Hong Kong resumed clashes with mainland China, but this time not on the streets of Hong Kong, as was the summer and fall of 2019, but in the game Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V). Players began to get together in groups and attack each other online, thereby transferring the conflict from the real world to the virtual one. This was told by the BBC.
The protests in Hong Kong, caused by the increasing influence of the Chinese authorities on the region, continued for several months, but subsided by winter. At the same time, in the next GTA Online update “Diamond Casino Heist”, equipment appeared that resembled the clothes of Hong Kong protesters – gas masks and yellow helmets.
After that, journalists say, on the local Reddit counterparts there were calls to unite into groups of players, dressing equally. Clans with names like “Stand With Hong Kong” appeared in the game. Users played together and periodically raided the police and military, “wreaking havoc” in the game world.
In response, the players of “mainland” China also began to unite. But they, in turn, dressed like policemen and special forces, unleashing battles with the Hong Kongers. In fact, what was happening recreated the summer protests in Hong Kong, but without casualties and real destruction. From threads on Weibo, journalists learned about the “grand battle” in GTA Online between the two sides – China emerged as the winner, largely due to the numerical superiority.
At the same time, the virtual action caused controversy in Hong Kong itself. “I do not blame you for not having the courage to bombard the police with Molotov cocktails in fact. But I want to ask: did you deserve to wear this equipment? Are you doing the right thing in taking this name for the clan? Where did you “stand with Hong Kong?”, Asked one of the users on the local LIHGK website.
Officially, GTA V is not approved by the Chinese government due to the presence of drugs, sexual scenes and violence in the game. But the game can be bought on Steam and obtained through some workarounds. The BBC asked Rockstar Games, the developers of GTA V, what they think about the fights between China and Hong Kong, but they did not respond to reporters.