When two young Chinese nationals were abducted in broad daylight and brutally killed earlier in June in Pakistan, the Islamic State claimed responsibility.
The two 20-somethings were first reported to be language teachers working in Pakistan. But then The Global Times, a popular tabloid of the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, People’s Daily, offered this explanation for the murders: “They were involved in illegal preaching led by South Korean missionaries”.
In a tepid and bizarre response to the killings, China’s foreign ministry said that it was investigating the incident and it urged “all Chinese nationals travelling overseas to observe local laws and regulations [and] respect local customs and practices”. It has yet to confirm the deaths.
Blaming the victims
The story must have been disappointing for ISIS in Pakistan, too. The group carried out the terrorist attack and claimed full responsibility, only to find that South Korean missionaries were the ones taking the heat for exerting undue influence over young Chinese nationals in atheist China.
The only mention that the Islamic extremists got from Beijing was this standard rhetoric: “China firmly opposes all kinds of terrorism and extreme violence against civilians, and supports Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism and safeguard domestic security.”
The government has been characteristically tight-lipped on all fronts of this case, with no discussion or reports allowed on state-controlled media. Neither criticism nor awkward details have yet entered the mainstream, though on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, outrage over Beijing’s victim-blaming and attempts to change the subject quickly began percolating.
The Chinese public still does not even know the names of the dead; in the official narrative, they remain anonymous citizens who were abducted, their whereabouts unknown.
English-speaking readers are more in the know. On June 12, Reuters reported that the abducted Chinese nationals were 24-year-old Lee Zing Yang and 26-year-old Meng Li Si. These slightly errant facts were later corrected by the Hong Kong newspaper, Ming Pao, which confirmed the names of the dead as as Li Xinheng (李欣恒) and Meng Lisi (孟丽斯).