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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 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

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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

“Our Cities Are Sick, But We Will Make Them Better” – Popular Online Video Promotes Chinese Unity in Times of COVID-19

Chinese state media are spreading more hopeful and positive online content in times of coronacrisis.

Jialing Xie

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From Guangzhou to Shenzhen, from Wuhan to Chengdu, bustling streets and busy markets are left empty and quiet, as China is in the midst of dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

“[People are] afraid, they are anxious, and the masks they wear widens the distance between them,” a whispered female voiceover says in a new 3-minute ‘documentary’ video that has been propagated online by Chinese state media over the past week.

The short video shows scenes from cities all across China – a deserted train station in Wuhan, a person cycling on a quiet Beijing street, a nearly empty highway in Shenzhen – while a tracker in the corner shows the number of confirmed coronavirus diseases cases in that location.

While the first half of the online ‘shortdoc’ emphasizes how COVID-19 has affected every corner of the country in negative ways, making the past Chinese New Year the most depressing one in decades, the second half shifts to a message of hope and positivity.

Instead of highlighting the grey and empty streets across China, the video focuses on the energy and courage of the medical workers, policemen, and construction workers across the country doing what they can to fight the battle against the coronavirus.

“We are looking forward to the day we will take off our masks again, leave our homes, be with our loved ones, and enjoy that tasty bite of steaming hot buns.”

The voiceover continues to say that “every city will wake up again” and that “the smiles will return to people’s faces,” concluding: “Because we are still together [in this], because we are Chinese.”

The short video ends with the slogan “Our cities are sick, but we will cure them” (“我们的城市生病了,但是我们会治好它”).

Originally posted by state-run media People’s Daily on Weibo, the three-minute film attracted more than 80 million views within two days after it was posted. By now, the hashtag “3-minute Documentary Features Chinese Cities in Times of Epidemic” (#3分钟记录疫情下的中国城市#), also hosted by People’s Daily, was viewed almost 90 million times.

The video was produced under the ‘New Studio Media Group’ (Xinpianchang / 新片场社区) with video contributions from 48 different content producers from all over the country. Xinpianchang is a Beijing-based online media group and video content platform founded in 2012.

Many online viewers express that they are touched and inspired by the short doc.

Recently, Chinese social media has seen more short videos depicting what life in times of coronacrisis is like for people living in different parts of China.

Chinese publication The Cover (封面新闻) recenty also posted a three-minute video of the scenes in Chengdu city, showing that its once bustling streets are now more like a ghost city.

Some Weibo netizens from Wuhan also post short videos of their city, repeating the slogan “Our city is sick, but we will cure it” and welcoming people to visit Wuhan once this epidemic is over.

Over the past weeks, Chinese state media have started to disseminate and propagate more hopeful online content, praising the work of those fighting COVID-19 and showing support to the people of Wuhan and emphasizing the unity of China in times of crisis.

For more about this and other COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Jialing Xie

This article has been edited for clarity.

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.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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