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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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About Lipstick King’s Comeback and His ‘Mysterious’ Disappearance

After Li Jiaqi’s return to livestreaming, the ‘tank cake incident’ has become the elephant in the room on social media.

Manya Koetse

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Earlier this week, the return of China’s famous livestreamer Li Jiaqi, also known as the ‘Lipstick King’, became a hot topic on Chinese social media where his three-month ‘disappearance’ from the social commerce scene triggered online discussions.

He is known as Austin Li, Lipstick King, or Lipstick Brother, but most of all he is known as one of China’s most successful e-commerce livestreaming hosts.

After being offline for over 100 days, Li Jiaqi (李佳琦) finally came back and did a livestreaming session on September 20th, attracting over 60 million viewers and selling over $17 million in products.

The 30-year-old beauty influencer, a former L’Oreal beauty consultant, rose to fame in 2017 after he became a successful livestreamer focusing on lipstick and other beauty products.

Li broke several records during his live streaming career. In 2018, he broke the Guinness World Record for “the most lipstick applications in 30 seconds.” He once sold 15000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, and also managed to apply 380 different lipsticks in another seven-hour live stream session. Li made international headlines in 2021 when he sold $1.9 billion in goods during a 12-hour-long promotion livestream for Alibaba’s shopping festival.

But during a Taobao livestream on June 3rd of this year, something peculiar happened. After Li Jiaqi and his co-host introduced an interestingly shaped chocolate cake – which seemed to resemble a tank, – a male assistant in the back mentioned something about the sound of shooting coming from a tank (“坦克突突”).

Although Li Jiaqi and the others laughed about the comment, Li also seemed a bit unsure and the woman next to him then said: “Stay tuned for 23:00 to see if Li Jiaqi and I will still be in this position.”

The session then suddenly stopped, and at 23:38 that night Li wrote on Weibo that the channel was experiencing some “technical problems.”

But those “technical problems” lasted, and Li did not come back. His June 3rd post about the technical problems would be the last one on his Weibo account for the months to come.

The ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件) occurred on the night before June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the violent crackdown of the Tiananmen student demonstrations. The iconic image of the so-called ‘tank man‘ blocking the tanks at Tiananmen has become world famous and is censored on China’s internet. The control of information flows is especially strict before and on June 4, making Li’s ‘tank cake incident’ all the more controversial.

But no official media nor the official Li Jiaqi accounts acknowledged the tank cake incident, and his absence remained unexplained. Meanwhile, there was a silent acknowledgment among netizens that the reason Li was not coming online anymore was related to the ‘tank cake incident.’

During Li’s long hiatus, fans flocked to his Weibo page where they left thousands of messages.

“I’m afraid people have been plotting against you,” many commenters wrote, suggesting that the cake was deliberately introduced by someone else during the livestream as a way to commemorate June 4.

Many fans also expressed their appreciation of Li, saying how watching his streams helped them cope with depression or cheered them up during hard times. “What would we do without you?” some wrote. Even after 80 days without Li Jiaqi’s livestreams, people still commented: “I am waiting for you every day.”

On September 21st, Li Jiaqi finally – and somewhat quietly – returned and some people said they were moved to see their lipstick hero return to the livestream scene.

Although many were overjoyed with Li’s return, it also triggered more conversations on why he had disappeared and what happened to him during the 3+ months of absence. “He talked about a sensitive topic,” one commenter said when a Weibo user asked about Li’s disappearance.

One self-media accountpublished a video titled “Li Jiaqi has returned.” The voiceover repeatedly asks why Li would have disappeared and even speculates about what might have caused it, without once mentioning the tank cake.

“This cracks me up,” one commenter wrote: “On the outside we all know what’s going on, on the inside there’s no information whatsoever.”

“It’s tacit mutual understanding,” some wrote. “It’s the elephant in the room,” others said.

Some people, however, did not care about discussing Li’s disappearance at all anymore and just expressed joy about seeing him again: “It’s like seeing a good friend after being apart for a long time.”

By Manya Koetse 

Elements in the featured image by @karishea and @kaffeebart.

 

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More Than Just a Visit: Explaining the Chinese ‘Cuànfǎng’

‘Cuànfǎng’ became a popular word on Chinese social media and in official Chinese discourse this year. But what is it?

Jin Luo

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Since Pelosi’s stopover in Taiwan, the word ‘cuànfǎng’ has been all over Chinese social media to refer to this controversial visit. But ‘cuànfǎng’ is more than just ‘visiting’ alone. Jin Luo explains.

It was a sleepless night for many Chinese people when U.S. House Speaker Pelosi flew to Taiwan on August 2nd of 2022. A new Chinese word created in recent years, cuànfǎng (窜访) appeared in the official statement that was issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry at 11 pm that night, and subsequently it appeared all over social media.

Meanwhile, a pop song released more than 30 years ago titled “Tonight, Are You Coming or Not” (“今夜你会不会来”) suddenly became a Weibo hot topic before it was taken offline. What is this word lost in translation, and why did people suddenly get nostalgic over an old romantic song?

 
Cuànfǎng: A ‘Sneaky Visit’
 

Here is the original wording in Chinese and the official translation to English from the statement of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on the evening on 2 August:

In disregard of China’s strong opposition and diplomatic discontent, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited China’s Taiwan region” (“美国国会众议长佩洛西不顾中方强烈反对和严正交涉,窜访中国台湾地区.”) The word ‘visited’ in Chinese that is used here is “cuànfǎng” 窜访.

While the English verb “visit” is a neutral word by itself, the Chinese “cuànfǎng” 窜访 has much stronger connotations. According to the Wiktionary, the word is a derogatory, officialese way to say “to visit.” But it is not an easy word to translate, as there is no direct equivalent in English, and both the literal and implied meaning of the word need to be understood.

Cuànfǎng is actually a compound word: cuàn 窜 refers to fleeing, escaping, hiding, or running away; fǎng 访 refers to inquiring, seeking, or visiting.

Cuan as a compound character (Sohu).

To make matters more complicated, cuàn by itself is also a compound character. It is written as ‘竄’ in traditional Chinese: the top radical ‘穴’ means ‘hole,’ and the lower part is the character ‘鼠’ which means ‘mouse.’ The character, having the shape of a mouse hiding in a hole, therefore has the meaning of ‘hiding’ and ‘escaping.’

The origins of the character ‘cuan’ explained, image via Sohu.com.

The mouse or rat is an animal that is more often associated with negative things in Chinese culture. They are often considered sneaky, dirty, running around everywhere, and able to reproduce quickly. With mice so often carrying a negative association, cuàn ‘窜’ also refers to a kind of hiding and escaping that is negative or objectionable.

The second character fǎng 访 is a neutral word that simply means “to visit.”

At the New York Times, Chris Buckley captured the underlying meaning of this word in writing: “The Chinese word used in the official statements for ‘visit’ — cuanfang — connotes a sneaky or illicit encounter, not an aboveboard meeting.”

 
The Evolution of Cuànfǎng
 

Although it is a relatively new word, cuànfǎng already existed before the Pelosi incident and was not created in light of this controversial visit.

Since the word’s first appearance, translators have had some difficulties in properly translating the term into different languages.

Research papers in translation studies and international relations in China suggested that cuànfǎng is a “new derogatory term invented in recent years, specifically for the purpose of maintaining national security and unity, and condemning and exposing the national separatists” and “demonstrated the big wisdom of Chinese diplomatic discourse users; vividly described the image of the separatists, that they go on the run sneakily, just like thieves and mice” (source, in Chinese).

Other sources interpret it as “the unjust, improper visit conducted in order to reach hidden political agenda, to agitate and peddle the separatist ideas,” and:

1. You went somewhere where you were not supposed to go;
2. The visit was not accepted or welcomed by the (Chinese) government;
3. The purpose is to shake justice and create conflicts
” (source, in Chinese).

Cuàn was mainly meant to add an emotional aspect to the term and shows the contempt of the person who uses it.

Image via Wainao.

The word was first prominently used in Chinese official discourse when the Foreign Ministry in 2006 referred to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Israel. Since cuàn has the meaning of fleeing, it is especially suitable when referring to political dissidents who went into exile overseas.

Since then, it has been used again for further visits of the Dalai Lama to other countries (US 2014, Mongolia 2017), as well as for Rebiya Kadeer, Lee Teng-hui, Shinzo Abe, Joshua Wong, and others.

Although it is clear that the term is not only applied to Chinese dissidents, it is generally applied to those who conducted visits that were perceived to be hostile towards China, with Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit serving as a clear example.

Since the Dalai Lama has been living outside of China and conducted numerous visits to other countries, cuànfǎng was previously mostly used in this context until Pelosi’s visit, which ended up being good for more than 80% of the search results of cuànfǎng on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website.

If cuànfǎng is a word with such strong emotional connotations, why was it simply translated as “visit” in official English-language documents? Some say it is because of the mere difficulty to translate this word, while others say it is the routine sanitization of English translations by the Foreign Ministry.

David Gitter, president of the Center for Advanced China Research based in Washington D.C., said that the external goal of Beijing can be different from the internal goal towards the nationalist domestic audiences, and that “more accurate yet counterproductive translations … [often] breach normal diplomatic language.”

At this point, it remains up for debate whether this is a linguistic constraint or a political choice.

 
Tonight, Are You Coming or Not?
 

While the term cuànfǎng has been widely used in official discourse, it has also become a popular online word. Chinese netizens seemed to be as passionate as the Chinese Foreign Ministry – and perhaps even more so –  in condemning Pelosi’s Taiwan visit and demanding radical countermeasures.

Chinese netizens were watching the entire event unfold with mixed feelings – on the one hand, there was a strong sense of patriotism and anger, on the other hand, the massive attention to the event also turned it into something that was almost as exciting as a celebrity drama.

On that specific evening of Pelosi’s nearing arrival in Taipei, Chinese netizens were doing two things: watching real-time tracking of Pelosi’s flight, and listening to a classic pop song released in 1991 titled “Tonight, Are You Coming or Not” (今夜你会不会来) (video). Back in the previous century, Hong Kong singer Leon Lai expressed the emotions of someone waiting for his lover to arrive in this melodic song, singing:

“你是否愿意为我停留

Would you be willing to stay for me

今夜你来告诉我

Tonight, you tell me

你是否愿意陪我走过我的梦

Are you willing to accompany me through my dream?

我的所有

My everything

(Chorus)

今夜你会不会来

Tonight, are you coming or not?

你的爱还在不在

Is your love still there or not?

如果你的心已经离开

If your heart has left already

我宁愿没有未来

I would rather not have a future

今夜你会不会来

Tonight, are you coming or not?

你的爱还在不在

Is your love still there or not?

别让我所有的等待

Don’t let all my wait

变成一片空白

Go all in vain

 

In the middle of the uncertainty about whether Pelosi would come to Taiwan or not, this song served as entertainment for netizens and became a “collective carnival” of people jokingly applying the song to Pelosi, turning her into a ‘mysterious lover’ that might or might not show up. (Later, some were unable to play the song anymore, although it remains unclear if this was due to geographic restrictions or because the song was actually taken offline by censors.)

“Taiwan has been preparing for your cuànfǎng ‘sneaky visit’, are you coming or not tonight?” some netizens wrote, combining the title song with the cuànfǎng term. In doing so, Pelosi became both a ‘sneaky mouse’ and ‘mysterious lover’, both a target of condemnation and subject of fun and banter.

All jokes and cuànfǎng references aside, Pelosi did end up realizing that visit, and its aftermath, including a second Taiwan visit by a U.S. congressional delegation, has had a substantial impact on U.S.-China relations that were already strained before the move.

Will there be more cuànfǎng to Taiwan? It’s likely not an issue of if, but when. For next time, at least we’ve got cuànfǎng covered.

 

By Jin Luo 

Featured image by Alexa from Pixabay

 

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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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