The zoo, which declined to touch upon the web misinformation, held the celebration to bid farewell to the bears and their three-year-old cub Xiao Qi Ji, who will likely be returning to China in December as its contract with the Chinese language authorities expires.
One other panda named Ya Ya was returned to China by the Memphis Zoo in April after its mortgage settlement ended. This adopted uproar from Chinese language activists and social media customers who accused the zoo of abusing her.
Many additionally blamed the zoo for the demise of Ya Ya’s mate, Le Le, with accusations swirling on-line – regardless of no proof – that zookeepers had stabbed the bear and offered his eyeball.
The zoo vigorously rejected what it mentioned was “misinformation”. The Chinese language Affiliation of Zoological Gardens additionally backed the zookeepers, saying in a joint assertion that the bears on the Memphis zoo had acquired “wonderful care”.
However that did little to quell the nationalist outrage.
“FAN THOSE FLAMES”
China’s state-linked International Instances, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Celebration, linked the controversy over Ya Ya to US-China geopolitical tensions.
“If this had not occurred throughout a interval when Washington is intensifying its containment and suppression of China, this matter wouldn’t have induced such a stir,” it mentioned in an editorial in March.
Amid tense relations between the 2 largest economies over points reminiscent of Taiwan, US observers say the Chinese language authorities seems eager to condone and encourage anti-American sentiment.
“Misinformation round panda remedy is an instance of a handy technique to fan these flames,” Isaac Stone Fish, chief govt of China-focused knowledge firm Technique Dangers, advised AFP.
The misinformation not solely bred distrust about the US in China but additionally sparked fervent calls to droop the panda alternate, doubtlessly closing what DFRLab referred to as one of many few avenues of cooperation between the 2 international locations.
Except for Washington and Memphis, the zoos in San Diego and Atlanta have both returned or are set to return their pandas to China by subsequent yr. With out China’s extension of the mortgage settlement, US zoos face the prospect of getting no pandas for the primary time in 50 years.
“This (misinformation) marketing campaign is especially unhappy given the methods during which ‘panda diplomacy’ beforehand performed such an important position in serving to to foster optimistic relations between China and the West,” Darren Linvill, a professor at Clemson College, advised AFP.
It’s, he added, “an unlucky signal of the present state of relations between powers.”