It was the divorce of the decade. The 2016 split between Chinese movie star Wang Baoqiang and his wife Ma Rong, the mother of his two children, made big news in China after Wang himself exposed that his estranged wife had a secret love affair with his agent Song Zhe (宋喆).
The story unfolded itself on Weibo, as the public posts and comments by both Wang Baoqiang and Ma Rong sparked intense debate. The majority of Weibo’s netizens sided with Wang Baoqiang, saying that Ma Rong only married him for his money.
The celebrity couple break-up especially drew wide attention because of the general perception many Chinese people have of Wang. Born and raised in a poor family in rural China, Wang fought his way to the top of China’s movie industry, becoming a well-known and respected actor. Rather than seeing him as a successful millionaire, many see the ‘Chinese dream’ in him.
The general support for Wang also means that the majority of Chinese netizens like to see Ma Rong and ex-manager Song Zhe punished for what they did.
Song Zhe Arrested
A year after the initial separation, it seems that the Wang vs Ma divorce drama just has no end to it. On September 12th, Wang’s former agent Song Zhe was arrested in Beijing for embezzlement – a topic that immediately became trending on Chinese social media under the hashtag ‘Song Zhe Arrested’ (#宋喆被抓#).
The direct cause of his arrest is the police report filed by Wang Baoqiang’s studio “Strong Baby” (强宝贝), which accused Song Zhe of abusing his position as studio manager during a four-year period from 2012 to 2016. Song allegedly took money that clients paid for use of the studio for personal use.
After an investigation, Chaoyang police arrested Song Zhe on charges of embezzlement. The case is still ongoing and no further information on court dates have been released.
The majority of Weibo’s netizens, in support of Wang Baoqiang, are celebrating the news of Song Zhe’s arrest. One post, which received over 200,000 likes, said: “This news makes me feel so good! The cheating guy is in prison, when is that sl**t Ma Rong going to be arrested?”
Adding to the recent dramatic developments is an exclusive report by Tencent Entertainment News, which states that during Wang Baoqiang and Ma Rong’s second court date regarding their divorce, Ma Rong refuse to sign the divorce papers. During this court hearing, Ma reportedly claimed that she is still in love with Wang Baoqiang, and therefore does not want to divorce.
“Shameless,” “She is only in love with his money,” and “This is the funniest joke of the year, is she crazy?”, typical Weibo comments said.
Despite Ma’s refusal to sign, however, experts say that the marriage can be annulled on the grounds that it is ‘damaged beyond repair.’
What goes around, comes around
While Song Zhe is awaiting his trial in jail, Ma Rong has been restricted to leave the country. According to recent reports, Ma previously attempted to emigrate to Australia using her wealth to obtain a visa through illegal means.
For most people on Weibo, the current messiness in both Songs’s and Ma’s private lives is an issue of ‘what goes around, comes around.’
Under Chinese law, there is no punishment for being the cheater, lover or mistress in a divorce case. However, many say that in its own way, “justice has been served.”
“They deserve what is coming to them,” some said.
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Chinese Actor Zhao Lixin Banned from Weibo over Comments on Second Sino-Japanese War
The actor was banned for “downplaying” the Japanese aggression in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
The Weibo account of Zhao Lixin (赵立新, 1968) has been closed after the Chinese-Swedish actor made controversial comments on the Second Sino-Japanese War.
On April 2nd, Zhao Lixin, who had more than 7 million followers, posted a message on Weibo that questioned why the Japanese military did not pillage and destroy the Beijing Palace Museum during the Second Sino-Japanese War:
“The Japanese occupied Beijing for eight years. Why didn’t they steal relics from the Palace Museum and burn it down [during that time]? Is this in line with the nature of an invader?”
The actor also commented on the Nanjing Massacre of 1937, suggesting that it was a consequence of Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion.
Zhao’s post led to much controversy in early April, followed by a lengthy apology statement from the actor on April 3rd, in which he said he did not phrase his comments carefully enough and that he was remorseful over the storm of criticism he had ignited. His controversial Weibo post was soon taken offline.
Many people were mostly angered because they felt Zhao’s comments “defended” the Japanese invaders. “Zhao’s permit to work in China should be terminated forever!”, some commenters posted on Weibo.
The Second Sino-Japanese War is still a highly sensitive topic in China today, with anti-Japanese sentiments often flaring up when Japan-related topics go trending on Chinese social media.
The ‘Nanjing massacre’ or ‘Rape of Nanjing’ is an especially sensitive topic within the history of the Second Sino-Japanese War, also because some Japanese politicians and scholars consistently deny it even happened, heightening the tension between the two countries. For a Chinese celebrity to seemingly ‘downplay’ the aggression and atrocities committed by Japanese invaders in the 1937-1945 period is therefore highly controversial.
Despite Zhao’s apologies, Sina Weibo issued a notice on April 16 “Relating to Harmful Political Information” (关于时政有害信息的处理公告), stating that the account of Zhao Lixin, along with some others, had been closed for spreading this kind of information.
The hashtag relating to Zhao’s social media suspension received more than 57 million views on Weibo today.
“It’s good that his account was taken down,” a popular comment said: “It’s insulting our country.” Others said that Zhao should not have posted something that is “out of line” “considering his position as an actor.”
Zhao Lixin is mainly known for his roles in TV dramas such as The Legend of Mi Yue, Memoirs In China, and In the Silence.
Zhao is not the first KOL (Key Opinion Leader) to have been banned from Weibo after making controversial remarks relating to China’s history. In 2016 the famous entrepreneur Ren Zhiqiang disappeared from Weibo after publishing various posts on his experience with communism in the past, and the status quo of media in China.
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Zhai Tianlin’s Alleged Plagiarism Triggers Discussions on Academic Cheating in Chinese Universities
“Colleges and Universities face great corruption problems, that is what you should be looking into.”
Earlier this month, Chinese actor Zhai Tianlin (翟天临) drew the public’s attention for his appearance at the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, where he starred as a police officer preventing his parents from being scammed. Now, Zhai, again, is at the center of attention: not for his acting skills, but for allegedly committing academic fraud.
The famous actor is a Beijing Film Academy Ph.D. graduate and postdoctoral candidate at Peking University, one of China’s most renowned universities.
His alleged academic misconduct has been a topic of discussion for some days now. During a live broadcast with fans, Zhai apparently said he did not know what CNKI (知网) is, an academic database that all scholars in China will be familiar with.
It led to suspicions on Zhai’s academic standing, and people on the Quora-like Q&A platform Zhihu accused Zhai of not publishing any academic papers in recognized scholarly journals – something that is mandatory for Ph.D. students in China in order to fulfill their graduation requirements.
Zhai’s academic records increasingly became the focus of attention on February 9th, when one Weibo user (PITD亚洲虐待博士组织), a graduate student from Beijing, posted the results of a plagiarism detection test that was run on one of Zhai’s papers.
The test result revealed that of the 2783 words used in the paper, that was published last year, 1482 words were copied from other texts, indicating a 40.4% similarity score.
After the Beijing Film Academy released a statement that they would be investigating Zhai Tianlin, state media outlet China Daily posted a message on their Weibo account, stating that “academic standards must be the same for everyone” and that “postdoctoral researchers are a university’s greatest honor, ” and that “who wants to carry the crown should also carry the weight.”
On that same day, Peking University also published a statement saying that they are investigating the incident.
Zhai Tianlin (1987), who is also known as Ronald Zhai, is most known for starring in various popular Chinese TV shows and dramas, such as White Deer Plain and The Advisors Alliance.
The plagiarism allegation case has become a major topic of discussion on Chinese social media this week. The hashtag “Peking University Responds to Zhai Tianlin Case” (#北大回应翟天临事件#) has been viewed a staggering 650 million times on Weibo at time of writing, while the hashtag “Beijing Film Academy Sets Up Zhai Tianlin Investigation Team” (#北电成立翟天临事件调查组#) received more than 490 million views.
The storm is not likely to blow over soon, as new reports now also allege that Zhai’s MA-thesis relies heavily on the scholarly work of Chen Kun, a famous Chinese actor who also attended the Beijing Film Academy.
Although the scandal has triggered countless reactions condemning Zhai, there are also many people on social media who are directing their anger towards the universities and state media, with one typical comment saying: “By solely focusing on Zhai, you are avoiding the real problem. Colleges and universities face great corruption problems, that is what you should be looking into.”
Another person wrote: “I feel like the public opinion is focused too much on this case of ‘academic misconduct.’ What the media should be investigating is: why was the paper not checked for plagiarism before its publication? What the Beijing Film Academy should be looking into is how somebody can graduate with a paper that is not up to standard? And how someone who clearly doesn’t hold the appropriate academic abilities has access to its programme.”
“Peking University and Beijing Film Academy are both responsible for this fraud. How could they ever enroll such a fraudulent person?!” others wrote.
Some commenters seem to have no trust in China’s academic standard, saying: “Are you telling me you [the universities] didn’t know about this when you admitted him? Now you are setting up investigation teams, but it is all just for show.”
Academic corruption in the Chinese educational context has been a well-known problem for years. As early as 2002, the Ministry of Education implemented various policies to combat academic misconduct, defining it as an act of academic dishonesty that is punishable, but the problem is still widespread (Kai 2012).
Some studies suggest that one of the factors that play a role in plagiarism in China relate to the fact that ‘plagiarism’ is something that is often defined in very general terms, with university handbooks nor policies clearly codifying instances of “appropriate and inappropriate source use” (Hu & Lei 2015, 236).
There are also many other factors at play, however, such as the pressure for doctorate students to publish their papers, and the phenomenon of “publishing cash incentives,” which would allegedly trigger more academic fraud.
On Chinese social media, many people express that they hope that the institutions involved will “set an example” for other universities and “be transparent” in the way they’ll handle Zhai in case he is found guilty of plagiarism.
Many also pointed out the irony in the fact that it was Zhai who played the police officer that prevented his parents from being scammed during the CCTV New Years’ Eve Gala.
“This is just all so embarrassing,” some write: “Now it looks like not just Zhai’s PhD status should be taken from him, but also his MA title.”
Others suggest that this whole scandal would make an excellent topic for another TV drama, starring Zhai Tianlin, doing what he does best: acting. Some voices suggest that people should wait for the investigations into Zhai’s work to be completed before condemning him. With the massive online attention for this case, it might not take too long for more facts to surface on the case. We’ll keep you updated.
Hu, Guangwei and Jun Lei. 2015. “Chinese University Students’ Perceptions of Plagiarism.” ETHICS & BEHAVIOR 25(3): 233–255.
Kai, Ren. 2012. “Fighting against Academic Corruption: A Critique of Recent Policy Developments in China.” Higher Education Policy (25): 19–38.
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