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Construction of Christian Theme Park Draws Wide Criticism on Chinese Social Media

The construction of a 150,000-square-meter Christian theme park in the capital of Hunan has sparked controversy on Chinese social media. Many netizens think a religious park does not belong in the home province of Mao Zedong – especially not when funded by the local government.

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The construction of a 150,000-square-meter Christian theme park in the capital of Hunan has sparked controversy on Chinese social media. Many netizens think a religious park does not belong in the home province of Mao Zedong – especially not when funded by the local government.

A so-called “Christian Theme Park” (教会主题公园) in Changsha has sparked controversy on Chinese social media. The park, located in the Changsha Xingsha Ecological Park, is called “the biggest Christian theme park in southern China” (中南地区最大的教会主题公园), but is likely the only one of its sort in the entire nation. It opened its doors during the Spring Festival.

According to the China Christian Daily, the park covers an area of approximately 150,000 square meters (15 hectares) and one of its highlights is the 80-meter high Xingsha Church. The park is also home to the Hunan Bible Institute.

On social media, from WeChat to Weibo, the opening of the park has triggered controversy. Changsha is the capital city of Mao Zedong’s home province Hunan, and the park is allegedly sponsored by the local government.

 

“Religion has grown too fast in recent years in China, which has led to friction and conflict.”

 

Chinese state tabloid Global Times criticized the project in a post on February 6, writing:

“No matter what you say, this Changsha park has triggered controversy that should be taken seriously by all authorities. Besides protecting historical religious buildings, we should be very cautious about new religiously themed buildings at tourist spots. Ask around if it is a good idea or not, look up the legislation and policies – don’t just rely on your own will and the local profits. It might lead to serious disputes.”

The Global Times also published an “opinion piece” by commentator Shan Renping (单仁平), who writes that “religious activities should take place at religious sites, and should not be extended to social settings,” and that “Christian activities should take place within the church, and not in public places.”

Shan Renping adds: “Overall, religion has grown too fast in recent years in China, which has led to friction and conflict. Local governments should no longer use public resources for the propaganda and promotion of a religion. Religion should neither be suppressed nor promoted, but should be dealt with in accordance with the law.”

 

“What on earth gave the Changsha government the right to use the taxpayers’ money for a Christian project?”

 

Although Christianity is one of China’s five state-approved religions, many netizens think the Christian theme park should be demolished. A Hunan TV report showed the park’s purpose as a tourist attraction and wedding photos location, but many netizens stress that China is a secular society and that the park’s construction in Changsha is not in line with the revolutionary history of the city.

In a popular WeChat article (link in Chinese) by an account called “Behind the Headlines”, the author also expresses his dismay at the fact that this Christian park, of all places, should be opened in the hometown of Mao, who was a convinced atheist.

Despite all the criticism, not all netizens think the park is a bad idea. “This is freedom of religion. If you don’t like it, don’t go there,” one netizen said.

One commenter complained that the widespread criticism was unfair, saying: “When there are mosques built, nobody dares to say anything, but when other religions make something, you open your mouths. It’s not right.”

There are also those who do not necessarily care about the religion, but do care about the money: “What on earth gave the Changsha government the right to use the taxpayers’ money for a Christian project? Should it not be a public park instead of a religious place?”

– By Manya Koetse
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Featured image: part of a slogan on a wall saying “love daughters.”.

©2017 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

The Day After the “3•21” Devastating Yancheng Explosion: 47 Dead, 640 Injured

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The enormous explosion at a chemical plant in Jiangsu’s Yancheng on March 21st has sent shockwaves through the country. While state media are focusing on the efforts of rescue workers, Chinese social media users are mourning the lives lost and are searching for those still missing.

One day after a devastating explosion occurred at a chemical plant in Yancheng city in Jiangsu, at the Xiangshui Eco-chemical Industrial Zone, the number of confirmed casualties and injured has now gone up to 47 dead, 90 critically injured, with around 640 requiring hospital treatment (issued Friday 19.00 local time).

The explosion happened on Thursday around 14.48 local time at the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Plant (天嘉宜化工厂). Images and videos of the explosion and its aftermath quickly spread on Weibo and other social media, showing the huge impact of the blast.

Site of the explosion.

Footage showed shattered windows from buildings in the area and injured persons lying on the streets. Other videos showed children crying and blood on the pavements. There are residential areas and at least seven schools located in the vicinity of the chemical plant, leading to injuries among residents and students due to glass that was allegedly “flying around.”

According to official sources on Weibo, a total of 930 firefighters worked side by side to control the fire.

Trending photo on Friday: exhausted firefighters.

The hashtag “Lining Up to Donate Blood in Xiangshui” (#响水市民自发排队献血#) also attracted some attention on Weibo, with state media reporting that dozens of local residents have donated blood to help the injured. On Thursday night, there were long lines at a local mobile blood donation bus.

What is quite clear from the Chinese media reports on the incident and the social media posts coming from official (authorities) accounts, is that there is an emphasis on the number of people who are helping out, rather than a focus on the number of people that were killed: there are at least 930 firefighters, 192 fire trucks, 9 heavy construction machinery, 200 police officers, 88 people rescued, 3500 medical staff, 200 people donating blood, etc. – the number of people joining forces to provide assistance in the area is overwhelming.

Meanwhile, there are desperate family members who are turning to social media in search of loved ones, posting their photos and asking people if they know anything about their whereabouts since the explosion.

While dozens of Weibo users are airing their grievances on what happened, there are also more personal stories coming out. The wife of the local factory worker Jiang is devastated; her husband of four years, father of one son, celebrated his 30th birthday on Thursday. She received a message from her husband twenty minutes before the explosion occurred. He was one of the many people who lost their lives.

On Thursday, Chinese netizens complained that their posts about the Yancheng explosion were being taken offline, suggesting that information flows relating to the incident are being strictly controlled. “This is just too big to conceal,” one commenter said.

This is not the first time such an explosion makes headlines in China. In 2015, an enormous explosion at a petrol storage station in Tianjin killed 173 people and caused hundreds of people to be injured. Two years ago, an explosion at a Shandong petrochemical plant left 13 people dead.

By Manya Koetse 

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please 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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China Local News

Breaking: Jiangsu Yancheng Chemical Plant Explosion

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Update: The Day After the Explosion

On March 21st at about 14.48 local time, an explosion occurred at a chemical plant in Yancheng city in Jiangsu.

At time of writing, the news has become a top trending topic on social media site Weibo, where the hashtag “Jiangsu Yancheng Chemical Plant Explosion” (#江苏盐城化工厂爆炸#) has attracted some 100 million views.

The explosion, that occurred at the Xiangshui Eco-chemical Industrial Zone, was followed by a 2.2 earthquake at 14.48 local time in Jiangsu’s Lianyungang.

According to Sixth Tone, people who have been injured during the incident have been sent to a local hospital.

Footage published by WeMedia show the impact of the massive explosion, with shattered windows from buildings in the area, and showing at least one injured person lying on the street.

Other videos on social media show injured people lining up at the hospital, chaos, and wounded people lying on the street (Twitter link here and here).

According to the official account of China’s Fire Control Department (@中国消防), 31 persons were rescued from the scene around 17.00 local time, when a total of 188 firefighters were present at the scene.

According to various media reports, the chemical plant where the explosion happened is the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Plant (天嘉宜化工厂). The official website says that the Tianjiayi company was founded in 2007 and has over 280 staff members.

China’s Emergency Management Department (@中华人民共和国应急管理部), that was established in 2018, issued a post on Weibo at the beginning of the evening, stating that expert teams were rushed to the scene to assist local authorities in their rescue operations.

This is not the first time such an explosion makes headlines in China. In 2015, an enormous explosion at a petrol storage station in Tianjin injured hundreds of people. Two years ago, an explosion at a Shandong petrochemical plant left 8 persons dead and 9 people injured.

Chinese state media outlet Xinhua reported that the number of casualties at the Yancheng site are still unknown. Phoenix News reports that as of 19.00 local time, at least 6 people are confirmed to have died, with 30 people being critically injured. (UPDATE MARCH 22 SEE HERE).

On Weibo, people are sharing their concern for the people injured during the explosions, and are also expressing their worries on what exactly caused the explosion and what kind of chemicals people may have been exposed to.

“There are many residential areas and schools near the site of the explosion,” one official account on Weibo writes: “There’s a kindergarten some 1,1 kilometers away, and children have been injured. According to eyewitnesses, residents were injured because of the glass flying around.”

Sina News reports that there are at least seven schools in the vicinity of the explosion (see image below).

A live-streaming report by Tencent News, Beijing News, and WeMedia shows that at around 20.00 local time, the fire at the site of the explosion is still blazing, with a strong wind picking up.

Meanwhile, on Weibo, some netizens are complaining that footage of the explosion is being deleted from the social media platform, while others are disgruntled that residential areas and schools would be located so close to a chemical plant.

“I really wish the people there are safe and sound,” dozens of commenters say, posting praying emoji: “It is just so scary, I hope there won’t be any more casualties.”

By Manya Koetse 

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please 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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