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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.

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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  1. Avatar

    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 and Covid19

Announced Changes in Nucleic Acid Testing and Further Easing of Covid Measures Across China

Bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate.

Manya Koetse

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On Monday, directly after that noteworthy unrest-filled weekend, the hashtag “Multiple Locations Announce Nucleic Acid Testing Changes” (#多地核酸检测通知发生变化#) went trending on Chinese social media, receiving over 660 million clicks by Monday evening.

Immediately following demonstrations in Beijing and a second night of protests in Shanghai and elsewhere, various Chinese media reported how different areas across the country are introducing changes to their current Covid19 testing measures.

On Wednesday, November 30, China’s vice-premier Sun Chunlan made remarks at a meeting on epidemic prevention, underlining the importance of “constantly optimizing” China’s Covid-19 response and talking about a “new stage and mission” – without ever mentioning “zero Covid.”

This is what we know about easing Covid measures thus far:

▶ Strict lockdowns have been lifted in Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, and Chongqing.

▶ On November 28, Guangzhou announced that people who do not actively participate in social life will no longer need to participate in continuous nucleic acid screening. This includes elderly people who stay indoors for long periods of time, students who take online classes, and those who work from home. The change will apply to residents in seven districts, including Haizhu, Panyu, Tianhe, and Baiyun (#广州7区无社会面活动者可不参加全员核酸#).

▶ Guangzhou, according to Reuters, also scrapped a rule that only people with a negative COVID test can buy fever medication over the counter.

Harbin will follow the example of Guangzhou, and will also allow people who are mostly based at home to skip nucleic acid test screenings.

▶ Same goes for Shenyang, and Taiyuan.

▶ In Chongqing, various districts have done widespread Covid testing campaigns, but the local authorities announced that those communities that have not had a positive Covid case over the past five days do not need to participate in nucleic acid screening anymore. This means an end to district-wide testing.

▶ On November 30, Beijing also announced that it will start exempting some people from frequent Covid testing, including those elderly residents who are bound to home and other people who do not go out and have social interactions. This also includes younger students who are following classes online.

▶ Starting from December 5, bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate (announced on December 2nd).

▶ Although not officially announced, there have been various social media posts and reports about Covid-positive people in Beijing being allowed to quarantine at home if they meet conditions.

Chengdu Metro announced on December 2nd that it will no longer check passengers’ nucleic acid test reports. Passengers still need to scan their travel code and those with a green code can enter. Other public places will reportedly also start to accept the ‘green code’ only without a time limit on nucleic acid testing.

Tianjin metro announced that the 72-hour nucleic acid certificate check will be also be canceled for passengers on the Tianjin metro lines. As in other places, people will still need to wear proper face masks and undergo temperature checks.

▶ In Hangzhou, except for at special places such as nursing homes, orphanages, primary and secondary schools, people’s nucleic acid tests will no longer be checked in public transportation and other public places. They will also stop checking people’s Venue Codes (场所码).

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China History

Mourning Jiang Zemin, Weibo Turns Black and White

Since the rise of Chinese social media, Jiang Zemin became a recurring part of Chinese memes.

Manya Koetse

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Following the announcement that Jiang Zemin (江泽民), the former president of the PRC, has passed away, various Chinese online platforms have turned into ‘grey’ mode as a sign of mourning. Jiang Zemin died due to leukemia and organ failure. He was 96 years old.

Besides Weibo, the home page of major Chinese websites such as Baidu, Sogou, Taobao, Alipay, Xinhua, People’s Daily, The Paper, and many others all turned into black-and-white mourning mode on Wednesday.

Bilibili turns into grey mode on November 30.

Search engine Sogou also in black and white mode.

On Weibo, one post about Jiang Zemin’s passing received a staggering one million reposts and over two million ‘likes.’ The hashtag “Comrade Jiang Zemin Passed Away at the Age of 96 in Shanghai” (#江泽民同志在上海逝世享年96岁#) had received over 2,5 billion clicks by Wednesday night.

Jiang Zemin was appointed as President of the People’s Republic of China in 1993. In the years before, the former Shanghai Party chief already held official positions as the chairman of the Central Military Affairs Commission and general secretary of the Party. In 2003, Jiang Zemin retired and was replaced by Hu Jintao (Sullivan 2012).

Since the rise of Chinese social media, Jiang became a recurring part of Chinese memes. Jiang had created a wide group of online fans, who are commonly referred to as ‘toad worshippers’ as the online phenomenon of ‘worshipping’ Jiang Zemin is called mo ha (膜蛤), ‘toad worship’ (Fang 2020, 38). The entire phenomenon has become its own subculture that is called ‘mo ha culture’ (móhá wénhuà, 膜蛤文化).

What started as a joke – nicknaming Jiang a ‘toad’ due to his big glasses, signature pants, and wide smile, – became an actual online movement of people who were appreciative of Jiang Zemin.

They loved him, not only because the former leader spoke many languages and other talents, and because of his unique appearance, but mainly because he was not scared to show his emotions, was very expressive, and good at telling stories.

One famous example of this, is when Jiang Zemin got upset with a Hong Kong journalist in 2000 and told them off using three languages (link to video, also here). The much-repeated quote “too young, too simple, sometimes naive” comes from this noteworthy moment as Jiang told journalists that they still had a lot to learn, whereas he had gone through “hundred of battles,” saying “I’ve seen it all.” This also led to Jiang later being called ‘the Elder’ (长者) by netizens.

Another popular Jiang Zemin video is when he met with American journalist Mike Wallace in August of 2000 in Beidaihe. During the interview, the two discussed sensitive topics including the Falun Gong and Tiananmen protests. The interview reportedly was one of the longest ever between an American journalist and a Chinese head of state (watch here).

A study by Kecheng Fang (2020) about ‘China’s toad worship culture’ suggests that for many online fans of Jiang, the cult around him is apolitical, playful, and part of a shared digital cultural tradition.

For some, however, it does hold some political meaning to ‘worship’ Jiang, who only became a popular online meme around 2014, after Xi Jinping took power as a conservative strongman who is not as emotionally expressive. Fang describes how one meme creator said: “We couldn’t express our criticism through normal channels, so we turned to other indrect ways, including lauding Jiang’s personality and characteristics in various ways” (2020, 45).

Although Jiang became popular among younger Chinese on online platforms over the past decade, he was not necessarily that popular at the time of his leadership, and opinions vary on the legacy he leaves behind. Jiang continuously pushed for reform and opening-up after Deng Xiaoping’s rule.

As summarized by Foreign Policy, Jiang oversaw two crucial transitions that shaped and improved the lives of the people of China: “First, he peacefully guided his country out of the shadow of China’s founding revolutionaries, who had spent decades purging one another and at times caused great pain and sorrow for everyone else. Second, although hesitant at first, Jiang came to embrace the market economy.”

As various places across China have seen unrest and protests over the past few days, the announcement of Jiang’s death comes at a sensitive time.

Many on Chinese social media are burning virtual candles in memory of Jiang Zemin today. “I will fondly recall your style and manners,” some say.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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References:

Fang, Kecheng. 2020. “Turning a communist party leader into an internet meme: the political and apolitical aspects of China’s toad worship culture.” Information, Communication & Society, 23 (1): 38-58.

Sullivan, Lawrence R. 2012. Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Communist Party. Lanham: The Scarecrow Press. See page: 3-43, 208.

 

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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