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Chinese PhD Student Goes Missing in London (Updated)

The 36-year-old female PhD student Yan has been missing for 10 days.

Manya Koetse

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A 36-year-old woman from Shenyang, China, who is a PhD student at London’s King’s College, has been missing for ten days. Her mother is reaching out for help on Weibo.

This article has been updated to include new information since its initial posting. Police believe they have now found the body of Yan Sihong (see information at end of this article).

A Chinese female exchange student from Shenyang, studying at King’s College in London, has been reported missing earlier this week. On Tuesday, the missing person case became one of the most-searched topics on Sina Weibo.

The woman’s family turned to the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom on Monday after they were unable to reach her since February 17. She was reportedly also last seen on that day.

On February 27, various Chinese news sources reported about the missing student, whose name is Yan Sihong (闫思宏, 1982). Yan is affiliated to the Lau China Institute, a multi-disciplinary centre for the study of all aspects of China which is part of the London King’s College.

London police are currently investigating the case. The Chinese Embassy in the UK, which posted a notice about Yan on their official website, is closely following the issue.

The news received a lot of attention on Chinese social media on Tuesday, as official state media such as CCTV, Global Times and People’s Daily shared it through their official Weibo channels. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security also posted the missing person case on Weibo.

Yan’s mother reached out for help on Weibo on Tuesday. In a blog post, the worried mother explains that Yan Sihong started her studies in the UK in September of 2016 and has always been in close touch with her family. They were not able to reach her again after their last Wechat conversation over Chinese New Year on the night of February 15 to February 16. “We have no idea what happened to her since,” the mother writes.

Media outlet Chinese Weekly (@华闻周刊) wrote on Weibo that Yan may have fallen victim to kidnapping, although few other sources currently confirm if there is any truth to these speculations.

The Weibo account of the independent media source for overseas Chinese called ‘This is Great Britain’ (@这才是英国) does say that there are leads in this case signalling a kidnapping, which potentially includes a second person by the name of Rong Luqi (容露琦) – another student allegedly affiliated to the Faculty of Science and Engineering (not confirmed by other sources). The Weibo account posted screenshots of a WeChat conversation in which a person calls for help, saying they are being abducted. (Read more about this case here).

As more Chinese are studying abroad, news about Chinese students going missing in foreign countries is more often making headlines. The disappearance of Michelle Leung in Australia, which later turned out to be a homicide case, also became a trending topic on Weibo in 2016. The disappearance of Yingying Zhang in Illinois also made headlines last year.

“I hope she is okay,” many Weibo netizens wrote about Yan, also expressing their hope that other Chinese students abroad take care of their safety. In response to the news, the Communist Youth League posted some information sheets on Weibo containing information for Chinese studying abroad, including warnings on getting intoxicated and leaving one’s drink unattended. The sheets also warn student not to go out alone late at night.

At time of writing, no UK news websites, nor the King’s College website, has yet mentioned anything about Yan’s missing.

Chinese official media and the embassy are calling on people who know more about Yan’s whereabouts to contact the local police in the UK.

UPDATE Wednesday 12:05 pm (London time): London police have issued a statement that officers investigating the disappearance of Yan have found a woman deceased at an address in Westminster. She is believed to be Yan Sihong. The death is being treated as non-suspicious. The family has been informed.

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 founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Got Covid? Don’t Panic, Stay Home: China Is Shifting Its Covid Narrative

China changes its Covid approach, and Weibo users are still getting used to the idea: “We are going from one extreme to the other.”

Manya Koetse

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China’s media narratives around testing positive for Covid have dramatically shifted recently. The seemingly sudden change in Covid approach is making some people happy, but many on Weibo also say it is making them nervous.

“What To Do If You Tested Positive [for Covid]?” (#如果阳了怎么办#) was a top trending topic on Weibo on Tuesday, December 6, when the site was still in grey mode over Jiang Zemin’s death.

The topic, initiated by Chinese state media outlet China News Service (中国新闻网), received over 400 million clicks on Tuesday.

The “What To Do If Testing Positive” hashtag was noteworthy for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the fact that it was initiated by state media and included in the top trending lists of the day is part of the recent normalization of getting Covid in Chinese official media.

Another reason why it was noteworthy, is because the original China News Service post that topped the hashtag page compared Covid to seasonal influenza, writing:

The autumn and winter season is the peak season for the flu. Currently, the epidemic situation is still popping up all over the country, and there is a risk in catching Omicron for special populations such as young children, pregnant women.”

The article that China News Service linked to provides more information intended for Covid-positive children and the protection of pregnant women, provided by the expert physician Qiao Jie (乔杰) of the Peking University Third Hospital and Dr. Wang Quan (王荃) of Beijing Children’s Hospital. In the article, the symptoms of the Omicron strain are also compared to those of the flu, saying that they need to be treated in line with other respiratory illnesses.

The article basically advised the following:

– Parents should seek medical attention for children with a continued high fever and persistent cough.
– Children under three months old with a fever should always be brought in to be seen by a doctor.
– Always seek medical attention for children who are lethargic, have severe pain (including abdominal pain), continue vomiting or have frequent diarrhea, are dehydrated (not urinating for prolonged periods), or have trouble breathing.
– Pregnant women without underlying conditions who get Omicron do not necessarily get sicker than regular patients and can also expect to recover within seven days.
– Pregnant women who get infected with Omicron should contact their midwife.
– Couples of childbearing age are advised to get vaccinated against Covid-19 before seeking pregnancy.

One day after this trending hashtag, news came out that Chinese central authorities will further adjust and optimize the country’s Covid response based on a top-level meeting that took place on December 6 (#中央政治局会议要求优化疫情防控措施#). (Read about the ten new rules in our article here.)

One of the biggest changes in the Covid approach is that people who have tested positive but show mild signs or are asymptomatic will no longer be required to go to a centralized quarantine location. Instead, they can recover at home if they meet certain requirements.

Another major change is that nucleic acid test results and health codes will no longer be checked for domestic cross-regional travel. On Wednesday, the hashtag “Health Code” (#健康码#) became top trending on Weibo, receiving over 390 million views by late afternoon.

This major change in policy, which is basically an end to the ‘zero Covid’ policy as we knew it, was preceded not only by the “What To Do If Testing Positive” hashtag, but also by other media reports on people sharing their Covid experience and the well-known political commentator Hu Xijin writing a Weibo post about him preparing to get Covid soon.

China News Service also published an info sheet on Weibo on December 7 informing people on what to do when they test positive and what they can expect.

The state media outlet reassures people that for most, their symptoms will be gone on day seven. If people are staying at home with Covid and see no change and continue to have a high fever after three days, or if they are having difficulties breathing, they are advised to seek medical care.

Otherwise, people are advised to rest and drink plenty of water.

Beijing News Service (北京新闻广播) wrote: “Tested positive? Don’t panic. If you have no symptoms or light symptoms, just stay at home.”

One popular Weibo blogger (@咖啡布偶猫) wrote:

I feel as if the propaganda has seen a sudden change in direction. During the first half of the year and the epidemic in Shanghai, everyone would get scared the moment you talked about a positive case, they wanted to fiercely chase it and thoroughly reach zero cases. Now they are propagating that we should not panic, that we should accept the reality and actively respond to it, as if it is nothing alarming.”

 
A Successful Zero Covid Journey
 

On December 5, Chinese media outlet The Observer (观察者网) initiated the Weibo hashtag “Three Years Since the Fight Against the Epidemic – We’ve Actually Cleared Covid Many Times” (#抗疫3年其实我们清零了很多次#).

The post featured a video (embedded in tweet below) showing China’s fight against Covid by highlighting regions and numbers. Nearly 32,000 cases across the country in early December of 2022 (at time of writing, there are currently over 42,000 confirmed cases); but for a long time during the Covid pandemic, China officially recorded just a few dozen, up to ten, or even zero cases.

One of the top comments on the post said: “Up to the present, I think that regarding an outbreak of an epidemic virus that caused havoc without us even knowing, driving it out of the country within just a few months, and even sustaining it for some time, is worthy of going into the history books.”

Others write: “One fight against the epidemic has concluded, and another one has begun. Letting go, without zero Covid, it has a happy side and a sad side.”

“Although there were plenty of imperfections in this Covid journey, I still feel the country gave us enough protection when the virus was causing havoc in the early stages.”

“It’s really too strange and it’s a bit spooky everywhere,” another person wrote:

It’s like a computer that has been hit by a Trojan horse virus and has decided to download antivirus software and is 90% of the way there. Now it’s suddenly stopping; not only deliberately shutting down all the firewalls, but there’s also a mess of pop-up windows everywhere promoting games that are “very fun, come on and play!”

Another Weibo user writes: “We seem to have witnessed an era in which our joint memories have been taken from us for three years.”

“It’s over! We’re on our own from now on!” others write.

 
Wait and See Approach
 

Although there is relief among those people who have since long supported an ‘opening up’ of China, there are also many other sentiments that are visible on Chinese social media, most noticeable there is a “let’s wait and see” approach.

Some are waiting to see what will actually change to their situation locally, and others are waiting to see what an easing of Covid measures might mean for China’s healthcare system.

Others express that the new situation makes them feel vulnerable and unsafe.

“Can’t all the people who did not want to open up go and live in one community together?” someone jokingly wrote.

Poster shared on social media: “The Fight Against the Epidemic – The End – It Started in Wuhan, it Ended in Guangzhou”

There are also people who wonder about what will really change for them in the time to come.

Today is a day that is worth remembering in history. The epidemic situation has lasted for three years, and looking back, there have been many times of complete confusion and total transformation. In these three years time, people’s lifestyles have seen drastic changes and we’ve come to understand more about ‘online’ life: online meetings, online groceries, online parties, online studying, and online travel. We’ve gradually become to dislike crowds, and we’ve become used to locked-down life.

For some, being Covid positive is an entirely new experience: “Surely enough, we opened up. Even myself – I don’t even go out – tested positive now.”

Meanwhile, people have been stocking up on various medicine and are getting ready to catch Covid anytime soon.

One Weibo user writes: “Actually, it makes me anxious to open up everything so suddenly, why can’t we do it step by step?”

“I’m not sure if I am happy or nervous,” another person writes: “We’re going from one extreme to the other extreme.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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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.

©2022 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

The End to Zero Covid: China’s New 10 Covid Rules Are Here

“Everyone is really happy but there is a black cloud heading our way.”

Manya Koetse

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Over the past few weeks, China’s Covid measures have seen gradual changes, and various places across China have eased local rules regarding nucleic acid testing and the accessibility of public transport and venues. Now, central authorities have announced more measures that basically end the ‘zero Covid’ policy as we knew it. The ‘ten new rules’ became top trending on Weibo.

Just a month ago, on November 11, Chinese central authorities released a set of twenty new rules to “further optimize” China’s approach to Covid.

At the time, Chinese media emphasized that the new rules did not mean that China was letting go of its dynamic Zero Covid policy. Now, another ten new rules have been introduced that do indicate that the country is clearly no longer sticking to its ‘zero Covid’ goals.

After a central meeting that took place on December 6, authorities released a 10-point plan addressing changes in Covid measures. National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng (米锋) announced the measures during a live-streamed press conference of the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council (#国务院联防联控机制发布会#).

On Wednesday, several hashtags related to the new measures went trending on Chinese social media, including “Health Code” (#健康码#), over 450 million views), and “Ten New Rules” (#新十条#, over 440 million views).

 
These Are the 10 Changes:
 

1: Lockdown Changes
Risk areas should be assessed and divided according to science and it should be done precisely. We should no longer see the lockdown of an entire community or residential area; instead, it will be assessed by looking at household units, buildings, and apartment floors. The (temporary) closure of areas will no longer be allowed.

2: Testing Changes
The scope of nucleic acid testing was already limited in the previous adjusted rules, but will now be further limited. Instead of RT-PCR tests, rapid PCR tests will be used more often in accordance with local requirements. Nucleic acid testing will remain in place for high-risk positions and high-risk area personnel in accordance with relevant regulations, and some places including nursing homes, schools, and medical care institutions will still require negative tests, but negative nucleic acid test certificates and health code checks will no longer be necessary for traveling from place to place.

3: Quarantine Changes
People who tested positive but are asymptomatic or only show mild symptoms can isolate at home if they meet local requirements. Centralized isolation centers will still be in operation for more severe cases or those opting in for centralized quarantine. If nucleic acid tests are negative after the fifth day, the isolation period can end.

4: ‘High-Risk Area’ Changes
If no new cases have been detected for five consecutive days, local lockdowns should be lifted.

5: Medicine Availability Changes
Pharmacies should operate normally and cannot be arbitrarily closed. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for cough, fever, etc should not be restricted.

6: Vaccination Strategy Changes
The promotion of the Covid vaccination should be stepped up for Chinese seniors, especially in the 60-79 age group, with a clear focus on making sure they get all the vaccinations they need as quickly as possible. In order to boost the vaccination rates, temporary vaccination sites will need to be set up and they will need to be local incentives to get the seniors to vaccinate asap. This was actually also mentioned in the list of twenty optimized Covid measures in November (under rule 12).

7: Medical Classification Clarity
There should be clearer knowledge on the medical status of residents and whether elderly residents have any underlying medical issues and if they have been vaccinated.

8: Focus on the Normal Functioning of Society & Basic Medical Services
If areas are not classified as high-risk areas, people should be allowed to move around freely and have access to basic medical care, and there should be no restrictions on production, work, and business operations.

9: Strengthen Safety Procedures in Epidemic Situations
Buildings [in high-risk areas] cannot block fire exits, unit doors, or community gates under any circumstances. Community management departments should have effective modes of communication systems in place to contact local medical institutions in order to safeguard the medical needs of residents, including seniors living alone, children, pregnant women, and those with underlying conditions.

10: Improved Policies regarding Outbreaks at School Campuses
As also mentioned in the previous updated rules, on-campus epidemic control must be consistent, precise, and in accordance with science. Not only can there be no unnecessarily long lockdowns of campuses, but the risk areas within campuses should be more precisely defined, and normal teaching and living outside these areas should be able to continue as usual. Schools without any outbreaks should carry on normal offline teaching activities, and capus facilities such as supermarkets, cafeterias, libraries, etc. should be open.

 
Online Responses
 

One clear online response to China’s recent ‘optimized’ Covid measures is that people are buying a lot of medication, expecting to be infected with Covid soon. Some online stores had already sold out on the Traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen (连花清瘟), a herbal pill by Yiling Pharmaceuticals which is used for the treatment of influenza as well as Covid.

Sold-out Lianhua Qingwen pills.

One popular Weibo blogger (@咖啡布偶猫) wrote: “I feel as if the propaganda has seen a sudden change in direction. During the first half of the year and the epidemic in Shanghai, everyone would get scared the moment you talked about a positive case, they wanted to fiercely chase it and thoroughly reach zero cases. Now they are propagating that we should not panic, that we should accept the reality and actively respond to it, as if it is nothing alarming. But we should still pay attention to those with underlying medical conditions, those with respiratory issues, asthma, and lung disease. If you haven’t bought cold medicine yet, do so. Right now, some places even have a limit on buying Lianhua Qingwen.”

During the December 7 press conference, Guo Yanhong (郭燕红), director of the National Health Commission’s health emergency division, emphasized that it is not necessary for people to stock up on medication in light of the announced eased Covid measures and that there are sufficient supplies (#卫健委提示没有必要囤积抢购药物#).

“After being sealed for three years, it’s all lifted in a morning, all the prices go up for Lianhua Qingwen, rapid antigen tests increase in price, and if your symptoms get serious you’re still not able to get help anywhere.”

Some jokingly suggest that after messing around for three years, the pandemic is only now really starting.

“Everyone is really happy now but there’s a black cloud coming our way, we will know in a month or so if it is going to be light drizzle or a heavy rainstorm.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in the comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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