Chinese tech giant Huawei’s ‘woke’ PR stunt has ended up in a disaster after the host and all the announced participants of its panel on Covid-19 misinformation dropped out under a barrage of mockery and shaming.
The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) was scheduled to host a webinar on Wednesday aimed at discussing whether Covid-19 disinformation disproportionately affects ethnic minorities in the US. But many online social justice warriors saw red over the fact that the Chinese telecommunication company Huawei would be the sponsor.
Long before the Covid-19 pandemic originated in China, Huawei has been targeted for criticism by the Trump administration, supposedly because its 5G technology systems might be capable of evading US surveillance.
Huawei USA has recently sought to launch a charm offensive by jumping on the much-hyped woke bandwagon. The company announced a whole range of webinars that were almost conspicuously designed to appeal to the woke audience, dealing with topics ranging from saving the rainforests to promoting women’s issues and featuring minority speakers.
With China getting flak from all parts of the US political spectrum over the coronavirus pandemic, the effort didn’t go as planned.
Virtually all would-be participants, from CNN’s Van Jones to pop singer will.i.am and anesthesiologist Ebony Hilton, faced mockery and shaming as “sold outs” to China’s Communist Party. They rushed to distance themselves from the event and say they would not agree to take part in it in the first place, had they had a better knowledge of the situation.
I accepted invite to participate in NABJ webinar, warning black community about #COVID misinformation. I said “yes” without knowing sponsor. Glad NABJ canceled; I wouldn’t have participated. I’ll keep raising alarm about pandemic’s impact on vulnerable people. #StaySafe#StayHomehttps://t.co/CtIodwQfzZ
— Van Jones (@VanJones68) May 12, 2020
The intention was to inform & empower in setting of COVID. Sponsorship was unknown, & definitely when it comes to human rights we can have no gray zone. Our response had to be swift & firm. That being the case, I look forward to rescheduling a needed conversation to save lives.
— Ebony Jade Hilton, MD (@EbonyJadeHilton) May 12, 2020
The NABJ went to somewhat extraordinary lengths to convince the critics it had nothing to do with some allegedly nefarious Chinese “propaganda plots.” It repeatedly said Huawei had “no editorial control” over the panel and its representative were not “part of the scheduled webinar.” It also said that the panel was cancelled simply because it was a “distraction from other priorities.”
So far, Huawei has been barred from working with the US federal government and major US tech giants were pressured to remove their software from its platform. However, Washington continues to allow some US companies to sell supplies to the Chinese giant. The US also tried to pressure European allies from using Huawei in the creation of their 5G networks, but to little avail.
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