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Exam Room For HIV-positive Students Sparks Social Media Storm in China

For the first time ever in China, HIV-positive students will take the national college exams in a separate examination room at a special school in Linfen, Shanxi. News of the segregated exam site has triggered intense debate among Weibo netizens over the past few days.

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For the first time ever in China, HIV-positive students will take the national college exams in a separate examination room at a special school in Linfen, Shanxi. News of the segregated exam site has triggered intense debate among Weibo netizens over the past few days.

Linfen Red-Ribbon School, the only special school for HIV-infected children in China, sparked a social media storm in early June when Shanxi Daily reported that its students would take their national exams in a special exam room, instead of taking it at the standard local exam site together with other students.

The Red Ribbon School was established in December of 2011, and has since been included in the national education system. The Institute offers free food, dorms, medical services, and psychological treatment for its 33 students, who come from all over China.

China’s national college exam, better known as the gaokao (高考), is the National Higher Entrance Examination. For most students, it is the most important exam of their life.

The Red Ribbon School received official authorization to let 16 of its students take the national exam within the school premises. The students have lived and studied at the Institute since 2004. All prerequisites for the official exam, including CCTV and surveillance equipment, have now been installed in two designated gaokao rooms. There are separate rooms for candidates in liberal arts and science.

The idea for the special exam site was originally suggested by Guo Xiaoping, the school’s headmaster. People with HIV often still face severe stigma and discrimination in China. “It is unrealistic to prevent all discrimination in modern-day society,” Guo said in an interview with the Shanxi Daily: “Some people might object to taking tests together with our students. It was my proposal to set up a separate place for them, and it was then approved by the education and exam council. The establishment of this examination site is of major significance.”

But not all netizens agreed on the helpfulness of separate exam rooms, and it triggered wider debates on the existence of the school itself. One Chinese web user objected: “’Red-Ribbon school’? Giving the school this name is like screaming from the rooftops ‘these kids are sick!’ This institution is unprecedentedly wicked rather than meaningful.”

Another person ridiculed the exam arrangements, pointing out that it reinforced discrimination instead of eliminating it.

There are also many people who approve of the school; but also because they are worried about their own ‘safety.’ On the Weibo page of Chinanews, the comment that received the most ‘likes’ explained a concerned parent’s perspective: “Would you feel safe knowing your kid is playing with those HIV-positive children? They are so little and don’t know how to protect themselves. Something might happen that leads to contact with blood.”

“I bet that half of the comments here are just out of political correctness. To be honest, I don’t want to live with HIV-students in the same college because I’m afraid that I might have some dangerous physical contact with them without even knowing it.”

There are also Weibo commenters who support headmaster Guo Xiaoping. “He’s a great man who quit his job as the president of the Linfen People’s Hospital to devote himself to building this school to help HIV-infected kids receive a proper education. It is really unfair to talk badly about such a kind old man and these poor children.”

In 2014, over half a million (501,000) of China’s population were reportedly living with HIV. Although the number of HIV cases is relatively low in China, this has also intensified existing stigmas and fear (see this 2009 study on stigma and discrimination among people with HIV in low HIV-prevalence contexts).

HIV-infected children in China are often forced to drop out of school because of poverty, discrimination, and poor health. In 2014, the 8-year-old HIV-infected Kunkun made headlines when he was banished from his village for the ‘safety’ of his neighbors. He later found a new home at the Red Ribbon school.

Sixth Tone recently reported that many workers with Chinese Hepatitis B seek body doubles to pass health checks in the workplace to avoid discrimination. Similar practices also occur with HIV carriers. Taboos surrounding the disease are so strong that some Chinese doctors still fear treating HIV/Aids patients, despite anti-discrimination rules.

Looking at the many comments on Chinese social media about the facts and falsehoods about HIV/Aids, it is clear that there is still a long road ahead for HIV awareness in China – especially because sexual education is still a controversial topic.

Through an open letter online, one of the students of the Red Ribbon School also gave their view and final say on the matter. They wrote: “I just want to go to college, achieve my dreams and pay back those who love me. The nearer the gaokao is, the heavier my heart feels. So many questions have been troubling me: whether I will be accepted to a university, if the teachers will accept me as a normal student, and whether my classmates will study and live with me.”

The students of the Red Ribbon Schools will be taking their exams on June 7 and 8. One 19-year-old Weibo netizen wishes the students the best: “As a Linfen resident, this moves me to tears, and I am proud of Linfen. All these keyboard warriors need to shut up and stop discriminating. You can’t deprive these students of their rights. I wish them all the good luck for their exams!”

– By Yue Xin
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Additional editing by Manya Koetse
©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Yue Xin is a bilingual freelance journalist currently based in the Netherlands with a focus on gender issues and literature in China. As a long-time frequent Weibo user, she is specialized in the buzzwords and hot topics on Chinese social media.

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China Health & Science

‘Two Sessions’ Proposed Ban on Single Women Freezing Their Eggs

Weibo talks egg freezing.

Manya Koetse

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It was the number one trending topic of the day on Weibo earlier this week: the proposal to make it illegal for hospitals and clinics in China to provide the service of freezing eggs to unmarried women.

Chinese physician Sun Wei (孙伟), National People’s Congress delegate, is the person to raise the issue of no longer allowing medical facilities in China to freeze eggs. She is the director of the Reproductive Medicine Unit at the No.2 Affiliated Hospital of Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Sun Wei submitted the proposal during the Two Sessions (lianghui), China’s largest annual legislative meetings, in order to encourage Chinese citizens to “marry and reproduce at the appropriate age.” Sun also mentions potential health risks as a reason to ban egg freezing services.

On Weibo, one news post reporting on the issue received nearly 835,000 likes. The hashtag “Proposal to Prohibit Single Women From Freezing Their Eggs” (#建议禁止单身女性冷冻卵子#) received over 710 million views.

Sun Wei (image by Vista看天下).

The proposal goes against the proposition of a National Committee member during the lianghui, that of Peng Jing (彭静), that supports single women’s rights in freezing their eggs.

It also comes after the 31-year-old Teresa Xu (Xu Zaozao) filed a lawsuit against a Beijing medical facility in December of 2019 for refusing her the treatment of freezing her eggs, arguing it was effectively discriminating against single women. In doing so, Xu challenged China’s regulations on human assisted reproduction, which bar single women from getting the procedure.

Artificial insemination itself is not illegal in China when it is done by a married couple; it is only against the law when done by those who are not lawfully married.

It is not the first time the discussion on egg freezing erupts on Chinese social media. In 2015, Chinese actress and director Xu Jinglei (徐静蕾) stated in an interview that she had nine eggs frozen in the United States at the age of 39, calling them her “back-up plan.”

Xu’s statement made artificial insemination an issue of public interest, especially because unmarried women in China cannot carry out this procedure.

Although single women in China technically could have their eggs frozen – if they have the financial capacity to do so – they would not be able to have them inseminated unless they provide three certificates: their identification card, their marriage certificate, and their ‘zhunshengzheng‘ (准生证 ) – the ‘Permission to give Birth’, which would not be issued without the marriage certificate. In short: single women would not be able to have a baby through artificial insemination, because they would not be able to get the required legal papers to go through with the procedure.

At the time of the 2015 discussion, the famous Chinese blogger and writer Han Han (韩寒) shared his thoughts on the issue: “Why can’t women decide for themselves whether or not they want to have children? And what if an unmarried woman does get pregnant, and they don’t get a ‘Permission to give Birth’? Then the child cannot even get a residence registration.”

“Why should having a baby be bound together with marriage? Even I, a simple straight guy, cannot see the logic in this,” Han Han wrote.

In the discussions that are going around Chinese social media this week, there are many netizens that take a similar stance as Han Han did, arguing that single women should have the right to freeze their eggs, and wondering why they would not be allowed to do so in the first place.

Various Weibo commenters write that individuals should have the right to make their own decisions about whether or not they would like to have children. One Weibo thread where people are asked about their opinion on the matter, the majority of the 16,000+ responses say they support single women being able to freeze their eggs.

“[I] support [it], [I] support [it], [I] support [it], [I] support [it], [I] support [it]…” – this Weibo user clearly thinks single women should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they would like to freeze their eggs.

However, there are also some web users opposing this idea, arguing that it is “not morally right” and does not provide a “normal family environment” to children.

Whether Sun Wei’s proposal will lead to actual changes in the law is yet to be seen, although it would virtually not alter the current situation regarding egg freezing in China. It already is virtually impossible for unmarried women to freeze their eggs as a “back up plan” and it would just make the impossible even more impossible.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions from Jialing Xie

Featured image Photo by 东旭王

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.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Health & Science

Schools in China Are Reopening, But Will Lunch Breaks Ever Be the Same Again?

Chinese students are back to school, but school life is not back to normal.

Manya Koetse

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As most schools across China are opening their doors again, social media users are sharing photos of what school life looks like in the post-COVID-19 outbreak era this week.

Some videos and images that are circulating on Weibo and Wechat show somewhat dystopian images of the post-COVID-19 school life at primary and (senior) high schools – students eating while standing outside in straight lines, or pupils wearing face masks taking turns to eat their lunch (supposedly to reduce the chances of contagion via respiratory droplets, see tweeted video below).

Most schools in China have already started or will open later this month. Only Hubei province and Beijing have not yet announced school reopening plans, Caixin reports.

But although China is gradually back to business after its weeks-long coronavirus lockdown, daily life is far from normal as the country remains on high alert for a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Schools are therefore also taking strict precautions to reduce infection risks both in and outside of the classroom.

Lunch break policy and procedures are just one of the many things that have changed at Chinese schools now.

On Weibo, ‘Henan Education’ is one of many accounts posting about the dramatically different way of eating at China’s school canteens in these post-COVID-19-outbreak times.

In Xingyang city, for example, special supervisors have been allocated to high schools to maintain the order and reduce the number of students gathering at the school entrances and assist students with lunch break seatings at the canteen.

Canteen at Xingyang’s Second Senior High School

At a senior high school in Kaifeng, all students have their lunch breaks in the canteen at one side of the table only, leaving enough space in between the other students.

Other schools have set up their canteens like examination rooms, only allowing one student per table, only facing one direction.

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One Weibo user posts how her Tianjin school is preparing for the lunch break arrangements, with indicators on the floor marking the direction students should walk in and the distance they have to keep from each other.

One other school in Jiangsu’s Huai’an has put dividers on all lunch tables to separate students while having their lunch break.

“It feels like taking exams,” some commenters write about the new lunch break policies. “We can no longer look around and whisper in each other’s ear.”

One school board in the city of Beihai has decided to make use of its new separating screens to stimulate more studying during lunch breaks; they have printed study material for the upcoming ‘gaokao‘ exams on the dividers.

Some netizens think that other schools will follow this example if it appears to be effective. In that way, the post-COVID-19 lunch break will turn into just another study opportunity.

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)
With contributions from Miranda Barnes
Follow @whatsonweibo

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.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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