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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).

bullychina

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.

numbers

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.

pest

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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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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