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Chinese Experts Join Rescue Mission for Thai Soccer Team Trapped in Cave [UPDATED: FOUND SAFE!]

Rescue workers are still hopeful to find the Thai soccer team that has been missing for six days.

Manya Koetse

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Photo via @CGTN on Weibo.

A team of Chinese cave experts have joined the search for a Thai soccer team and their coach, who have gone missing in Chiang Rai after entering a cave on June 23. Heavy rainfall is complicating ongoing rescue efforts.

The ongoing search for a soccer team and their coach trapped inside a cave in Thailand is receiving ample attention on Chinese social media.

On Saturday, June 23, twelve boys aged 11-16 and their 25-year-old soccer coach went missing after they had entered the Tham Luang Cave in Thailand’s northern Chiang Rai province. They had finished their soccer practice earlier that day.

Apart from their 13 bicycles, soccer boots, and footprints near the cave’s entrance, there has been no sign of the team since.

Photo via @CGTN on Weibo.

According to Reuters, the cave’s network stretches 10 km (6 miles) into a mountainous and heavily forested area. Rescue workers believe floodwaters cut off the boys in a chamber.

Photo on Weibo of the coach with what is thought to be his football team.

Despite continuing heavy rain and floodwater hampering search efforts, the rescue mission has been going on around the clock. Over a thousand Thai soldiers and rescue workers are assisting in the search for the boys.

On Friday, rescuers were still hopeful that the young team and their coach could be brought out of the caves alive.

Beijing Peaceland Foundation Joins Rescue Operation

Besides specialist help from Japan, the UK and US, a team of Chinese cave rescue experts has now also joined the rescue operation in Chiang Mai. They arrived at the scene on Friday afternoon.

The team, consisting of six volunteers, are experts in cave rescue operations from the Beijing Peaceland Foundation (北京平澜公益基金会). They brought underwater drones, diving equipment, 3D imaging sensors, and other equipment to help the rescue operation.

The team has joined previous rescue operations in, among others, Nepal and Myanmar, according to Weibo news channel Thai Headlines (@泰国头条新闻).

Image source: Thai Headlines @泰国头条新闻.

The Peaceland Foundation (@平澜公益) wrote on Weibo: “We hope the boys come back soon, so they can play soccer again,” adding: “We hope that together with the people of Thailand these boys will be brought to safety soon.”

“Like a horror movie”

Rescue workers believe the boys might have crawled into the large series of caves through a narrow 15-meter tunnel. Due to the monsoon rain, that tunnel is now completely flooded.

While water is being pumped out of the caves, a possible new entry into the caves was discovered on Friday morning.

As news of the rescue operations has been making international headlines this week, many people on Weibo are also discussing it.

“I pray they are still alive,” one commenter on Weibo wrote, with hundreds of others expressing the same hope.

Image via @CGTN on Weibo

Some netizens are more skeptical, writing: “How can we be so sure they really entered the cave?” or: “What if this was premeditated?”

Many netizens are worried, saying: “This news has really made me emotional since I saw it,” and “This has made me so afraid for them.”

“Come home boys, your mothers are waiting for you,” others say.

“This is like a Thai horror movie,” one person commented: “I hope it’s just a bad dream, and that they’re out there playing soccer somewhere.”

UPDATE: MONDAY JULY 3 (evening, local time)

After a search of nine days, the soccer team and coach trapped in Chiang Rai cave have been found safe on Mondaynight local time, the Chiang Rai governor has stated. The boys are safe.

Also on Weibo, there are some very happy & relieved reactions. The boys were allegedly found 400 meters from a chamber called Pattaya Beach.

Will update when more news comes out.

By Manya Koetse

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

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Local News

Children of Hubei Medical Workers to Receive 10 Extra Points on High School Enrolment Examination

Hubei officials announced a controversial measure to reward frontline medical workers.

Manya Koetse

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Image via xjdkctz.com.

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Hubei authorities announced new measures on Tuesday to encourage and support the work of Hubei’s front-line medical workers during the coronavirus crisis.

One of these measures, rewarding the children of medical staff an extra ten points in their zhongkao examination, became a somewhat controversial top trending topic on Chinese social media today.

The zhongkao is an important academic examination in China taken during the last year of junior high school, right before entering education institutions at the senior high school level. These enrollment examinations are held annually in June or July, depending on the region.

A good mark on the exam is of crucial importance for many students, as it will give them admission to their preferred senior high school, which then could have more profound effects on their education after high school and their further career.

According to the new policy, children of Hubei’s medical workers would be rewarded with ten extra points on top of their overall score for the exams if they take it. Since the exams are highly competitive, every extra point could mean a world of difference since it will mean leaving hundreds of other students behind you.

On Weibo, one announcement of the new measure published by Chinese news source The Paper received over 938.000 likes and more than 11.000 comments. Many Weibo users do not agree with the policy.

“It should be the medical workers themselves who are rewarded through promotion or a salary increase,” a top comment says: “It shouldn’t be their children who are rewarded.”

Although a majority of commenters say that medical workers should be given special rewards in these times of hardships, most also agree that rewarding their children in their exam results is not the way to go. “This only makes the exam system more unfair,” a recurring comment says.

With 610 million views at the time of writing, the hashtag “The kids of Hubei frontline medical staff will get extra 10 points on zhongkao score” (#湖北一线医务人员子女中考加10分#) is one of the most-dicussed topics on Weibo of the day.

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)
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©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Media

Online Outrage over Gansu Female Medical Workers Required to Shave Their Heads

Heroes of the coronavirus crisis or victims of visual propaganda? A video showing female medical workers having their heads shaved has triggered controversy.

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A Chinese media post praising female nurses for having their heads shaved has sparked outrage on Weibo and WeChat. Are these women heroes of the coronavirus crisis or victims of gendered visual propaganda?

A video showing tearful female medical workers having their head shaved before going to COVID-19 epicenter city Wuhan has sparked outrage on Chinese social media.

The video, originally posted by Gansu Daily (每日甘肃网) on February 15, shows how a group of female nurses is standing in line to have their hair shaved off in preparation of their mission to Hubei to assist during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

In the short segment that has since gone viral on Weibo and WeChat, some women can be seen crying while having all of their hair shaved off.

According to Gansu Daily and other Chinese media, the fifteen nurses, including one man, are part of a medical aid group that was sent out to Wuhan this weekend. Their hair was reportedly shaved off “in accordance with requirements” to make their work more efficient and reduce the risk of infection.

The original news post praises the women as “the epidemic’s heroes in harm’s way” (“疫情中最美的逆行者”) – a term also used to describe brave firefighters during the 2015 Tianjin explosions (for more background on this term in Chinese, also see Xinhua and Zhihu).

Although the story praises the female medical workers as heroes and was soon reposted and promoted by many other (state) media, it was not just met with positive reactions from Chinese netizens.

On the contrary: it triggered waves of criticism over the medical team’s supervisors requiring the women to shave off their hair, with many deeming the measures unnecessary, humiliating, and sexist.

“Why do they need to shave all of their hair, the men don’t even need to do that?!”, some Weibo commenters wonder.

Many Weibo users wonder how necessary it actually is for the women to go completely bold for medical work purposes, wondering why the male workers do not need to shave their heads and why the women could not just opt for a shorter hairstyle instead – suggesting the media circus surrounding the shaving of the heads is more about visual propaganda than actually being a necessity.

“I am a medical worker myself,” one Weibo user writes: “I consulted an infection control doctor [on this matter] and they said it is not necessary at all to have a bald head. Short hair is convenient enough, and hair has a protective function too to reduce [skin] irritation from the friction of wearing hats and masks. It furthermore also has a function of catching sweat, preventing it from dripping to your eyes. A shaven head does more harm than good.”

“Why do people need to bleed and cry in order for them to become heroes?”, others say: “This is just cruel.”

Adding to the online fury was a photo showing the group of medical workers after their heads were shaved, as the one male nurse in the group not only seemed to wear a better quality face mask, but also appeared to have much more hair left than the female nurses.

The original Gansu Daily post has since been deleted from social media.

On WeChat account Epoch Story (“epochstory2017″/Epoch故事小馆), author Chen Mashu (陈麻薯) posted a critique on February 17th titled “Please Stop Using Female Bodies as Propaganda Tools” (“请停止用女性的身体,作为宣传的工具“).

Recent online Chinese visual propaganda in times of the coronavirus crisis has seen a strong focus on Wuhan medical workers.

This kind of visual propaganda often highlights the idea of “sacrificing,” especially when it comes to women as pretty girls, loving mothers, or good wives.

In the WeChat article, author Chen argues that Chinese state media always uses women’s bodies as a tool for propaganda, and argues that it should not be necessary for women to endure extra hardship or suffering (in this case, sacrifice their hair) in order to make them admirable ‘model workers.’ The fact that they are fighting on the front line should be more than enough reason to praise them, Chen writes.

While these women’s tears were “used to try to impress the audience” and become an example of some “collectivist spirit,” Chen argues, this kind of propaganda backfired because the individual needs and wishes of these women were completely ignored during the process.

Although the original story and visuals may have meant to be empowering in times of coronacrisis, they are actually counterproductive to female empowerment at large.

This is not the first time the role of women in Chinese state media propaganda become a big topic of discussion online.

In 2016, a photo series titled “100.000 soldier-loving girls” (十万恋军女孩) posted by China’s Military Web during the Wuhan flood also caused controversy. In the online media campaign, Chinese state media paid a ‘tribute’ to rescue workers by sharing pictures of girls holding the message “I wish to wash your uniform for you”. It triggered online discussions on the submissive female image propagated by Chinese state media.

At time of writing, various posts about the shaved heads of the Gansu medical workers have been taken offline.

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan) and Bobby Fung (@bobbyfungmr), with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Follow @whatsonweibo

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.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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