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Charity Marketing on WeChat: Father Cashes In On Sick Daughter

A father raising over 290,000 US$ in donations for his sick daughter via Chinese social media triggered controversy after netizens revealed he did not actually need this money at all.

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A father raising over 290,000 US$ in donations for his sick daughter via Chinese social media triggered controversy after netizens revealed he did not actually need this money at all.

The story of Luo Yixiao, a 5-year-old Chinese girl diagnosed with leukemia, whose father’s diary went viral with over 100,000 views in merely half a day on Chinese social media app Wechat, has been reported as a cyber marketing strategy only 5 days after it went viral. Chinese netizens’ heated debates again reveal existing dilemmas about charity marketing online.

The article, titled “Luo Yixiao, stay where you are!”, disclosed a father’s grief and helplessness in face of his daughter’s disease. It helped father Luo Er (罗尔) gain 2.7 million RMB (±391,800 US$) in donations since November 25.

The post was published on Luo Er’s own Wechat account, where other several pieces also exposed the family’s struggle with illness and medical fees.

littleluo

However on November 30, only 5 days after Luo’s post went viral, other posts came up on Chinese social media that indicated Luo’s attempt might be a planned marketing campaign. The news stirred netizens’ rage on Sina Weibo.

Netizens revealed that Luo currently owns 3 apartments and 2 cars, and that most of his daughter’s medical bills were already covered by insurance. Luo is now blamed for cheating those who gave donations, and for using an ill child for his own benefit – which also negatively influences the fate of those children in China facing illness who really have no means to bear medical costs.

Shady Charity

Various sources on Chinese social media claim that Luo was collaborating with a financial marketing company that every repost of the article from the company’s public account would be awarded 1 RMB (±0.15US$).

The number of tips given on the WeChat app quickly reached 50,000 RMB (±7255 US$), the maximum amount allowed by WeChat per article per day. This limit then led to people giving money to Luo Er individually through his own account; he received over 2 million RMB (±290,250US$) in tips within a time frame of 2 hours.

In response to netizens claiming that Luo received much more money than he actually needed, Shenzhen Children’s Hospital, where Luo’s daughter is under treatment, publicized his daughter’s invoice, which stated that Luo only spent 36,000 RMB (±5225 US$) on three months of treatment.

Luo spoke to Chinese media about the money he received, and told Beijing News that he would return the money if anyone felt betrayed by him. He also claimed that the reason he could not sell his own apartments was the high mortgage price, and not his own unwillingness.

However, many netizens deem it is clear that Luo and the company allegedly helping his daughter were hiding information about Luo’s financial situation and exaggerating the child’s illness, even using religion as a tool to win more sympathy from netizens.

Later on, the focus of the online debate shifted to the question of whether Luo should give the received money to charity, and to the overall problem of immoral charity marketing.

A “Coldhearted” Society That Donated 2.7 Million RMB

Pressured by the media, Luo Er accepted an video interview on November 30, in which he cried: “I’m so desperate…Nobody cares about my daughter…everybody only wonders if I’m a liar.” A Chinese netizen commented accordingly: “True, this is a coldhearted society that has donated over 2.7 million RMB for your daughter.”

The mixed reactions of Chinese netizens expose the dilemma on charity marketing; one group claims that nobody has the right to judge Luo Er for making use of the online possibilities to raise money, while the other group insists that Luo’s behavior is immoral. They say that Luo abused his professional power as an experienced media and marketing writer to cheat the public.

Many claim that it is obvious Luo did not make his child’s illness a top priority since he did not make use of his own possibilities, such as selling his belongings, before asking help from the online community. Other netizens used Luo’s example to further question the charity system and charity laws in China.

Debate over WeChat Charity

The option for large-scale donations via the Wechat ‘Wallet’ platform has been under discussion for some time. Last year, All China Tech reported that a new charity law was to be put into effect that would ban public donation campaigns initiated by unauthorized parties after recurring cases of fraud.

But the legislation did not ban persons from privately seeking help online. Besides, the tip function in Wechat is not regulated since the money does not directly transfer to the receivers’ bank account and there is no official invoice.

Amid controversy, Tencent, the company that owns Wechat, officially responded on December 1st that it had reached an agreement with Luo that his “tips” would be fully refunded to the original donators by the end of Saturday, December 3rd.

wechat

WeChat announcement on the Luo case.

A number of Weibo users welcomed this decision, while some still expressed their sympathy for Luo’s daughter and the many other children who suffer from the similar conditions: “No matter what the truth is, the child is innocent. We wish her good health and hope she will remain strong in this complicated world!”

– By Yue Xin
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This article has been edited by Manya Koetse
©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Yue Xin is a bilingual freelance journalist currently based in the Netherlands with a focus on gender issues and literature in China. As a long-time frequent Weibo user, she is specialized in the buzzwords and hot topics on Chinese social media.

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China Digital

Uh Oh, IP: Chinese Social Media Platforms Now Display Users’ Geolocation

From Weibo to Zhihu, Chinese social media platforms now display netizens’ geolocation to ensure a ‘healthy online environment.’

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Over the past few days, Chinese social media platforms have started to introduce a new function that displays the IP location of online commenters.

Weibo was the first platform to introduce the function on Thursday – the topic also became top trending on April 28 – and social media platforms Douyin, Toutiao, Xiaohongshu and others followed later. Zhihu announced the measure on April 30 (#知乎宣布全面上线显示用户IP属地#).

Weibo has experimented with the function since March 22 of this year before completely rolling it out on April 28. Whenever users post a reply or comment to a thread, their Internet Protocol (IP) address location will be displayed underneath their comment, right next to the post date and time information. The location will also be displayed on the personal account page of Weibo users.

According to Sina Weibo, the function was introduced to ensure a “healthy and orderly discussion atmosphere” on the platform and to reduce the spread of fake news and invidious rumors by people pretending to be part of an issue or city that they are actually not part of. To keep online discussions “authentic and transparent,” social media users’ specific region, city, province, or country will show up below their names. The function can not be turned off by users.

‘Refuting rumors’ is a priority for Weibo management and has only become more relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in China and the recent Shanghai outbreak.

On Saturday, the hashtag “What Does It Mean That Platforms Are Unrolling the IP Function?” (#平台开放IP属地功能意味着什么#) was trending on Weibo, attracting over 170 million views.

The new measure has attracted mixed reactions on Chinese social media, where some users think it is useful that you can now discern users located abroad from those who are based in China, making it easier to draw conclusions on what is really going on in society (you can now spot trends that are particularly taking place within one region) and what is merely taking place in cyberspace.

But there are many users who think the new function is just another layer of control and does not really help to combat fake news or malicious rumors, since the IP location could actually still be changed.

Although the entire idea of displaying the IP location is to minimize the gap between cyberspace and reality based on one’s location, the location is merely the geographic location of the internet from the connected device and does not always correspond with the actual location of the social media user.

Once a person is connected to a Virtual Private Network (VPN), for example, internet traffic is sent through a server in another location, and the IP address will be replaced by the IP address of the VPN server in a different location from people’s actual address.

Some Weibo account are also not run by the persons themselves but by a social media or marketing company.

In this way, Bill Gates unexpectedly turned out to be located in Henan province, and Lionel Messi’s location showed up as Shanghai.

Others think that the new rule will only lead to more online polarization and self-censorship: “Who made this unsettling decision?! From now on, Chinese nationals who are studying or living abroad will be extra extra careful in what they write, otherwise, they’ll be labeled as ‘foreign forces.'”

Some people joked about the new function revealing their location, writing: “It made me so embarrassed. I’m pretending to be studying in the UK, while I’m actually in the mountains feeding the pigs.” Others were also surprised that their IP location was completely different from the place where they are actually living: “Weibo, what are you doing? I’ve never even been to Jilin,” one commenter wrote.

According to an online poll held by Fengmian News, 56% of the participants (nearly 300,000 at time of writing) said they supported the new function. 21% did not like the function, 17% said they did not care, and 6% were just curious to see their own IP location and if it matches their actual location.

“I’m gonna go and delete my more extreme comments,” one person wrote: “I don’t wanna give my hometown a bad reputation.”

Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (胡锡进) also gave his views on the new measure, saying that people’s viewpoints and values will always be more important than where they come from, and that all friends of China matter, no matter where they are based. However, he argued, it is also good to know where those who openly express anti-Chinese sentiments come from, exposing those ‘evil foreign force’ who are trying to disrupt social cohesion within the country.

Noteworthy enough, Hu Xijin’s own IP location was not displayed on his Weibo account, as some celebrities seem to have been excluded from this measure or can decide themselves whether or not they would like to display their IP location or not.

One Weibo user wrote: “Twitter can follow its own regulations in banning Trump, while Weibo can transcend its own regulations and not show Hu Xijin’s IP location.”

For recent articles Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

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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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China and Covid19

‘Voices of April’: The Day After

“The best way to make videos go viral is by censoring them.”

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On April 23, a day after the video ‘Voices of April’ briefly took over social media before it was censored, the trending topic of the day is a hashtag related to new Covid cases reported in Shanghai.

Shanghai reported higher Covid-19 cases and deaths on Friday than the five days prior, which showed a daily decline in new cases. Shanghai reported a total of 23,370 new cases (including 20,634 asymptomatic ones), the municipal health commission said Saturday. A related hashtag by Xinhua News received over 910 million views on Weibo on Saturday (#上海新增本土确诊2736例无症状20634例#).

Although the hashtag was initiated by state media to inform about the Shanghai Covid situation, netizens started using it to criticize Shanghai’s handling of the crisis, with more commenters questioning China’s zero-Covid strategy. Similarly, other state media-initiated hashtag places also became online spaces where Weibo users vented their frustrations earlier this month.

Besides the ongoing online criticism and vocal disagreement with China’s Covid handling and policies, there are also many who express shock at the recent crackdown of any form of protest or criticism regarding the situation in Shanghai.

“‘Voices of April’ has been shutdown all over the internet, I’m simply dumbfounded,” one person said about the popular video that contained real recordings of events that happened during the city’s lockdown.

“If you still can find the video anywhere, forward it,” another person writes.

Besides Voices of April (四月之声), there have also been other videos over the past week that are meant to expose the mishandling of the Covid situation in Shanghai.

One of them is titled Farewell, Language (再见语言), another one is Shanghai Late Spring (上海晚春).

Farewell, Language (再见语言) is a 42-second sound art video by artist Yang Xiao (杨潇), who used over 600 commonly used propaganda phrases from Chinese official channels and randomly broadcasted the audio in the community where he lives.

The anti-epidemic workers just continue their work and do not seem to notice anything out of the ordinary at all. The video shows how this kind of language has been so normalized that for most, it has just become background noise in their everyday life – without even noticing nor critically assessing its meaning or logic anymore.

The Shanghai Late Spring (上海晚春) video is a compilation of video footage from the Shanghai lockdown, showing people struggling to get food, violent altercations between anti-epidemic workers and residents, people living in deplorable conditions in quarantine centers, and more (link to video).

The video uses the song Cheer Up London by Slaves, its chorus being:

You’re dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead
.”

One Weibo commenter responded to the video in English, using a text from Les Misérables: “Do you hear the people sing / Singing the song of angry men / It is the music of a people / Who will not be slaves again!” The phrase “do you hear the people sing” was also used by other social media users to address the situation in Shanghai and the censorship of related topics.

“The best way to make videos go viral is by censoring them,” one commenter replied.

Read our previous article about ‘Voices of April’ here.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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