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15-year-old Finn Wants to Join China’s Army

A 15-year-old boy from Finland has made media headlines in China by expressing his wish to enter the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China. The young man posted his request to join the PLA on a special online forum called the Sino Defense Forum back in 2009. Chinese online magazine ‘the Observer’ has translated the entire forum discussion in English, turning it into their best-read article of the day, leading to Weibo exposure.

Manya Koetse

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A 15-year-old boy from Finland has made media headlines in China by expressing his wish to enter the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China. The young man posted his request to join the PLA on a special online forum called the Sino Defense Forum back in 2009. Chinese online magazine ‘the Observer’ has translated the entire forum discussion in English, turning it into their best-read article of the day, leading to Weibo exposure.

As to why the boy wanted to join the PLA, the Observer explains: because it is a large army, and because China is a superpower with a powerful government and beautiful women. Also, the boy expressed he wanted to “defend peace” (Guancha 2014).

The Observer’s article is published at a time when China is making its military more assertive and has recently seen the biggest mobilization of its army to combat natural disasters, making ‘news’ on the PLA more popular. Special agent Xie Qiao (谢樵) was awarded with an honorary badge after he died when coming to the aid of villagers after the Yunnan Earthquake earlier this month.

xieqiao

Since it is not possible for non-Chinese to join the People’s Liberation Army, we can be certain that the now 19-year old Finnish boy has not been enrolled to join China’s armed forces.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Military

Mao-Era Military Marriage Regulations Under Fire on Weibo

“The crime of destruction of the military marriage” (破坏军婚罪) apparently is not a crime if you’re cheating from within the army.

Manya Koetse

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Image via https://www.51ywwk.com/38775.html.

If you have an affair with a military spouse, it is a criminal offense. But if you’re cheating from within the military, it is not considered a crime against military marriage. On Weibo, the story of one military wife has sparked anger among netizens about the Mao-era military marriage regulations.

An online discussion regarding marriage regulations for military personnel in China has been censored following anger over supposed unequal treatment of “the crime of destruction of the military marriage” (破坏军婚罪).

The discussion was triggered by an online post of a military wife who claimed her husband cheated on her with another female army member. It concerns a Chinese serviceman by the name of Gu Yan (顾炎) and a female officer named Shen Jingwen (沈静雯). The hashtag “Gu Yan, Shen Jingwen” (#顾炎沈静雯#) soon went viral on Weibo.

The lengthy story was originally published on Weibo by Gu Yan’s wife, a medical doctor.

According to the online account, Gu Yan and his wife met each other during their junior high school days, and then each went on to study in different fields. Gu Yan trained to join the army; his wife specialized in the medical field and became an anesthesiologist. The couple got married in 2016, had a child in 2017, and their future looked bright until the husband and wife were separated for eight months during the COVID19 epidemic.

According to Gu’s wife, it was during their long time apart that Gu started seeing Shen Jingwen, an army staff member whose father also serves as a commander in the army. The affair soon became serious, and Gu supposedly became more invested in this new relationship than in his marriage, even to the point of blocking his wife, who then contacted his unit to report the affair.

Gu’s wife alleges that Shen Jingwen threatened and bullied her and that she suffered abuse by her husband. Screenshots and phone conversation recordings to prove this behavior towards Gu’s wife were also leaked online.

In her online post, Gu’s wife indicates that the situation between her, her husband and Shen had become untenable but that she had nowhere to turn to since the existing laws mostly protect those who are serving in the army. Even if she wanted a divorce, she could not get one if he would not want to file for divorce.

The ‘destruction of military marriage’ (破坏军婚罪) is a criminal offense in China, but in this case, the law did not apply because it concerned a military officer starting an extramarital relationship with another member of military staff. The law mainly focuses on non-marital acts that occur between non-military personnel and military spouses.

The law is a controversial one. As previously explained by Sixth Tone, it is a Mao-era law to prevent military spouses from straying. In 2016, one man from Beijing was prosecuted under the law for living with a soldier’s wife for two months.

In 2019, one man was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for living together with a military spouse and also fathering her child with prior knowledge that her husband was a serviceman, as reported by China Military.

Although the regulations on the protection of marriage of soldiers date back much longer, breaking up a military marriage was also listed as a criminal offense under “The Offenses Against Marriage and the Family (Arts. 179-184)” in the Criminal Law that was enacted in 1979.1

Weibo netizens are sharing screenshots of the Baidu Encyclopedia page explaining the law, with one segment clearly stating that “if it concerns an illicit love affair between two members of the army, and their partners are not members of the army, then this does not constitute as a crime of destructing a military marriage [破坏军婚罪].”

Censorship showed the sensitivity of the topic; not only was it removed from Weibo, but also from other sites such as Q&A site Zhihu.com. The sentence from the Baidu page that was highlighted and shared online also no longer shows up on the Encyclopedia page.

A 404 page comes up when clicking on a page dedicated to this topic on Zhihu.

“The moment this hit the Weibo hot search lists, it was gone within minutes,” one person on a Baidu message board wrote.

The sensitive nature of the topic partly lies in the fact that this is about members of the military, who are usually praised as heroes for their sacrifices for the country.

“To me, the word ‘serviceman’ always sounded like a divine word,” one commenter writes on Weibo: “I’d never expected that it could also bring up loathing in me.”

Meanwhile, many alternative hashtags popped up on social media to replace the censored ones. Besides the “Gu Wen Shen Jingwen” hashtag (#顾炎沈静雯#), there are also many others including “Military Cheating Is Not Considered a Crime against Military Marriage” (#军人出轨不算破坏军婚罪#), “Gu Wen and Shen Jingwen Are Shameless” (#顾炎沈静雯不要脸#) and the creative hashtag “Female Jun People Break Jun Marriage” (#女jun人破坏jun婚#), with ‘jun’ being pinyin for the Chinese character ‘军’ (army).

A mainstream sentiment expressed online is that existing laws regarding military marriages are clearly unfair: anyone who cohabitates with a spouse of an active member of the military could be sentenced, while someone within the military could cheat on their wife without any consequences for them nor for their extramarital sex partner.

Many netizens defend Gu’s wife and condemn Gu and his military girlfriend for abusing their power and taking advantage of their position to bully the weakest party, especially while there is a child involved.

“If a military wife needs to rely on netizens to assert their legitimate marital rights and interests, it really is a disgrace to the Chinese PLA [People’s Liberation Army]”, one blogger wrote.

On the evening of March 19, the Weibo account ‘People’s Frontline’ (@人民前线), an official channel of the People’s Liberation Army, responded to the situation. Their official statement confirms that their department previously received a complaint from Gu’s wife about the living situation of her husband within the army, and that both Gu and Shen were given discipline sanctions. Gu and his wife are currently getting a divorce.

The statement also says that the PLA does not condone the actions of individual members of the army who violate social morals and family virtues. The statement was shared over 18,000 times on Saturday.

Some netizens praised the official statement, saying it showed that the army was becoming more “open and transparent.”

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

1 Leng, Shao-Chuan. 1982. “Crime and Punishment in Post-Mao China.” China Law Reporter 2, no. 1: 5-35.

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Media

“Remember Their Faces”: An Online Tribute to the Chinese Soldiers Killed in Border Clash with India

“My love is crystal clear, it is only for China” – quotes and images; this is how the PLA soldiers are remembered on Weibo.

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Quotes, photos, music, and posters; this is how the four Chinese soldiers killed at the Galwan Valley clash are being remembered on Chinese social media.

In June of 2020, four Chinese soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were killed during a bloody border clash with Indian troops. The battle in the Galwan River Valley, in the disputed frontier region of Ladakh, was the deadliest border clash between the two countries in four decades.

News of the Chinese casualties was not released until late February of this year. Directly after the clash last year, Indian authorities said 20 of its troops had been killed. After the clash, a lot of fake news about the incident was circulating online.

That allegedly also played a role in why details about the deaths were revealed now, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunyin (华春莹) stating that the truth about the incident was “distorted and misled international public opinion.” She also said that “China’s disclosure of the truth about the border confrontation in June 2020 helps people understand the facts and show respect for the martyrs.”

Hua suggested that China initially did not report on the news to promote the “cooling and relaxation of the situation.” According to Foreign Policy, it is rare for the People’s Liberation Army to admit its casualties.

The four Chinese soldiers who were killed on June 15 of 2020 are Chen Hongjun (陈红军), 33, Xiao Siyuan (肖思远), 24, Wang Zhuoran (王焯冉), 24 and Chen Xiangrong (陈祥榕), 18.

Their commanding officer Qi Fabiao (祁发宝), 41, was badly injured during the clash. The four killed soldiers were posthumously awarded honorary and first-class merit citations. The injured regimental commander was also conferred with an honorary title.

On social media platform Weibo, the hashtag “Four PLA Soldiers Died in China-India Border Clashes” (#4名解放军官兵在中印边境冲突中牺牲#) had received 1,2 billion views by early March. Another hashtag, ‘The Central Military Commission Honors the Five Heroic Officers and Soldiers Guarding the Borders’ (#中央军委表彰5名卫国戍边英雄官兵#) received 250 million views on Weibo.

Chinese state media outlets made noteworthy efforts to shape the ways in which the soldiers are to be remembered, merging the political and the personal, and praising their patriotic commitment. Various official media accounts such as CCTV and People’s Daily have posted several images on social media to pay respect to the officers and soldiers, including the images below, using the phrases “The place where I stand is China” (“我站立的地方是中国”) and “I will defend the motherland with my life” (“我的祖国,我用生命捍卫守护”).

The phrase “We can’t lose an inch of our motherland” (#祖国山河一寸不能丢#) was also used in posts dedicated to the remembrance of the killed soldiers.

People’s Daily also published a video paying tribute to the soldiers along with the text “Please remember their faces” (“请记住他们的面孔”). The song “China Is Where I Stand” accompanies the images and footage of PLA soldiers in the video.

China Daily also published the quotes of the honored soldiers.

They are the following:

Qi Fabao: “Not everyone can understand my choice, but I have no regrets.”(”不是所有人都能理解我的选择,但我却无怨无悔”).

According to Chinese media reports, Colonel Qi was the first one during the border clash who went forward along with just a few other soldiers and officers to negotiate with the Indian troops. He supposedly approached them with open arms when he was met with violence and was attacked with steel pipes and stones. He suffered serious injuries to the head.

Chen Hongjun: “No matter what post I hold, I will contribute my utmost.”(”党把自己放在什么岗位上,就要在什么岗位上建功立业”.

As a battalion commander, Chen allegedly immediately came to the rescue when he saw Qi was being attacked, bringing other soldiers into what is described as a “rain of stones.” Chen leaves behind his wife, who was five months pregnant at the time.

Chen Xiangrong: “My love is crystal clear, it is only for China.”(”清澈的爱,只为中国”). 

According to Chinese media reports on this confrontation, Chen Xiangrong rushed to the front and used his body as a shield to protect his comrades behind him. He was only 18 when he died.

Xiao Siyuan: “We are the boundary markers of our country. Every inch of soil under our feet is part of the motherland.” (“我们就是祖国的界碑,脚下的每一寸土地都是祖国的领土”). 

Xiao reportedly also used his body to protect his comrades from stones, sticks, and pipes. He held a photo in his wallet of his girlfriend, with whom he was preparing to get married.

Wang Zhuoran: “Mum and dad, I may not be there until the end, but if there is an afterlife, I will still be a filial child and care for you well.” (“爸妈,儿子不孝,可能没法给你们养老送终了。如果有来生,我一定还给你们当儿子,好好报答你们.”)

Wang reportedly drowned while crossing a river to rescue his comrades.

 

After the details of these soldiers were released, many netizens on Weibo expressed their gratitude to them and praised the men.

The battalion commander saved the regimental commander, the soldier saved the battalion commander, and the squad leader saved the soldiers. I pay my utmost tributes to you heroes!”

“Chen Xangrong, he is only an 18-year-old kid! I really don’t want to call him a martyr. So heartbreaking!”

“Remember their names: Qi Fabao, Chen Hongjun, Chen Xiangrong, Xiao Siyuan and Wang Zhuoran! Salute!”

While hundreds of comments and posts on Chinese social media remember the soldiers, the ways in which they are remembered and the border clash is recounted remains a sensitive issue.

It has been reported that former Economic Observer journalist Qiu Ziming (仇子明), along with two other bloggers, have been detained for “insulting” the Chinese soldiers under a law against “defaming heroes.” Qiu, who had 2.4 million fans on his (now-deleted) Weibo page, made remarks questioning the number of casualties China said it suffered in the border clash. News of his arrest received over 460 million views on the hashtag page (#辣笔小球被批捕#).

By early March, video footage came out showing a detained Qiu expressing remorse over his comments.

Meanwhile, on Weibo, the tribute to the PLA soldiers continues: “Thank you to our heroes,” hundreds of commenters write: “We pay our respects to all those soldiers who are guarding the frontier!”

 
By Vivian Wang and Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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