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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 Insight

Looking at Your Phone While Crossing the Road Will Now Cost You Money in Zhejiang

Pedestrians looking at their phones while crossing the road are getting a red light in Zhejiang.

Manya Koetse

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Zhejiang Province in eastern China has recently launched a new policy: pedestrians crossing the road while looking at their phone risk getting a 50 RMB ($7) fine.

The policy has been attracting the attention of netizens on Chinese social media, where the so-called “Bowed head clan” (dītóuzú 低头族) – a slang word for smartphone-addicted people – has been a recurring hot topic.

People paying more attention to their phone than watching traffic while crossing the road can lead to very dangerous situations. Some graphic videos making their rounds on Weibo today show security camera footage of people getting run over by cars while looking at their phone.

The majority of people responding to the hashtag “Should people be fined for looking down to their phone while crossing the road?” (#低头玩手机过马路该罚款吗#) agree that this kind of behaviour is a risk to traffic safety, but some wonder if a small fine would be effective in combating this problem.

Some cities in China have introduced sidewalks with a “phone lane” and “no phone lane” over previous years, with Chongqing being the first city to do so in 2014.

Mobile phone sidewalk in Chonqgqing. Source https://tech.qq.com

As of earlier this year, the Pedestrian Council of Australia is also looking to implement a law that makes it possible to fine pedestrians who cross the road while looking at their phones.

In Honolulu, the ‘distracted walking law’ already makes it illegal for people to be distracted by their cellphones while walking in a crosswalk.

“Fine them!”, some commenters on Weibo say: “And also fine those people using their phone while driving their electric bicycles!”

“I’m not sure about the fine,” another person says: “I only know I bumped into a tree today walking looking at my phone..”

For many commenters, however, the issue is a no-brainer: “Just don’t use your phone while crossing the road. Personal safety comes first.”

Also read: The ‘Bowed Head Clan’ (低头族): Mother Watches Phone While Son Drowns in Pool

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Jialing Xie.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Arts & Entertainment

‘American Factory’ Sparks Debate on Weibo: Pro-China Views and Critical Perspectives

‘American Factory’ stirs online discussions in China.

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Award-winning documentary American Factory is not just sparking conversations in the English-language social media sphere. The film is also igniting discussions in the PRC, where pro-China views are trumpeted, while some critical perspectives are being censored.

By Anna Wang and Eduardo Baptista

Even as China posts its lowest industrial output growth since 2002, Weibo’s ongoing reaction to Netflix documentary American Factory is rife with declarations of the Chinese manufacturing sector’s impending victory over its US rival. This, however, is not the full story.

The first documentary distributed by Higher Ground Productions, owned by former US President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, American Factory painted a damning picture of Trump’s protectionist policies.

US manufacturing cannot keep up with the brute efficiency of its Chinese competitors. The story of a shuttering American factory revived by Chinese investment and an influx of Chinese workers, opening up a Pandora’s Box of cultural clashes, paints a telling, but pessimistic, picture of the current strategic conflict between the two superpowers, from the ground-up.

Image via Netflix.

Despite the Great Firewall, Chinese netizens found ways to watch the documentary, that was made by Ohio filmmakers Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert. Temporary links to streaming and subtitle services litter the Chinese Internet, making any accurate count of total mainland viewership nigh-impossible. However, one indication of the film’s popularity among mainlanders was the 259,000 views for a trailer posted on Bilibili.

One likely reason for netizens’ interest is that it neatly plays into Chinese state media rhetoric on the US-China trade war.

The inevitability of China’s rise up the global supply chain (and a corresponding decline on the US side) is a recurring theme in opinion pieces penned by the likes of Xinhua and Global Times, but also an increasingly louder cacophony of bloggers.

 

American Factory shows that the US will probably lose out to China in manufacturing.”

 

One Chinese company (Wind资讯) posted on Weibo that “what Obama means in this film, in a very oblique way, is that anti-globalization will produce a lose-lose scenario.”

The official Weibo account of Zhisland, a Chinese networking platform for entrepreneurs around the world (@正和岛标准) posted a review of the Netflix film titled: “Behind the Popularity of American Factory: Time Might Not Be on America’s Side” (“《美国工厂》走红背后:时间,或许真的不在美国那边了“).

It warns the audience right off the bat to “not assume that this film will promote cooperation between China and the United States. In contrast, it will surely stir up mixed feelings among both audiences.”

American Factory shows that the US will probably lose out to China in manufacturing,” Zhisland writes. The article argues that China will win out due to its lower labor costs, lack of trade unions, and more disciplined managerial styles. “It’s an uneven playing field,” the author continues: “Time may not be on America’s side.”

Toward the end, the author claims: “We are about to enter a new era in which China will gradually become the most dominant player in the global marketplace.”

The fact that many on Weibo shared these kinds of pieces as a reaction to the documentary suggests there is confirmation bias at work here. As is common on Weibo and other social media, comments on the pieces like the above simply rattle unsubstantiated claims, frequently descending into ad hominems.

Another Weibo user (@用户Mr.立早) adds comments when sharing the above article: “The American workers repeat Trump’s mantra, but won’t act on it. They’ve been idling for almost a century. They’re hopeless.”

 

“American Factory tells you: separate the US economy from China, and the US will go bankrupt.”

 

Chinese state media also chimed in on how American Factory proved their most important talking points on the ongoing US-China trade conflict.

Xinmin Evening News, an official newspaper run by the Communist Party’s Shanghai Committee, published an article by Wu Jian called “American Factory Tells You: Separate the US Economy from China, and the US Will Go Bankrupt” (“《美国工厂》告诉你:将美国经济从中国分离,美国会破产“).

In this piece, Jian claims that “in the age of globalization, ties between China and the US cannot be cut. Using high tariffs to force U. S. manufacturing return to the States… is simply not realistic. Separate the US economy from China, and the U.S. will go bankrupt.”

The article was also shared widely on Weibo. Thepaper.cn, an online news site affiliated with Shanghai United Media Group, published a review titled “American Factory: The Things that Are Spelled Out and the Things that are Implied” (“《美国工厂》:那些说出来的,和没有说的“).

The author, Xu Le, writes: “What struck me most about the film was the look on the faces of the American workers. All of them … had the same burnt-out expression… Their faces reminded me of photos of people in the late Qing Dynasty. That dull expression reflects a civilization in decline.”

“We’re a family at Fuyao” American workers listen to a rosy speech from their new bosses.

In the film, When American foremen visit a factory run by glass manufacturer Fuyao in China, they are alarmed to see Chinese workers picking up glass shards without safety glasses or cut-resistant gloves.

A Chinese worker picks up glass shards with minimal safety equipment, shocking his American co-workers.

Xu comments: “Why is it that Chinese workers are able to put up with even more drudgery while being paid far less than their American counterparts? This is something we Chinese are very familiar with.”

 

“Are you the glory, or are you the cost of the glory?”

 

Qin Hui, professor of history at Tsinghua University, once argued that China’s economic growth isn’t because of economic liberalism or government oversight, but because of China’s refusal to guarantee certain basic human rights.

In Maoist China, the state stripped the underprivileged of all political power in the name of the greater good dictated by socialist dogma. Post-Mao China continues to exploit the underprivileged, but now for monetary gain. He called it China’s “advantage” of “low human rights.”

Despite the nationalism sentiment fanned by American Factory, it has also provoked reflection on China’s advantage of low human rights summarized by Qin Hui.

Weibo user ‘Zhi21’ (@ZHI2i), a recent college graduate, writes on Weibo: “I just finished an internship at a factory. I worked 12 hours a day. More than 11 hours of every shift was spent on my feet without stopping, just to keep up with the assembly line. It didn’t make sense to me. After watching American Factory, I feel like American workers are lucky to only work 8 hours a day. That’s why the production costs are higher in the States. They pay too much attention to whether or not workers are comfortable.”

Another Weibo blogger (@GhostSaDNesS) notes that “in American Factory, Fuyao employees believe that to work is to live. They defend the interests of capitalists while they are actively exploited. Unions in the West chose human rights, Chinese capitalists chose profit, and Chinese workers have no choice at all.”

Some of these posts were apparently censored; threads that displayed as having over 200 comments only showed 12, and users complained that their posts were being deleted or made invisible to other users by Weibo censors. “They didn’t give any explanation,” one blogger wrote: ” I only expressed that I felt sorry for the people at the bottom. I didn’t question the system. I didn’t ask to change society.”

Views like that of @Crimmy_Excelsior (“I was confused. Which country is the capitalist one and which country is the socialist one?“) are apparently sensitive enough to be taken offline – they touch upon the tension between the CCP’s espousal of Marxist-Leninism and the plight faced by hundreds of millions of Chinese that have their working conditions driven down by capitalist markets.

Many users don’t buy into nationalist interpretations of the film, and argue that economic gain achieved at the expense of human rights is shameful. @陈生大王 raises a poignant question: “This is a glorious time for China, but I hope this film inspires you to think about who you really are as an individual. Are you the glory, or are you the cost of the glory?”

“The cost of the glory” is derived from a quip popular on China’s internet. The Chinese government often urges its citizens to rally together, using the rhetoric, “We must win this trade war at all cost.” Some netizens then twisted the phrase, saying, “We must win this trade war at all cost, and we later find out that we are the cost.”

 

“China’s prosperity did not just happen overnight – Chinese people worked hard to make it happen.”

 

Even among those in favor of China’s controversial work ethics, there have been concerns over the status quo. Earlier this year, engineers in the tech industry publicly aired their grievances about their “996” lifestyle. The term refers to a high-pressure work schedule of 9am to 9pm, six days a week. This is the kind of life workers in Fuyao are living, with no hope of improvement – they are that the company would find a replacement in no time, making any form of complaining moot.

Recent events in mainland China only increase the credibility of this representation. Factory workers at Jasic, a maker of welding machinery in Shenzhen, attempted to start a union last year. All those involved were fired. A number of college students and activists who actively supported the workers were detained and persecuted.

According to the “China Labor Movement Report (2015-2017)” by China Labor Bulletin (a NGO based in Hong Kong that promotes and defends workers’ rights in the People’s Republic of China) “intensification of social conflicts, including labor-capital conflicts, has crossed a tipping point, and directly threatens the legitimacy of the regime.”

More conspicuously, there are netizens that don’t buy the narrative that Chinese workers are innately “tougher” than their American counterparts. As user @胡尕峰 observes: “(In the film), a new Chinese CEO explains to his fellow Chinese that Americans have been encouraged too much growing up, and can’t take criticism. Chinese born after 2000 have been raised the same way! In my circle of friends, some mothers nearly faint when their babies are finally able to poop. Is China going to end up the same as America?”

American Factory’s objective portrayal of cultural shocks between American and Chinese workforces clearly generated thoughtful reflections and incisive criticism from a sizeable number of netizens, while also being another reason for Chinese state media to highlight the rise of China in the global market.

The chairman of Fuyao Group, Cao Dewang, made headlines this week with the quote: “China’s prosperity did not just happen overnight – Chinese people worked hard to make it happen.” “We indeed worked hard for it,” some commenters agreed: “That’s definitely true.”

By Anna Wang and Eduardo Baptista

Edited by Eduardo Baptista

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©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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