Protests spread across the region . . .
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has spread beyond North America, with protests of varying sizes taking place across the Asia Pacific over the weekend. The demonstrations also adopted local causes with the broader goal of addressing racism and police brutality. Tens of thousands marched in cities and towns across Australia, drawing attention to racial profiling and police brutality against Indigenous people. Smaller-scale protests in Japan and South Korea drew attention to the discrimination that foreigners suffer in what are sometimes perceived (erroneously) as racially homogeneous societies.
Unlikely allies: K-pop fans . . .
The BLM movement found an ally in Korean pop music (K-pop) fans, who are known for their ability to mobilize quickly around causes they deem important. Fans of popular groups such as BTS flooded – and eventually overwhelmed – the Dallas Police Department’s iWatch Dallas protest ‘snitch app’ by posting pictures and videos of their idols. And when detractors of the BLM movement tried to promote hashtags such as #WhiteoutWednesday (in response to #BlackoutTuesday) or #AllLivesMatter, K-pop fans used the same tactic to wipe out these posts, demonstrating their impressive online firepower. BTS responded by posting a statement of solidarity with the BLM movement – and donated C$1.3 million to the cause.
Not entirely sympathetic . . .
Not all reactions in the Asia Pacific to the BLM movement have been as supportive. Many in the region view racism and police violence as a largely U.S.-specific issue, and some Asian media outlets have portrayed the movement negatively by focusing on the violence and looting that has wracked several American cities. In particular, Beijing has used the BLM protests to portray the U.S. as a nation in disarray and to draw attention to American 'hypocrisy' and anti-Asian racism amidst the civil unrest. While the BLM movement has heightened public awareness of racism and police brutality in the U.S. and elsewhere, racism and police brutality have also undermined the moral authority of the U.S. in championing human rights and democracy abroad. Primarily where its stances on critical issues depend on this authority, such as with Hong Kong and Taiwan.
- The Japan Times: Protesters hit Tokyo and Osaka streets with rallies against racism and police brutality
- MIT Technology Review: How K-pop fans became celebrated online vigilantes
- Nikkei Asian Review: Australia, Asia protests embrace ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement