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Chinese Netizens Infuriated by “Live Animal Mystery Box” Industry

The business of live animals being sold online as ‘reveal pet surprises,’ transported through regular courier services, has caused outrage on Weibo.

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The cruel business of living pets being transported through regular courier services as ‘surprise boxes’ has caused outrage on Chinese social media.

“This just makes me furious!” A popular Chinese food blogger posted about China’s “live animal mystery box” on May 4th. The blogger, who goes by the name of ‘Snake Rose’ or ‘Snack Girl’ (@零食少女), has over seven million followers on social media platform Weibo.

In her post, ‘Snack Girl’ addresses the problematic industry of ‘pet blind boxes’ (宠物盲盒) which are for sale on various Chinese e-commerce platforms. “I’ve seen this since about six months ago on all sorts of platforms from Pinduoduo to Taobao, offered for various prices, including those of 9.9 yuan [$1.5] and 19.9 yuan [$3],” the blogger writes.

‘Pet blind boxes’ are offered online as surprise deliveries containing an actual pet. Usually advertised with photos showing attractive and expensive breeds of dogs or cats, online shoppers are lured into buying a small and cute pet at an extremely low price. The fact that these customers do not know what pet they are buying is supposed to add to the ‘charm’ of these blind boxes, since the moment of unboxing is one of anticipation.

In reality, the business is anything but cute or charming. A recent incident exposed the terrible conditions in which these animals are sold and transported as regular goods by standard courier services.

On the evening of May 3, a courier business vehicle containing over 160 small cats and dogs was discovered by local animal rescue volunteers in the city of Chengdu, Sichuan province. The animals were being transported as express delivery goods, with the seller selling them as ‘blind box’ pets. After alerting the authorities, on-site rescue volunteers found several of the animals in the boxes to already have died. Other animals were taken to a local shelter, where they can later be put up for adoption (video of the rescue operation).

Image posted by @junsoly from Chengdu.

Mystery boxes are especially popular among young people, who enjoy the surprise element of not exactly knowing what they are buying. Mystery boxes usually contain beauty products or candy but have also come to contain other things. In May of last year, when the pandemic lockdowns had boosted the domestic pet market, there was also a trend of mystery boxes for pets – containing various pet snacks and care products for cats or dogs.

Reports on the trend of actual live animal mystery boxes started to come out in January of 2021, when Weibo bloggers discovered the online sale of 35 yuan [$5.5] ‘small breed dog’ surprise boxes. Other variations include turtle and cat boxes. One blogger called the service, where these pets are sent to customers through standard courier services, a “deadly game.” The lack of ventilation, long-distance freight, and the violent handling of packages is called “a torture” for these animals, that can barely survive being squeezed and tossed around in such a confined space with a lack of oxygen – sometimes for days.

The animals in the Chengdu rescue operation.

According to Weibo blogger ‘Snack Girl,’ many pets do not make it out alive. If they have not already died by the time they come out of the box, many do not survive for more than a week, which is also called the “week dog / cat” (“星期狗/猫”).

A “week dog” (星期狗) is a term that was originally used for dogs sold by roadside dog dealers in busy shopping areas. When people see these little dogs they are lively and cute, but once they take them home, many of these dogs, carrying contagious illnesses, become ill and die within a week. Along with China’s rapid digitalization, many roadside vending businesses have shifted to the e-commerce environment. In this process, the phenomenon of “week dogs” has now also become an e-commerce problem.

Even if the small dogs arrive alive, they often turn out to be deadly ill.

Many people who bought a pet blind box online find that their dog doesn’t live longer than a week.

Another story that was previously shared online is that of a 9.9 yuan [$1.5] package containing a dog that was rejected by the customer and ended up at the post office. Once opened, the small dog was malnourished, shivering, and near to death. An attempt to rescue the pup failed, and it died the same day.

By Tuesday night, the post by ‘Snack Girl’ and her call on Weibo netizens to never buy these live animal mystery boxes was shared over 47,000 times and liked more than 340,000 times. Many people express their anger and sorrow over this online business.

One artist on Weibo (@ARCS-嘎法) said that in the end, it is humanity that is hurting itself by engaging in these sorts of inhumane practices, sharing a drawing in response (image below).

“The buyers and sellers of these boxes don’t even regard these little cats and dogs as living creatures,” some people say: “When can we finally have an animal protection law?!”

Although China currently has no law against animal cruelty, the live animal blind box industry is still officially illegal since it is not in accordance with Article 33 of the Postal Law in China, which prohibits the posting and delivery in postal materials of various species of live animals.

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.

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 and Covid19

Xi’an Outbreak Largely Under Control, But Weibo is Grieving the Death of an Unborn Baby

On the 15th day of lockdown, Xi’an has largely brought the Covid19 outbreak under control, but at what cost?

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“Are we really fighting this epidemic to save lives?”, some wonder after Xi’an enters its 16th day of a very strict and sometimes messy lockdown. The story of a pregnant woman having a miscarriage in front of the hospital gate has brought the public’s anger to a boiling point.

On January 4th at around 4.30 pm, a Weibo user nicknamed ‘Don’t Make It Rain Ok’ posted a heartbreaking story on social media about her pregnant aunt, who lost her baby on January 1st when she did not receive medical care in time and was left waiting outside of the hospital. It was one among multiple stories showcasing the struggles faced by thousands of citizens during the Xi’an lockdown, the biggest one in China since Wuhan was shut down in 2020.

While the story about the pregnant woman was top trending on Weibo on Wednesday and Thursday, the Xi’an city government declared that the Covid19 situation in the city of 13 million inhabitants was reaching the phase of “zero in society” (“社会面清零”), meaning that the outbreak was largely contained in the city’s main communities after two weeks of lockdown, during which over 42,000 people were quarantined and brought to other locations.

But rather than cheers of joy, Weibo was dominated by sad stories of people whose lives have been seriously impacted by the restrictions and hurdles they face in times of a lockdown that was mismanaged by local authorities, according to many.

The woman losing her unborn baby because of severely delayed emergency services struck a chord with a lot of netizens. This is a translation of the original post, which was removed from social media without given reason on January 6:

My aunt said on January 1st 2022 at around 7:00 pm that her stomach hurt, so she called 120 [emergency telephone number]. But 120 was constantly busy and there was no way to get through. Only when she called 110 [police] she was taken to Xi’an Gaoxin Hospital (高新医院). After all this, it was already past 8 pm before she arrived, but she eventually was at the entrance and still wasn’t allowed to get in, the delay lasting until after 10 pm – she was told her nucleic acid [test] had exceeded the four-hour time frame. My aunt sat down at the entrance for a while, and because the delay was lasting so long, she was starting to bleed. I saw the video sent by my aunt’s husband, seeing my aunt struggling to support her body with both hands sitting on the chair, blood flowing down the chair and down her pants, the floor was full of blood! Also because of the excessive bleeding, the hospital staff saw it really wasn’t going well and only then was she admitted and taken into the surgery room. As a result of the untimely medical treatment, my aunt had a miscarriage after carrying the baby for eight months. At eight months, the baby died in the womb without a pulse because of wasted time. Originally I was thinking of telling this story on another platform, but I actually just saw in my Moments [WeChat timeline] that a friend posted a screenshot of another story told by someone and I discovered we are not the only ones to go through something like this at this hospital. I just wept. My aunt also has an 11-year old son who is alone by himself, looking after himself, he still doesn’t know what happened to my aunt – he just knows her belly hurt.”

The incident sparked outrage on social media, where one hashtag dedicated to the topic received 780 million views on Thursday alone (#西安孕妇流产事件相关责任人被处理#) after it was publicly announced that the hospital’s general manager Fu Yuhui (范郁会) would be suspended and that the staff responsible for the incident at the outpatient department were fired.

The hospital was ordered to publicly apologize for the incident, and the local Health Commission director also made an apology.

But the apologies did not seem to reduce the anger many expressed online.

“Are we fighting the epidemic to save lives?”, one popular blogger wondered in an article dedicated to the incident (“西安孕妇医院门口流产:抗疫,是为了救命啊“) published on January 6th. The author argues that the ultimate purpose of China’s epidemic prevention and control is to save lives and that a hospital and its staff should do everything in their power to save people’s lives rather than letting them suffer outside of their door with the excuse of ‘epidemic prevention and control.’ In the end, a person’s life is more important than their Health Code and the last time they did a Covid test.

The story of the miscarriage was not the only one going viral these days relating to people not being able to get the medical help they need. One story to go viral on January 3rd was that of one Xi’an resident (@太阳花花花00000) reaching out for help via social media platform Xiaohongshu because her father suffered from chest pains and they could not get through to emergency telephone lines fast enough. The original poster later updated their post to share that he had passed away.

The man’s daughter later clarified in the media that her father was refused access to medical services at multiple hospitals before he also encountered issues at Gaoxin Hospital where he did receive treatment at 10pm – an astonishing eight hours after reaching out to emergency services. He reportedly passed away due to the severe delay in this treatment (#西安网友称父亲被多家医院拒诊后离世#).

Then there was another pregnant woman (@A有雨有晴天) who allegedly suffered a miscarriage after being refused to be taken to the hospital (#西安又一孕妇流产 警察护送被拒诊#). She came out with her story on January 5th, but it happened on December 29th. The woman claims that she sought help but that various hospitals refused to take her in during the extreme lockdown circumstances.

On January 5th and 6th, the death of a 39-year-old man also sparked online anger. According to online reports, the man could not get through to emergency services on December 31st while suffering from severe chest pains. He was refused to be taken in by two hospitals because he supposedly did not have a current negative Covid19 test result. He died shortly after being taken in by a third hospital. A hashtag dedicated to the incident received over 150 million views on January 6 (#西安一男子连续被3家医院拒诊最终猝死#).

“Help the helpless!”, some on Weibo wrote: “What would you do if these were your loved ones?!”

“How many people have passed away due to this kind of ‘prevention and control’?”, other commenters wondered: “What is wrong with the Xi’an authorities?”

Besides the staff fired at the Gaoxin Hospital, the Municipal Discipline Inspection Commission reportedly also gave official warnings to the local deputy secretary and Xi’an Emergency Center director Li Qiang (李强) and local Health Commission director Liu Shunzhi (刘顺智) for not properly fulfilling their duties regarding emergency work during the lockdown.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

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 and Covid19

“Xi’an, What Are You Doing?!” – Lockdown Mismanagement Leaves Residents Angry and Scared

Quarantined Xi’an: “This outbreak is really putting the city’s management to the test.”

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On the 11th day of strict lockdown in the city of Xi’an, many residents are struggling with food shortages and meeting basic needs. Others are emphasizing the rays of light in dark times.

For many living in the city of Xi’an, the New Year did not start off bright and joyful, but dark and filled with anxiousness.

On December 22, more than 13 million residents were ordered to stay at home and a strict lockdown began after the city saw a new wave of Covid19 infections, recording 143 infections in the two weeks before since December 9th.

December 28 marked a record high of 175 new confirmed cases in a single day. By December 29th, the number of recorded infections reached 1,117, going up to 1,444 on January 1st and 1,573 on January 2nd.

As the city entered its tenth day under strict lockdown this weekend, Weibo saw an outpouring of anger and disbelief from sleepless netizens who expressed their shock over the way in which local authorities were managing the Covid19 outbreak and the lockdown itself.

With most offline and takeout stores being closed and residents not allowed the leave their compounds, getting food supplies and other essentials became a serious problem for many.

Residents were initially allowed to have one person in their household go out to buy groceries, but rules were later tightened, not allowing residents to leave at all except for Covid19 testing.

Although many households soon received government supplies, there were also communities where no food had been delivered yet and where online groceries were delayed. Some on Weibo complained that they had already been eating instant noodles for eight days straight, unable to get any vegetables.

These were some of the hashtags and taglines on Weibo surrounding incidents sparking outrage.

 

Food Shortages in Xi’an #西安买菜难#

The hashtag “Difficult to Buy Food in Xi’an” (#西安买菜难#) had received over 370 million clicks by Sunday, January 2nd.

Many people are sharing their stories of saving up what they have left at home, not eating vegetables or fruit for over a week, and expressing their fear of going hungry and not having enough formula to feed their babies. Some also write about not being able to get much-needed medicine for family members with medical conditions such as cancer or diabetes.

“I’m a student who is stranded in Xi’an,” one young woman wrote: “I’m lucky that I rented a room for a month so I have a place to stay, but I’m worried about whether or not there is enough food to eat! In this phase of developing the New Era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, there are still people who are worried about not being able to eat.” She later adds: “I just have two packs of noodles left, preparing to delay eating them as long as I can and will only eat them when I am most hungry.”

Other people also expressed concerns over not being able to get other essentials, such as sanitary napkins and diapers: “Where can I buy diapers for my baby? I can’t get them offline, I can’t get them online, but this is also a basic necessity!”

While people are crying out for help over not being able to get food, there are also many videos on Weibo showing how local anti-epidemic workers are distributing food throughout the city.

Hundreds of netizens posted photos of the vegetable boxes they received from the government, expressing gratitude over the food and the volunteers who brought it to them. While some are creative in making dolls from their received vegetables, others are making drawings of the vegetables they wish they had.

“I feel like I’m living in a parallel universe if I see the residents of Xi’an in the news,” one local Weibo user writes on January 2nd: “In Baqiao District (灞桥区) of Xi’an, the fact is that from the lockdown up to now, our neighborhood hasn’t seen a single grain of rice or vegetable from the government.”

People living in Shajing town (沙井村) also sent out messages online to share their struggles. One person posted a video showing a long line of people queuing up for steamed buns.

“The landlord here in Shajing town received two cabbages, two carrots, and two potatoes, but the tenants didn’t get anything,” one Weibo user from the area wrote.

 

Man Gets Beaten Up for Buying Steamed Buns #西安小伙买馒头被群殴#

A video showing how one Xi’an resident got beaten up by two community guards upon return to his compound after buying food went viral on social media this week.

The hashtag “Xi’an Guy Gets Beaten Up Buying Mantou [Steamed Buns]” (#西安小伙买馒头被群殴#) received over 230 million views on Weibo. Other hashtags related to the incident received 330 million and 90 million views respectively (#西安通报2名防疫人员殴打市民#, #警方通报西安2名防疫人员殴打市民#)

The incident happened on December 31st around noon in the Yanta District of Xi’an. Social media users who posted a video of the incident said the man had left the compound to buy some buns because he was hungry.

The man can be seen standing at the gates of the compound talking to the guards when one of them approaches him from behind and seemingly grabs his phone. Another guard then physically attacks the man, with two other community workers also joining in punching the man, his food getting scattered on the floor.

It was later reported that the guards apologized for their actions. Local police also sent out a statement that, in accordance with the law, the two guards who punched the man will be detained for seven days and were each given a 200 yuan fine.

The video angered many people for various reasons, with some also understanding why social tensions are rising in local communities where people are unsure of when they’ll get food while the guards are also put in a tough job during such a strict lockdown.

 

Sudden Quarantine of Mingde Bayingli Community #西安明德八英里小区#

Another hashtag attracting major attention on Chinese social media was one concerning the Mingde 8 Yingli community (明德八英里小区) in Yanta District, where dozens of residents received news that they would be quarantined away from their compound together in the night of January 1st due to new infections in their proximity.

Residents complained on Weibo and WeChat that they were unsure of where they were heading, that they were put in buses together for hours until being driven off to a remote guest house without proper supplies. Old people, small children, and pregnant women were among those being taken away for quarantine without allegedly being provided with the things they needed, and without any measures to protect them against the dangers of infection.

Others wondered what the point of the isolation was. After all, these residents were already staying inside their homes since the 20th of December, besides going out for Covid19 tests. What was the point of taking them away together?

Many commenters were moved to tears when they saw an image of an old man standing in line for the quarantine. The man, holding a walking stick, was seemingly all alone and did not seem to have luggage or food supplies with him. People worried about his wellbeing.

One WeChat article titled “Xi’an, Is This How You Control the Virus?” (“西安,这就是你的防疫管控?”) criticized the way in which the situation was handled, but it was soon taken offline.

Still, many others on Weibo also wrote things such as: “Xi’an, what are you doing?”, expressing disbelief that the city seemingly was not prepared for a lockdown like this even though it has been two years since the pandemic started.

On January 2nd, Chinese media reported that two local Xi’an officials, Wang Bin (王斌) and Cui Shiyue (崔诗越), were removed from their positions in order to “strengthen the epidemic prevention and control efforts.”

“It’s begun now,” some commenters posted, suggesting that local authorities are turning things around to improve the situation in the city’s districts.

There are also many netizens praising the efforts of anti-epidemic staff who are working around the clock to get food to the various communities.

One viral video showed a woman breaking down in tears as she told a local health worker that she was on her period, but that there was no way for her to get sanitary pads.

“They also can’t help it,” one person responded: “This outbreak is really putting the city’s management to the test.”

“I started my first day as a volunteer today,” one Weibo user wrote: “It was very tiring, but it is cool that I am doing what I want to do. I know things are not perfect. But we’re trying.”

One volunteer health worker from a local art troupe played the patriotic “My People, My Country” (我和我的祖国) on New Year’s Eve while residents were cheering from their windows. On Weibo, the same sentiment was shared by many: “Come on Xi’an! A big thank you to all the frontline workers in the fight against the epidemic.”

Meanwhile, the cries for help also continue. “I really understand the hard work of the [anti-epidemic] staff,” one Xi’an citizen writes: “But our family will soon run out of food. We live in a tiny neighborhood – please don’t forget about us.”

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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