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China Sex & Gender

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.

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.

©2021 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.

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China Sex & Gender

Shaanxi Domestic Violence Incident Caught on Home Security Camera, Sparks Online Outrage

The man, a deputy director at a state-owned company, has been fired after the video of the domestic abuse went viral online.

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Home security footage showing a man brutally beating his wife in front of their young child has drawn widespread criticism on Chinese social media. The man, a deputy director at a state-owned company, has now been fired.

A shocking video of a domestic violence incident taking place inside a home in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, has sparked anger across Chinese social media over the past week.

The video, recorded in the family’s living room, shows a man severely beating his wife while their toddler is with them in the room (a blurred video published by The Paper can be viewed here, viewer discretion is advised).

Although stories of domestic violence often go trending on Chinese social media, this case is especially noteworthy due to the fact that the incident was recorded by indoor home security cameras. Security cameras inside the home have become more popular in China over the past few years, especially for families with kids or pets to keep tabs on what is going on inside the living room or other home areas.

The video first shows the man frantically hitting the woman on her head over a dozen times while she is sitting on the couch with the child on her lap. The woman then stands up and seemingly tries to get her daughter somewhere safe while the child cries out for her mum. The man then violently drags the woman away again and resumes to frantically beat her. When the child cries out, the mum tells her “don’t be scared darling” while the abuse continues – the man slaps the woman on her face and pushes her down.

At one point, another woman, who is said to be the man’s mother, steps into the room and takes the young child away without stopping the violence or saying anything at all.

The video of the incident sparked major outrage on Thursday, January 20, as it went viral on Chinese social media and became a hot search topic.

Various hashtags related to the incident ended up as popular searches / trending topics.

The video supposedly surfaced online because the domestic abuse victim posted it herself on WeChat, although this is not entirely clear as her identity and social media information are kept private. The video was posted on Weibo by someone within her Wechat friends group on January 19.

In screenshots that have also gone viral online, the victim speaks about the abuse, claiming it was not the first time for her to suffer abuse at the hands of her husband. She writes that she was also abused, both psychically and mentally, during her pregnancy and shortly afterward and that her husband has also been aggressive with their child.

Many Weibo users who watched the video of the incident already commented that they could tell domestic abuse was normalized inside the Wang family home due to the grandmother’s seemingly calm and indifferent response to the violence.

The man in the video was identified as Wang Pengfei (王鹏飞), a deputy director at the state-owned Shaanxi Airport New Silk Road Trading Company. The company opened up a brand-new Weibo account to post a public statement on the matter, condemning the behavior of Mr. Wang and saying he was suspended from his duties. They later added another post that Wang was fired from his job.

On Thursday, the police also posted on social media to inform netizens that the case was under investigation. Two days later, local authorities from the Baqiao District in Xi’an, Shaanxi, issued a statement regarding the case.

According to the police statement, the 28-year-old Mrs. Wang and the 34-year-old Mr. Wang had an argument on the night of January 18 over a household matter. Mrs. Wang allegedly reacted in an “extreme” way and the conflict between the two escalated, leading to Mr. Wang beating up his wife. Mrs. Wang reported the incident to the police on January 19th.

The police statement said that “both spouses recognized their mistakes” and that, in accordance with the law, Mr. Wang received a five-day prison sentence and Mrs. Wang received “educational criticism.” Being a Party member, Mr. Wang was also given a “severe disciplinary warning” within the Party.

Over the past few years, domestic violence has been a recurring topic on Chinese social media with many voices trying to raise public awareness about this widespread social problem.

In 2019, the Chinese makeup influencer Yuya Mika shared her story as a survivor of domestic abuse in a video that went viral on Weibo. That video contained shocking footage of Yuya’s ex-boyfriend trying to violently drag her out of an elevator – a moment that was also caught on security cameras.

The tragic story of a Tibetan vlogger named Lamu (拉姆, Lhamo in Tibetan) also triggered many discussions on Chinese social media in 2020, after she was set on fire by her ex-husband who previously abused her for years. Lamu did not survive, and her death sparked an online movement advocating for better laws and support systems for domestic abuse victims in China (for more on this story, check out our podcast on Lamu here).

This week, the Xi’an incident again led to online discussions about how Chinese authorities deal with domestic violence. Many commenters argued that the five-day detainment sentence was too light, and others wondered why the wife was “re-educated” by the police while being the victim in this matter, and why it was suggested that her “extreme” response to their argument was what led to the beating.

“As if she deserved the beating due to her lack of good communication,” one person wrote.

Various Chinese state media, including CCTV, condemned domestic violence and stressed that it was never just a “family issue.”

Weibo blogger ‘Marcus Says’ (@马库斯说) posted a commentary on the incident, arguing that it is useless for Chinese state media to claim there is “zero tolerance” for domestic violence in China when the law still does not do enough to punish the wrongdoers and to protect the vulnerable people in these kinds of situations. The post was shared over 7000 times.

But there were also many Weibo users who claimed that it was Mrs. Wang who first hit her husband, arguing that the problem of domestic violence often comes from both sides and that there should be more awareness about women abusing men. Commenter @voiceyaya wrote: “Again we’re talking about domestic abuse and we generally and repeatedly say we shouldn’t blame the victim and that it’s never the victim’s fault, but I don’t think it’s very meaningful. Why can’t we face the reality that many cases of domestic violence involve violence on both sides and that there is a problem of both parties hitting each other?”

There are also those who blame Mrs. Wang for punishing her husband too severely by exposing his behavior online, arguing that he will never get another job now that his name and photo are widely known.

Despite some online disagreements about the case, most people agree that the child’s well-being should be prioritized above anything else. “How tragic for the child, will this really be the last time she sees her daddy hit her mum? She is so small to be immersed in such a frightening scene. This will continue to haunt her for a long time.”

It is currently not known if the couple will divorce, or if Mr. Wang and his wife will be reunited after his five days of detainment are over.

By Manya Koetse

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 Sex & Gender

Doctor Livestreams Gynecological Surgery: Video Streaming Site Bilibili Responds to the Controversy

An anesthesiologist from Shandong live-streamed from the operating room while a patient was undergoing gynecological surgery.

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A video on the popular Chinese video platform Bilibili has triggered controversy on social media. On January 15, a doctor was filming during gynecological surgery and live-streamed the entire procedure for everyone to see.

The issue came to light after one Bilibili user posted on social media that he had personally seen the live stream on Saturday, saying that the female patient was under anesthesia and unaware of being filmed. After this person immediately reported the live stream to Bilibili, it was cut off and ended.

The video streaming platform Bilibili responded to the controversy on Tuesday night, stating that the livestreamer was previously warned and cut off from the platform and that he has now been permanently banned. Bilibili also stated they had reported the person to Chinese authorities.

A hashtag related to Bilibili’s statement was viewed over 220 million times on Weibo on Wednesday, making it one of the top trending topics of the day (#B站回应有账号直播妇科手术#).

Chinese news outlet The Paper (澎湃新闻) reported that the doctor in question was identified by authorities and has been arrested. According to one of their sources, the person who live-streamed the surgery is an anesthesiologist who works at Rizhao Central Hospital in Shandong. The case is currently under investigation.

Weibo commenters have responded to the incident with shock and disgust. “This doctor lacks any medical ethics,” some write, with others mentioning how the privacy of the patient has been violated and saying they hope the doctor will be punished for what he has done. There are also those who wonder why other medical staff members did not intervene when they saw the anesthesiologist filming, suggesting this probably was not the first time for him to do so.

The issue has also triggered online discussions regarding Bilibili’s content policies, with some raising questions on why videos or live streams relating to politically sensitive issues will be pulled offline immediately while these kinds of videos can apparently be live-streamed without any problem.

Just a few months ago, similar discussions also trended on Chinese social media after an online influencer committed suicide by drinking pesticide during a live broadcast.

Xiakedao (@侠客岛), a Weibo account run by state media outlet People’s Daily, published a commentary on the recent Bilibili controversy on January 19, stressing that Chinese video platforms should be held accountable for their lack of supervision.

Update January 22:

China Daily reports on January 22nd that eleven people have been held accountable for the live stream and that the doctor, named Li, is currently in custody and is facing criminal charges. His medical certification will be canceled.

By Manya Koetse

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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