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Chen Hongyou Controversy: Anger over Professor’s Speech and Chinese Media Reports on the Incident

The student who grabbed Chen’s mic shouted: “We study for the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese nation – not to breed with Americans!”

Manya Koetse



A professor from Anhui who has given hundreds of speeches is at the center of controversy on Weibo, where many denounce the teacher for a ‘warm-up talk’ he did on Saturday. They also criticize Chinese media outlets for not reporting on what Chen Hongyou actually said.

The Chinese associate professor Chen Hongyou (陈宏友) has stirred major controversy this week for remarks made during a speech at a school in Hefei, Anhui.

Chen Hongyou, a well-known Hefei Normal University pedagogy teacher who reportedly has given over 1000 speeches, was invited to give a motivational speech at the Lujiang Middle School (庐江中学) on Saturday, February 18. Founded in 1903, the Lujiang Middle School is a locally acclaimed school with approximately 4000 students.

Just before Chen’s talk, he apparently improvised a short, informal speech since it was still taking some time for the PowerPoint presentation to load. This small speech, intended to warm up the audience, would soon grab nationwide attention.

The key to this story, namely what did Chen Hongyou actually say during his speech, is not specifically reported in Chinese media. This is something that was questioned by Chinese social commentator Sima Nan (司马南) in his most recent video, in which he wondered why an outline of Chen’s speech was not available to the public despite the major media attention for the incident.

According to various blogs and social media posts, Chen basically talked about how the goal of studying is to make money, as money brings power. Chen allegedly also argued that the better the university, the more chances of finding a partner from a bigger pool of people. This is important, because Chen apparently believes that mixing races – ‘the further apart partners live, the better’ – would provide better genes for the next generation.

Chen’s brother and his wife allegedly were born and raised in the same region, and their kids made it to college. Chen and his wife were born 100 km apart from each other, and their kid made it into a better university. Then he mentioned his son, who is now living in the US with his American girlfriend, and how their future children must have even better genes.

Chen presumably also made negative remarks about same-sex relations and encouraged students with high grades to find foreign partners in order to ‘produce’ children with better genes.

One student was so offended by the speech that he came up to the stage and seized Chen’s microphone, shouting out:

“He only has money on his mind. He is studying for money. He worships foreign things and bows to foreign powers [崇洋媚外]. [Applause] Why are we studying so hard? For the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese nation! And not to breed with Americans. We are Chinese. Fellow students, study earnestly. For the rise of the Chinese people.”

A video of that moment also went viral on Chinese social media.

One student came up on stage to stop Chen’s speech.

After the student’s comments, the audience cheers and applauds. Chen gets the mic back and the students walks off stage.

On February 19, the official Weibo account of Hefei (capital of Anhui province) published a statement saying the incident was being investigated. That same day, staff members at the school stated that the student who came on stage and took the mic away from Chen would not be punished (#庐江中学称不会处理抢话筒学生#).

Chen Hongyou himself later also responded to the issue saying that he has temporarily been suspended from his function and that he regrets that his words were “misunderstood” by the students, for which he takes responsibility. Chen’s name and resume were also removed from his university’s website.

On social media, both the teacher and Chinese media outlets are getting attacked for their words and deeds.

Criticizing Chinese Media Reports

The Chen Hongyou incident went viral shortly after it happened. As mentioned, the exact context of what was actually said during Chen’s controversial speech was missing from Chinese media reports.

On Chinese social media, many netizens along with some major bloggers (including Sima Nan) criticized Chinese media outlets for seemingly ‘siding’ with Chen and not clearly reporting on what it was that was so upsetting to the students attending Chen’s talk.

Chinese news outlet The Paper (澎湃) is among the main outlets being criticized for their reports on the incident.

The Paper initiated a hashtag on social media about Chen Hongyou responding to the incident (#陈宏友回应讲座引不满被高中生反呛#), as their reporters had interviewed Chen by phone. In that interview, Chen stated that he had been misunderstood and that the goal of his speech had been to get the message across that the youth has the power to single-handedly change their destiny and to navigate their place in the country and in the world.

The report triggered criticism, as many commenters wondered why The Paper had not interviewed any of the students.

“Why aren’t you reporting what Chen said?” a common reply said.

“Right now, all the media, led by The Paper, are avoiding the important issues and are dwelling on the trivial things to defend this ‘professor,'” one commenter (@吴知山) wrote, claiming that Chinese media purposely left out the teacher’s remarks regarding race and ‘improving’ genes by choosing a foreign partner.

As online discussions heated up, several hashtags related to the incident and its aftermath were taken offline.

Supporting Zhang Zhenfei

Meanwhile, the student who came on stage is widely praised on Chinese social media, where many call him a “role model.”

Chinese political commentator Hu Xijin (胡锡进) responded to the Chen Hongyou incident via Weibo on Tuesday and sided with the student, calling him “courageous” for coming up on stage to make it clear that Chen was “out of line.”

Many people agreed with Hu, and soon the student, named Zhang Zhenfei (蒋振飞), was praised on Weibo and beyond for having the courage to speak out against the professor.

“I’m touched, I’m grateful, I’m extremely moved,” one person wrote about him.

But there are also people who are more critical of the student, suggesting that Chen was giving a speech – he was not teaching – and that he should have been able to express his ideas without his microphone being grabbed away like that.

The Chen Hongyou controversy comes at a time when there is, again, more attention for Chinese education and teaching material in Chinese schools. Last week, the topic of “poisonous teaching material” also went trending on Weibo (#毒教材必须引发全社会反思#) as various bloggers expressed concerns over ‘harmful’ textbooks being used in schools.

In pointing out harmful content in textbooks, concerned bloggers and parents also often mention content that is seen as being unpatriotic and “worshipping the West.” For example, in the 2022 controversy over the “ugly maths schoolbooks,” one point of concern – among many others – was about the cartoon kids in the book wearing clothes showing the American flag.

Many commenters also connect the current controversy surrounding teacher Chen with existing concerns over ‘poisonous’ text books, calling for a “clean-up” of China’s education system.

One Weibo user wrote: “Our kids can’t be taught this kind of talk that the goal of studying is to go to the U.S. and earn money and marry an American in order to ‘optimize’ our race! He is suggesting the Chinese people aren’t good enough. It’s criminal, and he should be punished according to law.”

By Manya Koetse 

with contributions by Miranda Barnes


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Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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China Local News

Changsha Restaurant Employee Pays the Price after Protecting Abused Child

A Changsha restaurant employee who intervened when a mother beat her child ended up paying the price for it.

Manya Koetse



The story of a restaurant employee who had to pay the price for sharing a video of a mother beating her child has triggered anger on Chinese social media.

The incident happened on September 14, when Mr. Jiang (江), an employee at the ‘Peng Shu’ Western-style restaurant in Changsha, stopped a mother from beating her young daughter at the shopping mall where the restaurant is located.

As reported by the Guizhou media channel People’s Focus (@百姓关注), a mother and daughter at the restaurant drew the staff’s attention when the mother began physically assaulting her daughter.

The mother, clearly overwhelmed by her emotions, resorted to kicking, hitting, yelling, and even attempting to strike her child with a chair, allegedly in response to the child accidentally spilling ice cream on her clothing.

During this distressing incident, which was captured on video, Mr. Jiang and another colleague intervened to protect the child and immediately alerted the police to the situation.

But the one who was punished in the end was not the mother.

The video of this incident was shared online, leading the woman to repeatedly visit the restaurant in frustration over her unblurred face in the video. The police had to mediate in this dispute.

To the dismay of many netizens, the employee ended up being forced to pay the woman 10,000 yuan ($1369) in compensation for “moral damages.” He has since resigned from his job and has left Changsha. A related hashtag was viewed over 110 million times on Weibo (#餐厅员工发顾客打娃视频后赔1万离职#) and also became a hot topic on Douyin.

The majority of commenters expressed their anger at the unjust outcome where a restaurant employee, who had attempted to protect the child, faced repercussions while the mother appeared to avoid any legal consequences for her actions.

“Where is the All-China Women’s Federation when you need them?” some wondered, while others wanted to know why the incident was not followed up with an immediate investigation into the child abuse. Others suggested that if it were a man who had beaten his child, authorities would have been quicker to intervene.

The issue of corporal punishment for children often comes up in Chinese social media discussions. While many people find it unacceptable to beat children, using violence to discipline children is also commonplace in many families.

When China’s first national law against domestic violence came into effect on 1 March 2016, article 5 and 12 specifically addressed the special legal protection of children and made family violence against children against the law.

By Manya Koetse

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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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China Fashion & Beauty

Fashion that Hurts? Online Debates on China’s Draft Law Regarding ‘Harmful’ Clothes

The proposed ban on clothing deemed harmful is stirring debate, with some arguing for the significance of protecting national pride and others emphasizing the value of personal expression.

Manya Koetse



China’s recent proposal to ban clothing that “hurts national feelings” has triggered social media debates about freedom of dress and cultural sensitivities. The controversial amendment has raised questions about who decides what’s offensive for which reason.

A draft amendment to China’s Public Security Administration Punishments Law (治安管理处罚法) has caused some controversy this week for proposing a ban on clothes that “hurt national feelings.”

The discussions are about Article 34, clausules 3 and 4, which point out that wearing clothing or symbols that are deemed “harmful” to “the spirit and feelings of the Chinese nation” could become illegal. Offenders may face up to 15 days of detention and a fine of 5,000 yuan ($680).

The revised Article is part of a section about acts disrupting public order and their punishment, mentioning the protection of China’s heroes and martyrs.

Especially over the past three to four years, Chinese authorities have placed more importance on protecting the image of China’s “heroes and martyrs.” In 2018, the Heroes and Martyrs Protection Law was adopted to strengthen the protection of those who have made significant contributions to the nation and sacrificed their lives in the process.

Those insulting the PLA can face serious consequences. In 2021, former Economic Observer journalist Qiu Ziming (仇子明), along with two other bloggers, were the first persons to be charged under the new law as they were detained for “insulting” Chinese soldiers. Qiu, who had 2.4 million fans on his Weibo page, made remarks questioning the number of casualties China said it suffered in the India border clash. He was sentenced to eight months in prison.

Earlier this year, Chinese comedian Li Haoshi was canceled making a joke that indirectly made a comparison between PLA soldiers and stray dogs, while also placing words famously used by Xi Jinping in a ridiculous context.

Screenshot of the draft widely shared on social media.

The draft is open for public comment through September 30, and it is therefore just a draft of a proposed amendment at this point.

Nevertheless, it has ignited many discussions on Chinese social media, where legal experts, bloggers, and regular netizens gave their views on the issue, with many people opposing the amendment.

This a translation of the first four clausules of Article 34 by Jeremy Daum’s China Law Translate (see the full translation here). Note that the discussions are focused on the item (2) and (3) revisions:

“Article 34:Those who commit any of the following acts are to be detained for between 5 and 10 days or be fined between 1,000 and 3,000 RMB; and where the circumstances are more serious, they are to be detained for between 10 and 15 days and may be concurrently fined up to 5,000 RMB:
(1) engaging in activities in public places that are detrimental to the environment and atmosphere for commemorating heroes and martyrs;
(2) Wearing clothing or bearing symbols in public places that are detrimental to the spirit of the Chinese people and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, or forcing others do do so;
(3) Producing, transmitting, promoting, or disseminating items or speech that is detrimental to the spirit of the Chinese people and hurts the feelings of the Chinese people;
(4) Desecrating or negating the deeds and spirit of heroes and martyrs, or advocating or glorifying wars of aggression or aggressive conduct, provocation, or disrupting public order.”

Here, we mention the biggest online discussions surounding the draft amendment.

Main Objections to the Amendment

On Chinese social media site Weibo, commenters used various hashtags to discuss the recent draft, including the hashtags “China’s Proposed Amendment to the Public Security Administration Punishments Law” (#我国拟修订治安管理处罚法#), “Article 34 of the Draft Amendment to the Public Security Administration Punishments Law” (#治安管理处罚法修订草案第34条#) or “Harm the Feelings of the Chinese Nation” (#伤害中华民族感情#).

The issue that people are most concerned about is the vague definition “harming or hurting the spirit and feelings of the Chinese nation” (“伤害中华民族精神、感情”).

Although Chinese state media outlets, including the English-language Global Times, indicate that the clause is deemed to target some provocative actions to attract public attention, such as wearing Japanese military uniforms at sensitive sites, legal experts and social media users are expressing apprehensions regarding its ambiguity.

Questions arise: Who determines what qualifies as “harmful”? What criteria will be used? How will it be enforced? Beyond concerns about the absence of clear guidelines on which attire might be deemed illegal and for what reasons, there are fears of potential misinterpretation and misuse of such a law due to its subjective nature.

Some people question whether wearing foreign brands like Adidas or Nike could be considered offensive. There are also concerns about whether wearing sports attire supporting specific clubs might be seen as disrespectful. Another common topic is cosplay, a popular form of role-playing among China’s youth, where individuals dress up in costumes and accessories to portray specific characters. Can people still dress up in the way they like?

Well-known political commentator Hu Xijin published a video commentary about the issue on September 7, suggesting that the law in question could be more concrete and avoid misunderstanding by explicitly mentioning it targets facism, racism, or separatism. He also suggested that it is important for China’s legal system to provide people with a sense of security (– rather than scaring them).

Others reiterated similar views. If the clausules are indeed specifically about slandering national heroes and martyrs, which makes sense considering their context, they should be rephrased. One popular legal blogger (@皇城根下刀笔吏) wrote:

The legal enforceability of harming the spirit and the feelings of the Chinese nation is not quite the same as insulting or slandering heroes. Because it is actually very clear who our national heroes are. They are classified as martyrs and were approved by the state, it’s very clear. But when it comes to the feelings and the spirit of the Chinese nation, this is just very vague (..) And ambiguity brings about a mismatch in the practice of implementation, which will make people lose trust in this legal provision and makes them feel unsafe.”

Although a majority of commenters agree that the proposed amendment is vague, some also express that they would support a ban on clothes that are especially offensive. Among them is the popular blogger Han Dongyan (@韩东言), who has over 2.3 million followers on Weibo.

One example that is mentioned a lot, also by Han, is the 2001 controversy surrounding Chinese actress Vicky Zhao who wore a mini-dress printed with the old Japanese naval flag during a fashion shoot, triggering major backlash over her perceived lack of sensitivity to historical matters and the offensive dress.

Han also mentioned a 2018 example of two young men dressed in Imperial Japanese military uniforms taking a photo in front of the Shaojiashan Bunker at Zijin Mountain, where the Second Sino-Japanese War is commemmorated.

Kimono Problems

One trending story that is very much entangled with recent discussions about the proposed ban on ‘harmful’ clothing is that about a group of Chinese men and women who were recently denied access to the Panlongcheng National Archaeological Site Park in Wuhan because staff members allegedly mistook their clothing for Japanese traditional attire.

The individuals were actually not wearing Japanese traditional dress at all; they were wearing traditional Tang dynasty clothing to take photos of themselves. This is part of the Hanfu Movement, a social trend that is popular among younger people who supports the wearing of Han Chinese ethnic clothing (read more).

According to Zhengguan News (正观新闻), there is no official park policy prohibiting the wearing of Japanese clothing, and an internal investigation into the incident is ongoing. The Paper reported that the incident allegedly happened around closing time.

Meanwhile, this incident has sparked discussions because it highlights the potential consequences when authorities arbitrarily enforce clothing rules and misinterpret situations. One netizen wrote: “It illustrates that when “some members of the public” cannot even tell the difference between Hanfu, Tang dynasty attire, and Japanese kimono, they are simply venting their emotions.”

Last year, a Chinese female cosplayer who was dressed in a Japanese summer kimono while taking pictures in Suzhou’s ‘Little Tokyo’ area was taken away by local police for ‘provoking trouble’ (read here).

A video showed how the young woman was scolded by an officer for wearing the Japanese kimono, suggesting she is not allowed to do so as a Chinese person. The girl was known to be a cosplayer, and she was dressed up as the character Ushio Kofune from the Japanese manga series Summer Time Rendering, wearing a cotton summer kimono, better known as yukata.

The incident sparked extensive debates, with differing viewpoints emerging. While some believed the girl’s choice of wearing Japanese clothing during the week leading up to August 15, a memorial day marking the end of the war, was insensitive, many commenters defended her right to engage in cosplay.

These discussions are resurfacing on Weibo, underscoring the divided opinions on the matter.

One Weibo user expressed a common viewpoint: “I believe wearing a Japanese kimono in everyday situations is not a problem, but doing so at specific times and places could potentially offend the sentiments of the Chinese nation.” Another blogger (@猹斯拉) also voiced support for a law that could prohibit certain clothing: “If you genuinely believe what you’re wearing is not harmful, you always have the right to make your argument.”

However, there is also significant opposition, with some individuals posting images of themselves reading George Orwell’s 1984 at night or making cynical remarks like, “Maybe we should say nothing and wear nothing, as anything else could lead to our arrest.”

“This is not progress,” another person wrote: “It’s taking another step back in time.”

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes


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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.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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