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Chinese Netizens Are Seeking the Truth Behind the Mysterious Death of a Chengdu High School Student

The “Chengdu 49 Middle School Incident” has been dominating discussions on Chinese social media.

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The death of Lin, a student from Chengdu, has become a national issue this week, leading to a wave of online rumors and theories on what might have happened to him. Some even claim the protests that erupted in response to the student’s death were set up by “foreign forces.”

The mysterious death of a high school student in Chengdu has been trending on Chinese social media and in mainstream media over the past few days, with bloggers and netizens looking for the truth behind the incident.

The 16-year-old Lin Weiqi (林唯麒), a student of Chengdu No. 49 Middle School, fell to his death around 18:40 on Sunday, May 9.

Lin’s parents allegedly were not notified about their son’s death until over two hours later, at 21:00, and were not allowed to see enter the school, see their son, nor talk to teachers. And where was the surveillance video showing how this incident took place?

The case started getting major attention on social media after Lin’s mother (later switching to username @四十九中林同学妈妈) posted about her son’s death and the dubious circumstances surrounding it on Weibo on Monday morning. In the post, the mother suggested it took over an hour for an ambulance to reach her son’s school.

The case set off a stream of wild rumors. There was online speculation about corporal punishment and abuse taking place in the school, with one theory suggesting Lin had been pushed to his death by a chemistry teacher. Netizens speculated that the school was trying to cover up the incident.

The school responded to the issue on May 10, confirming that a student from their school fell “from height” in their school’s ‘Zhixing’ building. According to the school, they immediately called the police after the incident, and have now set up a special team to assist in any ongoing investigations.

The official Weibo account of Chenghua district of the city of Chengdu (@平安成华官方微博) issued a statement on the evening of May 11, ruling out any criminal elements to the death of Lin.

As reported by South China Morning Post, a joint statement by the district propaganda department, the police and the education bureau then stated that investigators had come to the initial conclusion that “the student took his own life due to personal problems.”

On the night of May 11, students gathered at the school and protested for the truth to come out. Videos shared on social media show dozens of students carrying flowers and chanting “Truth! Truth!”

Other videos show chaotic scenes of the rare demonstration, where protesters and police guards clashed.

On May 12, the popular Wechat blogging account ‘Yi Jie’ (熠杰) published a lengthy post about the incident and its aftermath. The article claims that Lin committed suicide by jumping after an argument with his girlfriend. The reason Lin’s parents were not allowed to enter the school after their son’s death, Yi Jie writes, is because the forensic investigation was still ongoing.

Any rumors of teachers pushing students down the stairs or abusing students are false, the article says. Although the school could surely improve its crisis communication, the fact that it did not handle the communication about the incident in a professional way does mean there is a ‘cover up’ going on.

The article, that was soon spread around on Weibo, also questioned the authenticity of the mother’s account, writing that three different cell phones were used to log in to Weibo and publish various posts, suggesting that the mother either has three different mobile phones or that there are different people in charge of her account.

Although he does not believe there is anything concealed behind the death of Lin, the blogger Yi Jie does have a theory about the ensuing protests, claiming those who demonstrated belonged to an “organized group” linked to “hostile forces.” Yi Jie even connects the protests to the CIA, claiming the protesters were paid to be there.

By Wednesday, many netizens were unsure of what to believe anymore. The hashtag “Chengdu 48 Middle [School]” (#成都49中#) had 1.6 billion views on Weibo at the time of writing.

“No wonder many people do not believe [what happened], I don’t believe it either. It’s always that the news is blocked once it comes out, it’s always that the surveillance camera records were lost, it’s been like that for many years. It’s not a method to protect social stability anymore,” one Weibo user writes.

Others blame Lin’s mother for causing all rumors: “After reading so much, I get the feeling we were cheated by that parent. This is not the first time that a victim’s family has gone crazy with public opinion, and it’s not the first time that I’ve fallen for it.”

There are also many who sympathize with Lin’s parents: “The loss of a child, it’s something that needs so many years to recover from. There’s so much pain. I just hope they’ll find answers.”

Update May 13

On May 13, Chinese media published a reconstruction of the May 9 incident, which attracted much attention online, with one page about the news (#监控还原成都49中学生坠亡前轨迹#) getting 1,3 billion views.

People’s Daily‘s post including the video received over 100,000 comments and 2,7 million likes.

The reconstruction is based on surveillance camera videos and police investigation, starting at 18:16 on Sunday night when Lin leaves a classroom on the 4th floor of the school building, going down the stairs to the 3rd floor on 18:17.

Surveillance cameras captured Lin leaving the 4th floor via the stairs and recorded how he was heading down the western hallway on the 3rd floor, walking on through various parts of the school, reaching the basketball court at 18:23, and then walking on to the building’s water pump room, where he stayed for over ten minutes.

A security camera recorded how Lin stayed in the corner of the room, holding a knife in his right hand and cutting himself in his left wrist.

After Lin leaves the room, he keeps on walking through the school’s hallways, reaching the fifth floor by 18:39. The next ten minutes have not been captured by security cameras, since Lin was located in blind spot areas outside of the vision of the installed security cameras. One camera from another building does capture a person’s silhouette falling from the building at 18:49.

“There are blind spots in the surveillance footage. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the parents to initially doubt [the incident]. I think it’s the duty of the public security authorities to explain the course of the events of the incident and the crucial time points to the public,” one popular comment on Weibo said.

Others think the record has been set straight by this reconstruction, and are hoping Lin can now rest in peace.

The idea that the death of Lin was used by ‘evil forces’ for their own agenda, which was previously also raised by the Yi Jie blogger, is still circulating on Chinese social media – a theory that is supported by many.

The term “color revolution” is recurring in these discussions, with some netizens suggesting that foreign forces, such as the CIA, are trying to get local people to cause unrest through riots or demonstrations to undermine the stability of the government. There are people who believe those demonstrating in front of the Chengdu school were paid to do so.

“Certain hostile countries are watching all the time. Be alert,” one person wrote on Weibo.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 
For information and support on mental health and suicide, international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
 

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.

©2021 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 Digital

Key Players, Digital Trends & Deep Dives: China Internet Report 2021

SCMP just launched its latest China Internet Report. (And What’s on Weibo readers can get a 30% discount on the Pro Edition!)

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As China’s tech sector has been facing an ongoing crackdown by Beijing regulations, a lot has been changing in the country’s digital environment over the past year. The new China Internet Report 2021 by SCMP gives an overview of the latest trends and developments.

When it comes to China’s online landscape, nothing ever stays the same. Over the past year, political, economic, and social developments and measures have once again changed the Chinese digital environment.

Giving a comprehensive overview of the key leaders and major trends dominating the Chinese online field, South China Morning Post (SCMP) issued its fourth annual China Internet Report.

China’s internet population has now risen to 989 million – last year’s report indicated an internet population of 904 million. By now, there are 853 million mobile payment users, which indicates that over 86% of the entire mobile internet population uses mobile as a way to pay.

As China’s internet population is still growing, and new online startups are still popping up every day, there have been tightening regulations on multiple fronts.

As laid out in SCMP’s report, regulations mainly focus on the four areas of antitrust, finance, cybersecurity, and data privacy. Regulatory actions targeting the monopolistic behaviours of China’s biggest internet companies are still ongoing, and the new Data Security Law came into effect on September 1st of this year.

While Chinese tech companies are seeing increased scrutiny at home, they have also been facing intensifying geopolitical tensions between China and other countries. Over the past year, the various probes and shutdowns into Chinese companies by countries such as the US and India have meant a serious blow to the market share of Chinese apps.

Meanwhile, the SCMP report highlights the trend of various older and newer Chinese (e-commerce) apps “downplaying” their Chinese origins when entering foreign markets. Shein is a good example of this development, but other players including Zaful, Urbanic, and Cider are also experiencing more success outside of China while not explicitly marketing themselves as Chinese e-commerce apps.

Another noteworthy trend explained in the new report is how China’s shifting demographics are creating new niche segments to compete over. The COVID-19 crisis is partially a reason why China has seen an increase in senior internet users, with an increasing number of online products and content catering to the elderly.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) even issued special guidelines earlier this year for web pages and mobile apps to carry out so-called “elderly friendliness modifications.” Since this user group is still expected to see significant growth, the “silver economy” is an area that will only become more important in the years to come.

To check out all the main trends for 2021, China’s latest internet statistics, its top tech competitors, internet companies, and more, here’s a link to the free report.

The free report is 55 pages long and gives an overview of China’s latest internet numbers and players, covers the top cross-sector trends for 2021, including the tightening regulations and the bumpy road ahead for China’s tech IPOs.

The Pro Edition of China’s Internet Report 2021, also launched by SCMP, is 138 pages long and provides a deep-dive into ten relevant sectors – featuring insightful and useful analysis, data, and case studies relating to China’s e-commerce market, content & media, gaming, blockchain, fintech, online education, healthtech, smart cars, 5G, and Artificial Intelligence.

The China Internet Report Pro Edition is priced at US$400, but the team at SCMP has kindly reached out and made it possible for us to offer a special 30% discount to What’s on Weibo readers.

You’ll get the discount by using the discount code: WHATSONWEIBO30, or by clicking this link that will automatically include your discount code.

By Manya Koetse

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.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Insight

Goodbye 996? Weibo Discussions on Changes in Overtime Work Culture

Beijing made it clear that working overtime is illegal, but netizens are concerned about the realities of changing working schedules.

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Many people are tired of being forced to log long hours, but are also worried about how a national crackdown on ‘996’ working culture could impact their workload and income.

In late August of 2021, China’s Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security (人社部) and the Supreme People’s Court issued a joint clarification on the country’s legal standards of working hours and overtime pay.

Their message was clear: the practices of ‘996’ (working 9am-9pm, six days per week) and ‘007’ (working 24 hours seven days per week, referring to a flexible working system worse than 996) are illegal, and employers are obliged to obey the national working-time regime.

On Weibo, China’s state broadcaster CCTV published a 10-minute long video illustrating the 10 typical cases of overtime work laid out by the ministry and the top court. The moment was marked as the first time for the state-owned broadcaster to publicly comment on overtime work practices.

The Weibo post pointed out that “striving for success is not a shield companies can use to evade legal responsibilities,” and made it clear that employees have the right to “say no to forced overtime.”

The topics of overtime work and China’s 996 work culture generated many discussions on Weibo, with the hashtag “Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security and the Supreme Court Clarify 996 and 007 Are Illegal” (#人社部最高法明确996和007都违法#) generating over 420 million views on the social media platform.

 
“Without implementation and enforcement, the law is useless”
 

The current labor law in China bars employees from working more than 44 hours a week, and any overtime work must be paid.

Although the 996 practice is technically prohibited by law, many companies still enforce the hours informally.

Many employees revealed online that, although the 996 practice is legally prohibited, they were nevertheless being assigned job tasks that exceeded the prescribed working hours.

“Just finished work,” one Weibo user (@介也没嘛) posted with this picture, showing it’s nearing 11PM.

“I wonder if the workload will decrease after all. If it doesn’t change, it means people will now have to work voluntarily,” one Weibo user commented.

People also indicated that, since the start of the pandemic, remote work has become a new norm. Many companies have moved from office to working at home, making it harder to draw the line between regular working hours and overtime hours.

“What really matters is whether working from home includes overtime hours,” one Weibo user wrote. Many netizens complained that their companies wouldn’t explicitly stipulate a 996 schedule; instead, most of them disguise the overtime hours as ‘voluntary’ work.


Many commenters say it takes more comprehensive legislation and tougher law enforcement to really solve the issue of overtime work.

“These regulations are good, but they are basically impossible to implement. Even if they ban ‘996’ and ‘007’ there is no way to regulate the so-called ‘voluntary work,’” one Weibo user wrote.

Some people said that their companies have various performance assessments and that they feared that refusing to work more hours would make them lose their competitive advantage: “The burn-out (内卷 nèijuǎn, ‘involution’) is severe. It is too difficult for us. I have only one day off during the week and I’m so tired,” one person commented.

 
“We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours”
 

China’s 996 work culture has been championed by tech leaders and denounced by workers for years, and it has become an unwritten standard – not just in the tech sector but also in other industries.

While working long hours has been ingrained in Chinese workplace culture since the early days of the country’s internet boom, it later also started to represent ‘a road to success’ for Chinese tech entrepreneurs.

Many Chinese netizens blame Alibaba’s Jack Ma for praising the ‘996’ work system. In 2019, Ma called the 12-hour working day a “huge blessing,” causing much controversy online. During his talk at Kyiv International Economic Forum, Ma said: “(..) ‘996 is the spirit that I encourage Alibaba people to follow. If you want to have a bright future, (..) if you want to be successful, you have to work hard.”

On another occasion, the tech mogul reportedly said: “If you join Alibaba, you should get ready to work 12 hours a day, otherwise why do you come to Alibaba? We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours.”

Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group described 996 as a ‘blessing’.

However, after the shocking death of one Chinese delivery man working for food delivery platform Ele.me and the widespread discussions about the ‘996 ICU’ project – which called on tech workers to add names and evidence of excessive hours to a ‘blacklist,’ – the 996 work culture has come under increased scrutiny.

Some people argue that the overtime culture is draining employees and creating an unhealthy work-life balance; others argue that they work for themselves and believe that putting in extra hours will eventually translate to individual success.

While economic growth has slowed down during the pandemic, most companies are persisting with long working hours because they are under pressure to achieve results.

According to an online survey conducted by an influential tech blogging account (@IT观察猿), more than one-third of participants claimed to have one day off per week, and more than one quarter claimed they didn’t have any weekend days off.

 
“The workload is the same, but the income has reduced”
 

Starting from August 1st, ByteDance, the Chinese company behind the popular short-form video app TikTok, dropped its ‘big and small week’ (大小周) – a schedule that previously required employees to work six days in a row every other week.

ByteDance is not the only Chinese tech company that has begun to cut back on its long working hours. More and more companies have decided to drop grueling work schedules.

Kuaishou, another Chinese short-form video app company, stopped scheduling weekend work in July. Since early June, Tencent – China’s largest game publisher – has encouraged people to clock out at 6 pm every Wednesday.

Although these changes seem to signal a positive development, there are also many people who do not support the new measures. When Bytedance announced the changes to its working schedule, news came out that one-third of the employees did not support the decision (#字节跳动1/3员工不支持取消周末加班#).

Those relying on overtime pay said abolishing overtime work will cut their take-home pay by around 20%. Indeed, the first pay-out after the new implementation at Bytedance showed an overall drop of 17% in employees’ wages.

“The workload is the same, but the income has reduced,” one Weibo commenter complained.

One trending discussion on Weibo focused on the question “Do companies need to make up for employees’ financial loss after the abolition of weekend work?” Many comments revealed the situation faced by thousands of struggling workers who value free time but value their income more.

Many on Weibo still wonder whether a company that abolishes ‘996’ will come up with an alternative to compensate those employees who will otherwise inevitably lose vital income.

By Yunyi Wang

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.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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