Chinese death threats for Polish illustrator! Her boss wants to fire her

A Polish illustrator Greta Samuel began receiving death threats from the Chinese after she had published her illustration about the coronavirus and communist China on the popular website Behance.net. The Chinese cast curses on her, wishing her and her mother died. Unfortunately, the artist’s London-based employer – one of the largest British startups – Culture Trip, began to speak in one voice with Chinese trolls, implementing disciplinary action against her when she refused to remove the illustration from her website. “There is a Chinese army of 2 million paid trolls. Critical statements about the Chinese authorities face such threats quite often. I’m sure the so-called “50 Cent Army” (五毛党) is behind this. They try to intimidate and discourage people from viewing such materials” – says Hanna Shen, correspondent of Against The Tide TV in Taiwan.

Illustration by Greta Samuel
Illustration by Greta Samuel

The death threats of Chinese propaganda workers began to appear on Samuel’s profile after she published graphics used by Against The Tide TV. The illustration shows the slogan “CCP virus – No, thanks!” and presents Xi Jinping spreading the Chinese virus to the world. Comments that appeared in the comment section under the illustration of Greta Samuel read, among others “NMSL”, which in Chinese means “Your Mother Is Dead” (你妈死了). Threats also appeared under other illustrations of the Polish illustrator, e.g. under the graphics on the 30th anniversary of the Chinese crime at Tiananmen Square (“Tiananmen Square massacre: China 30 years later”).

Death threats from Chinese trolls against the Polish illustrator
Death threats from Chinese trolls against the Polish illustrator
Illustration by Greta Samuel
Illustration by Greta Samuel

“China has an army of 2 million paid trolls, who started its activities within the country, and later expanded it to the Chinese community abroad, and now also operate in other countries. Critical statements about the Chinese authorities very often face such threats. I’m sure the so-called „50 Cent Army” is behind this. They try to intimidate [authors criticizing communist China] and discourage people from viewing such materials. (…) If it can be determined that such threats are written by someone from Europe, it must be immediately reported to the police and in this case also to the administrator of Behance,” said Hanna Shen, Taiwan-based correspondent of Against The Tide TV, during the Against The Tide LIVE program. 

The name “50 Cents Army” derives from the fact that this is more or less how much the Chinese authorities pay the so-called online trolls for one entry.

“Moreover, the institutions of the Polish state absolutely do not respond to this type of activity of Chinese agents. The anti-communist environment of Against The Tide TV fell victim to physical abuse of the employees of the Chinese Embassy. It happened ​​when we were picketing on one of the main streets of Warsaw and speaking about the events that had taken place on Tiananmen Square. The authorities of the Polish state, the police, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not react to this, and Polish journalists did not even mention this terrible incident. The Polish state is so devoured by communist agents that even low-ranking officials know well not to touch on this topic “- said the editor-in-chief of Against The Tide TV, pastor Paweł Chojecki, during the Against The Tide LIVE program. 

“For institutions such as the police to respond properly to Chinese agents, the change must first be made at government level!” – pastor Chojecki added.

The employer gives Samuel an ultimatum: “DELETE THE ILLUSTRATION by noon!”

Unfortunately, the Polish employer – one of the largest British startups – Culture Trip, began to speak with one voice with Chinese trolls. Samuel works as Senior Editorial Illustrator at the startup. The company ordered her to remove the illustration “CCP virus – No, thanks!” from the artist’s private side, because it is allegedly “contrary to the views of the company.” She was given an ultimatum to delete the illustration by noon on May 8. Samuel decided not to remove her work, invoking artistic freedom and expression. Therefore, Culture Trip yesterday implemented disciplinary proceedings against the illustrator, which may end in dismissal.

Illustrations of a Polish woman raise the spirits of people who long for freedom

However, some Chinese people are very grateful for the work of Greta Samuel. One of them, a person from Wuhan, sent a message to the Polish artist regarding her illustration “Free Poles support Free Hong Kong” (Not for extradition to China). This work was in this year’s shortlist of the competition organized by Communications Arts, which is the largest international trade journal of visual communications.

“Sorry for seeing so many ugly comments in the project about Hong Kong, just ignore them and please do not regard every Chinese stands for such opinions, we just can’t say that. Life is so hard and complex. Admire your job, please just keep on your excellent work” – the Chinese person wrote.

Illustration by Greta Samuel
Illustration by Greta Samuel

Greta Samuel – Polish illustrator, educator. A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. She worked there as a lecturer and assistant at the Faculty of Graphic Arts. In 2013, she received the award and scholarship of the Minister of Culture and Science. Her illustrations, comics, and graphics have been exhibited and awarded in Poland, the USA, Great Britain, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Italy, Hungary, and Ukraine. Winner of illustration competitions, including: “A well-designed book, let’s start with children” (Katowice 2012), “illustration startup!” (Warsaw 2012). She received two awards in the international Fumetto competition (Switzerland, 2011, 2012). She participated in workshops and exhibitions in the Netherlands at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague (2013) and the School of Arts and Design in Halle (Slow Commute, Germany 2014). She collaborated with Amnesty International, ‘Playboy’ (Los Angeles), as well as ‘High Heels’, ‘Characters’ and the Praga Museum of Warsaw, the Museum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanów, the Jewish magazine ‘Cwiszn’ and the magazine ‘Kikimora’. Currently working as a Senior Editorial Illustrator in one of the largest British startups – Culture Trip in London. In 2019, the artist converted to Jesus and joined the Megachurch – a project by New Covenant Church in Lublin, Poland. She cooperates with Against The Tide (Idź Pod Prąd) magazine and television from Poland.


Eunika Chojecka, Weronika Lewandowska, Hanna Jazgarska