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Fury and Loathing in Fengtai: How One Incident Sparked Chaos in Beijing Neighborhood

Fengtai chaos: this is what happens when a person from Dongbei offends Beijingers.

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When a video of a man from Northeast China scolding local Beijingers went viral this week, chaos ensued as angry locals went out on the streets of Fengtai district looking for revenge over “regional discrimination.”

Over the past few days, news of an incident involving a man scolding people while driving on a restricted traffic lane has spread across Chinese social media.

The incident occurred at Beijing’s Fengtai district outside of You’anmen (右安門) during the morning rush hour of August 2nd (Thursday), when a man driving a Mazda illegally entered the restricted traffic lane while honking and yelling at cyclists from his car.

When the man bumped into a person driving an e-bike, he came out of his car and scolded the male cyclist – a Beijinger speaking the local dialect – by allegedly saying things such as: “F*ck you Beijingers!” and “While us outsiders (外地人) are driving cars, you poor-ass Beijingers are still riding miserable e-bikes.”

When bystanders’ videos and photos of the incident quickly spread on social media (including photos of the man’s license plate), many Beijing residents apparently got so upset by the man’s behavior and insults that they initiated a man-hunt.

Some online sources claim that by Thursday night, there even were people waiting outside the man’s apartment to take revenge.

Chaos outside the police station

By August 3, the man, confirmed to be a 35-year-old from Liaoning (Northeast China aka ‘Dongbei’), then turned himself into the local police station, where he was detained – but the chaos did not stop there.

When news of the man’s detainment made its rounds through social media, a group of Beijingers came out to the police station in support of the biker, demanding apologies from the Liaoning driver. On one video that has spread online, the large group of people can be heard scanting “F*ck you!” and “Apologies! Apologies!” (“Daoqian! Daoqian!”).

Reports on what exactly happened, however, are a bit conflicting. According to Radio Free Asia Chinese, there was also a large group of people from Northeast China who gathered outside the police station to show their support for the driver.

One video captured from a higher level building looking down on the police station shows hundreds of people gathering before the gates around police cars (see embedded media below).

Videos of the chaos circulating on Wechat were censored by Friday night – a video of the incident sent by Miranda Barnes to Manya Koetse (authors) was automatically deleted on Wechat.

WECHAT. On the left: Miranda sends Manya video of the incident on Friday night. Right: screenshot of Manya, video automatically censored.

This video, at 1:50, shows how the situation turned violent, with angry people starting to attack the man as he exits the police station after processing the case.

Realising the situation could potentially be dangerous for the man, the police allegedly took him back in afterward to protect the man from the mob.

photo via dwnews.com.

On Weibo, the man’s detainment was officially confirmed through a public statement by the Fengtai police on Friday.

It is not the first time conflicts erupt within China based on tensions between locals and Chinese immigrants. Especially migrants from Northeast China or Dongbei (provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang) often suffer a bad reputation in other parts of China. (For more info on this, check out this insightful Quora thread).

Apologies over ‘Regional Discrimination’

There is widespread regional discrimination (地域歧視) across China, where people are often prejudiced based on the region they come from or their ethnicity. As the Fengtai incident shows, this discrimination can be directed both ways, from immigrants to locals and vice versa.

In response to the incident, anti-Dongbei sentiments also surfaced on Weibo, with thousands of people discussing the course of events. “I’m from Hebei, I’ll join my brothers from Beijing in the fight!”, some said.

But there were also those who said: “It doesn’t matter where the guy is from, he should be judged for his illegal actions, not his native place.”

Beijing blogger Jeremy Goldkorn (@goldkorn) noted that an apology statement from the man from Dongbei has been issued online on August 3rd (see thread including videos here).

In his apology letter, the man, who says his name is Cao Yuanhang (曹远航), writes that he deeply apologizes for his words and behavior and for igniting the anger of Beijingers. He also adds that he guilty of “regional discrimination,” and apologizes to his family and company because of the stress they suffered after the video clips of his behavior went viral.

Apology statement.

Some netizens, however, could not appreciate the apology, saying: “This kind of rotten person should get the f*ck out of Beijing.”

At time of writing, it is yet unclear if the man has been released and whether or not he has gone into hiding.

By Miranda Barnes and Manya Koetse

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

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Miranda Barnes is a Chinese blogger and part-time translator with a strong interest in Chinese media and culture. Born in Shenyang, she used to work and live in Beijing and is now based in London. On www.abearandapig.com she shares news of her travels around Europe and Asia with her husband.

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    Bruce Humes

    November 6, 2018 at 5:32 am

    By the way, Chinese citizens relocating within China are migrants, not immigrants. Your misuse of “immigrant” is particularly ironic in this context, since regional discrimination does reach xenophobic proportions at times in the Middle Kingdom…

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China Insight

The Day After the “3•21” Devastating Yancheng Explosion: 47 Dead, 640 Injured

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The enormous explosion at a chemical plant in Jiangsu’s Yancheng on March 21st has sent shockwaves through the country. While state media are focusing on the efforts of rescue workers, Chinese social media users are mourning the lives lost and are searching for those still missing.

One day after a devastating explosion occurred at a chemical plant in Yancheng city in Jiangsu, at the Xiangshui Eco-chemical Industrial Zone, the number of confirmed casualties and injured has now gone up to 47 dead, 90 critically injured, with around 640 requiring hospital treatment (issued Friday 19.00 local time).

The explosion happened on Thursday around 14.48 local time at the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Plant (天嘉宜化工厂). Images and videos of the explosion and its aftermath quickly spread on Weibo and other social media, showing the huge impact of the blast.

Site of the explosion.

Footage showed shattered windows from buildings in the area and injured persons lying on the streets. Other videos showed children crying and blood on the pavements. There are residential areas and at least seven schools located in the vicinity of the chemical plant, leading to injuries among residents and students due to glass that was allegedly “flying around.”

According to official sources on Weibo, a total of 930 firefighters worked side by side to control the fire.

Trending photo on Friday: exhausted firefighters.

The hashtag “Lining Up to Donate Blood in Xiangshui” (#响水市民自发排队献血#) also attracted some attention on Weibo, with state media reporting that dozens of local residents have donated blood to help the injured. On Thursday night, there were long lines at a local mobile blood donation bus.

What is quite clear from the Chinese media reports on the incident and the social media posts coming from official (authorities) accounts, is that there is an emphasis on the number of people who are helping out, rather than a focus on the number of people that were killed: there are at least 930 firefighters, 192 fire trucks, 9 heavy construction machinery, 200 police officers, 88 people rescued, 3500 medical staff, 200 people donating blood, etc. – the number of people joining forces to provide assistance in the area is overwhelming.

Meanwhile, there are desperate family members who are turning to social media in search of loved ones, posting their photos and asking people if they know anything about their whereabouts since the explosion.

While dozens of Weibo users are airing their grievances on what happened, there are also more personal stories coming out. The wife of the local factory worker Jiang is devastated; her husband of four years, father of one son, celebrated his 30th birthday on Thursday. She received a message from her husband twenty minutes before the explosion occurred. He was one of the many people who lost their lives.

On Thursday, Chinese netizens complained that their posts about the Yancheng explosion were being taken offline, suggesting that information flows relating to the incident are being strictly controlled. “This is just too big to conceal,” one commenter said.

This is not the first time such an explosion makes headlines in China. In 2015, an enormous explosion at a petrol storage station in Tianjin killed 173 people and caused hundreds of people to be injured. Two years ago, an explosion at a Shandong petrochemical plant left 13 people dead.

By Manya Koetse 

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please 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’ Response to New Zealand Mosque Attacks

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The shocking New Zealand mosque attack, killing at least 49 people, is making headlines worldwide. On Weibo, it is the top trending topic today. A short overview of some of the reactions on Chinese social media.

At least 49 people were killed and 20 wounded when an attacker opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday. According to various media reports, one man in his late 20s had been arrested and charged with murder. Three other people, two men and one woman, have also been arrested in relation to the attack.

Footage of the brutal shootings, which was live-streamed by the gunman, has been making its rounds on social media. Although the videos are being taken down from Facebook and Twitter, people are still sharing the shocking images and footage on Weibo at time of writing.

The gunman, who has been named as the 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, reportedly also posted a 70-page manifesto online expressing white supremacist views.

On Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo, the New Zealand mosque attack became a number one trending topic on Friday night, local time, with the hashtag “New Zealand Shootings” (#新西兰枪击案#) receiving at least 130 million views, and thousands of reactions.

“It takes the collaborate efforts of all people to work on a beautiful world, it just takes a few people to destroy it,” one Weibo user wrote.

“Extremism is incredibly scary,” others said. “I saw the livestreaming video and it’s too cruel – like a massacre from a shooter video game.” “I’m so shaken, I don’t even want to think of the panic these people must have felt.”

“I’ve seen the footage, and this is so horrible. It makes me want to cry. It’s a massacre.” Other commenters also write: “This is just so inhumane.”

One aspect that especially attracted attention on Chinese social media is that, according to many people posting on Weibo and Wechat, the main suspect expressed in his manifesto that the nation he felt closest to in terms of his “political and social values” is “that of the People’s Republic of China.”

Journalist Matthew Keys reportedly uploaded the main suspect’s manifesto, which was published on January 21, 2019. This article says that to the question about whether he was a fascist, Tarrant indeed wrote that “the nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China.”

Some netizens wrote that, in mentioning the PRC, the shooter “also vilified China.” Others also said that the shootings definitely “do not correspond to the values of China.”

There are also dozens of Weibo users who blame Western media for the attacker’s comments on China corresponding to his own values. “What he appreciated is what Western media is propagating about our management of Muslims in Xinjiang,” some say: “He was influenced by the foreign media disseminating that we’re anti-Muslim.”

“He sympathized with the China portrayed by foreign media, not with the real China.”

“Western governments and media have demonized China for a long time, what they are making Western people believe about what China is, this is what the New Zealand shooter felt closest to in terms of his values,” one person wrote.

“These kinds of extreme-right terrorists would be destroyed in China,” others wrote.

Among all people expressing their disgust and horror at the Christchurch shootings, there are also those expressing anti-Muslim views and hatred, with some comment sections having turned into threads full of vicious remarks.

Then there are those criticizing the Muslims that are also commenting on Weibo: “The Muslims in China were quiet when it was about the [islamist extremist] attacks in Kunshan, but now that this massacre happened at the pig-hating mosque, they are all bemoaning the state of the universe and are denouncing terrorism.”

Among the thousands of reactions flooding in on Weibo, there are countless comments condemning those who turn the shocking attack into an occasion for making anti-Muslim or political remarks. “This is a terrorist attack. The victims are ordinary people. Why would you make malicious comments?”

One Weibo user simply writes: “The world has gone crazy.” “A tragic event. I hope the victims will rest in peace.”

By Manya Koetse 

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please 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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