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Hangzhou Nanny Sets House on Fire, Killing a Mother and Her Three Children

A high-profile arson case in Hangzhou has become a focus of attention for Chinese netizens. The person suspected of starting the fire, that killed a mother and her three children, is the family nanny. Because of the family’s wealth and the nanny’s poor background, many people connect the crime to class struggle.

Manya Koetse

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A high-profile arson case in Hangzhou has become a focus of attention for Chinese netizens. The person suspected of starting the fire that killed a mother and her three children, is the family nanny. Because of the family’s wealth and the nanny’s poor background, many people connect the crime to tensions over China’s poor-rich divide. The topic was viewed over 51 million 200 million times on Saturday June 26, but later disappeared from Weibo’s ‘trending search’ list.

On June 22, a mother and her three children died in a fire on the 18th floor of a luxurious high-rise building in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province.

Shanghai Daily reported on Thursday that 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 escaped the fire and survived. The husband was away on a business trip.

The children were two boys aged 11 and 6, and one girl of 9 years old.

The three children killed in the fire, photo was shared on Weibo by family members.

On Saturday, police confirmed that the fire was started deliberately. The family’s nanny is the main suspect in the case. She has been detained for suspected arson. A photo of the nanny has been released and is circulating on Weibo. The nanny is the 34-year-old Jing X. from Dongguan, Guangdong.

The woman allegedly confessed to setting some things on fire in the living room with her lighter.

The topic “Hangzhou Nanny Sets Mansion on Fire” (#杭州保姆纵火豪宅#) was viewed over 51 million times on Weibo on June 24, making it one of the most-viewed topics of the day.

Because the affected family is very rich, and the nanny comes from an impoverished background, many netizens link the case to tensions over the gap between the rich and poor in China.

 

“There had been a dispute between the two just before the fire occurred.”

 

A family member named Zhu Qingfeng (朱庆丰), the brother of the deceased mother, told Red Star News on June 24 that the nanny was hired last year through an intermediary.

Although the relationship between his sister and the nanny was generally good, there had been a dispute between the two just before the fire occurred; his sister suspected the nanny of stealing her 300,000 yuan (±43,860$) watch.

An insider told Red Star News that Jing X. often went to Macao to gamble. She frequently lost a lot of money and struggled with gambling debts. Chinese news outlet The Paper (@澎湃新闻) also writes that the nanny had turned to loan sharks because of her gambling debts.

The husband and father of the family told media that his wife previously borrowed the nanny 100,000 yuan (±14600$).

 

“From hating the poor to hating the rich, why has the public debate changed to this?”

 

The ‘Hangzhou Nanny Arson’ debate on the class difference between the affected rich family and the penniless nanny has two sides: some use the nanny as a reason to attack all poor people and their moral standards, others argue that the nanny’s lower class status pushed her over the edge.

“This is not about a person’s position [in society], it is about right and wrong. If you look at news events, first look at who is right and who is at fault. You can’t say that because someone comes from a poor family we should first sympathize with them, or that there is any justification [for their deeds] because of it,” one female netizen responds.

“You can’t blindly sympathize with poor people,” another person writes: “Poor people often have lower morals than richer people.”

Many netizens refer to the story of the farmer and the snake (农夫与蛇), in which a farmer takes pity on a snake that is freezing in the snow, and picks it up to place it in his coat. The snake, revived by the warmth, then bites his rescuer, who dies realizing that it is his own fault. They say the nanny is like the snake.

“The Hangzhou nanny arson case has become a reason for some people to attack the poor. But the income of this nanny was actually quite generous, more than what many white-collar workers receive. So you can hardly say that this has to do with her being “poor”, she just has no humanity. From hating the poor to hating the rich, why has the public debate changed to this?” one author named Yu Xi writes.

The debate on social media grew more intense later on Saturday, with some commenters saying they did not care about the fatal arson because “it concerned rich people.”

 

“Relatives and neighbors all stressed that there were still people trapped inside the house, but the property security seemed indifferent.”

 

Although many people say the nanny should be sentenced to death, there is also a large group of people who call on the apartment building’s property management to come forward on why there were no proper fire safety measures.

“The persons who have died are my aunt and my cousins,” one Weibo netizen says. The person, nicknamed Juying Guowang (@巨婴国王) has been trying to draw attention to this case on Weibo since Thursday.

The scene of the fire. Image via http://www.zxtzx.com/news/a/201706/139592.html.

They explain:

“In order to wipe out the traces of theft, the nanny set some things on fire, resulting in a fire that got out of control. There was supposed to be an alarm, but it did not go off. Around 5.30, mind you, 5.30 (!!), family members rushed to the scene downstairs. At that time, the property security had not only not taken any rescue measures, but they also barred family members from getting closer to the scene. When the firemen arrived at the scene, they didn’t have enough water because the water pressure on the 18th floor was not high enough. Eventually, they had to pump up water from the first floor. Relatives and neighbors all stressed that there were people trapped inside the house, but the property security seemed indifferent. It took them until after 7.00 to get them out. 7.30! In these 2 hours, we couldn’t save them, and they had this and that delay before they could come to the rescue?! We had to wait how our relatives choked in the thick smog and couldn’t do anything.”

Many others blame the property management for the fatal ending to this fire. The fact that the apartment building is known as an expensive and luxurious one only adds to the anger. As one worried netizen says:

“The management is definitely to blame. These people pay a lot of money for their mansion, are they not buying a comfortable and safe home? With land and property so expensive, why is there no fire alarm and sprinkler system? The more you think of it the more frightening it gets. What about all the people living there now, aren’t they facing the same safety hazards?”

 

“We just want the truth! Why must you control the public debate?”

 

Many commenters on Weibo simply express their sympathies for the family. “Such a tragedy, my heart just sinks looking at this news,” a typical comment said.

One person writes: “I hope the victims rest in peace. Whoever is responsible for this must carry their burden. At a minimum, the departed and their families deserve to have justice.”

Perhaps because of the staggering amount of comments and shares of this news story, the online censorship and control on this story grew stronger on Saturday night. The topic also suddenly disappeared from the top trending lists, much to the dismay of many Weibo netizens.

Husband and family members of the deceased ask for justice, holding up pictures of the children.

“We just want the truth!”, an angry Hangzhou resident writes: “Why must you control the public debate? Why are people spreading rumors everywhere? Why is this no longer on the trending search list? This is a very horrible event, and any attempt to cover it up is very ugly.”

By Manya Koetse

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©2017 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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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    huazai

    June 29, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    I feel so sad for the death and chinease government.

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China Insight

Looking at Your Phone While Crossing the Road Will Now Cost You Money in Zhejiang

Pedestrians looking at their phones while crossing the road are getting a red light in Zhejiang.

Manya Koetse

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Zhejiang Province in eastern China has recently launched a new policy: pedestrians crossing the road while looking at their phone risk getting a 50 RMB ($7) fine.

The policy has been attracting the attention of netizens on Chinese social media, where the so-called “Bowed head clan” (dītóuzú 低头族) – a slang word for smartphone-addicted people – has been a recurring hot topic.

People paying more attention to their phone than watching traffic while crossing the road can lead to very dangerous situations. Some graphic videos making their rounds on Weibo today show security camera footage of people getting run over by cars while looking at their phone.

The majority of people responding to the hashtag “Should people be fined for looking down to their phone while crossing the road?” (#低头玩手机过马路该罚款吗#) agree that this kind of behaviour is a risk to traffic safety, but some wonder if a small fine would be effective in combating this problem.

Some cities in China have introduced sidewalks with a “phone lane” and “no phone lane” over previous years, with Chongqing being the first city to do so in 2014.

Mobile phone sidewalk in Chonqgqing. Source https://tech.qq.com

As of earlier this year, the Pedestrian Council of Australia is also looking to implement a law that makes it possible to fine pedestrians who cross the road while looking at their phones.

In Honolulu, the ‘distracted walking law’ already makes it illegal for people to be distracted by their cellphones while walking in a crosswalk.

“Fine them!”, some commenters on Weibo say: “And also fine those people using their phone while driving their electric bicycles!”

“I’m not sure about the fine,” another person says: “I only know I bumped into a tree today walking looking at my phone..”

For many commenters, however, the issue is a no-brainer: “Just don’t use your phone while crossing the road. Personal safety comes first.”

Also read: The ‘Bowed Head Clan’ (低头族): Mother Watches Phone While Son Drowns in Pool

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Jialing Xie.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Arts & Entertainment

‘American Factory’ Sparks Debate on Weibo: Pro-China Views and Critical Perspectives

‘American Factory’ stirs online discussions in China.

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Award-winning documentary American Factory is not just sparking conversations in the English-language social media sphere. The film is also igniting discussions in the PRC, where pro-China views are trumpeted, while some critical perspectives are being censored.

By Anna Wang and Eduardo Baptista

Even as China posts its lowest industrial output growth since 2002, Weibo’s ongoing reaction to Netflix documentary American Factory is rife with declarations of the Chinese manufacturing sector’s impending victory over its US rival. This, however, is not the full story.

The first documentary distributed by Higher Ground Productions, owned by former US President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, American Factory painted a damning picture of Trump’s protectionist policies.

US manufacturing cannot keep up with the brute efficiency of its Chinese competitors. The story of a shuttering American factory revived by Chinese investment and an influx of Chinese workers, opening up a Pandora’s Box of cultural clashes, paints a telling, but pessimistic, picture of the current strategic conflict between the two superpowers, from the ground-up.

Image via Netflix.

Despite the Great Firewall, Chinese netizens found ways to watch the documentary, that was made by Ohio filmmakers Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert. Temporary links to streaming and subtitle services litter the Chinese Internet, making any accurate count of total mainland viewership nigh-impossible. However, one indication of the film’s popularity among mainlanders was the 259,000 views for a trailer posted on Bilibili.

One likely reason for netizens’ interest is that it neatly plays into Chinese state media rhetoric on the US-China trade war.

The inevitability of China’s rise up the global supply chain (and a corresponding decline on the US side) is a recurring theme in opinion pieces penned by the likes of Xinhua and Global Times, but also an increasingly louder cacophony of bloggers.

 

American Factory shows that the US will probably lose out to China in manufacturing.”

 

One Chinese company (Wind资讯) posted on Weibo that “what Obama means in this film, in a very oblique way, is that anti-globalization will produce a lose-lose scenario.”

The official Weibo account of Zhisland, a Chinese networking platform for entrepreneurs around the world (@正和岛标准) posted a review of the Netflix film titled: “Behind the Popularity of American Factory: Time Might Not Be on America’s Side” (“《美国工厂》走红背后:时间,或许真的不在美国那边了“).

It warns the audience right off the bat to “not assume that this film will promote cooperation between China and the United States. In contrast, it will surely stir up mixed feelings among both audiences.”

American Factory shows that the US will probably lose out to China in manufacturing,” Zhisland writes. The article argues that China will win out due to its lower labor costs, lack of trade unions, and more disciplined managerial styles. “It’s an uneven playing field,” the author continues: “Time may not be on America’s side.”

Toward the end, the author claims: “We are about to enter a new era in which China will gradually become the most dominant player in the global marketplace.”

The fact that many on Weibo shared these kinds of pieces as a reaction to the documentary suggests there is confirmation bias at work here. As is common on Weibo and other social media, comments on the pieces like the above simply rattle unsubstantiated claims, frequently descending into ad hominems.

Another Weibo user (@用户Mr.立早) adds comments when sharing the above article: “The American workers repeat Trump’s mantra, but won’t act on it. They’ve been idling for almost a century. They’re hopeless.”

 

“American Factory tells you: separate the US economy from China, and the US will go bankrupt.”

 

Chinese state media also chimed in on how American Factory proved their most important talking points on the ongoing US-China trade conflict.

Xinmin Evening News, an official newspaper run by the Communist Party’s Shanghai Committee, published an article by Wu Jian called “American Factory Tells You: Separate the US Economy from China, and the US Will Go Bankrupt” (“《美国工厂》告诉你:将美国经济从中国分离,美国会破产“).

In this piece, Jian claims that “in the age of globalization, ties between China and the US cannot be cut. Using high tariffs to force U. S. manufacturing return to the States… is simply not realistic. Separate the US economy from China, and the U.S. will go bankrupt.”

The article was also shared widely on Weibo. Thepaper.cn, an online news site affiliated with Shanghai United Media Group, published a review titled “American Factory: The Things that Are Spelled Out and the Things that are Implied” (“《美国工厂》:那些说出来的,和没有说的“).

The author, Xu Le, writes: “What struck me most about the film was the look on the faces of the American workers. All of them … had the same burnt-out expression… Their faces reminded me of photos of people in the late Qing Dynasty. That dull expression reflects a civilization in decline.”

“We’re a family at Fuyao” American workers listen to a rosy speech from their new bosses.

In the film, When American foremen visit a factory run by glass manufacturer Fuyao in China, they are alarmed to see Chinese workers picking up glass shards without safety glasses or cut-resistant gloves.

A Chinese worker picks up glass shards with minimal safety equipment, shocking his American co-workers.

Xu comments: “Why is it that Chinese workers are able to put up with even more drudgery while being paid far less than their American counterparts? This is something we Chinese are very familiar with.”

 

“Are you the glory, or are you the cost of the glory?”

 

Qin Hui, professor of history at Tsinghua University, once argued that China’s economic growth isn’t because of economic liberalism or government oversight, but because of China’s refusal to guarantee certain basic human rights.

In Maoist China, the state stripped the underprivileged of all political power in the name of the greater good dictated by socialist dogma. Post-Mao China continues to exploit the underprivileged, but now for monetary gain. He called it China’s “advantage” of “low human rights.”

Despite the nationalism sentiment fanned by American Factory, it has also provoked reflection on China’s advantage of low human rights summarized by Qin Hui.

Weibo user ‘Zhi21’ (@ZHI2i), a recent college graduate, writes on Weibo: “I just finished an internship at a factory. I worked 12 hours a day. More than 11 hours of every shift was spent on my feet without stopping, just to keep up with the assembly line. It didn’t make sense to me. After watching American Factory, I feel like American workers are lucky to only work 8 hours a day. That’s why the production costs are higher in the States. They pay too much attention to whether or not workers are comfortable.”

Another Weibo blogger (@GhostSaDNesS) notes that “in American Factory, Fuyao employees believe that to work is to live. They defend the interests of capitalists while they are actively exploited. Unions in the West chose human rights, Chinese capitalists chose profit, and Chinese workers have no choice at all.”

Some of these posts were apparently censored; threads that displayed as having over 200 comments only showed 12, and users complained that their posts were being deleted or made invisible to other users by Weibo censors. “They didn’t give any explanation,” one blogger wrote: ” I only expressed that I felt sorry for the people at the bottom. I didn’t question the system. I didn’t ask to change society.”

Views like that of @Crimmy_Excelsior (“I was confused. Which country is the capitalist one and which country is the socialist one?“) are apparently sensitive enough to be taken offline – they touch upon the tension between the CCP’s espousal of Marxist-Leninism and the plight faced by hundreds of millions of Chinese that have their working conditions driven down by capitalist markets.

Many users don’t buy into nationalist interpretations of the film, and argue that economic gain achieved at the expense of human rights is shameful. @陈生大王 raises a poignant question: “This is a glorious time for China, but I hope this film inspires you to think about who you really are as an individual. Are you the glory, or are you the cost of the glory?”

“The cost of the glory” is derived from a quip popular on China’s internet. The Chinese government often urges its citizens to rally together, using the rhetoric, “We must win this trade war at all cost.” Some netizens then twisted the phrase, saying, “We must win this trade war at all cost, and we later find out that we are the cost.”

 

“China’s prosperity did not just happen overnight – Chinese people worked hard to make it happen.”

 

Even among those in favor of China’s controversial work ethics, there have been concerns over the status quo. Earlier this year, engineers in the tech industry publicly aired their grievances about their “996” lifestyle. The term refers to a high-pressure work schedule of 9am to 9pm, six days a week. This is the kind of life workers in Fuyao are living, with no hope of improvement – they are that the company would find a replacement in no time, making any form of complaining moot.

Recent events in mainland China only increase the credibility of this representation. Factory workers at Jasic, a maker of welding machinery in Shenzhen, attempted to start a union last year. All those involved were fired. A number of college students and activists who actively supported the workers were detained and persecuted.

According to the “China Labor Movement Report (2015-2017)” by China Labor Bulletin (a NGO based in Hong Kong that promotes and defends workers’ rights in the People’s Republic of China) “intensification of social conflicts, including labor-capital conflicts, has crossed a tipping point, and directly threatens the legitimacy of the regime.”

More conspicuously, there are netizens that don’t buy the narrative that Chinese workers are innately “tougher” than their American counterparts. As user @胡尕峰 observes: “(In the film), a new Chinese CEO explains to his fellow Chinese that Americans have been encouraged too much growing up, and can’t take criticism. Chinese born after 2000 have been raised the same way! In my circle of friends, some mothers nearly faint when their babies are finally able to poop. Is China going to end up the same as America?”

American Factory’s objective portrayal of cultural shocks between American and Chinese workforces clearly generated thoughtful reflections and incisive criticism from a sizeable number of netizens, while also being another reason for Chinese state media to highlight the rise of China in the global market.

The chairman of Fuyao Group, Cao Dewang, made headlines this week with the quote: “China’s prosperity did not just happen overnight – Chinese people worked hard to make it happen.” “We indeed worked hard for it,” some commenters agreed: “That’s definitely true.”

By Anna Wang and Eduardo Baptista

Edited by Eduardo Baptista

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©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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