Many netizens become angry when seeing violent school videos popping up on Chinese social media: “Ten girls holding a steel pipe in their hands, participating in an armed confrontation. This scum of the earth should be chopped to death!” – is one comment on March 22, in response to a video where a group of girls are captured on video beating other girls with steel pipes.
It is just one of many examples of violent videos that have surfaced on Chinese social media practically every day over the last year.
Weibo Violence (#微博曝料#)
According to Baike, China’s equivalent to Wikipedia, ‘Campus Violence’ (校园暴力) refers to any type of violence on schools and the campus, either between students, students and the teacher, or student’s vandalism on the school premises. Campus violence is no longer simply the problem of the school; it has become the focus of public attention, especially now that more and more cases are caught on tape and spread on social media.
Many bullying videos expose how young girls are beating on other girls. One video shared on March 23 shows how two girls are repeatedly hitting one girl in the face. But there are also other types of confrontations. Another video that was shared on March 22 was that of some high school students beating their teacher with a chair in the classroom.
According to one netizen called ‘Happy Warm Brother‘ (happy热哥) who posted the video of the classroom confrontation, the incident occurred at a middle school in Lianping county, Guangdong.
Many commenters react in shock: “These boys should be immediately expelled!” and “Such scum!”. By noon of March 23, the video was shared nearly 1000 times.
‘Weibo Violence’ (#微博曝料#), ‘Campus Violence’ (#校园暴力#) or ‘Exposing Campus Violence’ (#校园暴力曝光台#), have been recurring online topics over the past year. In November 2015, a video of a schoolgirl getting kicked in the stomach surfaced online and caused quite some controversy. Since then, this kind of violence has been a daily topic on Weibo, with one after the other video coming out. Some also include sexual assault, with girls tearing off the clothes of their victim and kicking on a naked girl.
Sina Weibo recently described the phenomenon of bullying videos as follows: “Lately, videos and news of campus violence has appeared online again and again. They are a serious disturbance of school order and a pollution of student’s healthy studying environment. It’s bringing a bad influence to schools and society at large.”
Not another one!
China is dealing with a real epidemic of school violence. As CNN reported earlier, the emergence of these kinds of violence is connected to different factors, including peer pressure, broken families, feelings of insecurity and increased time spent online.
According to the NoBullying movement website, boys and girls act differently when bullying. Girls commonly form girl groups to gang up on their victim to show that they are in control or to gain popularity. They are also more inclined to make cruel jokes and pranks to embarrass or humiliate the victim. This might play a role in the fact that there seem to be more Weibo violence videos of girls bullying on girls than those of boys.
Although the extreme bullying video’s have become a recurring topic of discussion, the online censorship on these kinds of video’s is weak to non-existent – they are freely shared on video platforms Youku or Miaopai and then shared through WeChat or Sina Weibo.
“Not another school violence video!” – a netizen called Zhong Yuejuan (钟学隽) responds when Weibo user Zhou Licheng (周李城), who focuses on school violence, posts another shocking violent video: “There’s another one every day, when will we come up with a way to deal with campus violence?”
Chinese netizens have started using the hashtag ‘Urgent action to implement laws’ (#迫切呼吁立法#) to address the problem of bullying in schools.
The anti-bullying shout outs of social media users have not gone unheard, as the prevention and punishment of this kind of violence has increasingly become a topic of focus for Chinese government and state media.
Stopping the Violence
Bullying videos and Weibo violence were a ‘hot topic’ during this year’s plenary sessions (lianghui), where committee members called for higher punishments and a better legal system to counter campus violence, Chongqing Evening News columnist Shi Heming (史鹤鸣) writes on March 22.
Part of the reason why bullying is such a big issue in China is that the perpetrators barely face legal consequences, and that the problem culturally is not seen as a serious one. As China Daily writes about bullying: “Few offenders receive proper punishment in China. In most of the cases that do not involve severe physical harm, the only “punishment” offenders receive is criticism from schools. As for parents, most of them consider bullying incidents as “small fights” between their children, and it is precisely because of such an attitude that bullying cases have not declined in China.”
In the Chongqing Evening News, Shi pleads for a better use of existing Chinese laws. Although children under 14 years of age cannot receive criminal penalties in China, minors from 14 to 16 years of age can be punished for theft, assault and manslaughter. From 16 years on, they can be punished like adults. According to the law, Shi pleads, there are ample possibilities to punish bullies for their violent deeds. Besides punishment, there should also more focus on the prevention of these kinds of violent acts.
In Phoenix News, author Xie Zhusheng (叶竹盛) also pleads for halting campus violence by making the culprits carry more responsibility for their deeds.
Chinese politician and Minister of Education Yuan Guiren recently made a statement about China’s school violence problem, saying that the laws will be adjusted so that bullies will be able to get stricter punishments.
“They should’ve done this earlier,” one Weibo user responds: “The law should protect those children who need it the most.”
On this page we have listed some bullying videos that are written about in this article. They contain graphic content, that may be disturbing to some viewers.
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Anorexia in China – Same, But Different
What’s on Weibo gives an overview of how anorexia nervosa is discussed in China and on Chinese social media.
“Does anorexia exist in China?” is one amongst the millions of questions recently posted on the Chinese Quora-like platform Zhihu.com. It is a question that pops up on Chinese social media every now and then, as the eating disorder is not often discussed in a Chinese context.
The empty dialogue page on Zhihu.com is telling for the general discussion of anorexia in China today. Anorexia nervosa, commonly called anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by low weight that receives relatively little attention on Chinese online and social media compared to the English-language online environment, where there are countless support groups, discussion forums, and even the so-called unhealthy ‘Pro Ana’ communities where the behaviors related to anorexia are promoted.
Both anorexia in general, and the pro-ana communities in specific, received ample attention from Western media over the past few years. ITV recently reported about an “alarming rise in social media sites encouraging anorexic sufferers to starve themselves,” and that social media worsens the condition of people with anorexia who flock to these kinds of websites.
A “WESTERN” PHENOMENON
“Eating disorders seem to be an exotic phenomenon to many Chinese, but it actually is not.”
General discussions of anorexia nervosa on Weibo, China’s biggest social media platform, mostly relate to cases of the disease in Western, Caucasian women. The young Australian model and performer Phoebe Combes attracted some attention on Weibo in 2017 for suffering from anorexia. “How come every time I read about [this disease] it concerns foreign women?”, one netizen wondered.
Sporadically, speculative discussions do arise on social media about Chinese celebrities who may or may not be suffering from anorexia. Talk show host Chen Luxu (陈鲁豫), for example, became a topic of discussion when netizens started worrying about her frail appearance and said she was “too thin.”
For many netizens, however, the issue is often simplified to a mere “they should just eat more.” Despite general public unawareness about anorexia in China, more doctors and specialists are stepping forward to talk about the issue.
“When a Chinese doctor raised the issue of anorexia in China some twenty years ago at an international conference, foreign experts doubted if eating disorders existed in China,” one professional support site dedicated to anorexia and bulimia in China says: “We now want to promote awareness about eating disorders to patients and their families.”
In 2017, deputy director Ma Yongchun (马永春) of a hospital in Tongde, Zhejiang, spoke out to Chinese media website AcFun.com, saying that although eating disorders seem to be an exotic phenomenon to many Chinese, it actually is not. She also warned about the negative effects of social media platforms promoting unhealthy body images or unhealthy eating patterns.
THE STORY OF YUN
“Her condition spiraled out of control when she spent days on end watching live streams on Chinese social media that promote unhealthy eating habits.”
The AcFun article featured the story of one of Ma’s patients named Yun (alias), a 33-year-old former athlete from Zhejiang who weighed only 36 pounds with a height of 160 cm when she was at her lowest point – and on the verge of death.
She told AcFun that she became anorexic after being forced to eat a restrictive diet by her grandparents during her teens. When her entire athlete team suffered from gastroenteritis, her grandmother only allowed to her to eat bean curds and rice for months on end.
Unable to continue eating her forced diet and not allowed to eat anything else, the young Yun developed an eating disorder. At the age of 19, she was diagnosed with anorexia by doctors at the Tongde hospital – a diagnosis that was followed by years of ups and downs. Yun’s condition spiraled out of control when she spent days on end watching live streams on Chinese social media that promote unhealthy eating habits.
Weighing only 36 pounds at her low point, Yun was barely able to move. One day, when she was alone with her sister’s small baby, she found herself too weak to pick up the infant went it was desperately crying. For Yun, it was a turning point in her decision to beat the illness.
Although many doctors gave Yun low chance of survival, a team of doctors including Ma Yongchun eventually were able to give Yun the help she needed. She now maintains a healthy weight.
UNHEALTHY ONLINE TRENDS
“Vomit Bars are online forums where netizens nicknamed ‘Rabbits’ encourage each other to vomit after eating.”
Doctors such as Ma Yongchun are part of a growing group of specialists in China raising awareness on eating disorders in China and warning against unhealthy online trends – which are on the rise.
Over the last years, online discussion boards such as Baidu Tieba have seen the phenomenon of ‘Vomit Bars’ (催吐吧) – a phenomenon somewhat comparable to the online ‘pro-ana’ movement on English-language internet sites.
‘Vomit Bars’ are online forums where netizens nicknamed ‘Rabbits’ (兔子) encourage each other to vomit after eating. Several live streaming sites also have people promoting weird or unhealthy eating habits, such as eating non-food products or binge eating – something Dr. Ma strongly condemns.
On Chinese social media, organizations helping those suffering from anorexia or other eating disorders are present, but not popular.
Although the Chinese Eating Disorder Recovery Web (@进食障碍康复网) only has a weak following online, their offline mission is strong: “China’s health care system can no longer ignore the growing group of eating disorder patients in China.”
ANOREXIA ON THE RISE OR NOT?
“There are no official statistics on the occurrence of anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders in China in the past and present.”
The topic of anorexia in China has also received more attention in international media and academic publications over the past decade.
Some English-language media, such as the LA Times, suggest that with changing beauty standards, skinny trends, and more influence from Western popular culture, eating disorders are “on the rise” in China.
Whether or not this is actually true is hard to say; there are no official statistics on the occurrence of anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders in China in the past and present. A study from 2013 among Chinese female college students in Wuhan, considered one of the best estimates of national rates, however, found levels similar to Western countries (Tong et al 2014).
In Fat China: How Expanding Waistlines are Changing a Nation, the authors (French & Crabbe 2010) also suggest that eating disorders such as anorexia are indeed present in society and that an increasing number of urban Chinese, mainly young women, are suffering from it (171).
Even if anorexia were to occur as much in China as in the West – which has neither been refuted nor confirmed – the way in which the disease is described and/or experienced seems to be significantly different.
SAME DISEASE, DIFFERENT MANIFESTATIONS
“Chinese patients showed few, if any, of the classical concerns associated with anorexia.”
Various studies over the past years have established that there are differences between Western countries and China in how anorexia develops with regards to patients’ preoccupations concerning appearance and body image.
In “The Myth of Chinese Barbies: Eating Disorders in China including Hong Kong” (2014), researcher M. Getz writes that eating disorders are traditionally conceptualized as a Western mental health issue, specifically because the ‘fat phobia’ aspects of the illness are often stressed the most. According to study, this attention towards appearance seems to be less important to Chinese patients (746-747).
This idea is further strengthened by Sing Lee, an expert in eating disorders in Chinese communities, who argues that Chinese patients “showed few, if any, of the classical concerns associated with anorexia” (747).
A major way in how anorexia in China is often different than in other (Western) countries is that it is somaticized. This relates to the fact that mental illnesses in China still carry a stigma and often go undiagnosed due to the lack of mental health care institutions.
Since physical problems are more socially accepted in China than mental health issues, people who suffer from anorexia in China are more prone to talk about their problems in the form of somatic symptoms such as distaste for food and not being hungry, or abdominal problems (Getz 2014, 750).
Levels of industrialization, media influence, eating habits, societal pressure to be thin, family pressure to succeed, etc., all may play a role in the occurrence of anorexia. Especially One-Child Policy generation children allegedly experience more pressure in their lives to perform.
As the development of anorexia in China goes hand in hand with social stigmas and superstitions regarding mental health issues, a traditionally strong food culture, a general unawareness on eating disorders, and many other cultural factors that may influence the manifestation of the disease, one can see why studies have found that “eating disorders are not culture-bound or culture-specific, but rather culture-reactive.” The reasons why patients develop anorexia and how it is manifested can, therefore, radically differ per culture (Pike & Dunne 2015).
“I simply can’t eat any food. I have no interest in food. Even if I am starving I still do not want to eat.”
These findings are also apparent on the various anorexia support message boards in China, where people suffering from the disease share their experiences. Rather than talking about fear of being fat, many commenters only discuss their loss of appetite and stressful lives.
One netizen on Zhihu.com writes:
“I am suffering from anorexia right now. The pressure at school is too much for me. I don’t have any time to relax. It’s all about studying. I simply can’t eat any food. I have no interest in food. Even if I am starving I still do not want to eat.”
Another person writes:
“I think I have anorexia. But I am not sure. (..) I simply do not want to eat. If I see food, I have no desire to eat it. I only eat some breakfast and some dinner, an egg at 7.30 and some rice at 17.30.”
A new study on anorexia in China by Zaida Aguera et al (2017) confirms the idea that anorexia in Chinese patients is often experienced or communicated physical rather than psychological, as they are “culturally encouraged to use denial and minimization to cope with conditions deemed taboo” (9).
Because the way anorexia presents itself is different, researchers argue that its treatment also requires a different approach in China than in other countries that have developed own national standards on treating eating disorders.
The treatment options in China, however, are still limited. The first and only closed ward for eating disorders opened in Beijing six years ago. But the recent increased media attention raised by doctors such as Ma Yongchun and heightened focus on mental health care in China indicate that there will be more options for Chinese anorexia patients in the future.
As for the Zhihu poster who asked about anorexia in China – they are still waiting for an answer. In the meantime, they have suggested an own solution in the underline, writing: “There just is so much tasty food in China, that anorexia in China is probably is much rarer here than in any other country in the world.” No one else responded.
Agüera, Z., Brewin, N., Chen, J., Granero, R., Kang, Q., Fernandez-Aranda, F., & Arcelus, J. 2017. “Eating Symptomatology and General Psychopathology in Patients with Anorexia Nervosa from China, UK and Spain: A Crosscultural Study Examining the Role of Social Attitudes.” PLoS ONE, 12(3), 1–13.
French, Paul, and Matthew Crabbe. 2010. Fat China: How Expanding Waistlines are Changing a Nation. Imprint: Anthem Press.
Getz, M.J. 2014. “The Myth of Chinese Barbies: Eating Disorders in China including Hong Kong.” Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 21: 746-754.
Pike, Kathleen M., and Patricia E. Dunne. 2015. “The Rise of Eating Disorders in Asia: a Review.” Journal of Eating Disorders 3:33. Available online https://jeatdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40337-015-0070-2 [17.1.18].
Tong, J., Miao, S., Wang, J. et al. 2014. “A Two-stage Epidemiologic Study on Prevalence of Eating Disorders in Female University Students in Wuhan, China.” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 49(3): 499-505.
Are you suffering from an eating disorder and need help? For information on eating disorders and how to help if you are worried about someone, Beat (UK) or ANAD (US) has advice for sufferers, friends and family.
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#MeToo in China is #WoYeShi: Sexual Misconduct Allegations Rock Beijing University
With the hashtag ‘wo ye shi’ (‘me too’), one Chinese scholar stands up for a #metoo movement in China against sexual harassment.
On the first day of the new year, a ‘#metoo’ scandal has hit China’s academic world. It concerns allegations made public on Weibo by former doctoral student Luo Qianqian (罗茜茜), who accuses her former supervisor Chen Xiaowu (陈小武) of sexually harassing her and several other students at Beihang University, a major public research university located in China’s capital.
Caixin Global, a Chinese media outlet, reported the news in English on January 2nd with an article titled “Global ‘Me Too’ Movement Against Sexual Assault Hits Chinese Academia,” in which journalists Li Rongde and Yuan Suwen state that “the “Me Too” movement has extended from the U.S. into China with the recent allegations.”
Luo Qianqian, a Chinese scholar now living in the US, claims that her former supervisor Chen Xiaowu tried to “force himself upon her behind a locked door” twelve years ago at Beihang, when Luo was working on her doctoral degree.
“A voice in me said ‘me too'”
Luo wrote that she “no longer wants to remain silent,” and wanted to “come out” with her story.
In the morning of January 1st, Luo published an article on her own Weibo page (@cici小居士) titled: “I Want to Report the Beihang Professor and Zhejiang Scholar Chen Xiaowu under My Real Name, for Sexually Assaulting Female Students” (“我要实名举报北航教授、长江学者陈小武性骚扰女学生”).
In this blog post, Luo writes that she was inspired to come forward when she first heard about the Harvey Weistein scandal in October of 2017 and the launch of the “#metoo” campaign on Twitter and Facebook.
“A voice in me said ‘me too,'” Luo writes, as she describes how she came in touch with other former fellow students through the Chinese Q&A platform Zhihu.com. It was on this platform that Luo first shared her story of how her supervisor lured her to come his sister’s home, who was not at home, where he attempted to force himself upon her. After she began crying and pleading with Chen, he drove her home and told her he was only testing her character and that she was not to tell anyone about what had happened.
Luo also posted several testimonies online to support claims that Chen also sexually assaulted at least seven other students. State media outlet Global Times also reported that, according to Luo, one student became pregnant after Chen had sex with her and that the renowned professor then tried to silence her by offering her money.
By January 2nd, Luo’s account was viewed over 3,7 million times on Weibo and had received more than 16,000 shares.
“Only if women come forward like this, women’s rights can be protected.”
Netizens responded to the issue in various ways, with some saying that there are many “beasts like Chen” in China’s higher education, while others said that it was “only a matter of time” before the case would be pulled offline.
According to Caixin, Chen Xiaowu has stated that he is aware of the accusations from former students, but says that he denies the allegations and will leave the matter to investigators.
Beihang University has responded with a statement on its official website on January 1st, saying that the institute is now researching the case and has temporarily suspended Chen Xiaowu from his duties.
Although Caixin claims the current case signals a greater movement of the “Me Too” movement into China, and despite the media attention for Luo’s case, the hashtag ‘wo ye shi’ (#我也是) is not taking off on Chinese social media.
The South China Morning Post addressed the issue in an article of early December 2017, writing that even if more Chinese women try to come forward on sexual harassment cases, they face insurmountable obstacles such as police inaction and state crackdowns on activism. Among other reasons, sexual harassment in China therefore often is underreported and under-prosecuted.
Nevertheless, there are thousands of comments on Weibo in support of Luo Qianqian. “We are rooting for you. Only if women come forward like this, women’s rights can be protected,” one person comments.
“We are all standing by your side,” some say: “Please keep reporting on this issue. We will follow you.”
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