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Devastating Rain and Floods in Henan – A Hashtag Timeline

Manya Koetse

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The torrential rainfall and floodings in China’s Henan Province have completely overwhelmed the region, with dozens of cities and villages seeing massive disruption to everyday life. What’s on Weibo lists the main Chinese social media hashtags that went trending over the past week during the deadly floods.

Disastrous rain and floodings continue to plague China’s Henan province, where Zhengzhou city and surrounding towns and villages have been dealing with the strongest rainfall ever recorded.

Henan, home to 99 million residents, has seen extreme rain since Friday, July 16, leading to floods and critical situations in the region on July 20, when the city of Zhengzhou was hit especially hard.

According to reports on July 24, the death toll from the torrential rains has risen to 56. More than a million of people were relocated and over 7,5 million people are affected.

In this blog, we will list some of the main stories relating to the floods in Henan that have gone trending on the Chinese social media platform Weibo over the past week up to July 24.

 

TRENDING TIMELINE

 

July 20

 

PASSENGERS TRAPPED IN ZHENGZHOU SUBWAY (Hashtag: #郑州地铁5号线一车厢多人被困#)

On the late afternoon of July 20, a terrible flood occurred around the Wulongkou parking lot of Zhengzhou Metro Line 5. On Tuesday night, around 18:00, the water burst into the underground area between Shakou Road station and Haitansi station, trapping a train with approximately 500 passengers in it. The critical situation led to terrifying images and videos of passengers caught in the carriage, the water reaching up to their necks. Due to the lack oxygen in the carriage, many people fainted.

Image via Chinatimes.

After several hours, rescuers were able to get people out through the roof of the carriage. Although hundreds of people were saved, at least twelve did not survive. Footage that circulated on social media showed lifeless bodies lying on the floor of the station during the rescue operation.

The incident is one that kept generating online discussions after it happened, with survivors telling their stories and saying it felt “like the Titanic sinking.”

Around 20:00, twelve people were trapped in at the subway line 14 Olympic Sports Center station, with the water running up to two meters high. The fire department was able to rescue all twelve.

 

ZHENGZHOU HOSPITAL POWER OUTAGE (Hashtag: #暴雨中的郑州医院#)

The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, one of the biggest hospitals in the world, ran into major problems on July 20 when there was a power outage due to major flooding.

On social media, Weibo users cried out to request help for resources to rescue patients. This led to city residents coming in to bring electricity generators. The next day, on July 21st, the hospital’s critical patients were all evacuated to other medical facilities.

 

July 21

 

STRANDED PASSENGERS AT ZHENGZHOU EAST STATION (Hashtag: #郑州东站 音乐是有力量的#)

Hundreds of passengers were stranded at Zhengzhou East Station when all services were suspended after 2:00 AM on July 21st. A youth orchestra group decided to pull out their instruments and perform in the station’s main hall.

The kind gesture moved many Chinese social media users to tears.

 

CONTROVERSY OVER HENAN REAL ESTATE COMPANY ‘HIGHLAND’ ADVERTISEMENT (Hashtag: #康桥地产致歉#)

An ad by the local real estate company Kangqiao Real Estate promoting its ‘high lands’ properties led to online controversy. The Kangqiao Group poster highlighted the height advantage to its real estate locations, using the slogan: “Highland – live in the highland and only let the wind and rain be your scenery.”

The ad started making its rounds while Henan was in the midst of a huge rainstorm and flooding. Many deemed the timing of the ad insensitive, as well its wording. “Let the wind and rain just be your scenery” could also be understood as staying away from the hardships experienced by so many in Henan. Many felt the company was taking advantage of the disaster in Henan to promote its own real estate.

On July 21, Kangqiao Real Estate issued a statement of apology, saying that the advertising was canceled and that those responsible for its content would be removed from their position.

 

BABY RESCUED FROM DEBRIS (Hashtag: #三个月大婴儿被埋废墟一天一夜获救#)

A 3-month old baby was pulled from the ruins of a collapsed house in Xingyang, Zhengzhou. The infant reportedly was rescued a day after the building collapsed to landslides caused by the heavy rainfall. The child was sent to the hospital. The child’s mother was initially said to be still missing. BBC later reported that the mother died after bringing her baby to safety. The child is unharmed.

 

FIREFIGHTER COLLAPSES AFTER RESCUE (Hashtag: #郑州消防员救出最后一个孩子后累瘫#)

Around 14:30 in the afternoon, a fire erupted in a residential building in Zhengzhou, leaving 23 residents in a dangerous situation. Local firefighters managed to carry out all residents, mainly elderly and children. Due to the extreme weather conditions and high temperatures in the building, one firefighter collapsed at the scene. His colleagues immediately provided medical assistance.

 

ZHENGZHOU INSTALLS TEMPORARY PUBLIC WATER TAPS (Hashtag: #暴雨后郑州街头安装临时水龙头#)

As the majority of residential buildings in the city of Zhengzhou were cut off from water after the torrential rains and floodings, the city installed temporary water taps on July 21st.

 

July 22

 

WEIHUI AND HUIXIAN EMERGENCY SITUATION (Hashtag: #卫辉暴雨#, #辉县暴雨#)

In the early morning of July 22, the people in Weihui sounded the alarm over the situation in their town. Around 4.00 AM, water started flooding into people’s homes due to excessive rain and overflowing reservoirs.

As the rain still continued, water levels kept rising up to waist level and there was a lack of sandbags. A similar situation unfolded in the Huixian area.

Weihui is a county-level city with about 480,000 inhabitants, Huixian has approximately 790,000.

 

HUIXIAN HOSPITAL FLOODED (Hashtag:#辉县暴雨#)

Some 300 patients and staff at the local Gongji Hospital (辉县市共济医院) were trapped by the water. With power being cut off, not enough food available, and not enough manpower, the staff started reaching out for help via social media.

 

PASSENGERS GET OFF K206 TRAIN AFTER BEING STUCK FOR 45 HOURS (Hashtag: #滞留K206列车旅客回忆救援过程#)

After being stuck on the Qingdao-bound K206 train for 45 hours due to the floods, train passengers were finally able to get off their train.

The train departed from Chengdu on July 19 at 6pm. Caught by the severe weather conditions in Henan, the train was stranded and had no electricity, supplies, nor air conditioning for nearly two days. On July 22, the 1100 passengers were welcomed to stay at the Zhengzhou Business School until they could continue their journey.

 

ELECTRICITY TO BE RESTORED IN ZHENGZHOU (Hashtag: #郑州力争今晚恢复高层居民小区供电#)

The Zhengzhou local government held a press conference on the afternoon of July 22 that they expected electricity in the city to be partially restored on Thursday night.

 

ONLINE ANGER OVER COMPANIES USING “HENAN FLOOD MARKETING” (Hashtag: #多家地产公司借暴雨营销#)

After the online outrage over a local real estate company promoting its ‘highland’ property in light of the floodings, other companies also sparked controversy for using the Henan floods as a marketing strategy.

Two local companies selling parking space used the devastating floods, in which countless cars were flooded, as a way to promote their supposedly safe parking lot. The companies, Yongwei (永威) and Yaxing (亚星), were denounced for promoting their company in this way at a time when the entire country was still praying for Henan and going out to help those in need.

 

July 23

 

CRITICAL DAY FOR XINXIANG FLOODS (Hashtag: #新乡大块镇上万村民被洪水围困#)

Xinxiang, a city of 5.8 million people just 70 km north of Zhengzhou, also saw extreme rain and floods this week, leading to a critical situation on July 23. Efforts to block the Wei river from flooding villages near Hebi failed. Thousands of locals were trapped without water and electricity.

Global Times reported that reporters tried to get to the hardest-hit counties in Xinxiang on Thursday morning, but were informed that the situation was so severe that teams without boats could no longer get in. Firefighters and rescuers used forklift trucks and rubber boats to evacuate the residents from the flooded villages in Xinxiang.

 

HUNDREDS OF DRIVERS TRAPPED IN JINGGUANG TUNNEL, AT LEAST TWO DEAD (Hashtag: #京广隧道#)

Earlier in the week, hundreds of vehicles were trapped by the water at Jingguang Tunnel, a 2-km-long underpass in Zhengzhou. On Friday, Global Times reported that at least two people had died in the tunnel. Meanwhile, drainage and dredging work was still underway.

People became stuck in traffic at the underpass around 4 pm on Tuesday, July 20, when there was heavy rain. According to witness reports, the water level rose very rapidly and cars were soon flooded. One witness told Global Times that the water was completely over the car roofs within 20 minutes after the water levels started rising.

 

CHINESE SPORTSWEAR BRAND ERKE BECOMES ONLINE HIT AFTER DONATING 50 MILLION (Hashtag: #鸿星尔克的微博评论好心酸#)

The domestic sportswear brand named Erke (鸿星尔克) donated 50 million yuan ($7.7 million) to the Henan flood. This attracted a lot of attention on Chinese social media, since Erke is a relatively small and low-profile brand that seemingly has not been doing too well over the past years.

After people found out that the company donated such a high amount of money to help the people in Henan despite its own losses, its online sales went through the roof – everyone wanted to support this generous ‘patriotic brand.’ While netizens rushed to the online shops selling Erke, the brand’s physical shops also ran out of products with so many people coming to buy their sportswear. One female sales assistant was moved to tears when the store suddenly filled up with so many customers.

 

ONE-LEGGED MAN COMES TO THE RESCUE IN XINXIANG (Hashtag: #独腿小哥自发驰援新乡转运老人孩子#)

A man with one leg attracted attention on Chinese social media when footage and images came out of the Puyang resident helping the elderly and children in Xinxiang get away from the water. The young man pulled a boat and made many trips to get people across the water. The man’s hometown of Puyang is about two to three hours from Xinxiang – he came down to Xinxiang to help locals out.

 

July 24

 

HELPING OUT FOR HENAN HASHTAG HITS 15 BILLION VIEWS (Hashtag: #河南暴雨互助#)

A special Weibo hashtag dedicated to seeking assistance and providing help during the Henan floods hit 15 billion views on Saturday, making it one of the most-viewed news-related hashtags of the year. The social media platform Weibo became an important communication tool during the Henan floods, with countless of posts using the hashtag to seek help and provide information. See our article dedicated to this topic here.

 

ENORMOUS LOSS OF CROPS AND LIVESTOCK (Hashtag: #暴雨后百余只羊仅找回一只#)

With ongoing rescue efforts in the region, more ‘after the rainstorm’ videos and social media posts came out on Saturday showing the devastating consequences of the heavy rainfall and floods. Many villagers have lost their homes, crops, livestock, and belongings.

People’s Daily reported that one family in Xingyang county that had more than a hundred sheep, only had one animal left after the floods.

 

THE FLOODS IN HEBI (Hashtag: #鹤壁暴雨#)

The Olympics have started, and many of the trending topics on Weibo were no longer related to the floods on Saturday. Many Weibo commenters were therefore calling out to generate more attention for the situations in Henan’s rural areas, particularly in Anyang, Xinxiang, and Hebi, which are still underwater and are seriously affected by the floods.

“We’ve been doing online volunteer work in the disaster area in Henan, and the reality is far more serious than we can even imagine,” one Weibo user commented.

Also see our articles on Henan here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

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 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

Announced Changes in Nucleic Acid Testing and Further Easing of Covid Measures Across China

Bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate.

Manya Koetse

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On Monday, directly after that noteworthy unrest-filled weekend, the hashtag “Multiple Locations Announce Nucleic Acid Testing Changes” (#多地核酸检测通知发生变化#) went trending on Chinese social media, receiving over 660 million clicks by Monday evening.

Immediately following demonstrations in Beijing and a second night of protests in Shanghai and elsewhere, various Chinese media reported how different areas across the country are introducing changes to their current Covid19 testing measures.

On Wednesday, November 30, China’s vice-premier Sun Chunlan made remarks at a meeting on epidemic prevention, underlining the importance of “constantly optimizing” China’s Covid-19 response and talking about a “new stage and mission” – without ever mentioning “zero Covid.”

This is what we know about easing Covid measures thus far:

▶ Strict lockdowns have been lifted in Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, and Chongqing.

▶ On November 28, Guangzhou announced that people who do not actively participate in social life will no longer need to participate in continuous nucleic acid screening. This includes elderly people who stay indoors for long periods of time, students who take online classes, and those who work from home. The change will apply to residents in seven districts, including Haizhu, Panyu, Tianhe, and Baiyun (#广州7区无社会面活动者可不参加全员核酸#).

▶ Guangzhou, according to Reuters, also scrapped a rule that only people with a negative COVID test can buy fever medication over the counter.

Harbin will follow the example of Guangzhou, and will also allow people who are mostly based at home to skip nucleic acid test screenings.

▶ Same goes for Shenyang, and Taiyuan.

▶ In Chongqing, various districts have done widespread Covid testing campaigns, but the local authorities announced that those communities that have not had a positive Covid case over the past five days do not need to participate in nucleic acid screening anymore. This means an end to district-wide testing.

▶ On November 30, Beijing also announced that it will start exempting some people from frequent Covid testing, including those elderly residents who are bound to home and other people who do not go out and have social interactions. This also includes younger students who are following classes online.

▶ Starting from December 5, bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate (announced on December 2nd).

▶ Although not officially announced, there have been various social media posts and reports about Covid-positive people in Beijing being allowed to quarantine at home if they meet conditions.

Chengdu Metro announced on December 2nd that it will no longer check passengers’ nucleic acid test reports. Passengers still need to scan their travel code and those with a green code can enter. Other public places will reportedly also start to accept the ‘green code’ only without a time limit on nucleic acid testing.

Tianjin metro announced that the 72-hour nucleic acid certificate check will be also be canceled for passengers on the Tianjin metro lines. As in other places, people will still need to wear proper face masks and undergo temperature checks.

▶ In Hangzhou, except for at special places such as nursing homes, orphanages, primary and secondary schools, people’s nucleic acid tests will no longer be checked in public transportation and other public places. They will also stop checking people’s Venue Codes (场所码).

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China History

Mourning Jiang Zemin, Weibo Turns Black and White

Since the rise of Chinese social media, Jiang Zemin became a recurring part of Chinese memes.

Manya Koetse

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Following the announcement that Jiang Zemin (江泽民), the former president of the PRC, has passed away, various Chinese online platforms have turned into ‘grey’ mode as a sign of mourning. Jiang Zemin died due to leukemia and organ failure. He was 96 years old.

Besides Weibo, the home page of major Chinese websites such as Baidu, Sogou, Taobao, Alipay, Xinhua, People’s Daily, The Paper, and many others all turned into black-and-white mourning mode on Wednesday.

Bilibili turns into grey mode on November 30.

Search engine Sogou also in black and white mode.

On Weibo, one post about Jiang Zemin’s passing received a staggering one million reposts and over two million ‘likes.’ The hashtag “Comrade Jiang Zemin Passed Away at the Age of 96 in Shanghai” (#江泽民同志在上海逝世享年96岁#) had received over 2,5 billion clicks by Wednesday night.

Jiang Zemin was appointed as President of the People’s Republic of China in 1993. In the years before, the former Shanghai Party chief already held official positions as the chairman of the Central Military Affairs Commission and general secretary of the Party. In 2003, Jiang Zemin retired and was replaced by Hu Jintao (Sullivan 2012).

Since the rise of Chinese social media, Jiang became a recurring part of Chinese memes. Jiang had created a wide group of online fans, who are commonly referred to as ‘toad worshippers’ as the online phenomenon of ‘worshipping’ Jiang Zemin is called mo ha (膜蛤), ‘toad worship’ (Fang 2020, 38). The entire phenomenon has become its own subculture that is called ‘mo ha culture’ (móhá wénhuà, 膜蛤文化).

What started as a joke – nicknaming Jiang a ‘toad’ due to his big glasses, signature pants, and wide smile, – became an actual online movement of people who were appreciative of Jiang Zemin.

They loved him, not only because the former leader spoke many languages and other talents, and because of his unique appearance, but mainly because he was not scared to show his emotions, was very expressive, and good at telling stories.

One famous example of this, is when Jiang Zemin got upset with a Hong Kong journalist in 2000 and told them off using three languages (link to video, also here). The much-repeated quote “too young, too simple, sometimes naive” comes from this noteworthy moment as Jiang told journalists that they still had a lot to learn, whereas he had gone through “hundred of battles,” saying “I’ve seen it all.” This also led to Jiang later being called ‘the Elder’ (长者) by netizens.

Another popular Jiang Zemin video is when he met with American journalist Mike Wallace in August of 2000 in Beidaihe. During the interview, the two discussed sensitive topics including the Falun Gong and Tiananmen protests. The interview reportedly was one of the longest ever between an American journalist and a Chinese head of state (watch here).

A study by Kecheng Fang (2020) about ‘China’s toad worship culture’ suggests that for many online fans of Jiang, the cult around him is apolitical, playful, and part of a shared digital cultural tradition.

For some, however, it does hold some political meaning to ‘worship’ Jiang, who only became a popular online meme around 2014, after Xi Jinping took power as a conservative strongman who is not as emotionally expressive. Fang describes how one meme creator said: “We couldn’t express our criticism through normal channels, so we turned to other indrect ways, including lauding Jiang’s personality and characteristics in various ways” (2020, 45).

Although Jiang became popular among younger Chinese on online platforms over the past decade, he was not necessarily that popular at the time of his leadership, and opinions vary on the legacy he leaves behind. Jiang continuously pushed for reform and opening-up after Deng Xiaoping’s rule.

As summarized by Foreign Policy, Jiang oversaw two crucial transitions that shaped and improved the lives of the people of China: “First, he peacefully guided his country out of the shadow of China’s founding revolutionaries, who had spent decades purging one another and at times caused great pain and sorrow for everyone else. Second, although hesitant at first, Jiang came to embrace the market economy.”

As various places across China have seen unrest and protests over the past few days, the announcement of Jiang’s death comes at a sensitive time.

Many on Chinese social media are burning virtual candles in memory of Jiang Zemin today. “I will fondly recall your style and manners,” some say.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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References:

Fang, Kecheng. 2020. “Turning a communist party leader into an internet meme: the political and apolitical aspects of China’s toad worship culture.” Information, Communication & Society, 23 (1): 38-58.

Sullivan, Lawrence R. 2012. Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Communist Party. Lanham: The Scarecrow Press. See page: 3-43, 208.

 

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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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