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For Li Mo, the footage of black-clad people clashing with police and vandalizing storefronts proved the final straw. The images of Hong Kong protesters fighting for greater autonomy from Beijing incensed the mainland-born postgraduate student and she could no longer remain on the sidelines. So, she joined China’s fangirl army.

Ever since anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong turned violent this summer, China’s celebrity-obsessed young generation have patrolled Facebook, Twitter and Weibo, ready to pounce on perceived slights and defend their motherland. Nicknamed “fangirls” because they exhibit the same fervor most often reserved for pop-culture icons, these women and men flood social media with slogans and memes shaming brands — sometimes with far-reaching consequences.

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