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Chinese Netizens on World Refugee Day: “Don’t Come to China”

A heightened focus on China’s role in solving the refugee crises on World Refugee Day has triggered waves of criticism on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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A heightened focus on China’s role in solving the refugee crises on World Refugee Day has triggered waves of criticism on Chinese social media. The general sentiment: “Refugees are not welcome in China.”

The topic of World Refugee Day has unleashed thousands of comments on Chinese social media this week after the United Nations Refugee Agency raised awareness for refugees on Sina Weibo. Earlier this month, UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi visited Beijing and stated that China can play key role in solving refugee crises.

China became a member of the International Organization for Migration in June of 2016.

Chinese celebrity Yao Chen participated in a World Refugee Day event on Tuesday in Beijing, where the film Welcome to Refugeestan was screened. The popular actress is the Goodwill Ambassador of the UN Refugee Agency.

Yao Chen together with UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi.

With over 80 million fans on Weibo, Yao Chen is one of the most influential celebrities on Weibo. She is the first-ever Chinese UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and has been a strong voice for refugees over the last seven years.

 

REFUGEES TRENDING

“China will not take in refugees! “

 

On Tuesday, the UN Refugee Agency posted on Weibo:

Because June 20 is #World Refugee Day#, the UNHCR has hosted a public welfare event in Beijing to pay tribute to the world’s 65.6 million people who are displaced and homeless, and to pay tribute to all those who support and care for the refugees. @NicholasRosellini @United Nations Development Program @YaoChen #westandtogetherwithrefugees#.

The post soon attracted over 28,000 shares and 20,000 comments – many were negative about China’s role in solving the refugee crisis. The topic ‘Should China accept refugees?’ (中国要不要接收难民) eventually became one the week’s biggest topics on social media.

“Let the USA and Europe take in refugees, they started this war to begin with,” many said: “China will not take in refugees! We can give some money, but don’t come here!”

“Why should we pay our respects to people simply because they are refugees?”, one popular comment said: “How do we know if they are all virtuous people? Did they become terrific people because they became refugees? What kind of logic is this? What is the UNHRC teaching us?”

Hosting refugees is currently not a prominent issue on China’s current state agenda, and there is no national legislation for refugees in China. According to UN Refugee data, there were 317,923 “persons of concern” (refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons and others) in China in 2016 – a figure that is very small compared to the country’s native population.

Of this number 317,098 people are refugees from Vietnam – mostly ethnically Chinese. As for Syria, the data shows that China in 2016 had a mere 20 refugees from Syria and 35 Syrian asylum seekers. From Afghanistan, there were 20 asylum seekers. There were 102 refugees from Somalia and 5 from Iraq.

 

THREE VIEWS ON CHINA TAKING IN REFUGEES

“We didn’t have 30 years of One-Child Policy in order to let in other people now.”

 

The overall negative view on social media about China accepting refugees generally has three different perspectives.

Firstly, people on Weibo refer to the situation in Europe and say that taking in refugees will negatively impact a country’s society. They want to protect a stable Chinese society.

“We would not be so hateful [about refugees] if they were more well-behaved and had better morals. What became of Germany because of the refugees? They have led in wolves in sheep’s clothes. It’s not easy to create a stable Chinese society and we must treasure and protect it,” one netizen says.

They also say that China already has enough domestic issues with migrants and poverty.

Second, many refer to China’s One-Child Policy, that lasted from the late 1970s to 2015. The policy was implemented to reduce the growth rate of China’s population. If China would now take in large numbers of refugees, many say, then why could Chinese families not have more than one child for over three decades?

As one person writes: “China shouldn’t just let in refugees. We didn’t have 30 years of family planning [one-child policy] in order to let in other people now.”

A third perspective behind the negative comments on refugees coming to China is people’s anti-Islam stance.

“Many netizens have this logic,” one US-based Weibo female netizen writes: “Refugee = Middle Eastern refugee = Islam = Terrorism.”

“We’re not really against taking in refugees,” one man from Shanghai writes: “We’re against taking in islamic refugees.”

 

MOST WELCOMING TO REFUGEES?

“Your core mission should be to tell the world how China maintains peace.”

 

Many netizens turned their negative comments against Yao Chen. “Yao Chen should take in some refugee children herself and raise them together with her daughter. Does she dare?”, some said. Many blamed Yao Chen for standing up for international refugees while China has “enough issues” to deal with already.

“Yao Chen, as the Chinese UNHCR goodwill ambassador, your core mission should be to tell the world how China maintains peace, and how it contributes to taking in neighboring refugees,” others say.

One year ago, the issue of China taking in refugees also became a trending topic when Amnesty International published a global survey that ranked Chinese, German and British people as “most welcoming to refugees” among the 27 countries surveyed. Russia ranked as ‘least welcoming’ in the so-called ‘refugees welcome index.’

The survey triggered controversy on Weibo, where many people questioned how representative it was (also see our 2016 video about this topic).

The wave of criticism on Weibo shows that most netizens do not share the ‘refugees welcome’ sentiments portrayed in Amnesty’s survey.

“China shouldn’t receive ‘green’ [Muslim] refugees, we must refuse. We haven’t even sorted out our own problems with Chinese Muslims. I must ask: Why do Syrian and other war refugees do not go to Saudi Arabia and their other rich neighbours? That’s simply the best place for them to adapt seamlessly. But instead they do everything in their power to go to Europe, not Eastern Europe, but to Western Europe where the welfare and economy is good,” one netizen named Alex writes.

An editorial by Global Times editor Hu Xijin (胡锡进) of June 22 questions what all the fuss is about on Weibo: “Refugees from the Middle East don’t even want to come to China. Why should we worry about whether or not China should take in refugees?”

Although it is unlikely that China will take in large numbers of refugees from Africa or the Middle East in the near future, the government does play an active role in refugee aid by donating money to refugee camps and humanitarian assistance.

By Manya Koetse

©2017 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.

China Local News

On Wuhan’s ‘Reopening Day’, Even Traffic Jams Are Celebrated

As the COVID-19 lockdown has ended in Wuhan, many people are happy to see the city’s traffic finally getting busy again. “I hated traffic jams before, now it makes me happy to see them.”

Manya Koetse

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It was chilly and grey in Wuhan when the coronavirus epicenter city went into a full lockdown on January 23 of this year. On April 8, 76 days later, it is sunny and twenty degrees warmer outside as people leave their homes to resume work or go for a stroll.

The end of the Wuhan lockdown is a special day for many, as the city finally lifted the 11-week-long ban that shut down all travel to and from the city in a radical effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, city residents returned to work as public transport started again. Roads, bridges, and tunnels were reopened, and the local airport resumed flights.

On Chinese social media, various hashtags relating to the Wuhan lockdown end have become popular topics. Using hashtags such as “Wuhan Lifts the Ban” (#武汉解封#), “Wuhan Open Again after 76 Days” (#武汉暂停76天后重启#), and “Wuhan Reopens” (#武汉重启#), the end of the coronavirus ban is a much-discussed news item, along with the spectacular midnight light show that was organized to celebrate the city’s reopening.

The Wuhan lightshow, image via Xinhua.

“Today has finally arrived! It’s been difficult for the people of Wuhan,” some commenters write.

According to China’s official statistics, that are disputed, over 3330 people have died from the new coronavirus since its outbreak; 80% of these fatal cases were reported in Wuhan. On April 6, authorities claimed that for the first time since the virus outbreak, there were zero new COVID-19 deaths.

Some state media, including People’s Daily, report that the reopening of restaurants and food shops is going smoothly in the city, as people – for the first time since January – are back to buying pan-fried dumplings and noodles from their favorite vendors.

Meanwhile, the fact that the traffic in some Wuhan areas is back to being somewhat congested is something that is widely celebrated on social media.

Some call the mild traffic congestions “great”, viewing it as a sign that the city is coming back to life again after practically turning into a ghost town for all these weeks.

“I hated traffic jams before, now it makes me happy to see them,” one Weibo commenter writes.

“I won’t complain about congested traffic again, because it’s a sign the streets are flourishing,” another Weibo user posted.

While netizens and media outlets are celebrating the end of the lockdown, several Chinese media accounts also remind people on social media that although the ban has been lifted, people still need to be vigilant and refrain from gathering in groups and standing close to each other.

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 Local News

Online Anger over “Special Treatment” for Quarantined Foreigners in China

Are foreigners in quarantine being treated better than Chinese nationals? This Nanjing Daily article has triggered controversy.

Bobby Fung

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On March 27, an article titled “For the Good Health of 684 Foreigners” (“为了684个“老外”的安康”) sparked controversy online over the alleged special treatment of foreign nationals during their mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

According to the article published by Nanjing Daily, Nanjing’s Xianlin Subdistrict set up a special WeChat group for foreign nationals and their families returning to the city after the Spring Festival holiday, which coincided with the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

In special WeChat groups, subdistrict officers, doctors, translators, and property managers provide assistance and daily services to these China-based foreigners. Examples of such “daily services” include delivering fresh bread or contacting pet boarding facilities.

“One young man loved online shopping on Taobao, and once we delivered twenty packages for him within one day,” one member of the service group told Nanjing Daily.

Although foreign residents in China and foreigners with previously issued visas are currently no longer allowed to enter China, they needed to undergo a two-week quarantine period upon entry until the travel ban of a few days ago.

Jiangsu Province, of which Nanjing is the capital, tightened quarantine rules on March 23, making every traveler from abroad subject to a centralized quarantine (e.g. in a hotel) for fourteen days.

The special services for returning foreigners reported by Nanjing Daily triggered controversy on Chinese social media this week. Many netizens criticized it as a “supra-nationals treatment” (超国民待遇).

Under one Weibo post by media outlet The Cover (@封面新闻), which received over one million views, many people are criticizing local officers’ favorable treatment of foreigners. One commenter writes: “Will they provide the same comprehensive services to their compatriots?”

Another person writes: “Why don’t they also adhere to the slogan of ‘Serve the People’ (..) when dealing with Chinese citizens?”

In discussing the supposed inequality between the treatment of foreigners and Chinese nationals in quarantine, many netizens raise a recent example of a quarantined Chinese student who asked the civil police staff for mineral water. In a video that circulated online in mid-March, the girl quarrels with the police for not being offered mineral water. The student, demanding mineral water over the available boiled tap water, was ridiculed for suggesting that having mineral spring water is a “human right.”

Ironically, the Nanjing Daily article explicitly mentions how the Xianlin Subdistrict deals with foreigners drinking purified water: “[This] Laowai [foreigner] wants to drink bottled purified water, [so] we bought four barrels for him (..) and carried them from the community gate to his apartment.”

The contrast in treatment of quarantined foreigners versus Chinese nationals prompted some Weibo users to reflect on their previous remarks on the female student: “I apologize for previously mocking the Chinese student at the quarantine center in Pudong, Shanghai, for demanding to drink mineral water,” one commenter writes.

In response to the online controversy, the office of the Xianlin Subdistrict clarified that Chinese nationals would receive “corresponding services” during their quarantine period. Some netizens question what these alleged “corresponding services” exactly entail.

In another media report, the official reply was that “the Subdistrict treats Chinese and foreign citizens the same.”

Over recent years, there have been many online controversies on the issue of privilege in China. Earlier this year, there was public outrage over two women driving a Benz SUV into the Palace Museum, where cars are usually not allowed.

The issue of the perceived privileges of foreigners in China has particularly triggered anger among netizens. The “preferential treatment” of overseas students and the “dorm disparities” between Chinese and foreign students in China, for example, previously became major topics of online discussion.

A popular WeChat article that comments on the Nanjing controversy of this week also lists examples of special treatment for foreigners, including cases where foreigners were not fined when breaking rules in China or being “treated better” in other ways. By now, the article has received over 100,000 views.

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

By Bobby Fung (@bobbyfungmr)

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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