One of the most serious was shutting down its flagship joke app “Neihan Duanzi” and ByteDance founder and CEO Zhangyi ming released an open letter of apology.