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Amnesty International Claims China Most Welcoming to Refugees, Chinese Netizens Don’t Agree

“I would like to know which ‘Chinese’ are surveyed,” some commenters say.

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According to a new global survey by Amnesty International that was held in 27 countries, Chinese people are the most welcoming to refugees. But Weibo comments and an online survey by China’s Global Times show something very different from what Amnesty claims.

In a global survey published by Amnesty International (大赦国际) on May 19, Chinese, German and British people are most welcoming to refugees among the 27 countries surveyed. Russia ranked as ‘least welcoming’ in the so-called ‘refugees welcome index’ (see image, by Amnesty International).

refuggeewelcome

News of Amnesty’s survey was posted on Sina Weibo by different Chinese media, attracting thousands of comments over the past two days. The news item about Amnesty’s report shared by SDO News received over 6000 comments and was shared nearly 13.500 times within one day.

Many comments show that Chinese netizens do not identify with the results of Amnesty’s report. An online survey by a prominent Chinese news media outlet also measured a completely different public acceptance of refugees in the PRC.

 

“94% Chinese would welcome refugees in their country, 46% welcoming to refugees in their household.”

 

Amnesty International’s survey measured people’s acceptance towards refugees in 27 different countries. For each country, approximately 1,000 people were surveyed. The Chinese surveyed came from 18 different cities, all of which were province capitals or province-level municipalities. The survey was done through phone.

In the report, Chinese people were top-ranking for ‘welcoming refugees’ in the three main questions. The survey reveals that 70% of Chinese surveyees agree that people should be able to take refuge in other countries to escape war or persecution in their own country. Additionally, 86% think that the Chinese government should do more to help refugees fleeing war or persecution. It also says that 94% of the people are willing to accept refugees in their country and 46% of surveyees are even willing to welcome refugees in their own household.

China’s refugee welcome index is calculated as 85/100 according to Amnesty International, topping 27 surveyed countries with 32 points above average. Germany (84) and UK (83) closely follows.

 

“I would like to know which ‘Chinese’ are surveyed.”

 

But online, a great majority of Weibo users distrust the survey results. Chinese news media outlet Huanqiu (Global Times, 环球网) also conducted an online survey on the same day as Amnesty’s survey was published, with only two questions: ‘would you accept refugees in your own household?’ and ‘would you accept refugees in your neighborhood or city?’. The results turned out to be quite the opposite from Amnesty International’s findings: 90.3% said no to the first question and 79.6% said no to the second.

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Doubting the representativeness of Amnesty International’s report, many netizens say: “This organization does not represent me”, “Where does this data come from?!” and: “I would like to know which ‘Chinese’ are surveyed.”

“If this was about any other country, I would believe it – but not about China,” one popular comment says.

 

“How can a country be welcoming to others when it already has difficulty to take care of its own citizens?”

 

Many Weibo commenters point out that unwillingness to accept refugees is related to China’s demographic and economic situation. One netizen comments that China already has many domestic refugees, as many Chinese struggle to make a living in their own native places: “How can a country be welcoming to others when it already has difficulty to take care of its own citizens?”, and: “Leave us alone, we’re refugees ourselves.”

People refer to China’s population of nearly 1.4 billion, which is also a heavy burden to the country. “I am not cold hearted, but charity should be measured by ability”, one person remarks on Sina Weibo. And: “China is still a developing country itself, dealing with a rapidly increasing population – we’re just not capable of taking in refugees.”

There is also anger in the comments of Weibo users, as many of them doubt the motives of Amnesty International and claim that the survey was purposely presented this way to make China look bad for not taking in more refugees. They plead that instead of going to China, America should take in more refugees: “Let them go there [America]!”

Many responding to the Huanqiu survey believe that responsibility for the refugee crisis lies with those countries, especially the United States, that have meddled in the conflicts in the Middle Eastern countries refugees are now fleeing from.

There is also not much positive feedback for Amnesty International, with many calling the human rights organization “foolish” and “delusional”.

 

“China’s contribution to the global refugee intake is only marginal.”

 

In the current refugee crisis, it is Europe that is mostly facing pressure on its asylum system – not China. Both the results of the Amnesty International and Global Times survey, representative or not, are therefore only speculative on how public attitudes would be if incoming refugees would become a real issue for the PRC. Hosting refugees is currently not a prominent issue on China’s current state agenda.

mapRefugee population by Country and Region of Asylum (Source, UNHCR mid-year Trends 2015)

According to UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, China had taken in about 300,000 refugees by June 2015 – a figure that is relatively small compared to the country’s native population.

China’s contribution to the global refugee intake is marginal in comparison to global statistics, says China International Migration Report 2015 published by Centre for China and Globalization. Most refugees come from adjacent countries in conflict such as Vietnam and Burma. In the past decades in general, China has witnessed more emigration than immigration, and foreign residence in China is more temporal than permanent.

 

“Europe’s “road to ruin”

 

Europe’s refugee crisis has become a recurring topic on Sina Weibo over the last year. The overall views on the situation are diverse, with some expressing that Europe should take in all immigrants while others foresee big problems. Some say that Europe is on the “road to ruin”, as the immigrant wave is “catastrophic to Europe’s economic and political climate”. This is one reason why some netizens say that “Europe is on the road to ruin. But as long as you don’t come to China, it’s fine by me.”

The debate on taking in refugees is also often connected to the subject of religion and Islamic terrorism, with people referring to the attacks in Paris and saying that they are unwilling to let “Islam enter China”.

One thing that is conclusive about the survey and the controversy it has attracted, is that Amnesty International’s report paints a much more optimistic picture of China’s refugee hospitality than the one that is painted by the majority of China’s Weibo commenters, who are, for now, far less enthusiastic about welcoming immigrants to their cities than their number one place on the ‘welcome refugee index’ suggests.

[23.5.2016 update to this article in the video below]

– By Diandian Guo & Manya Koetse

Image by Chinatimes.com
©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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China and Covid19

Fangcang Forever: China’s Temporary Covid19 Makeshift Hospitals To Become Permanent

China’s temporary ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are here to stay.

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A new term has been added to China’s pandemic lexicon today: Permanent Fangcang Hospital. Although China’s ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are, by definition, temporary, these healthcare facilities to isolate and treat Covid patients are now becoming a permanent feature of China’s Zero-Covid approach.

Over the past few days, Chinese authorities have emphasized the need for China’s bigger cities to build or renovate existing makeshift Covid hospitals, and turn them into permanent sites.

So-called ‘Fangcang hospitals’ (方舱医院, square cabin hospitals) are large, temporary makeshift shelter hospitals to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. Fangcang shelter hospitals were first established in China during the Wuhan outbreak as a countermeasure to stop the spread of the virus.

January 5 2022, a Fangcang or Isolation Point with over 1000 separate isolations rooms is constructed in Baqiao District of Xi’an (Image via Renmin Shijue).

They have since become an important part of China’s management of the pandemic and the country’s Zero-Covid policy as a place to isolate and treat people who have tested positive for Covid-19, both asymptomatic and mild-to-moderate symptomatic cases. In this way, the Fangcang hospitals alleviate the pressure on (designated) hospitals, so that they have more beds for patients with serious or severe symptoms.

On May 5th, Chinese state media reported about an important top leadership meeting regarding China’s Covid-19 situation. In this meeting, the Politburo Standing Committee stressed that China would “unswervingly adhere to the general Zero-Covid policy” and that victory over the virus would come with persistence. At the meeting, chaired by Xi Jinping, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee also declared that China would fight against any words or acts that “distort, doubt, or deny” the country’s dynamic Zero-Covid policy.

Life inside one of Shanghai’s Fangcang, photo via UDN.com.

Following the meeting, there have been multiple official reports and statements that provide a peek into China’s ‘zero Covid’ future.

On May 13, China’s National Health Commission called on all provinces to build or renovate city-level Fangcang hospitals, and to make sure they are equipped with electricity, ventilation systems, medical appliances, toilets, and washing facilities (Weibo hashtag ##以地级市为单位建设或者改造方舱医院#).

On May 16, the term ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital’ (Weibo hashtag #永久性方舱医院) became a trending topic on Weibo after Ma Xiaowei (马晓伟), Minister of China’s National Health Commission, introduced the term in Qiushi (求是), the leading official theoretical journal of the Chinese Communist Party.

The term is new and is somewhat contradictory as a concept, since ‘Fangcang hospitals’ are actually defined by their temporary nature.

Ma Xiaowei stressed the need for Chinese bigger cities to be ready for the next stage of China’s Covid control. This also includes the need for some central ‘Fangcang’ makeshift hospitals to become permanent ones.

In order to ‘normalize’ the control and monitoring that comes with living in Zero-Covid society, Chinese provincial capitals and bigger cities (more than ten million inhabitants) should do more to improve Covid testing capacities and procedures. Ma proposes that there should be nucleic acid sample collection points across the city within a 15-minute walking distance radius, and testing frequency should be increased to maximize efficient control and prevention.

Cities should be prepared to take in patients for isolation and/or treatment at designated hospitals, centralized isolation sites, and the permanent Fangcang hospitals. The recent Covid outbreak in Shanghai showed that local authorities were unprepared to deal with the outbreak, and sites that were used as Fangcang hospitals often lacked proper facilities, leading to chaotic scenes.

A Fangcang Isolation Center in Quanzhou, March 2022, via People’s Daily.

The hashtag “Permanent Fangcang Hospitals” received over 140 million views on Weibo on Monday.

One of the Weibo threads by state media reporting on the Permanent Fangcang hospitals and the publication by Ma Xiaowei received nearly 2000 comments, yet the comment section only displayed three comments praising the newly announced measures, leaving out the other 1987 comments.

Elsewhere on Weibo, people shared their views on the Permanent Fangcang Hospitals, and most were not very positive – most commenters shared their worries about China’s Covid situation about the stringent measures being a never-ending story.

“We’re normalizing nucleic acid test, we’re introducing permanent fangcang hospitals, [but] why isn’t the third Covid vaccination coming through?” one person wondered.

“If there was still a little bit of passion inside me, it was just killed by reading these words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital,'” another commenter writes, with one Weibo user adding: “I feel desperate hearing the words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital.'”

“Building permanent Fangcang? Why? Why don’t you use the resources you’re now spending on normalizing testing to create more hospital beds, more medical staff and more medications?”

Another commenter wrote: “China itself is one giant permanent Fangcang hospital.”

“The forever Fangcang are being built,” one Weibo user from Guangdong writes: “This will never end. We’ll be locked up like birds in a cage for our entire life.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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Featured image via user tongtong [nickname] Weibo.com.

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China and Covid19

‘Hard Isolation’ is Shanghai’s New Word of the Day

In line with a new ‘hard isolation’ measure, the entrances of some Shanghai residential buildings were fenced up.

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While some Shanghai households have already endured weeks of isolation, a new word was added to their epidemic vocabulary today: ‘hard isolation’ or ‘strong quarantine’ (yìng gélí 硬隔离)

The word popped up on Chinese social media on April 23rd after some Shanghai netizens posted photos of fences being set up around their community building to keep residents from walking out.

“New word: hard isolation. Shanghai is rotten to the core,” one commenter wrote.

The word soon turned into a hashtag page where people started commenting on the issue of fences being placed around residential buildings, voicing concerns on what a fence around buildings would mean for fire safety, especially after online rumors suggested that there had been a fire at one community in Pudong on Saturday night.

An official document regarding the ‘hard isolation’ measure was also shared online on Saturday. It is dated April 23, 2022, and its source is the Pudong New Area Office for Epidemic Control.

The document states that in line with the guidelines for the city’s epidemic prevention and control, the division between areas or zones that are in certain risk categories should be ‘optimized,’ with those in the high-risk category requiring a ‘hard isolation.’ Security guards should also be on duty 24 hours a day at the entrance of the buildings.

Earlier this month, Shanghai adopted “3-level control measures” after its initial phased lockdown. It means that local areas will be classified as “locked-down,” “controlled” or “precautionary,” based on their Covid19 risk.

“Could we also put fences around the homes of Shanghai leaders?”, one person suggested, while others posted images from the Walking Dead to mock the situation.

In the hope of Shanghai soon tackling the Covid situation, not everybody disagreed with the decision to fence some buildings or communities in the Pudong area: “I don’t disagree with it, as long as there is always someone there to open the fence in case of fire,” one person stated.

Although having a fence around their building is currently not a reality for most in Shanghai, the online photos of some communities seeing their buildings being fenced up is a reason to worry for some: “It’s been 40 days, and now they start hard isolation? This actually scares me. Before we know it, it’s June.”

One Weibo user asked: “Why is it possible to implement this hard isolation now? Was this created by the same persons who also implemented the rule to separate children from parents at isolation sites?”

“I truly can’t imagine why some people thought this is a good idea,” others wrote.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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