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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.

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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.

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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. huazai

    June 29, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    I feel so sad for the death and chinease government.

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China Digital

Weibo’s Digital Graveyard: Remembering the Dead on Chinese Social Media

‘The Dead’ honors the deceased and tries to break existing taboos on death in China.

Brydon Brancart

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With China’s rapid digitalization and flourishing online media environment, there’s one crucial societal topic that, although taboo, also now finds its place on Chinese social media: this Weibo account collects the stories of the dead and writes their online eulogies. In doing so, they are trying to break longstanding taboos around death in China.

“My grandmother passed away due to illness in 2016. She was 78 years old. My grandmother was a kind soul. She married my grandfather after his divorce. They had never even seen each other before [her] mother and father prepared the marriage, and yet she lovingly cared for him her entire life.” This eulogy was posted on Weibo on February 12th of this year.

Within hours after it was posted, over 100 people had replied with the most popular emoji for these type of posts: the candle.

Since 2011, thousands of these kinds of posts have appeared on Weibo, one of China’s biggest microblogs, thanks to “The Dead” (@逝者如斯夫dead), an account run by a small team dedicated to memorializing the deceased. Through their online memorials, they have encouraged conversation of a taboo topic.

 

HUNTING FOR THE DEAD ON WEIBO

“We wanted to provide a place for people to remember those who had passed away”

 

Starting small, ‘The Dead,’ which borrows its Chinese name from the Confucian phrase “All passes like a river” (逝者如斯夫 Shì zhě rú sī fū), has amassed over half a million followers. “We wanted to provide a place for people to remember those who had passed away,” a team member recently explained to What’s on Weibo.

Weibo users typically contact the account requesting eulogies about their deceased loved one, but such direct requests were rare just a few years ago. Instead, the account started by hunting for the dead among Weibo’s pages. They searched for signs of a user’s passing, like comments about mourning, and then monitoring the account for inactivity.

‘The Dead’ told What’s on Weibo that “while at present most of our information comes from Weibo users,” its team will still “go through the deceased’s page…looking through comments in the discussion section and asking about the user’s current condition” to confirm a death and glean facts for a memorial posting.

Few of its half a million followers personally know the people in the obituaries. But their reaction to its eulogies reveals a deep and often emotional connection to the topic of death.

“Every now and then I go to their page and scroll through the memorials,” one follower writes: “Those people, who were so full of life, passed away just like that. It’s so moving that sometimes I scroll until my eyes fill with tears.”

Another follower comments: “Whenever I’m feeling low I go and scroll through [the page], it always calms me down. I’ve been very inspired by it, thank you.” For many Chinese, such an open discussion of death would have been unthinkable in the past.

 

DEATH AS TABOO

“This taboo has an independent power in shaping human action”

 

Every culture confronts death differently and few do it well. Traditional Chinese culture shunned discussions of death, notes Cheris Shun-Ching Chan, professor of sociology at Hong Kong University.

Chan believes that Confucian silence on questions of death and folk Buddhist references to “a dark world (yinjian) and a cruel hell (diyue)” account for the topic’s avoidance. She also points to fears that a premature death could mark the end of one’s lineage (Chan 2012,37).

Chan’s survey research found that avoidance of any discussion about death was so widespread that it had become taboo. “The taboo manifests as an observable avoidance of the topic,” Chan writes, “particularly unexpected, accidental, or premature death, among not only the elderly but also the generation in their late 20s and 30s” (Chan 2012,36).

While religious belief waned during the tumult of the 20th century, the taboo persisted. “Today, this taboo has an independent power in shaping human action,” Chan argues: “In other words, one does not need to hold beliefs about hell, the dark world, ghosts, evils, and precipitating death in order to observe the taboo” (2012,38-40).

Stifling discussion about death has consequences, big and small. Individuals unwilling to acknowledge death are reluctant to write wills or register as organ donors. Respecting the death taboo, doctors avoid delivering a terminal diagnosis to patients, informing family members instead.

One news story from 1993 exemplifies this taboo on death; when residents near China’s first hospice care center protested the presence of death in their neighborhood, matters turned violent. They started shattering the center’s windows, driving doctors and their patients from the center in the middle of the night. As the health needs of China’s population evolves with its economic growth, the death taboo threatens much more.

In a rapidly aging China, people live longer and deaths cost more than ever before. The World Health Organization reports that eight of the top ten causes of death in China are now due to non-communicable diseases.

As deaths caused by accidents and communicable diseases have dropped, death by stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer have jumped double digits and with that jump, a commensurate increase in the costly treatments of these diseases.

A 2013 study of the cost of non-communicable disease on the Chinese economy predicted that between 2012-2030, China will spend 27.6 trillion dollars remedying non-communicable disease. The death taboo threatens to leave China unprepared to care for a population living longer thanks to better medical care but dying at higher rates of chronic illness.

Health care in China is free, to a point. According to the Economist, China’s national health-insurance system caps reimbursements for treatment of serious chronic illness like heart disease and end of life care. The death taboo poses a risk to families in a country where it is still considered unfilial by many to pursue a course of treatment other than one meant to cure the patient.

Hospice care, which should be cheaper, is rarely considered and seldom available. While hospice care is now part of the standard course of treatment for end of life care in EU and North America, the death taboo undermines demand for the service. This, in turn, removes pressure on medical insurers to provide hospice coverage. Insurance coverage for hospice care is so limited that families are forced to pay out of pocket for most hospice care.

 

ADDRESSING DEATH

“Everyone ought to admit death’s existence and face up to its realities”

 

Addressing these challenges starts with acknowledging death as a part of life. “People have slowly become more willing to discuss death,” the Weibo ‘The Dead’ team observes: “You can see this in Weibo users openly posting about the passing of loved ones.”

Beyond Weibo, the account’s rejection of the death taboo has also found powerful allies elsewhere. In Beijing, Chen Yi and Luo Ruiqing, children of prominent CCP members, launched the Beijing Living Will Promotion Association, advocating for individuals and families to openly discuss and plan for end of life care.

Yi and Ruiqing explain to Caixin that watching the slow and painful death of their parents with few options for palliative care moved them to take action.

Their website provides information to help individuals decide about the kind of end of life care they want and how to ensure their wishes are followed through the use of a living will, a standard feature of Western health care but new to China.

In Shanghai, Wang Ying, a psychologist who now specializes in end-of-life, is taking a different approach to addressing the same problem. Ying founded Hand in Hand, an organization that encourages individuals to openly discuss their deaths as a form of preparation.

Like Yi and Ruiqing, Ying’s determination to challenge the death taboo stemmed from her conviction that repressing a discussion about end of life care and death causes his elder relatives needless suffering at the end of their lives.

Noting the rising interest in their Weibo account, ‘The Dead’ has recently started a Wechat mini app where users can send manage their own memorials and share them with others. The team believes that Weibo and Wechat allow them to reach out to a large audience all over the country.

They admit, however, that problems of economic disparity have limited their reach, and guess that most of their subjects and contributors are urban dwellers. Still, they are hopeful that their work can help change many people’s perspectives.

“Everyone ought to admit death’s existence and face up to its realities,” they say: “Working hard to live with an understanding of death is a lesson every Chinese person must learn.”

By Brydon Brancart

References (other sources in-text through hyperlinks)

Chan, Cheris Shun-Ching. 2012. Marketing Death: Culture and the Making of a Life Insurance Market in China. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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 Insight

Chinese Netizens Discuss: “Do You Say ‘Thank You’ to the Food Delivery Man?”

To say thank you or not to say thank you, that’s the question.

Gabi Verberg

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Image via http://m.uczzd.cn.

First published

For many people in China’s urban areas, the food delivery people have become part of their day to day lives, but does that mean that you are supposed to thank them, or not?

There are not too many people whose dream job it is to work long shifts, going out in hot summers and cold winters, to make sure people get the food they ordered as fast as possible. Nevertheless, there are a few million Chinese on the road every day, going through congested traffic and bad weather, to deliver customer orders on time. It should be enough to receive a simple ‘thank you,’ but Chinese netizens do not seem to agree on the subject.

Recently, the topic of whether or not to thank the food delivery person for delivering an order became a trending topic on Chinese social media platform Weibo, where the hashtag “Do We Need to Thank the Delivery Man” (#该不该跟外卖员说谢谢#) generated over 430 million views and triggered nearly 110.0000 reactions.

The discussions started because of a post by Weibo-user Lanxi (阑夕), who publicly responded to the 2018 annual courier employment report by Meituan (2018外卖骑手就业报告). Meituan Dianping is a major Chinese food delivery service, that has some 380 million users. On his Weibo account, Lanxi wrote:

At the end of the year, Meituan sent a questionnaire to 120.000 of its couriers, asking them what they would want to say to their customers. The three things that scored highest were: (1) Please answer your phone in time, (2) please provide the accurate delivery address, (3) please say thank you when accepting the delivery.”[1]

The post continued with Lanxi writing that he also had something to say to the food delivery man: (1) Please don’t spill soup in my delivery bag. (2) Please don’t spill soup in my delivery bag. (3) Please don’t spill soup in my delivery bag.”

The “thank you debate” soon blew up on social media, with many commenters arguing that saying ‘thank you’ is just basic manners.

One popular reaction on Weibo read: “We should respect every profession. Thanking somebody won’t kill you, it just shows you have good manners.” Another typical comment on Weibo said: “Saying thank you is not an obligation, saying thank you is the way I was brought up.”

But there were also many commenters who feel that personally thanking the deliverymen is unnecessary, arguing that customers pay for this service and that it is their duty to deliver the food (on time), not a favor they are doing you.

“I am paying the deliveryman, so what do I have to thank him or her for? You don’t thank your boss every time you get your salary, do you?”, one Weibo user responded.

“I’d be willing to say thank you,” another commenter wrote: “But not if you tell me to say thank you.”

“My brother always says ‘thank you’ to them, but I don’t. I feel like they are just completing their job, and I don’t feel like interacting with them.”

Other commenters say it depends on the attitude and service of the delivery person; if the delivered soup has been spilled, or if they are very late in delivering, they feel they do not need to thank them.

Being a delivery person is not an easy job. In the past couple of months, two stories of Chinese deliverymen struggling on the job went viral. In one case, a delivery man was filmed being in tears in a shopping mall after an order was canceled for which he had waited for an hour.

In another story, a young delivery guy was caught crying in the pouring rain for over 20 minutes, until an old men came up to him and offered him an umbrella. The young man had allegedly discovered a package was stolen from his delivery cart.

These stories usually lead to online discussions in which people urge others to treat deliverymen with more respect.

In recent years, the Chinese food delivery market has seen staggering growth, with Meituan Waimai (美团外卖) and Ele.me (饿了么) being market leaders. In 2018, Meituan alone employed over 2.7 million food delivery staff, half a million more than the year before.

“It’s just two characters: xie xie [谢谢],” one commenter says about saying ‘thank you’: “What’s the problem with saying them?!”

By Gabi Verberg

[1] After the discussion blew up on social media, the Meituan research report was further inspected by netizens. In the report, it says that the delivery staff’s wish that customers would say “thank you” actually comes in the 8th place of surveyed wishes, not in the third place.

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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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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