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Cracking Down on ‘Unhealthy’ Wedding Customs: Xiong’an New Area Launches Wedding Reform Experiment

Are these announced reforms “neglecting the root and pursuing the tip” of existing problems with weddings and marriage in China?

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Authorities in China’s Hebei want to curb ‘unhealthy’ wedding practices such as the custom of giving exorbitant bride prices. On social media, many people think the announced reforms ignore deeper structural inequalities in Chinese marriages.

On May 26, Xiong’an New Area (雄安新区), the state-level new area in China’s Hebei Province, announced a reform experiment for local wedding customs.

The Hebei Provincial Department of Civil Affairs published a document on its website on May 24 on the reforms that will be tried out for the upcoming three years. The ‘experiment’ will be carried out in Xiong’an New Area, Baoding’s Lianchi district, Hengshui’s Jizhou district, Handan’s Feixiang district, and in Xinji city.

Xiong’an New Area is located south of Beijing, map by https://www.hitachi.com/rev/archive/2021/r2021_01/gir/index.html

The experimental reform will focus on curbing wedding customs such as bride prices, peer competition, ‘extravagance and wastefulness’ during weddings, and other practices that local authorities deem “unhealthy.”

On Weibo, one hashtag page dedicated to the topic (#雄安被确认为婚俗改革实验区#) received over 230 million views on May 26.

Weddings and marriage are always much-discussed topics on Chinese social media, especially over the past few years when the number of marriages in China saw a drastic decline. Over the past year, marriages in China saw the biggest drop in decades while the country’s divorce rate has been climbing.

Meanwhile, China’s population is aging and birth rates have fallen to record lows.

The custom of bride prices is one topic that has particularly sparked online discussions throughout the years.

Bride prices are a long-standing tradition in China. A ‘bride price’ is an amount of money or goods paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s family upon marriage. Since China’s gender imbalance has made it more difficult for men to find a bride, the ‘bridewealth’ prices have gone up drastically over the years. This holds especially true for the poorer, rural areas in China, where men are sometimes expected to pay staggering prices to their bride’s family before marriage.

Earlier this month, state media outlet Global Times reported that the high competition between men of marriageable age pushed up the price of brides in rural areas. The price of a bride in Jiaocun town was reported to be between 150,000 yuan ($23,295) and 200,000 yuan in 2017, and allegedly continues to rise by 10,000-20,000 yuan each year.

For many Chinese young people, getting married is not on the top of their wishlist. When a national survey recently revealed that one in five women in China regret getting married – another survey said it was 30% of women -, many commenters on social media suggested the actual number was probably much higher.

The fact that the package deal of marriage in China is unappealing to many people is linked to a myriad of issues, and many social media commenters remark that solely focusing on tackling the issue of wedding customs and bride prices is just “neglecting the root and pursuing the tip” (“舍本逐末”).

On Weibo, hundreds of commenters suggest that deeper issues relating to the status and rights of married women in China are more important to focus on.

“You neglect the fact that males are valued more than females, and instead prioritize the bride price issue,” one Weibo user complained. Many others agreed, with the following comments receiving much support on Weibo:

“Why can’t you focus on practical matters? The bride price isn’t the reason why our marriage rates are dropping.”

“How about the fact that the children always take on the father’s name, isn’t that a ‘wedding custom’? (..) How about gender equality? How are you planning to reform that?”

“This is done quite fast, how about dealing with domestic violence now?”

“It’s fine if you take away the bride price, but will [rural] women then also get a fair division of residential property?”

“First you introduce a cooling-off period for divorce, then you promote a cancelation of the bride price, then you propagate having a second or third child. It’s like these experts are in their offices all day long plotting against women and thinking of ways to maximize their exploitation.”

Last month, Chinese newspaper The Paper published a column by wedding blogger Zheng Rongxiang (郑荣翔) about the announced wedding reforms, which are also expected to roll out in other regions across China from Henan to Guangdong and beyond.

Zheng argues that many Chinese weddings have become a show of wealth, especially in the age of social media. Extravagant wedding banquets where most of the food goes to waste, extreme wedding customs and games in which bridesmaids or the bride and groom are embarrassed, and an unreasonable emphasis on the height of bride prices – these practices have nothing to with traditions anymore and are far removed from what marriage is all about, Zheng writes.

Although many people on social media are not necessarily opposed to the bride price and other customs being changed, they are more angered that other more deep-rooted problems are left untouched: “Why don’t you change the marriage law first?”

For more on this also read:

 

By Manya Koetse

Featured image via Hunliji.

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©2021 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 Society

Who’s to Blame for Hangzhou Toddler’s Deadly Fall from 8th Floor Window?

Nanny was distracted by her phone, the open window was easily accessible; both factors played a role in the fatal fall of the Hangzhou child.

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A tragic incident that happened in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, has become a trending topic on Weibo this week.

On June 14, a 21-month-old girl in the city’s Gongshu District was left in an elevator by herself while her nanny was not paying attention. The elevator went up to the building’s 8th floor, where the toddler walked out and ended up falling from a window. The little girl unfortunately did not survive the fall.

The details surrounding this tragedy have triggered much discussion on social media, where a security camera footage from the elevator was posted by the girl’s father on June 25.

The video shows the girl and the nanny getting into the elevator together on the 15th floor at 20:04. While the elevator goes down, the nanny is seemingly distracted and watches her phone while the little girl is playing on her little pink scooter.

Nanny and Xiaotao get into elevator together, Xiaotao holding her pink scooter.

When the elevator arrives at the first floor, the nanny steps out and takes the pink scooter with her, probably assuming that the toddler is right behind her. But then the elevator doors close and the little girl is left behind alone in the elevator, which automatically goes up to the 8th floor.

Nanny is watching her phone.

The nanny grabs the scooter and exits the elevator, only noticing that the girl is left in the elevator when the doors are already closing.

The footage shows that the little girl, Xiaotao (小桃), is crying after she is locked inside the elevator. Once the elevator stops and opens on the 8th floor, she can be seen exiting and walking into the hallway.

According to Xiaotao’s father, he received a call from the nanny after 20.00 that night, saying that she could not find the little girl. The father was at home at their 3rd floor apartment that evening. His daughter and the nanny had gone to the apartment of Xiaotao’s grandparents, who live on the 15th floor of the same building.

Rushing out to search for his daughter, the father inspected every floor of the building. The nanny had reportedly first told him she thought Xiaotao might be on the 8th floor, but later she changed her story and said she might be on the first floor.

The father later stated he did not trust what the nanny was saying. She had only been working for the family for seven days, and they had agreed to pay her a monthly wage of 8000 yuan (US$1195) for her services.

After he knocked on their doors, some neighbors on the 8th floor told the father they had heard a child crying. Going outside in search of Xiaotao, the father eventually discovered her body lying on the 2nd floor terrace right below the window on the 8th floor.

The question of whether the nanny can be held legally responsible for the deadly incident is one that is being discussed on Weibo. Although the nanny has stated that she very much blames herself for what has happened, many people also think those overseeing the construction and property management of the building should be held accountable.

An image of the window in question shows that children can easily climb up to the windows and that there are no safety bars.

The window from which the 21-month-old girl fell.

“This is a major design fault by the developers,” one commenter writes: “It’s the developer who is the main culprit. The nanny is the second.”

One Weibo user from Shanghai writes: “This kind of property management is life-threatening for any young child. These high-rise buildings have a barbarous design. In the end, it’s a matter of architectural design in China that doesn’t take the protection of young children into consideration at all.”

Many others also agree that the building’s construction and property management is mainly responsible for the deadly accident: “The window has a serious safety problem, that comes first. Second comes the nanny, who was too careless.”

Recently, there have been multiple news stories about young children falling from windows across China. On June 19, an 8-year-old child fell from the 17th floor of an apartment building in Chenzhou, Hunan.

 

“One mistake, one human life, such huge consequences”

 

While the Hangzhou case is currently being investigated by local authorities, the toddler’s mother spoke out in the media on June 27th that she felt that before exploring the criminal liability of the property management, the nanny’s legal responsiblity should be looked into first.

The hashtag “Mother of Hangzhou Girl Who Fell Out of Building Speaks Out” (#杭州坠楼女童母亲发声#) received over 180 million views on Monday. Xiaotao’s mother openly wonders why it took the nanny a total of eight minutes before she called to say she could not find Xiaotao. She also accuses the nanny of lying about why she was watching her phone while she was in the elevator; the nanny had allegedly claimed that she had received a message from Xiaotao’s parents about running some errands, but the mother says such messages were never sent.

The problem of caregivers not paying attention to their children because they are more focused on their phone has become a trending topic on Chinese social media before. In 2017, the shocking footage of a woman playing on her phone while her 4-year-old son drowned in the pool just a few meters away from her sparked discussions on the dangers of being a ‘smartphone addict’ (低头族).

There are also many commenters on Weibo who think the nanny is the main culprit. One commenter (@DareGoos__) wrote: “She is a high-end nanny, looking after the child is her job. I am unmarried and childless, and even I know that you’re supposed to hold a child with you when you’re taking the elevator, isn’t this common knowledge among adults?”

“I am more careful with my cat than she is with this child,” one commenter wrote. “One mistake, one human life, such huge consequences,” another person said.

But many people do not agree, suggesting that the elevator doors automatically closed way too fast, and that checking one’s phone on an elevator is a normal thing to do.

Others reacting to the Hangzhou news also say the parents bear some responsibility for this tragedy in handing over the care of their young child to this nanny. “When my mother gave birth to me, she stopped working and made our family – taking care of me – her job. The mom and dad should follow their kid closely, especially if it’s just two years old,” one Weibo user (@李佑嘉的前女友) wrote.

“I feel so sorry for the child,” a typical comment said: “This totally could have been avoided.”

For some, the Hangzhou case brought back memories of another tragedy that took place in Hangzhou which also involved a nanny. In 2017, a mother and her three children died in a fire on the 18th floor of a luxurious high-rise building in Hangzhou. After the fire broke out in the early morning around 5.00, the mother saw the fire and then alerted the nanny, asking her to run and seek for help. The nanny, who escaped the fire and survived, later turned out to be responsible for starting the fire (read more here).

By Manya Koetse

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©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 Society

Unanswered Questions Linger in the Aftermath of Tangshan BBQ Restaurant Beating Incident

The deafening silence surrounding the female victims of the Tangshan incident is trending on Weibo, where people are demanding answers.

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The shocking attack on female customers at a Tangshan BBQ restaurant on June 10 is still a major topic of conversation on Chinese social media, where the incident is also referred to as the “Tangshan Barbecue Restaurant Beating Incident” (唐山烧烤店打人案).

For a detailed description of the incident, which was captured by the restaurant’s security cameras (video link), see our previous article here.

In short, three women were sitting at a table together at 2:40 AM when a man came up and tried to touch one of them (a woman dressed in white). After the woman made it clear that she did not want him to touch her, the situation turned violent within seconds.

All of the women ended up getting beaten and kicked by a group of men. The woman dressed in white was dragged outside, where security cameras captured her being severely assaulted by the men. Another woman who tried to help her also ended up being beaten. After the outburst of violence, the men fled the scene, leaving the injured woman lying on the street. A day later, a total of nine men were arrested for their involvement in the attack.

While the two women lie motionless on the pavement, the men stand around.

The ‘Tangshan Barcebecue Beating Incident’ sent shockwaves across the country and triggered discussions on gang crimes, the safety of women, and what people can do to protect themselves and others.

Many restaurants took steps to provide women reassurance that they were safe and some businesses put up warning signs that any form of violent or aggressive behavior would not be tolerated.

Tangshan authorities also took action against crime in the city, introducing operation ‘Thunderstorm’ (雷霆风暴) on June 12, a two-week campaign for which a team of police officers are mobilized and deployed throughout the city to ensure public safety and crackdown on gang crimes.

The Tangshan incident led to dozens of people publicly discussing and exposing gang-related crimes. The fact that at least five of the suspects had criminal records was a cause of anger among those who felt that they should not have been allowed to be out and about at all. One former victim of a man involved in the attack also spoke out. He said he recognized Chen Jizhi (陈继志) from the security footage and that he was locked inside the trunk of a car for ten hours by Chen a few years prior. A hashtag related to the story received over 300 million views on June 17th (#男子称曾被陈继志等殴打险被活埋#).

Other people exposed other gang-related crimes via social media, disclosing their real names and holding their own ID in their hand to make their statements more credible.

One of them was a woman by the name of Zhang, who claimed that she was held hostage in May of this year at the bar where she worked by a local gang and was forced to sign IOUs together with her colleagues. After escaping and reporting to the police, they allegedly did not show up until seven hours later when everyone was gone. This story heightened people’s suspicions regarding police corruption in Tangshan.

Another story that went viral this week is that of a local ‘cake shop boss,’ who also claimed to be a victim of a local gang that has been extorting him since July of 2021, going as far as violently smashing up his shop and closing his business. One news post about this matter received over 340,000 likes on Weibo.

 

Deafening Silence Surrounding Victims

 

In light of the Tangshan restaurant beating, it seems as if everyone has stepped forward to have their say over the past week. The city has come forward with its special action, local businesses have put up signs, the owner of the restaurant where the assault took place published a tearful video in which she said that she too was a victim, some suspects’ family members also spoke out and pleaded with the public not to let their children suffer cyberbullying, and then other locals have spoken out about gang-related violence in the city.

But what about the female victims of the June 10th violence themselves? No statements, no updates, no family coming forward – the silence surrounding the female victims has been attracting a lot of attention on Chinese social media these days.

Many Weibo users suggest that news about the victims is purposely withheld and that people are being silenced about how the women are actually doing.

Text image shared on Weibo. “Please provide details about the injuries of the four girls. Four, not two! Stop covering up your mouth!”

According to previous official media reports, two female victims had been sent to the hospital for treatment and were in stable condition. Two other women reportedly suffered minor injuries and were not hospitalized. No further updates have been given, although the hospital did deny recent rumors that one female victim had passed away (hashtag #医院否认唐山被打女子去世传言#, 190 million views on June 17).

Online calls are growing louder for a follow-up on the victims’ situation and a more detailed report on what actually happened at the Tangshan Barbecue Restaurant. There are many people who are wondering what happened outside the view of the security cameras.

The original footage shows that when the violence starts, a woman (dressed in black) stands up from the table to defend her friend: she hits the aggressive man at their table with a beer bottle. Once her friend (dressed in white) is dragged out of the restaurant, we do not see her come out after.

This is the moment the two women are standing up while their friend is being dragged out of the restaurant. The woman on the right (in black) does not come out later.

On social media, people are speculating about what might have happened to the girl dressed in black and about what occurred in an alley behind the restaurant.

Security footage that was recorded from another angle shows that after the moment when the original video that spread online ends (at the end the guys leave, the girl is left on the street), the incident still continues. One of the women can be seen running into an alley or street behind the restaurant, with the others following. The woman in white, who was dragged by her hair, also stands up and runs away in the same direction.

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“What happened in the back alley?” is a question that lingers online, along with multiple other questions relating to what went on after the original video footage ended that night. One Weibo post asking many of these questions received over 275,000 likes within a day.

Image allegedly showing the back alley where the incident possibly continued.

The hashtag “Follow-up to the Tangshan Beating of Women” (#唐山被打女生后续#) received over 210 million views on Weibo on June 17. “The entire nation is waiting for a follow-up,” one Weibo user wrote.

Meanwhile, various videos, images, and sound recordings are flooding Weibo, but nothing has been verified at this point regarding what might have happened in the alley behind the restaurant. “I don’t want to believe it’s real. But I don’t know what to believe anymore,” one commenter said.

On Friday night, Chinese media reported that 320 Weibo accounts had been shut down for spreading rumors about the Tangshan incident and its aftermath. The hashtag related to the news received over 580 million views on Friday (#发布唐山打人事件谣言320个微博账号被关闭#).

Underneath the post, many commenters wrote: “We just want to know if the girls are okay” and “We just want to know the truth.”

By Manya Koetse
with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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

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