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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.

Picture1

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 Arts & Entertainment

Li Xuezheng Defies Online Celebrity ‘Blacklist,’ Says He’ll Help Zhang Zhehan File Lawsuit

China’s Association of Performing Arts has issued a blacklist, but Li Xuezheng questions their legal authority to do so.

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As an important voice within the industry, Li Xuezheng has spoken out against the recent blacklist of Chinese (online) performers issued by the China Association of Performing Arts. Li is willing to help one of the prominent names on the list, Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan, to file a lawsuit against the Association.

Li Xuezheng (李学政), Vice Chairman of the China TV Artists Association and Director of the Golden Shield Television Center, has published a video that has caught the attention of many on Weibo. In his video, Li questions the authority of China’s Association of Performing Arts (CAPA/中国演出行业协会), which released a black list of online celebrities earlier this week.

The list went trending on Weibo and contains 88 names of internet personalities who have been reported and registered for their supposedly bad behavior. The people on the list have either violated the law or their actions have allegedly negatively impacted society and public order (more about the list here).

The consequences for the people included in the list are potentially huge, since it not only bans livestreamers from continuing their work but also prohibits performers who were previously ‘canceled’ from entering China’s livestreaming industry to generate an income there. Through the list, CAPA gives an overview of people that should be boycotted and disciplined in the industry.

One of the people on the list is Zhang Zhehan, an actor who got caught up in a Chinese social media storm in August of 2021 over attending a wedding at a controversial Japanese shrine and taking pictures at Yasukuni, a shrine that is seen as representing Japanese militarism and aggression.

Zhang Zhehan got into trouble for posting photos of himself at Japanese shrines deemed historically controversial.

Although Zhang apologized, Zhang’s account and an affiliated work account were suspended by Weibo and the brand partnerships he was involved in were canceled.

Chinese celebrities who have fallen out of favor with authorities or audiences will sometimes turn to livestreaming. Singer Li Daimo (李代沫), for example, became a livestreamer after his successful singing career ended due to a drugs scandal. But now, even such an alternative career would no longer be possible for someone like Zhang, although he was never legally convicted for anything.

News of CAPA’s blacklist was widely published, also by People’s Daily, and the measures were presented as a way to tidy up the chaotic online entertainment industry and to create a “healthy and positive” internet environment.

In his video and other recent posts, Li Xuezheng wonders how the so-called ‘warning list’ was compiled, according to which criteria, by whom it was created, and whether or not the CAPA actually has the legal power to shut people out of China’s live streaming industry.

He also raises the issue that CAPA’s live streaming branch, that issued the blacklist, is actually a business entity; so how does it have the legal disciplinary powers to impose sanctions against Chinese online influencers and performers?

Li Xuezheng in his video.

Li’s video, posted on his Weibo account on November 24, has received over 90,000 likes and was shared over 8500 times at the time of writing.

“What I don’t understand,” one popular comment says: “- are these online influencers [on the list] all members of the Association? Can the Association also punish non-members? Does the authority of the Association cover all media? On what legal basis is their regulatory conduct based?”

The China Association of Performing Arts, founded in 1988, is a national-level organization that falls under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China. It is a non-profit organization formed by performance operators and performers, according to its official website, which also states that members of the association include performance groups, performance venues and companies, ticketing companies, and more.

Since Li’s video was posted on November 24th, he received a lot of support from Chinese netizens but also faced some online censorship. Li himself posted screenshots showing that not all of his posts could be published.

It is noteworthy for someone like Li to speak out against CAPA’s blacklist. Li Xuezheng is a familiar face within the industry. Born in Shandong Province in 1965, Li has worked in China’s film and TV industry for a long time and has since built an impressive resume as a producer, supervisor, actor, and distributor. He has over a million followers on his Weibo account (@李学政).

On November 25th, Li added another post to his series of posts on the CAPA issue, saying that although his initial goal was just to make sure that CAPA sticks to the rules, he is now also prepared to help Zhang Zhehan in filing a lawsuit against the Association, since Zhang did not violate any laws in order for him to be ‘canceled’ like this. “I believe in the justice of the law,” Li writes.

Although Li received a lot of support on social media, there are also those who worry about Li himself: “You first take care of yourself,” some say, with others warning him: “Teacher Li, if you go on like this, you will lose your [Weibo] account tomorrow.”

Others are moved by Li’s courage: “I almost feel like crying reading your words.”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone with this kind of overwhelming righteousness.”

For now, Li seems to be unstoppable in his goal to get to the bottom of this case; he seems to be determined to raise awareness within the industry on who is legally allowed to set the rules and who is not.

One popular comment says: “Looking at Teacher Li, I see he is fighting corruption and advocating honesty. Besides listening to the public’s opinion, I just hope law-based society will rule according to law.”

By Manya Koetse

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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 Insight

Weibo Discusses: How Has the Covid Epidemic Changed Your Life?

China’s zero-covid approach does not come at zero cost.

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It has been nearly two years since China was hit with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Like most countries in the world, the epidemic has also had a profound impact on people’s lives in China.

Life in China was already ‘normalized’ in numerous ways in April of 2020, which is when Wuhan allowed people to leave the city again for the first time since the lockdown began on January 23 of that year. Most schools reopened, theatres started to open their doors again, temporary emergency hospitals closed their doors, and a big light show was organized in Wuhan to celebrate the end of the lockdown, which was yet to begin for many Western countries.

In comparison to other countries, China has seen very few Covid deaths – the official number is below 5000, while the US number of Covid19 deaths is now over 750,000. China’s low Covid19 death toll can be ascribed to the country’s commitment to a ‘Covid Zero’ strategy.

But this zero-tolerance covid approach does not come at zero cost; China’s fight against Covid19 is still ongoing and requires constant vigilance, lengthy local lockdowns, mass testing, strong contact tracing, strict quarantine measures, and an everyday public life that includes face masks, temperature checks, and QR health codes.

The impact of this strategy and the epidemic at large was the topic of one trending topic this week titled “How Big is the Difference in Your Life Before and After the Epidemic?” (#疫情前后的生活差别有多大#), a hashtag that drew in over 320 million views on social media platform Weibo.

The topic triggered thousands of comments from people sharing their thoughts and experiences, but the post that started the discussion (@人间投影仪) simply said:

I’d like to go back to a world where we don’t need to wear masks.”

The post came with various images comparing life before and after the Covid19 outbreak.

Playing in the snow (top), epidemic worker in the snow (below).

People without masks in the cinema, waving national flags (top), moviegoers wearing masks (below).

Singing on the subway (top), masked up on subway (below).

Playing in Disneyland (top), getting tested for Covid19 in Disneyland Shanghai (below).

Another commenter (@电联吗) replied to the Weibo post:

Looking at countries such as Thailand or South Korea, they’ve already re-opened, and I can’t help but feel a bit jealous. After all, it’s been over two years since Covid19, and there’s no trend of it weakening – it only seems to get stronger instead. I’ve become numb to the daily controls and prevention of this virus. I’m getting the feeling it’ll never go away. Will there ever come a day when other countries besides our own will lift all restrictions? To fully open? To just co-exist with the virus? And then, should we just continue to go on this way? Although our country is so safe now and our epidemic control is very timely, it still feels like people are living in fear. The slightest thing can cause a panic about the virus spreading. It can totally disrupt your plans. All activities can be delayed or canceled. All youthfulness, enthusiasm, perseverance, and dreams, can be stuck. But life is also very important. This perhaps is what is such a contradiction.

While many netizens agreed with the previous commenter, saying they are also struggling with anxiety and pressure that comes from the current Covid19 situation, there are also commenters who do not agree:

The freedom you see [in other countries] is not real. The opening up in many countries is simply because their economy otherwise can’t carry the weight, it’s not because they want to live with the virus. You think the epidemic is affecting your youth and passion, but I’d say youth and passion don’t only exist at a certain time, and it won’t be affected by an epidemic – otherwise, there wouldn’t be an awakening era. In times of an epidemic, people just do all they can to keep on living.

Another Weibo user from Ganzhou writes:

During the epidemic, it seems that when I don’t go out, there’s so much to do, yet when I go out, there doesn’t seem anything to do. At the time of the epidemic I wanted to go out so bad, I almost felt like exploding, and then when [measures] relaxed, I didn’t really feel like going out anymore. Before the epidemic, I liked to go out to eat a lot and whatever I wanted to eat I could have without doing anything. During the epidemic, I discovered I could fry chicken, make my own nuggets, and discovered skills I didn’t even know I had. Before, I wanted a two-month winter holiday, and then I got 4-6 month holiday I never could’ve imagined. I used to feel like not working, and then I felt so panicked without work and really wanted to work. Before, I never thought I could study at home and then discovered I could study till night. In the end, I still want to return to a world where we don’t need to wear masks.

Other commenters also look back on the pre-Covid19 with nostalgia:

I once thought 2019 was the most difficult year. But it was actually the happiest one of the last three years. Because there was no epidemic and we were free to go out as we pleased. We didn’t have to rigidly stick to our face masks, and there were no complicated processes to request a leave of absence.”

Then there are those who are longing for simple pleasures of the pre-covid era, such as this Weibo user (@柴柴鱼与柴):

I want to travel out of Shanghai and to other countries without any fear, I want to take off my mask in the theaters so that the performers can see when I am crying or laughing, or when I’m admiring them and cheering for them. I want to shout out during live performances and music festivals, I want  concerts to be able to be organized without issues, and I don’t want my twenty-something years to slip away in an era of masks and epidemic.”

Some also comment on how differently they experience the passing of time during the pandemic, like the original poster of the hashtag (@人间投影仪):

I have the feeling that since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, these past two years just went by in a flash. I don’t really have any memories that stick. But then when I look at photos from before covid19, it feels like a different life.”

But then there are also those who defend China’s zero-covid approach, saying (@风的节奏吹):

Everyone wants more freedom. If the world would’ve copied China’s homework, the epidemic would have ended long ago.

And (@种花家的兔子要嚣张):

Seeing so many people talking about (..) how others are opening up, are their countries populated as densely as our country is? With [us being] one-fifth of the world population, are you kidding me? If we’d open up, and you get sick and need to pay for your treatment, would you want that? Only if your country’s social benefits are so good, you’re able to be unreasonable on social media. Already now, there’s too much pressure on people at the basic level, do you even realize? If you say you feel envious, just move to another country and experience it for yourself, just don’t come back here spreading the virus!

One of the most popular comments in the top threads on this comment currently says:

If other countries had started to control it [the virus] like our country, we might not have to wear a mask now.”

Meanwhile, the hashtag “An Illustrated Handbook of the Maskless Era” is also getting many views on social media (#无口罩时代图鉴#), with people sharing photos and videos of the pre-covid19 times. Even ordinary everyday scenes from the subway in the pre-covid19 era are making people feel nostalgic: “I’m just cherishing the memory of those days.”

Read more about social trends relating to Covid19 in China here.

By 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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