A woman who calls herself Foodie Fengjie (吃货凤姐) has attracted much attention on Chinese social media. Multiple videos showing the middle-aged woman eating various strange things, from cigarettes to pure wasabi, has got Chinese netizens worried about her health condition, with some people suspecting that she might be filmed under threat. Netizen’s phone calls to the local police have led to an investigation into the matter.
Foodie Fengjie: “Let’s eat something normal people cannot eat”
Kuaishou user Foodie Fengjie has become a trending topic on China’s social media. Kuaishou (快手) is an online platform where users can broadcast about their life via photos and short videos. According to her profile, Foodie Fengjie is a 48-year-old retired single woman with no kids. Her personal description reads: “Let’s eat something normal people cannot eat!”
Fengjie named herself after online celebrity “Sister Feng” who gained fame in late 2009 for her outrageous actions and comments.
So what does Foodie Fengjie eat? The selection ranges from the disgusting to the scary: raw ginger, a bowl of instant noodles with 6 packs of wasabi, a whole plate of mealworms, goldfish, cactus, a living eel, light-bulbs… and the list goes on.
The spectacle is broadcasted live every day at 20:00. By now, Foodie Fengjie has gained more than 1.5 million followers on the platform.
Netizens: “Could she be under threat? Police should investigate!”
While eating weird food might just be unusual, eating lightbulbs is a health hazard. Two of Foodie Fengjie’s photos also feature her with fireworks around her neck or in her hands, with a caption reading: “Oh my hand bled!”
The woman’s videos and these images stirred netizens’ concern about the woman’s mental and physical condition. It also brought suspicion on the motives behind these videos. Many suspected that the young man shooting the video, presumably a family member of the woman, was threatening her.
One user of Kuaishou messaged the woman during the live broadcasting: “If you are under threat, please let us know by blinking three times”. In the screen shot of this message, the woman looked serious and had just taken off her glasses.
The issue turned many Chinese netizens into ‘Sherlock Holmes’, paying close attention to the woman’s every move and expression – analyzing the curling of her lips and the movement of her eyes to detect whether or not the woman was being forced.
On Sina Weibo, the issue immediately received 100 million viewers under the topic “#middle-aged woman suspected to film herself against her own will#” (#大妈疑似被迫录视频#).
Some netizens decided to do more than just discuss the issue, and contacted the police. On June 3rd the local police in Handan (Hebei province), where Foodie Fengjie resides, received multiple reports from netizens, after which they immediately launched an investigation.
Police: “Plot to gain online attention”
Handan police turned out to be very efficient in their work; just 6 hours after announcing investigation, an initial report was released:
“… according to primary investigation of Handan police, the middle-aged woman in the video (Chen, age 45, Congtai region) and the suspected young man (Wu, age 24, Congtai region) are mother and son. Chen is found to be in good health; there are no visible injuries. The two people told the police that they planned, shot and published many videos of “eating strange food” on the Kuaishou platform to attract netizen’s attention and increase their viewer ratings. The police has gathered props like ‘processed cactus’ and pepper powder. Further investigation will be conducted. ”
Foodie Fengjie herself also released a video to clarify the matter. In her video, she thanked netizens for their concern, but clarified that she was not being kidnapped or threatened. She introduced her older nephew who made the videos for her. Later in the video, Foodie Fengjie turned the camera to herself, and announced to netizens, “I am a free person. Thank you for your concerns. I will continue broadcasting funny videos tonight”.
Chinese netizens still skeptical
After the police report and Foodie Fengjie’s clarification, some netizens appear to be reassured that the videos were just for attention, that no one was being threatened, and that the cactus she ate was fake.
But not everybody is satisfied. Above all, many netizens notice that although police declared the young man to be the woman’s son, the woman in her own video introduced him as “older nephew” (大外甥). For now, there is no theory to explain this discrepancy.
Some netizens also suspect the clarification video to be a coerced one: “In the last scenes of herself, she keeps looking upwards. She must be looking at her nephew. She didn’t make this voluntarily”, remarked one netizen.
There are many people requesting further police investigation. One netizen says: “Please investigate them separately. A simple visit won’t reveal anything. What’s more, even if they are mother and son, I hope the police can give the son some good education, and take the woman to a hospital for a thorough check-up. Videos of this nature should be prohibited!”
The fact that people are willing to go to extremes to attract online attention is also criticized. “(Individual) online videos are growing like crazy”, remarked a lawyer on Sina Weibo: “People will do everything to increase viewer ratings”.
“Kuaishou simply is for a bunch of mindless online celebrities with twisted values”, said another netizen.
Although the matter is not entirely cleared up yet, this issue at least shows that netizens are willing to go from the virtual world to the real world to take action if they feel that things are not right.
It is unclear what the local police will do with the case now – but China’s netizens surely are hungry for more information.
Update: During June 4th, most of Foodie Fengjie’s video’s were deleted and her Kuaishou account now seems to have been closed.
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