K-pop megagroup BLACKPINK has faced a torrent of online criticism this week after referring to their Macau fans as "Macanese" rather than "Chinese" following its concerts there, spawning a disapproving hashtag from nationalistic social media users.
The South Korean girl band posted a thank-you note to its fans following its gigs in the former Portuguese-administered city on May 20 and 21, which they visited as part of their "Born Pink" global tour.
“We were deeply touched by our Macanese BLINKs this week," the band posted via its official account on the Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo, in a reference to fans of BLACKPINK. "Thank you for all the heartfelt support. We are truly blessed to have you guys."
"520 forever BLINKs," the May 23 post said, using a homophonic reference to the words "I Love You" in Chinese.
After going unnoticed for about a week, the post eventually drew the ire of China's “Little Pinks” – named for their support for the "red" Communist Party – who took issue with the use of the word "Macanese."
"Macanese? ? ? Can't you spell 'Chinese'? We'll teach you," commented @Taro_paste_needs_added_sugar_, while @naphthalene_tea added: "If you lack education, get someone more educated to write your Weibo posts."
"It would be more appropriate and accurate just to say 'Chinese'," wrote @Linus'_furball.
"Quit messing around – Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau all belong to China! The residents in these three places are called Chinese!," wrote @-Nakakatoka, in a reference to Beijing's territorial claim on democratic Taiwan.
"This time they've gone too far – suspected secession!" complained @bean_paste_bun_bp, with an angry emoji.
One comment told the band: "If you don't respect China, please get out of China and don't come here to make money."
"We support restrictions on Korean [cultural imports]," said another, while another appeared to call for a boycott: "We can live without Korean entertainment, but can Korean entertainment live without its fans?" the user wrote.
By May 29, the band had edited the post to read "Macau fans," prompting the commenters to reference a nationalistic song released to mark the 1999 handover of Macau to Chinese rule.
Comments on Weibo quoted a lyric from singer Winnie Rong in honor of the 1999 handover of Macau to Chinese rule: "You should know that Macau isn't my true name," the song says, adding that the city's mother is China.
Users shared the lyrics and music for the song under the hashtag #BLACKPINK_official_Weibo_edits_post on Monday and Tuesday.
The furor over Macau's status came as a major pro-democracy party in the city disbanded in the wake of tighter restrictions on public dissent in the city under Chinese rule.
The New Democratic Macau Association dissolved in the wake of changes to the city's national security law that make it far more risky to continue with open political opposition in Macau, former opposition lawmaker Au Kam-san told Radio Free Asia.
"In the current political climate, there could be further suppression of some former members, even those who are no longer active," Au said. "Certain former leaders who once commanded public support could have been targeted if it had continued in existence."
He said the changes to the national security law means that just being a pro-democracy figure is now a risky business.
"Even striving for democracy could be regarded as trying to overthrow the current political system," Au said.
Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.