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Chinese Views on Europe’s Migrant Crisis: “The Road to Ruin”

The European migrant crisis is dominating headlines and social media posts around the globe, and lead Chinese netizens to discuss the issue on Sina Weibo: “As long as you don’t come to China it’s fine by me.”

Manya Koetse

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The migrant crisis in Europe is dominating headlines and social media posts around the globe. Chinese media are also reporting on Europe’s “migrant wave” (“欧洲难民潮”), leading netizens to discuss the issue on Sina Weibo.

It is the biggest influx of migrants the European Union has ever seen. Hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers are fleeing the turmoil in Africa and the Middle East. They mostly come from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2015, Europe has seen more than   350,000 migrants – a sharp increase from the 219,000 people crossing the Mediterranean in 2014 (UNHCR).

The numbers do not include the estimated 6000 people who have died or went missing in their attempt to reach Europe in 2014 and 2015. Over the past week, the picture of the dead body of a 3-year-old boy has become a symbol for all these people never making it to their destination. The picture has also made its rounds on Sina Weibo in all sorts of forms, sometimes as a drawing with angel wings.

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Chinese news portal Guancha writes that the UK, Austria, Canada, Argentina and others have indicated that they will allow more refugees to enter their country. Hungary, Czech, Poland and Slovakia have declined to partake in the EU plan to distribute 120,000 immigrants across different European countries. Both the EU and the United Nations have called on other countries to share the burden of hosting refugees. Many Syrians have sought refuge in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq or Egypt. And, as stated by political economy researcher Dalibor Rohac: “(..) some of the wealthier states of the region, most conspicuously Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, have shown very little willingness to let refugees in.”

 

“It seems like paradise to Syrian refugees, but how much longer will Germany be able to keep this up?”

 

As hundreds protested outside Hungary station last week, Austria and Germany have taken in thousands of migrants who crossed the border. Over 4000 arrived in mainland Greece – a country that already saw the arrival of 23,000 migrants in the last week alone. The junior interior minister stated that “the situation is on the verge of explosion.”

On September 7, the official Sina News Weibo account reported on Germany: “Thousands of refugees are streaming in, can Merkel handle it? Taking care of accommodation, food, medical care, as well as 300 euros per month for living expenses – Germany seems like paradise to Syrian refugees, but dealing with the largest influx of migrants since WWII, how much longer will Germany be able to keep this up?”

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Netizens on Sina Weibo, China’s biggest social media platform, discuss the news. Many users are surprised with the high cost of living in Europe, finding 300 euros (±2100 Chinese Yuan) a high amount to give out. In response to this, one joke is making its rounds on Weibo:

“A beggar comes to a house to ask for money, and the man of the house gives him 10 yuan. The next day, the beggar comes again, and the man gives him 10 yuan again. The next day, it is the same, and this goes on for two years. Then, one day, two years later, the man only gives him 5 yuan. Ten days later, the beggar can no longer contain himself and asks: ‘You used to give me 10 yuan, why do you give me 5 yuan now?!’ The man says: ‘Because I got married.’ The beggar angrily slaps the man and says: ‘Well damn it, you can’t just go and give out my money to other people like that!'”

 

“European countries deprive people of their basic human rights if they do not welcome them.”

 

The overall views on the situation are diverse, with some expressing that Europe should take in all migrants, while others foresee big problems. There are also others with less black-and-white views on the issue: “When Yugoslavia was in war, Europe was also in a difficult position, and had to turn to the US for help. This time, the US does nothing, and Europe is up to one’s ears. Blocking the refugees won’t help, they can only dispatch troops to their [the refugees’] countries and remove the chaos of war that is at the root of the problem. The refugee problem can only be solved through maintaining peace and stability.”

One author from KDnet states that human rights are more important than a nation’s sovereignty. European countries deprive people of their basic human rights if they do not welcome them, the author says. Since the Cold War, Europe has posed as a supporter for human rights, criticizing other countries under the banner of human rights – is that not hypocritical?

 

“In China we can say they have to take in refugees, but that is easier said than done.”

 

Not everybody agrees with him. “Europe is almost completely taken over by muslims, in China we can say they have to take in the refugees, but that is easier said than done”, one user says. There are many other users that bring up the subject of religion, with one saying: “I love Germany for this, but it’s a pity the refugees will eventually thank Allah instead.”

User Bat Bear says: “Germany is so left-wing now, that it is pressuring a rightist revival.”

 

“The immigrant wave is catastrophic to Europe’s economical and political climate.”

 

“Europe is becoming a Third World Country!” one Weibo user responds. Others also worry that the immigrant stream is bringing “catastrophic consequences to Europe’s economical and political climate.” As blogger Red Fox says: “I admire Germany’s courage, but the consequences will be bad. How will your economy handle this? How will your people react? What about your safety? Well, never mind, it’s your business…”

One blogger called ‘Motionless Mountain‘ says: “To counter Europe’s refugee problem: if they are really refugees, they should go to the nearby safety zones, instead of going to the wealthy areas – that makes them illegal immigrants and not refugees. The UN and EU should not give them refugee status.”

Weibo user Mona simply gives thumbs up to Germany for taking in the refugees: “This is what a great country does!”

 

“Coming from a country where you even need a permit to enter Beijing, I suddenly feel quite at ease.”

 

Some netizens use the current migration crisis to reflect on the immigration system in their own country. China’s immigration policy has not been set to handle a huge influx of foreigners who come to settle down in China, and the requirements for granting permanent residence are so strict, that China has only given out an estimated 7000 since the rules went into place. Although international migration to China has increased since the early 1980s, the country still has a very low rate of international migrants compared to other countries.

Domestic migration, on the other hand, is an everyday issue in China. Last year, Sina News reported that China’s annual urbanization is equivalent to the entire Dutch population; that the yearly migration from rural areas to the the cities equals the Netherlands in terms of people – a migration of 16 million people. These large numbers make Europe’s migration problems seem small to some netizens: “These are just 2000 people in one day [at the Hungary train station], in China, over 4 million people go by train every 24 hours.”

There are also those who now appreciate China’s strict immigration policies or residence permit system: “Coming from a country where you even need a permit to enter Beijing [进京证], I suddenly feel quite at ease”, one user says.

Another blogger writes: “Europe is on the road to ruin. But as long as you don’t come to China, it’s fine by me.”

By Manya Koetse

©2015 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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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 Insight

Noteworthy Weibo Moment: Qingdao Government Account Shows Support for LGBT Community

“The best official account post I’ve ever seen on Weibo.”

Wendy Huang

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First published

Some netizens are moved to tears to see an official government account making a public statement in support of the gay community.

Just a day ahead of the 2019 International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (May 17), a Qingdao government social media account has attracted the attention of Chinese netizens for showing support to the gay community.

On the night of May 15, the Information Office of Qingdao Municipal Government published the noteworthy post on its official Weibo account Qingdao Fabu (@青岛发布), which has over 3,8 million followers.

“In a world of equality, let all people turn away from homophobia” (“在平等世界里,让所有人不再恐同”), the post said, commenting on the recent trending news of a 15-year-old boy who came out as gay and posted a suicide note on his Weibo account.

The incident shows us the difficulty and hopelessness homosexual people are suffering. The world should be equal and free, and as the International Day Against Homophobia (#517不再恐同日#) is nearing, let’s call on the people around us to express our love of equality and kindness,” the post said.

Within a day after it was published, the Qingdao Fabu post was shared over 30,000 times and received more than 23,000 likes.

 

A Weibo Suicide Note


 

The Weibo user referred to by the Qingdao local government account had posted a lengthy letter on the night of May 14. Using an anonymous Weibo account (@用户7138253812), the author, identifying himself as a 15-year-old boy from Qingdao, came out as gay and shared his pain and grievances over the pressure he faced.

Because the boy wrote he wanted to “leave this world forever” and ended his post with a farewell, many people became worried about the boy’s mental state and whereabouts.

In the early morning of May 15, the official Weibo account of Qingdao Police (@青岛公安) posted an update, stating that the boy was found safe after running away from home.

Later that day, another post was published on the same anonymous account saying: “Thank you everyone, everything is fine.” The farewell note has since been deleted. See a full translation of the text below this article.

 

Qingdao Official Account Receives Praise


 

With its post supporting the young gay man and the LGBT community at large, the Qingdao Government official news account is receiving hundreds of comments praising them.

Besides their original post, the Qingdao government account also posted a total of nine different quotes relating to LGBT issues, including one from Taiwanese film director Ang Lee saying “There’s a Brokeback Mountain in everyone’s heart.”

Another one stresses the fact that homosexuality is not a mental illness, with yet another quote mentioning that the Netherlands became the first country in 2001 to legalize same-sex marriage.

The reposted quotes were originally published on the Weibo account of Sina Shandong (@新浪山东), the official Weibo account of Sina’s Shandong Province Branch.

As the Qingdao Weibo post is gaining more popularity on Weibo at time of writing, these are some of the popular comments below:

  • “This is so awesome for an Official Weibo account!”
  • “That an Official account would post this.. seeing this makes me tear up. I will always support equal rights.”
  •  “I’m crying, this was really sent out by an Official account.”
  • “This must be the best Official account post I’ve ever seen on Weibo.”
  • “Let’s give it up for Qingdao!”
  • “This means progress!”
  • “I’m not from Qingdao, but I will follow this account from now on. This [post] shows you have guts.”
  • “I feel proud to be from Qingdao.”
  • “I am so moved by your post. Thank you for your support. I hope your light will shine on all the people.”

Over the past few years, Chinese social media have seen many times when gay content was censored.

One important moment occurred in 2017, when the China Netcasting Services Association (CNSA, 中国网络视听节目服务协会) issued new criteria to strengthen regulations over online audio-visual content on Chinese platforms. One of the new regulations regarded the removal of online content that “displays homosexuality” (“展示同性恋等内容”), grouping homosexuality together with incest and sexual perversity as “abnormal sexual behavior.”

Although it is very noteworthy for an official government account to publish social media posts that strongly support the gay community, it is not the first time it has happened.

In July of 2017, the official account of the Communist Youth League of Fujian published a post that stated “Being gay is no disorder!” Many netizens at the time, like today, said the unexpected support moved them to tears.

Sometimes on Weibo, it’s the little posts about big matters that seem to matter the most – especially when they come from a government-run source.

 

Full Translation of Suicide Note


 

The suicide note in question has been deleted from Weibo, but The Beijing LGBT Center translated the text and posted it on its Facebook page.

Please note that the following translation is not a What’s on Weibo translation and that all credits for this translation go to the Beijing LGBT Center. Follow them on Facebook here:

I am from Qingdao and am a 15-year-old student from Laoshan No.8 Secondary School.

I am a homosexual. I never expected I would be able to utter this word.

Growing up a frail and meek boy, I am that ‘fem’ everyone is referring to. An easy target, bullied, assaulted, teased, abused, and shunned by classmates and teachers alike. This is how I grew up, and so did many other gay children. Naive as I was, I did not fight back or told anyone about my feelings. I was afraid, and am still afraid of this world. I acted strangely and they called me lunatic, but I know that was my only way to protect myself. After I tried in vain to fit in, I chose to close myself from this world, and this is how I lived my childhood.

By sheer luck, I had a short childhood. I started to realize what’s ‘strange’ with me in grade 5 or 6. I remember how I exulted when I first read about affirmative answers about gay on Zhihu (Chinese version of Quora). But I was soon overwhelmed by those derogatory, abusive, and hurtful answers. I cried the whole night and yet I put my mask back on the very next morning. What people saw as maturity in me was in fact avoidance and isolation.

Things got a little better in secondary school because I am a top student. There was less bullying but I reminded that fem guy teased and mocked at by everyone. Among the worst was my class teacher, Chen Feng. For two years he inflicted me with corporal punishments. Listening to him indoctrinating his banal views was pure suffering. I’ve got enough of his so-called masculinity values, his genders have their fixed roles, his homosexuals are modern perverts. Yet he is not alone among his peers and colleagues. I have had enough of my teachers’ cursing, smearing, ridiculing, and insulting anything related to gays. All their rubbish made me sick and isolated.

Gradually I become irritable and violent. I came out to my mother rather abruptly. Though she seemed to have acquiesced it, I was giving in to the pressure and thinking about ending everything. I have no idea what happened to me and I know choosing death is not courageous, but rather an act of cowardice. I chose to avoid my family and I knew my indifference and avoidance hurt them, especially my mom, the one person who loves me the most.

My father is a weak and arrogant scum and inflicted my mother her whole life. He broke down my door when I was most vulnerable and isolated and banged my head on the wall. At that moment, I only wished he could kill me. But he was stopped by my sister.

Just now, my so-called “family” once again stormed my room and hurled their most insulting curses at me. I realized that my mom might be the only person who can accept me in this world. Or maybe she was just pretending too.

This is not the first time I’ve thought about dying to end it all. Just a few days ago, I scaled high trying to leave all these sufferings. When I called my mom to hear her voice one last time, I hesitated, climbed down and wandered for miles away from home.

Now I have once again escaped from home with that scum’s phone in my hand. Yes, this account is my father’s. I want to tell the world what I’ve always wanted to say and to do. And then leave this world forever.

I understand living on might be the better choice. I could have a bright future and watch this world getting more open and inclusive. But I have had enough. I am sorry to have vented everything on here, and I am sorry to be so weak my entire life. I wanted to do something for this world but in reality, I can do nothing. I know, China will not have its own Stonewall; its people can put up with anything. I am losing control of emotion…

I apologize for my cowardice. To be honest, I am not innocent. But even if I had the courage to change the world, a stab in the back could have easily killed me. I have chosen to solve the radical question with the radical way.

I love you all, the kind and beautiful people of conscience, I trust you to make the world better. If there were a heaven, I will send my blessings…I wish my story will be a faint voice to your fight.”

Also read:
* Communist Youth League: “Being Gay is No Disorder!”
* Why the Gay Kisses in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Won’t Make It to Chinese Cinemas
* Weibo Administration: “We’re No Longer Targeting Gay Content”
* China’s Online Gay Revolution and Rainbow Warrior Geng Le

By Wendy Huang and Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 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

Zhejiang Movie Theatre Displays Blacklisted Individuals in Avengers Movie Preview

A special ‘trailer’ before the Avengers movie premiere showed the audience blacklisted individuals.

Manya Koetse

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A local movie theatre in the city of Lishui, Zhejiang province, showed a noteworthy ‘trailer’ before the Avengers: End Game premiere on April 24.

Chinese state tabloid Global Times reports that the sold-out premiere had a ‘surprise’ moment just before the movie was about to start: a short Public Service Announcement by the Liandu district court of Lishui displayed people who are currently on a ‘debt dodging black list.’

The short film also informed the cinema audience of potential consequences of being on a blacklist, including no traveling abroad, and no traveling by air or on high-speed trains.

According to Global Times, the local district court has registered a total of 5478 people on its blacklist since 2018.

The names and faces of more than 300 people on this list have reportedly been displayed on cinema screens, public LED screens, and on buildings. Allegedly 80 of them have since complied with court orders.

As part of China’s emerging Social Credit system project, there are public court-issued lists of ‘trust-breaking enforcement subjects’ (信被执行人名单), referring to people or companies who have failed to comply with court orders.

Individuals on the judgment defaulter blacklist system run by the court system, whose information is publicized, can risk having their photos and names displayed on local LED screens on courthouses or other buildings (Dai 2018, 26).

Blacklisted individuals on a Wuxi building (via Phoenix News).

Beyond that, they will face restrictions in various ways, from being denied bank credit to being restricted from staying in high-end hotels or traveling by air.

On Weibo, the Global Times post on the noteworthy cinema preview received over 4000 shares. The same news was also reported by CCTV and Phoenix News.

Some commenters joke about the Public Service Announcement, saying: “Blacklisters [can now say]: Mum! I was on TV! On a big IMAX screen! Together with the Avengers!”

Others leave comments in support of the measure, calling it “creative,” and saying: “This is good, we should implement this all across the country.”

“Blacklisters should be displayed on all kinds of platforms.”

“This is for people to lose on their social credit,” another commenter writes: “If you don’t want to ‘socially die’ then just fulfill your duties.”

But not everyone agrees. “People are buying a movie ticket to see their film,” one person says: “They suddenly get exposed to this kind of content that has nothing to do with them, what about their rights as a consumer?”

By Manya Koetse

References

Dai, Xin, Toward a Reputation State: The Social Credit System Project of China (June 10, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3193577 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3193577 [5.3.19].

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

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

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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