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China Health & Science

More Awareness For Guide Dogs in China, But Still a Long Way To Go

Chinese media and social media users are creating more awareness on guide dogs and service dog etiquette in China. But with very few available assistance dogs and many misconceptions about them, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome for guide dogs to become more common in the PRC.

Manya Koetse

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Chinese media and social media users are creating more awareness on guide dogs and service dog etiquette in China. But with very few available assistance dogs and many misconceptions about them, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome before guide dogs can become more common in the PRC.

“Do not disturb guide dogs,” Chinese state broadcaster CCTV posted on Sina Weibo on October 15. Raising awareness of service dog etiquette, the news outlet shared several infographics and warned people not to feed guide dogs or deny them entrance.

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“Do not call out to guide dogs,” CCTV writes: “They are at work. Do not touch or feed service dogs or guide dogs for the blind. They are not pets. They’re working dogs who have gone through strict training. Please don’t distract them.”

People’s Daily also paid attention to service dogs in a post on October 15 in celebration of World Sight Day, honoring the tough job guide dogs do.

Getting a guide dog is simply unattainable for many people in China.

As of May 2015, service dogs are accepted in Beijing’s public transport. But since the phenomenon of guide dogs (导盲犬) is relatively new to China, general knowledge on service dog etiquette is often lacking.

The world’s first guide dog training center started in 1817 in Vienna. Guide dogs became internationally recognized after the First World War, when dogs assisted veterans who had lost their vision during the war.

But China severely lags behind when it comes to service dogs for the (visually) handicapped. Not only are there very few guide dogs, the lack of general understanding of their role has also hampered their public acceptance.

In 2014, Netease published an article about China’s lack of guide dogs. While mainland China has around 17 million people with a visual handicap, there are only 67 official guide dogs. In the capital of Beijing, there are currently 10 registered guide dogs. The southern province of Yunnan, that has a population of nearly 46 million people, recently welcomed its very first guide dog.

Mainland China has only one national training center for service dogs. China’s Guide Dog Training Center (中国导盲犬大连培训基地), located in Dalian, was established in 2004 and was officially approved by the China Disabled Persons Federation (中国残疾人联合会) in 2006.

The center has 12 dog trainers, and currently holds a total of 54 service dogs in training according to the official website. About 40% of these dog do not pass the strict tests to qualify as a guide dog. The center provides its guide dogs to (visually) handicapped people free of charge.

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The training of guide dogs, that requires about 6 to 8 months of intensive and consistent exercise, is a costly affair: ±120,000-150,000 RMB (±18,000-22,000 US$) per year of training. The government has no official policy on guide dogs for the blind, and there is limited funding available.

If handicapped people apply for a guide dog, they personally need to come to Dalian to train with the dog for a period of time. With many people living far from Dalian and not having the financial means to make the journey, getting a guide dog is simply unattainable for many handicapped people in China.

“No matter how many times we explained that Jenny is a guide dog, he was determined not to let us stay.”

One person who has done much for increasing awareness on guide dogs in China is Chen Yan (陈燕). Chen is a successful blind female entrepreneur who has become a public figure together with her guide dog Jenny.

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She is an active social media user, sharing many stories about the everyday life and struggles of her and her guide dog on her Weibo account. She frequently posts about public places denying her entrance because of her service dog.

Chen received much support when she shared how a Beijing subway employee would not allow her entrance to the public transport system for having her dog with her. It was the 12th time she was refused entrance to the subway before the new May 2015 law on guide dogs in public transport was implemented.

Chen is denied access to a public park in Nanjing for having her service dog with her.

Chen is denied access to a public park in Nanjing for having her service dog with her.

She recently also shared how guards of a public park in Nanjing denied her access to the premises, and how a restaurant manager would not allow her and Jenny to have dinner at his establishment. She wrote: “No matter how many times we explained to him that Jenny is a guide dog, he said his customers would complain and he was determined not to let us stay.”

Chen is refused entrance at a local restaurant because of her guide dog Jenny.

Chen is refused entrance at a local restaurant because of her guide dog Jenny.

On Weibo, many netizens express their appreciation of guide dogs. “I wished nobody would refuse guide dogs,” one netizen writes: “They are the eyes for blind people, and should be welcomed by everyone.”

“Guide dogs sacrifice so much to be able to do the work they do.”

It is clear that there has been increased (social) media attention for guide dogs in China over the past year. The story of a blind man from Beijing whose guide dog was stolen made headlines in February of 2016.

It especially became a big topic when the dog was again safely returned with a sorry note shortly after its abduction.

Weibo’s love for guide dogs also shows by the many accounts dedicated to them. One guide dog named Candie even has her own account on Weibo.

According to her bio, Candie is the first internationally qualified guide dog of China. With over 384,000 followers, Candie informs people of the kind of work service dogs do.

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“Guide dogs sacrifice so much to be able to do the work they do,” one netizen says: “Why on earth would someone refuse them?”

Other Weibo users agree: “They are little heroes. We should acknowledge their importance and treat them well.”

– By Manya Koetse
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Note: Want to contribute to the China Guide Dog Training Center? Their official website has an online charity shop and also a donation page (bank account number on bottom of page). [What’s on Weibo is not affiliated with the China Guide Dog Training Center in any way.]

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

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.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Easun

    October 16, 2016 at 6:56 am

    i never seen any guide dog in my city, dogs are people’s friends.

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China Health & Science

Schools in China Are Reopening, But Will Lunch Breaks Ever Be the Same Again?

Chinese students are back to school, but school life is not back to normal.

Manya Koetse

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As most schools across China are opening their doors again, social media users are sharing photos of what school life looks like in the post-COVID-19 outbreak era this week.

Some videos and images that are circulating on Weibo and Wechat show somewhat dystopian images of the post-COVID-19 school life at primary and (senior) high schools – students eating while standing outside in straight lines, or pupils wearing face masks taking turns to eat their lunch (supposedly to reduce the chances of contagion via respiratory droplets, see tweeted video below).

Most schools in China have already started or will open later this month. Only Hubei province and Beijing have not yet announced school reopening plans, Caixin reports.

But although China is gradually back to business after its weeks-long coronavirus lockdown, daily life is far from normal as the country remains on high alert for a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Schools are therefore also taking strict precautions to reduce infection risks both in and outside of the classroom.

Lunch break policy and procedures are just one of the many things that have changed at Chinese schools now.

On Weibo, ‘Henan Education’ is one of many accounts posting about the dramatically different way of eating at China’s school canteens in these post-COVID-19-outbreak times.

In Xingyang city, for example, special supervisors have been allocated to high schools to maintain the order and reduce the number of students gathering at the school entrances and assist students with lunch break seatings at the canteen.

Canteen at Xingyang’s Second Senior High School

At a senior high school in Kaifeng, all students have their lunch breaks in the canteen at one side of the table only, leaving enough space in between the other students.

Other schools have set up their canteens like examination rooms, only allowing one student per table, only facing one direction.

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One Weibo user posts how her Tianjin school is preparing for the lunch break arrangements, with indicators on the floor marking the direction students should walk in and the distance they have to keep from each other.

One other school in Jiangsu’s Huai’an has put dividers on all lunch tables to separate students while having their lunch break.

“It feels like taking exams,” some commenters write about the new lunch break policies. “We can no longer look around and whisper in each other’s ear.”

One school board in the city of Beihai has decided to make use of its new separating screens to stimulate more studying during lunch breaks; they have printed study material for the upcoming ‘gaokao‘ exams on the dividers.

Some netizens think that other schools will follow this example if it appears to be effective. In that way, the post-COVID-19 lunch break will turn into just another study opportunity.

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)
With contributions from Miranda Barnes
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China Health & Science

Distrust and Despair on WeChat and Weibo after Death of Wuhan Whistleblower

Dr. Li is now the face of the coronavirus crisis.

Manya Koetse

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First published

The confusing information flows on the tragic death of Dr. Li are emblematic of the deeper problems behind the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak. Li is now the face of the Coronavirus crisis.

Many Chinese netizens had a sleepless night tonight as reports and posts poured in on the passing of Li Wenliang, one of the doctors who first tried to raise the alarm about the coronavirus outbreak in late December.

Individual posts expressing anger, distrust, and despair flooded Chinese social media after various sources, including the Party news outlet Global Times, first reported that Li had died earlier on Thursday, then later claimed that the young doctor was still alive but in critical condition, only to be followed by more reports stating that Li had passed away at 2:58 AM on Friday.

The 34-year-old doctor Li Wenliang was one of the eight ‘whistleblowers’ who tried to warn his colleagues about the Wuhan virus outbreak in late 2019, but was censored and reprimanded by local police for making “false comments.”

He later became infected with the virus himself while working at the Wuhan Central Hospital.

At a certain moment on early Friday morning, both the hashtags “Li Wenliang Is Still Being Rescued” (#李文亮仍在抢救#) and the hashtag “Dr. Li Wenliang Has Passed Away” (#李文亮医生去世#) were trending on Chinese social media at the same time, with netizens’ anger and confusion growing.

The Wuhan Central Hospital confirmed Li’s death in an online announcement the early hours of Friday morning.

As discussions flared up on Weibo, netizens soon discovered that many posts were deleted, that only “blue V” Weibo accounts (verified official government, media, website, business etc accounts) were able to publish posts about Li’s passing, and that news relating to Li was seemingly kept out of the top search lists on Weibo.

In response to this, the hashtag “Can You Manage, Do You Understand?” (#你能做到吗?你听明白了吗#) surfaced on Weibo, which is a reference to the letter Li was forced to sign earlier this year for “disturbing public order.”

Many netizens are not just expressing their anger and sadness over the death of Li, but also about the way it was reported and the distrust in media, authorities, and social media platforms that comes with it.

The letter Dr. Li was made to sign acknowledging that he was “making false comments.”

By early Friday morning, the phrase “Can You Manage, Do You Understand?” seems to have become a protest slogan for freedom of speech.

The messiness of Chinese media first reporting his death, then claiming Li was still on life support, and then the definite news of his passing has struck a nerve among netizens as it also epitomizes the handling of the Wuhan virus outbreak itself.

Some Weibo users suggest that official media purposely changed the narrative on Li’s passing to control the public opinion on the issue.

Many people express their frustration about not being able to trust supposedly trustworthy sources.

“They wouldn’t let him live when he was alive, they wouldn’t let him die when he was dead,” some write.

“Our hero, rest in peace,” many commenters say.

Dr. Li is survived by his pregnant wife and their first child.

For more information about the main social media trends in China regarding the coronavirus, also see our article on the 8 Major Trends in Times of 2019-nCoV.

By Manya Koetse, additional research by Miranda Barnes
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