January 23, 2021

Chinese internet artist behind satirical Australia war crimes image hailed as a hero inside China

5 min read

Screen Shot of Lijian Zhao tweet- SBS News video 30 Nov 2020
Chinese online patriots have a new hero: Fu Yu (付昱), also known as Wuhe Qilin (乌合麒麟), the internet artist whose satirical image of an Australian soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child was shared by China’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Zhao Lijian in late November.
The tweet caused a row between China and Australia as the latter’s prime minister demanded the post’s deletion and a public apology from China.
The image was a reference to a recent investigation conducted by Australia’s own military that found that the country’s soldiers may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
Wuhe Qilin responded to Morrison’s request to an apology with another illustration released the following day (via @NavinaHeyden):

Satire CG works by young Chinese artist 乌合麒麟. He immediately created another image within a day, as counterattack to Mr. Morrison’ accusation. What a stark contrast in intellegence, compentence, upstandingness and confidence! pic.twitter.com/R40j7vG95W
— Navina Heyden (@NavinaHeyden) December 1, 2020
The image depicts Morrison covering up a dead body with what looks to be Australia’s national flag while a young boy captures the attention of photographers.
On Chinese social media, online patriots have cheered Wuhe Qilin “wolf-warrior” spirit. Chinese businessman Huo Lei, for example, said on Weibo:
西方国家还是很讲文明的,前提是实力对等。如果另一方处于弱势,在中世纪是以“上帝的名义”施行侵略,现在则以“民主的名义”。过去两百年的血泪史让我们明白人权也好尊重也罢都要靠我们自己争取,而不是寻求对方的怜悯或施舍。我们的一位画家也能让对方总理感觉到疼,我为祖国的强大自豪。力挺!
Western countries are only civilized when there is power balance. During the middle century, when the other side was weak, they invaded others in the name of god and now they will do so in the name of democracy. The 200-year history of blood and tears teach us that we have to earn our own respect rather than seek sympathy from others. Now that a single artist managed to hurt their prime minister, I am very proud of the strength of my motherland. Strong support!
Leo Johnson, another Weibo user, said:
新时代的中国太需要有乌合麒麟这样的优秀年轻艺术家来做价值捍卫和输出了!
We are in great need of excellent artists like Wuhe Qilin in China’s new era who will defend and export our values!
And in another viral article on Weibo, the writer slammed Chinese state media for being absent in the Twitter spat and depicted the incident as a Chinese victory:
我们所能看到的是,外交部带领一帮子自干五在战斗,而主要的战斗员那些央媒等宣传机器却缺席了![…]画师@乌合麒麟 ,是一名90后年轻人,一个爱国者,一个文艺青年,一个有思想的战士,一个战斗力爆棚的战士。近日,他用一幅画作就改变了中国在国际舆论场的地位,堪称一个里程碑事件!他第一次让来自中国的声音成为全球关注的热点,并成功将真相告诉世界。更神奇的是,他的画作还让西方那些主流媒体不得已的为他开足马力宣传,还让如新西兰、法国、美国等这些西方国家愚蠢的为澳大利亚军人残害平民、儿童的反人类罪行站台,让真相扩散的更有深度与广度,向世界揭穿了西方国家所谓“人权”的虚伪而凶残的真相。
What we can see is that China’s Foreign Ministry was leading a group of online patriots in the fight while the state media and propaganda machine were absent […] Illustrator @WuheQilin is from the post-90 generation, a patriot, a cultured young man, an ideology fighter, a powerful warrior.Recently, he single-handedly changed China’s position in the international stage with an illustration. This is such a milestone.For the first time, he makes Chinese voices heard and tells the truth to the world. What’s more amazing is that Western media outlets are compelled to report on the incident and stupid Western countries such as New Zealand, France, and the U.S continue to stand by Australian soldiers who committed war crimes such as killing civilians, including children. He spreads the truth and exposes the hypocrisy of the Western countries that call themselves human right defenders.
Another post on WeChat draws the same conclusion:
乌合麒麟靠着两幅画,《和平之师》和《致莫里森》,在国际舆论战中一战成名,这两幅画,直接揭露了澳大利亚军队的残忍、媒体的双标、政客的无耻,一拿出来就激得整个西方世界…麒麟一支画笔,胜过百万“理智、中立、客观”的媒体人。
Wuhe Qilin built its reputation in the international community with his two illustrations which expose the cruelty of Australian soldiers, the double standard of western media and the shamelessness of politicians and hit the nerve of western world… Qilin’s pen has beat down tens of thousands “rational, impartial and objective” media workers.
Many Chinese cartoonists have expressed support to Wuhe Qilin by posting art with a similar message. Below are some of them, shared on Twitter:

More Chinese artist have join the fray abt Australia PM Scott Morrison complaining that Chinese artist 乌合麒麟 Wuheqilin depicted real Australian war crimes in Afghanistan 👇🏼 pic.twitter.com/daDIaAaBvg
— Carl Zha (@CarlZha) December 2, 2020

The Emperor’s New Clothes #AustraliaChina #AustralianArmy #Afghanistan #wuheqilin #乌合麒麟 @SpokespersonCHN pic.twitter.com/xIqOKRkAB2
— Miaow (@miaowcomics) December 2, 2020
Wolf-warrior illustrator
With over 600,000 followers on Weibo, Wuhe Qilin born in 1990s, became known on Chinese social media earlier this year after he published illustrations about the Hong Kong protests which align with Beijing’s view of the island’s pro-democracy movement and hence widely shared by state-affiliated media outlets such as Global Times.
Below are some of them (via Twitter user @Lazybean):

More work by 乌合麒麟:1,2: On HK “protestors”3: On the passing of HK National Security Law4: On Fang Fang
Disclaimer:These are artworks by THE artist 乌合麒麟, not photos😎. pic.twitter.com/PklIbCubup
— Lazybean🐭❤🇨🇳🇭🇰 (@gracebean284) December 1, 2020
In an interview with nationalist Chinese website Guancha in June 2020, Wuhe Qilin explained how he began illustrating:
是从去年香港系列事件的时候开始的,最初的动机是因为看了一些相关新闻而感到愤怒,然后有一天看到香港某漫画家的一系列宣传暴力美化动乱的漫画作品,于是我也想用类似的方式回击,就有了第一张作品——《伪神》。
[I began drawing political illustrations] because of what happened in Hong Kong. At first I was feeling very frustrated after reading the news and one day I saw a series of cartoons drawn by a Hong Kong cartoonist which glorified the riot. I wanted to respond in the same manner, so I drew the first illustration, called “You believe in a pretender god,” and it became a series.
Wuhe Qilin calls himself “wolf warrior,” a popular way to describe — and mock — the aggressive diplomatic style adopted by Chinese diplomats in recent years (“Wolf Warrior” is in fact the title of a 2015 Chinese patriot movie).
In the same Guancha interview, which was distributed by the Communist Youth League of China through its official social media channels, Wuhe Qilin talks about the “duty of artists,” an idea that resonates with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s calls for “ideological struggle”:
但我认为传递和输出意识形态其实恰恰是艺术作品和艺术家的责任之一。所以我这么做了,而且是抱着抛砖引玉的态度,希望有更多的文艺工作者能善用自身技能去为祖国和人民做一些事情。特别是现在这个在西方利用话语权步步紧逼的特殊时期,我认为我们是需要更多传递我们国家和人民意志的文艺作品的。
I believe that the distribution and exportation of ideology is the duty of artists and their artworks. That’s why I did it and it’s my attempt to stimulate similar acts. I wish more artists used their talents and skills to work for their people and country. In particular in this special period when narratives coming from the West are cornering [China]. Thus I believe we need more art that reflect the will of our country and our people.
After the Twitter spat with the Australian PM, Wuhe Qilin posted a video message posted on YouTube further elaborating on his world view. His words are partly transcribed here by @wangbo08492215:

乌合麒麟 say:It is hoped that the Australian Prime Minister will face up to the reality, pay attention to domestic affairs, and restrain the behavior of Australian troops stationed abroad, so as to prevent such tragedy from happening again.@zlj517 pic.twitter.com/tLuozmKDJu
— 夢 (@wangbo08492215) November 30, 2020

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