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Japanese Gold Medalist Becomes a Meme in China after Controversial Men’s Gymnastics All-Around

Weibo’s Olympic meme machine has begun!

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The Olympic Games are in full swing and Chinese social media users are building on their meme collections as online discussions are getting more intense on Weibo – especially when it comes to competitions between China and Japan.

Japanese athlete Daiki Hashimoto (橋本 大輝) won the gold for men’s gymnastics individual all-around on the sixth day of the Tokyo Olympics. China’s Xiao Ruoteng (肖若腾), who had been leading the competition in the first five rotations, claimed the silver medal after the team’s inquiry over his score of 14.066 in the last rotation was rejected.

Online discussions arose as videos and pictures of Hashimoto’s landing pose in the vaulting event were shared by some netizens on Weibo, questioning if Hashimoto deserves a score of 14.7 as he failed to end with a stable landing.

A video made by Shanghai Oriental Sports Daily compares the performances of the two athletes and shows how the scoring leaves people confused; the two gymnasts performed the same routine and ended in completely different poses (land firmly vs. stumble while landing and stepping out of line), yet they only had a score difference of 0.166.

Some Chinese gymnasts also posted on Weibo and hinted at the scoring controversy.

Li Xiaopeng (李小鹏), the male gymnast who currently holds 16 world titles, called the result “a pity” in a Weibo post published on July 28. He wrote: “Congratulations on the second place. The fact is not that I do not understand [the game] – it’s that I understand it all too well.”

Gymnast Chen Yibing (陈一冰), four-time world champion on still rings who himself experienced disputed scoring at the 2012 Summer Olympics, wrote: “No matter what the result is, Sun Wei and Xiao Ruoteng are perfect! Xiao Ruoteng IS the champion.”

More than 10 related hashtags appeared in the top 30 of Weibo’s top search list after the competition, even though it was already late at night in China. The hashtag relating to the judges of the Olympic gymnastics (#体操裁判#) received about 640 million views.


A screenshot of the Weibo’s trending list at Beijing Time 11:15 pm on July 28, showing 12 hashtags related to the competition of Men’s Gymnastics Individual All-Around.

Online discussions on the controversial gymnastics’ scoring then shifted, setting off a wave of content creation. Some memes mocking the new champion’s landing pose in the event of vault went viral on Weibo.


I am the champion


See, I got 14.7 points with this.”


I split, I step out of line, but I got 14.7 and I am the world champion.”


Let me go down and pick up a gold medal.”


Judge: This is perfect! The feet are still on the ground! 14.7!

This is not the first controversy that generated heated discussions and set off a meme machine on Weibo since the Summer Olympics kicked off.

Monday’s mixed doubles table tennis final between China and Japan (Jun Mizutani/Mima Ito vs Xin Xu/Shiwen Liu) also became a major topic, especially because the Chinese players were defeated by their Japanese counterparts and won silver instead of gold. For the past 14 years, China had monopolized the gold medals in table tennis.

One moment that stood out is when Xu Xin (许昕), a Chinese professional table tennis player who is ranked world’s No. 2 for men’s singles by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), entertained social media users by holding his breath immediately after he realized he was going to blow on the ping pong ball (see video here).


Xu Xin Wants to Blow, Then Stops

He did so because of the new anti-epidemic rules during the Tokyo Olympics. Some of these regulations include that players are not allowed to touch the game table with their hands and that they are not allowed to blow on the ball.

The hashtag “Xu Xin Wants to Blow, Then Stops” (#许昕欲吹又止#) that described Xu’s cautiousness went trending and generating about 450 million views on Weibo.

Another related hashtag is “Jun Mizutani Blows on the Ball” (#水谷隼吹球#). The hashtag is about the moment when the Japanese table tennis player blows on the ball during the event but does not receive a warning from judges (see video here). The hashtag has so far generated about 820 million views on Weibo.


Jun Mizutani Blows on the Ball

Going against COVID19 regulations, Japanese table tennis player Mima Itō also touched the table several times, but the referee apparently did not notice or turned a blind eye. This also led to a Weibo hashtag page (#伊藤美诚也多次摸球桌#) and several memes.

Another hashtag, “Japanese Players Swimming on the Chinese Players” (#日本选手压在中国选手身上游# ), describes another moment during the Olympics that happened during the Chinese and Japanese women’s water polo team competition on July 28, when a Chinese player was pushed underwater by a Japanese player while swimming. Some Weibo users suggested the move was dangerous and ‘could have killed’ her (see video here).

As the Games continue, the meme collections grow as online discussions are getting more intense on Weibo – especially when it comes to competitions between China and Japan.

In response to the ongoing controversies, the Central Communist Youth League of China (@共青团中央) published the video of the judges taking the Olympic oath during the opening ceremony and asked: “Have you followed your oath?”

A picture of a training venue for Chinese weightlifters was widely shared on Weibo because the slogan on the wall says: “To win a clean gold medal” (#中国选手的训练场馆 拿干净金牌#).

Chinese netizens applauded this principle of a ‘clean’ victory and have started to use the picture to call for fewer tricks during the rest of the Olympic competitions.

By Wendy Huang

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Wendy Huang is a China-based Beijing Language and Culture University graduate who currently works for a Public Relations & Media software company. She believes that, despite the many obstacles, Chinese social media sites such as Weibo can help Chinese internet users to become more informed and open-minded regarding various social issues in present-day China.

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China and Covid19

‘Voices of April’: The Day After

“The best way to make videos go viral is by censoring them.”

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On April 23, a day after the video ‘Voices of April’ briefly took over social media before it was censored, the trending topic of the day is a hashtag related to new Covid cases reported in Shanghai.

Shanghai reported higher Covid-19 cases and deaths on Friday than the five days prior, which showed a daily decline in new cases. Shanghai reported a total of 23,370 new cases (including 20,634 asymptomatic ones), the municipal health commission said Saturday. A related hashtag by Xinhua News received over 910 million views on Weibo on Saturday (#上海新增本土确诊2736例无症状20634例#).

Although the hashtag was initiated by state media to inform about the Shanghai Covid situation, netizens started using it to criticize Shanghai’s handling of the crisis, with more commenters questioning China’s zero-Covid strategy. Similarly, other state media-initiated hashtag places also became online spaces where Weibo users vented their frustrations earlier this month.

Besides the ongoing online criticism and vocal disagreement with China’s Covid handling and policies, there are also many who express shock at the recent crackdown of any form of protest or criticism regarding the situation in Shanghai.

“‘Voices of April’ has been shutdown all over the internet, I’m simply dumbfounded,” one person said about the popular video that contained real recordings of events that happened during the city’s lockdown.

“If you still can find the video anywhere, forward it,” another person writes.

Besides Voices of April (四月之声), there have also been other videos over the past week that are meant to expose the mishandling of the Covid situation in Shanghai.

One of them is titled Farewell, Language (再见语言), another one is Shanghai Late Spring (上海晚春).

Farewell, Language (再见语言) is a 42-second sound art video by artist Yang Xiao (杨潇), who used over 600 commonly used propaganda phrases from Chinese official channels and randomly broadcasted the audio in the community where he lives.

The anti-epidemic workers just continue their work and do not seem to notice anything out of the ordinary at all. The video shows how this kind of language has been so normalized that for most, it has just become background noise in their everyday life – without even noticing nor critically assessing its meaning or logic anymore.

The Shanghai Late Spring (上海晚春) video is a compilation of video footage from the Shanghai lockdown, showing people struggling to get food, violent altercations between anti-epidemic workers and residents, people living in deplorable conditions in quarantine centers, and more (link to video).

The video uses the song Cheer Up London by Slaves, its chorus being:

You’re dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead
.”

One Weibo commenter responded to the video in English, using a text from Les Misérables: “Do you hear the people sing / Singing the song of angry men / It is the music of a people / Who will not be slaves again!” The phrase “do you hear the people sing” was also used by other social media users to address the situation in Shanghai and the censorship of related topics.

“The best way to make videos go viral is by censoring them,” one commenter replied.

Read our previous article about ‘Voices of April’ here.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

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

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China and Covid19

The Voices of April – The Online Rise of a Shanghai Protest Video

‘Voices of April’ is the biggest topic in China’s Covid social media era since the death of Dr. Li Wenliang.

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Voices of April is a video containing edited audio snippets that show the reality of a Covid-stricken Shanghai where residents struggle with feelings of powerlessness. The video seeped into every corner of WeChat, but not long after, it was gone.

On Friday, April 22, a video was shared on Chinese social media and when the evening fell, it suddenly was on everybody’s smartphone screen.

Voices of April (四月之声) is a compilation of real audio snippets from conversations recorded in Shanghai throughout April, providing an emotional and heart-wrenching account of what residents in Shanghai have gone through since the Covid crisis started in their city.

By early Saturday morning, Beijing time, the Voices of April (四月之声) video had seeped into every corner of WeChat. Not long after, it was gone.

The video, made by a person named ‘Cary’, first seemed to have appeared online on Friday with the following message:

One month after the outbreak of the epidemic in Shanghai, I’ve seen too many online voices coming by which then soon disappeared. Over time, I’ve become somewhat desensitized, but some things shouldn’t have happened. Since they did, they shouldn’t be forgotten. Too many of our compatriots have suffered in ways that could have been avoided. I made a video, as objective and realistic as possible, as a record to remember the voices of April, and hope that all of them will pull through.”

The video in question, embedded below, is almost six minutes long. (Update: Here is a link to a version including English subtitles.)

It starts its narrative on March 15, just a day before Shanghai introduced its so-called “grid screening” strategy – meaning that every resident in a city Covid key area would do two nucleic acid tests within 48 hours. That day, the total amount of Covid cases since the onset of the outbreak in early March was 1156. The audio is real – as all snippets are – and was recorded during an official Shanghai Epidemic Prevention and Control news conference.

“Right now, Shanghai has no lockdown, and there is no need for a lockdown,” the spokesperson can be heard saying, while the video shows aerial footage of Shanghai city.

The video then jumps to March 26, when the total number of cases since the beginning of the outbreak had risen to 12,527 (asymptomatic and symptomatic combined), the daily new added cases being 2676.

Still, Shanghai officials can be heard saying that there will ‘never be a lockdown’ in the city, suggesting that Shanghai is not just important for Shanghai, it is important for the economy of the entire country.

The video then shows its title page: Voices of April.

The video, showing aerial footage of Shanghai for the entire six minutes, then continues with snippets of audio fragments starting at the beginning of April, with worried residents calling local authorities to voice their concerns about their personal situation after the sudden announcement of a phased lockdown in Shanghai on March 27.

Through dozens of audio snippets, we hear the voices of residents, delivery drivers, community workers, parents, children, Covid patients, pet owners, volunteers, and more.

In doing so, through the words of those who witnessed it, Voices of April raises the issues that so many have been concerned about over the past 25 days or more. Shanghai residents going hungry; food supplies going to waste due to mismanagement and failing logistics; parents and children being separated in quarantine facilities; people unsuccessfully trying to get urgent care for a medical emergency in their family; cancer patients being unable to return to their homes after getting chemotherapy at the hospital; Covid patients arriving at centralized quarantine locations that have no supplies nor beds; a desperate mother who finds herself calling out to neighbors to get medicine for her sick child in the middle of the night; pet owners in tears over their dog being killed by anti-epidemic workers.

“The virus is not killing people, the hunger is,” one voice can be heard saying.

“Distribute supplies! Distribute supplies! Distribute supplies!” a group of people can be heard shouting.

Through the audio snippets, it becomes clear that it’s not just residents who have been suffering throughout this whole ordeal – it’s the entire city, including its volunteers and community workers who are also helpless in helping others due to the policies in place.

The video ends with a black and white screen showing the characters “上海, 早日康复” (Shànghǎi, zǎorì kāngfù): “Shanghai, get well soon.”

Not long after the video went viral, Wechat and Weibo users discovered they were no longer able to forward the file, and soon all links to the video ended up leading to a ‘404’ deleted message.

The censorship seemingly only added fuel to fire. “[You want] war? War it is!”, some said, with others posting images protesting the censorship: “You can’t censor the unity of the people of Shanghai!”

Straight away, netizens started coming up with various alternative ways to refer to the title of the video to circumvent censorship, suggesting that there can never be a ‘zero policy’ when it comes to silencing people’s voices.

Nevertheless, alternative hashtags and phrases were also soon taken offline, such as the hashtag “The Voices of Shanghai” (#上海之声#).

“You can’t treat everything that’s being deleted as something that never happened,” one Weibo user wrote. Another commenter said: “What are you deleting? For what? What is so terrible for us to know that you’ve come so quickly to censor it?”

“It’s just a record of actual events, what good does it do to censor it? Originally, we were just sad, not angry. Now it’s a revolt of the people. A cover-up only makes matters worse.”

The only time during China’s Covid era when there was an online outpouring of anger comparable to this instance is probably when Li Wenliang passed away – the doctor who was initially silenced when he tried to warn others about the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (read more here). His death, and the censorship surrounding it, also led millions of people to vent their frustrations online. The censorship, as in this case, only added fuel to the fire.

One word that many people commenting on the Voices of April video use after seeing it is ‘powerlessness’: “I watched the Voices of April. Putting all of the powerlessness together, this world seems even more helpless.”

“Tonight is the night of the deleted voices [404之声],” one Weibo user wrote.

For context:
Growing frustrations during early outbreak of the city’s Covid crisis
Children and parents being separated for isolation
Pet dog killed by anti-epidemic worker
Deplorable conditions at quarantine locations

Update, also read: Voices of April, The Day After.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

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

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