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Mother’s Outcry Sparks Discussions on China’s School Bullying Problem

A mother’s story about her son’s harassment at school has triggered heated online discussions about the problem of school bullying in China.

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Recently a Chinese mother of a 10-year-old boy posted online about her son’s severe bullying at school. Despite her outcry, the boy’s school remained indifferent, claiming it was just ‘children’s play’. The mother’s story has triggered heated online discussions about the problem of school bullying in China.

“He was alone in the toilet again. At this moment, he started to cry. He said he was so scared; there was urine on his whole face and he stank. Boys are naughty, and they often pee in the trash can.”

This is the story told by the mother of a 10-year-old boy who was cornered at a school toilet, where bullies threw a trash can with urine on the boy’s head. The article, published by China News, soon made its rounds on Chinese social media, where netizens were outraged.

When he came home and told me everything, my child was shaking violently. I wanted to comfort him and took him to the bath; he immediately started hauling. He told me that he had washed himself with cold water at school for a very, very long time and that he was not stinky anymore.”

According to the mother’s reports, her son had been bullied for over a year and now refuses to go to school. After the boy was diagnosed with acute stress disorder, the doctor suggested he would better stay at home for now.

 

“A joke that went too far.”

 

While the mother decided to stand up for her son in front of the school and the bullies’ family, the school defined the issue as a “joke that went too far”, and suggested it was “normal” for 4th graders to “have no boundaries.”

The school allegedly also demanded the mother to withdraw her four demands- that the bullies would be punished; that the bullies’ parents would apologize; that her son would be protected from further harassment, and that the bullies would cover his medical expenses.

The school in question, the Beijing Zhongguancun Second Primary School, remained vague and even indifferent in their official response to the case.

Apart from stating that the matter would be resolved in a manner that ensured the “legal rights of every child”, they focused on the recent media attention and reputation of the school. The second part of the statement said that all “false reportage” on the school would have legal consequences and the media should allow the school to resolve this issue in private.

The experiences of this mother has stirred huge discussions online about school bullying in China.

 

“School teachers often consider bullying to be normal behavior for children.”

 

This is not the first time the problem of school bullying makes headlines in China. A recent report by the Public Health Department revealed that of a total of 187.328 students from 18 Chinese provinces 66.1% of boys and 48.8% of girls have experienced one or more forms of bullying.

According to China News Weekly (中国新闻周刊), there were 43 cases of school bullying reported by the Chinese media in the 2014-2015 period. 26 of these cases occurred during March and July 2015. School bullying happens in both metropolitans like Beijing and Shanghai, and less-developed areas like Guangxi and Yunnan.

75% of school bullying happens in junior or senior high school (respectively 12-15 and 15-18-year-olds), says a report by South Weekly (南方周末).

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Bullying happens mostly among the same sex, with 52.50% among boys and 32.50% among girls. The use of digital technology, such as filming the bullying and publishing it online, makes victims more vulnerable to further harassment.

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Although causing emotional and physical harm to their victims, bullies are rarely punished for their behavior. In most cases, they merely receive a lecture or a record on their school document.

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The school’s seemingly indifferent response to the mother’s story is not uncommon. School teachers often consider bullying to be normal behavior for children.

In a bullying case that made news last year, for example, a group of high school girls from Lanling, Shandong, physically harassed a fellow student and burned her breasts while filming the whole ordeal, later releasing the video online. The school where these girls studied did not report the matter to the police. Instead, they arranged an oral and written apology from the bullies and their families.

 

“Bullies’ parents often protect their children, even if they have done wrong.”

 

Over the recent year, the Chinese government has introduced several measures in an attempt to combat school bullying. In April 2016, the Ministry of Education issued an announcement that it would make the prevention of school bullying a special priority.

In November of this year, together with nine other departments, the Ministry of Education issued another official paper, providing guidelines to preventing and resolving school bullying and campus violence. The recommended measures including a youth hotline on a local level which provides help and consultancy to victims of bullying. It allows for police intervention when the bullying is serious enough.

Despite these efforts, however, the story of the 10-year-old boy with the toilet trash can thrown on his head is proof that the problem of school bullying is still present, and that it is not always adequately handled by schools. One of the reasons is that it simply takes time for the new measures to come into practice. Another underlying issue is that there is still low awareness about school bullying among parents and Chinese society at large.

Bullies’ parents often protect their children, even if they have done wrong. According to the mother of the 10-year-old boy, the parents of her son’s bullies thought it unnecessary to “appeal to the school for such trivialities”, since their children were just being “naughty”.

Even when parents are aware of the wrong-doing of their children, they will still try to cover up to shield their “cubs” from any accountability. Earlier this year in a case in America, several Chinese students in Rowland Heights bullied and humiliated a fellow Chinese student, and were brought to court. The father of one of the alleged attackers was caught for attempted bribing of the victim.

 

“People don’t realize children can also do harm.”

 

“The majority of people don’t realize that children have the power to do harm,” one Weibo netizen responds: “Most people are not aware of the wide scope and occurrence of school bullying. Children are children, meaning not only don’t they have the ability to defend themselves, but they also don’t have the ability to control themselves. If you don’t teach them what is evil, they could hound somebody to death. If you don’t teach them to resist evil, they could be hounded to death.”

“I applaud this mother for speaking out,” another Weibo commenter said: “The more she stirs up havoc, the better. Staying silent only makes the problems worse. If you don’t punish these little devils for what they did they will only go further.”

Most netizens agree that the Chinese parents who are “protecting their cubs” are not helping to combat school bullying, but instead are only worsening the problem. As one netizen mockingly wrote: “If my son is bullied in the future, I will teach him to fight back with everything he can; including using bricks, stones, knives, chairs and all kinds of sticks, full force to the head. After all, I can just come up in the end and say, sorry, it’s just ‘children’s play.’”

-By Diandian Guo
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Edited by Manya Koetse
©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 Digital

Key Players, Digital Trends & Deep Dives: China Internet Report 2021

SCMP just launched its latest China Internet Report. (And What’s on Weibo readers can get a 30% discount on the Pro Edition!)

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As China’s tech sector has been facing an ongoing crackdown by Beijing regulations, a lot has been changing in the country’s digital environment over the past year. The new China Internet Report 2021 by SCMP gives an overview of the latest trends and developments.

When it comes to China’s online landscape, nothing ever stays the same. Over the past year, political, economic, and social developments and measures have once again changed the Chinese digital environment.

Giving a comprehensive overview of the key leaders and major trends dominating the Chinese online field, South China Morning Post (SCMP) issued its fourth annual China Internet Report.

China’s internet population has now risen to 989 million – last year’s report indicated an internet population of 904 million. By now, there are 853 million mobile payment users, which indicates that over 86% of the entire mobile internet population uses mobile as a way to pay.

As China’s internet population is still growing, and new online startups are still popping up every day, there have been tightening regulations on multiple fronts.

As laid out in SCMP’s report, regulations mainly focus on the four areas of antitrust, finance, cybersecurity, and data privacy. Regulatory actions targeting the monopolistic behaviours of China’s biggest internet companies are still ongoing, and the new Data Security Law came into effect on September 1st of this year.

While Chinese tech companies are seeing increased scrutiny at home, they have also been facing intensifying geopolitical tensions between China and other countries. Over the past year, the various probes and shutdowns into Chinese companies by countries such as the US and India have meant a serious blow to the market share of Chinese apps.

Meanwhile, the SCMP report highlights the trend of various older and newer Chinese (e-commerce) apps “downplaying” their Chinese origins when entering foreign markets. Shein is a good example of this development, but other players including Zaful, Urbanic, and Cider are also experiencing more success outside of China while not explicitly marketing themselves as Chinese e-commerce apps.

Another noteworthy trend explained in the new report is how China’s shifting demographics are creating new niche segments to compete over. The COVID-19 crisis is partially a reason why China has seen an increase in senior internet users, with an increasing number of online products and content catering to the elderly.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) even issued special guidelines earlier this year for web pages and mobile apps to carry out so-called “elderly friendliness modifications.” Since this user group is still expected to see significant growth, the “silver economy” is an area that will only become more important in the years to come.

To check out all the main trends for 2021, China’s latest internet statistics, its top tech competitors, internet companies, and more, here’s a link to the free report.

The free report is 55 pages long and gives an overview of China’s latest internet numbers and players, covers the top cross-sector trends for 2021, including the tightening regulations and the bumpy road ahead for China’s tech IPOs.

The Pro Edition of China’s Internet Report 2021, also launched by SCMP, is 138 pages long and provides a deep-dive into ten relevant sectors – featuring insightful and useful analysis, data, and case studies relating to China’s e-commerce market, content & media, gaming, blockchain, fintech, online education, healthtech, smart cars, 5G, and Artificial Intelligence.

The China Internet Report Pro Edition is priced at US$400, but the team at SCMP has kindly reached out and made it possible for us to offer a special 30% discount to What’s on Weibo readers.

You’ll get the discount by using the discount code: WHATSONWEIBO30, or by clicking this link that will automatically include your discount code.

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

Goodbye 996? Weibo Discussions on Changes in Overtime Work Culture

Beijing made it clear that working overtime is illegal, but netizens are concerned about the realities of changing working schedules.

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Many people are tired of being forced to log long hours, but are also worried about how a national crackdown on ‘996’ working culture could impact their workload and income.

In late August of 2021, China’s Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security (人社部) and the Supreme People’s Court issued a joint clarification on the country’s legal standards of working hours and overtime pay.

Their message was clear: the practices of ‘996’ (working 9am-9pm, six days per week) and ‘007’ (working 24 hours seven days per week, referring to a flexible working system worse than 996) are illegal, and employers are obliged to obey the national working-time regime.

On Weibo, China’s state broadcaster CCTV published a 10-minute long video illustrating the 10 typical cases of overtime work laid out by the ministry and the top court. The moment was marked as the first time for the state-owned broadcaster to publicly comment on overtime work practices.

The Weibo post pointed out that “striving for success is not a shield companies can use to evade legal responsibilities,” and made it clear that employees have the right to “say no to forced overtime.”

The topics of overtime work and China’s 996 work culture generated many discussions on Weibo, with the hashtag “Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security and the Supreme Court Clarify 996 and 007 Are Illegal” (#人社部最高法明确996和007都违法#) generating over 420 million views on the social media platform.

 
“Without implementation and enforcement, the law is useless”
 

The current labor law in China bars employees from working more than 44 hours a week, and any overtime work must be paid.

Although the 996 practice is technically prohibited by law, many companies still enforce the hours informally.

Many employees revealed online that, although the 996 practice is legally prohibited, they were nevertheless being assigned job tasks that exceeded the prescribed working hours.

“Just finished work,” one Weibo user (@介也没嘛) posted with this picture, showing it’s nearing 11PM.

“I wonder if the workload will decrease after all. If it doesn’t change, it means people will now have to work voluntarily,” one Weibo user commented.

People also indicated that, since the start of the pandemic, remote work has become a new norm. Many companies have moved from office to working at home, making it harder to draw the line between regular working hours and overtime hours.

“What really matters is whether working from home includes overtime hours,” one Weibo user wrote. Many netizens complained that their companies wouldn’t explicitly stipulate a 996 schedule; instead, most of them disguise the overtime hours as ‘voluntary’ work.


Many commenters say it takes more comprehensive legislation and tougher law enforcement to really solve the issue of overtime work.

“These regulations are good, but they are basically impossible to implement. Even if they ban ‘996’ and ‘007’ there is no way to regulate the so-called ‘voluntary work,’” one Weibo user wrote.

Some people said that their companies have various performance assessments and that they feared that refusing to work more hours would make them lose their competitive advantage: “The burn-out (内卷 nèijuǎn, ‘involution’) is severe. It is too difficult for us. I have only one day off during the week and I’m so tired,” one person commented.

 
“We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours”
 

China’s 996 work culture has been championed by tech leaders and denounced by workers for years, and it has become an unwritten standard – not just in the tech sector but also in other industries.

While working long hours has been ingrained in Chinese workplace culture since the early days of the country’s internet boom, it later also started to represent ‘a road to success’ for Chinese tech entrepreneurs.

Many Chinese netizens blame Alibaba’s Jack Ma for praising the ‘996’ work system. In 2019, Ma called the 12-hour working day a “huge blessing,” causing much controversy online. During his talk at Kyiv International Economic Forum, Ma said: “(..) ‘996 is the spirit that I encourage Alibaba people to follow. If you want to have a bright future, (..) if you want to be successful, you have to work hard.”

On another occasion, the tech mogul reportedly said: “If you join Alibaba, you should get ready to work 12 hours a day, otherwise why do you come to Alibaba? We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours.”

Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group described 996 as a ‘blessing’.

However, after the shocking death of one Chinese delivery man working for food delivery platform Ele.me and the widespread discussions about the ‘996 ICU’ project – which called on tech workers to add names and evidence of excessive hours to a ‘blacklist,’ – the 996 work culture has come under increased scrutiny.

Some people argue that the overtime culture is draining employees and creating an unhealthy work-life balance; others argue that they work for themselves and believe that putting in extra hours will eventually translate to individual success.

While economic growth has slowed down during the pandemic, most companies are persisting with long working hours because they are under pressure to achieve results.

According to an online survey conducted by an influential tech blogging account (@IT观察猿), more than one-third of participants claimed to have one day off per week, and more than one quarter claimed they didn’t have any weekend days off.

 
“The workload is the same, but the income has reduced”
 

Starting from August 1st, ByteDance, the Chinese company behind the popular short-form video app TikTok, dropped its ‘big and small week’ (大小周) – a schedule that previously required employees to work six days in a row every other week.

ByteDance is not the only Chinese tech company that has begun to cut back on its long working hours. More and more companies have decided to drop grueling work schedules.

Kuaishou, another Chinese short-form video app company, stopped scheduling weekend work in July. Since early June, Tencent – China’s largest game publisher – has encouraged people to clock out at 6 pm every Wednesday.

Although these changes seem to signal a positive development, there are also many people who do not support the new measures. When Bytedance announced the changes to its working schedule, news came out that one-third of the employees did not support the decision (#字节跳动1/3员工不支持取消周末加班#).

Those relying on overtime pay said abolishing overtime work will cut their take-home pay by around 20%. Indeed, the first pay-out after the new implementation at Bytedance showed an overall drop of 17% in employees’ wages.

“The workload is the same, but the income has reduced,” one Weibo commenter complained.

One trending discussion on Weibo focused on the question “Do companies need to make up for employees’ financial loss after the abolition of weekend work?” Many comments revealed the situation faced by thousands of struggling workers who value free time but value their income more.

Many on Weibo still wonder whether a company that abolishes ‘996’ will come up with an alternative to compensate those employees who will otherwise inevitably lose vital income.

By Yunyi Wang

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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