Chinese netizens reacted angrily to official media commentary on Chinese and Russian opposition to military intervention in Syria, amid reports of further civilian deaths and a visit by Russian president Vladimir Putin to Beijing.
Russia and China on Thursday reiterated their opposition to military intervention in the Middle East via a regional bloc of which they are both members, a day after the Syrian opposition accused forces loyal to the regime of massacring 100 people.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) called in a statement for a "peaceful resolution of the Syrian problem through political dialogue."
China's state-run media backed up Beijing's position, hitting out at calls for military intervention on humanitarian grounds in an editorial which was widely circulated on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging site.
"The West is always using the prevention of a humanitarian disaster as a pretext for interfering in the internal affairs of another country," said the article in the ruling Communist Party's own newspaper, the People's Daily.
"If the West wants to use the Houla incident as a pretext for overturning the Assad regime, it will only serve to intensify the internal conflict in Syria and give rise to a true, and far more horrific, humanitarian disaster," the paper said.
"We must be firm in our conviction of the possibility of a 'soft landing' for the Syrian government."
Some 108 people, including 49 children, were massacred in Houla, a cluster of villages in Syria's central Homs province, last week in one of the worst atrocities in the 15-month uprising against President Bashar al- Assad's government.
The United Nations Human Rights Council said it was the work of "pro-regime elements," while Syrian officials have blamed the killings on "terrorist" groups.
Calls for action
The article drew a number of angry comments.
Sina Weibo user @0415YXD, one of more than 600 who commented, wrote: "The People's Daily has no backbone."
@langjisanya hit out at all the talk about Syria. "We need action," the microblogger wrote. "Every day, we 'denounce' this and we 'condemn' that, but we need to do something to show the people of this country, not just shout slogans."
Some users hit out at Beijing for failing to step in to prevent the killing of innocent civilians. "Let's not get this wrong again!" wrote @guiqulaixixi. "Let's think about those dead children, and whether or not we bear some responsibility."
While some commenters appeared to support the view that international intervention would cause more problems than it would solve, many more were strongly critical of their own government's foreign policy.
"Support the West, and the Western attitude," wrote user @zhengxinsheng1. "I don't like the way China always has to side with dictatorial regimes."
And user @kaixinkaixinguodejia added: "This anti-humanitarian government in Syria is too disgusting for words! I would like to express my support for military intervention in Syria!"
"Otherwise, even more innocent civilians will die ... It makes me so angry."
Others appeared to draw parallels between China's government and that of President Bashir al-Assad.
"Maybe we are all sitting on an express train to Syria!?," wrote user @xiaohetunMandy.
Moscow and Beijing have consistently opposed international intervention in Syria, but they face growing pressure to change their stance after 15 months of conflict in which more than 13,500 people are said to have died.
Syrian pro-government forces this week killed at least 87 people in Al-Kubeir village, Hama province, many of them women and children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The group put the number of villagers killed in Wednesday's assault at 87 after the exiled opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) gave an initial estimate of 100 dead. Damascus has denied the reports.
The United States has demanded a full transfer of power in Syria, setting the stage for a renewed diplomatic stand-off after Russia and China said they were strongly against intervention and regime change.
Putin is visiting China from June 5-8, on a trip that is expected to yield bilateral trade deals and increased energy cooperation.
"The two sides have set a goal to reach U.S.$200 billion in bilateral trade by 2020, a substantial increase from the current volume of nearly U.S.$80 billion," the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Reported by Luisetta Mudie.