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Mao-Era Military Marriage Regulations Under Fire on Weibo

“The crime of destruction of the military marriage” (破坏军婚罪) apparently is not a crime if you’re cheating from within the army.

Manya Koetse

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Image via https://www.51ywwk.com/38775.html.

If you have an affair with a military spouse, it is a criminal offense. But if you’re cheating from within the military, it is not considered a crime against military marriage. On Weibo, the story of one military wife has sparked anger among netizens about the Mao-era military marriage regulations.

An online discussion regarding marriage regulations for military personnel in China has been censored following anger over supposed unequal treatment of “the crime of destruction of the military marriage” (破坏军婚罪).

The discussion was triggered by an online post of a military wife who claimed her husband cheated on her with another female army member. It concerns a Chinese serviceman by the name of Gu Yan (顾炎) and a female officer named Shen Jingwen (沈静雯). The hashtag “Gu Yan, Shen Jingwen” (#顾炎沈静雯#) soon went viral on Weibo.

The lengthy story was originally published on Weibo by Gu Yan’s wife, a medical doctor.

According to the online account, Gu Yan and his wife met each other during their junior high school days, and then each went on to study in different fields. Gu Yan trained to join the army; his wife specialized in the medical field and became an anesthesiologist. The couple got married in 2016, had a child in 2017, and their future looked bright until the husband and wife were separated for eight months during the COVID19 epidemic.

According to Gu’s wife, it was during their long time apart that Gu started seeing Shen Jingwen, an army staff member whose father also serves as a commander in the army. The affair soon became serious, and Gu supposedly became more invested in this new relationship than in his marriage, even to the point of blocking his wife, who then contacted his unit to report the affair.

Gu’s wife alleges that Shen Jingwen threatened and bullied her and that she suffered abuse by her husband. Screenshots and phone conversation recordings to prove this behavior towards Gu’s wife were also leaked online.

In her online post, Gu’s wife indicates that the situation between her, her husband and Shen had become untenable but that she had nowhere to turn to since the existing laws mostly protect those who are serving in the army. Even if she wanted a divorce, she could not get one if he would not want to file for divorce.

The ‘destruction of military marriage’ (破坏军婚罪) is a criminal offense in China, but in this case, the law did not apply because it concerned a military officer starting an extramarital relationship with another member of military staff. The law mainly focuses on non-marital acts that occur between non-military personnel and military spouses.

The law is a controversial one. As previously explained by Sixth Tone, it is a Mao-era law to prevent military spouses from straying. In 2016, one man from Beijing was prosecuted under the law for living with a soldier’s wife for two months.

In 2019, one man was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for living together with a military spouse and also fathering her child with prior knowledge that her husband was a serviceman, as reported by China Military.

Although the regulations on the protection of marriage of soldiers date back much longer, breaking up a military marriage was also listed as a criminal offense under “The Offenses Against Marriage and the Family (Arts. 179-184)” in the Criminal Law that was enacted in 1979.1

Weibo netizens are sharing screenshots of the Baidu Encyclopedia page explaining the law, with one segment clearly stating that “if it concerns an illicit love affair between two members of the army, and their partners are not members of the army, then this does not constitute as a crime of destructing a military marriage [破坏军婚罪].”

Censorship showed the sensitivity of the topic; not only was it removed from Weibo, but also from other sites such as Q&A site Zhihu.com. The sentence from the Baidu page that was highlighted and shared online also no longer shows up on the Encyclopedia page.

A 404 page comes up when clicking on a page dedicated to this topic on Zhihu.

“The moment this hit the Weibo hot search lists, it was gone within minutes,” one person on a Baidu message board wrote.

The sensitive nature of the topic partly lies in the fact that this is about members of the military, who are usually praised as heroes for their sacrifices for the country.

“To me, the word ‘serviceman’ always sounded like a divine word,” one commenter writes on Weibo: “I’d never expected that it could also bring up loathing in me.”

Meanwhile, many alternative hashtags popped up on social media to replace the censored ones. Besides the “Gu Wen Shen Jingwen” hashtag (#顾炎沈静雯#), there are also many others including “Military Cheating Is Not Considered a Crime against Military Marriage” (#军人出轨不算破坏军婚罪#), “Gu Wen and Shen Jingwen Are Shameless” (#顾炎沈静雯不要脸#) and the creative hashtag “Female Jun People Break Jun Marriage” (#女jun人破坏jun婚#), with ‘jun’ being pinyin for the Chinese character ‘军’ (army).

A mainstream sentiment expressed online is that existing laws regarding military marriages are clearly unfair: anyone who cohabitates with a spouse of an active member of the military could be sentenced, while someone within the military could cheat on their wife without any consequences for them nor for their extramarital sex partner.

Many netizens defend Gu’s wife and condemn Gu and his military girlfriend for abusing their power and taking advantage of their position to bully the weakest party, especially while there is a child involved.

“If a military wife needs to rely on netizens to assert their legitimate marital rights and interests, it really is a disgrace to the Chinese PLA [People’s Liberation Army]”, one blogger wrote.

On the evening of March 19, the Weibo account ‘People’s Frontline’ (@人民前线), an official channel of the People’s Liberation Army, responded to the situation. Their official statement confirms that their department previously received a complaint from Gu’s wife about the living situation of her husband within the army, and that both Gu and Shen were given discipline sanctions. Gu and his wife are currently getting a divorce.

The statement also says that the PLA does not condone the actions of individual members of the army who violate social morals and family virtues. The statement was shared over 18,000 times on Saturday.

Some netizens praised the official statement, saying it showed that the army was becoming more “open and transparent.”

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

1 Leng, Shao-Chuan. 1982. “Crime and Punishment in Post-Mao China.” China Law Reporter 2, no. 1: 5-35.

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

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Military

China ‘Strikes Back’: Taiwan Military Drills, Countermeasures, and Waves of Nationalism on Weibo

One poster by China Daily on Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan said: “The Chinese people will fight back twice as hard.”

Manya Koetse

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During this tension-filled and eventful week, the general mood on Chinese social media went from angry to frustrated. With the start of China’s military drills around Taiwan and the announcement of countermeasures in response to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, there’s been a new wave of national pride and expressions of nationalism.

When Nancy Pelosi’s plane landed in Taipei on Tuesday, August 2nd, many Chinese netizens expressed frustration and anger that she had “gotten away too easy” with visiting Taiwan despite repeated warnings by Beijing. Things had not turned out the way many had hoped, and the U.S. House Speaker’s visit to Taiwan – which Beijing considers to be a province of China, – was seen as a provocation at a time when the China-US relationship was already strained.

On Thursday, however, the mood on Chinese social media turned around when China began its announced live-fire military drills around Taiwan. State media channels, official accounts, military bloggers, and regular netizens shared the sometimes movie-like videos showing large-scale military exercises, including ballistic missiles fired into waters.

From Fujian’s Pingtan Island, one of mainland China’s closest points to Taiwan, tourists and day trippers had a front-row view of some projectiles launched by the Chinese military and helicopters flying past (see Twitter thread embedded below).

On Friday, August 5th, during which military drills continued, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced sanctions on Pelosi and her immediate family members, along with a string of countermeasures against the U.S., which are the following:


“1. Canceling China-US Theater Commanders Talk.
2. Canceling China-US Defense Policy Coordination Talks (DPCT).
3. Canceling China-US Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) meetings.
4. Suspending China-US cooperation on the repatriation of illegal immigrants.
5. Suspending China-US cooperation on legal assistance in criminal matters.
6. Suspending China-US cooperation against transnational crimes.
7. Suspending China-US counternarcotics cooperation.
8. Suspending China-US talks on climate change.”

By Friday evening, one CCTV-initiated Weibo hashtag regarding the countermeasures (#针对佩洛西窜台反制措施#) had received over 280 million views, and another one regarding sanctions on Pelosi (#外交部宣布制裁佩洛西#) had received over 780 million views.

On the same day, news that lightning struck outside the White House, critically injuring four people, also went trending on Chinese social media. Many people responded to the remarkable news with sayings about how this was “Pelosi’s curse” and that “evil doings will rebound onto the evildoer.”

State media outlet China Daily posted an online poster with both Chinese and English text, writing: “Let me be serious and clear: we will not fight if they don’t fight us. For any act in violation of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Chinese people will fight back twice as hard,” referring to the words of the spokesperson of the Chinese mission to the EU.

When news came out on Friday that Japanese authorities condemned China’s firing of ballistic missiles during the ongoing military drills around Taiwan, claiming Chinese missiles fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Chinese state media outlet Global Times dismissed Tokyo’s concerns, calling the complaints “unprofessional” and “baseless” since Japan was referring to an overlapping area it allegedly has no exclusive rights to (#日本碰瓷中国导弹毫无道理#).

In response to the issue, Xu Ji (@徐记观察), a blogger with over 3 million followers, posted a gif on Weibo showing Chinese actor Wu Jing in the iconic action film Wolf Warrior II with both middle fingers up. Wu Jing stars in the movie as Leng Feng, a Chinese veteran who travels around the globe and punishes those who offend China (Sun 2021, 128).

The image set the tone for the overall mood on social media regarding the recent international developments.

“Beautifully played!” many commenters said.

“First steps of striking back! Countermeasures! Hitting back! Sooner or later the national flag will rise on Taiwan!”, Chinese actor Huang Haibo wrote on his Weibo account (@real黄海波).

“I trust in the motherland, I trust in PLA,” was another recurring comment.

“We gave you a choice, you didn’t want it, now you have to deal with the consequences,” one Weibo commenter said.

When news came out on Friday night that a mountain fire broke out on an outer island during an artillery exercise held by the Taiwanese military, a streak of schadenfreude shot through Weibo, with some netizens wondering if the PLA had helped Taiwan to extinguish the fire they started themselves.

“It’s probably better if our troops climb up the hill and put out the fire,” multiple people suggested, and others writing: “I feel embarrassed for them.”

“The PLA will come to the rescue,” others also said, repeating the same trust and pride in the People’s Liberation Army that was echoed across Chinese social media the entire day.

Also read:
*From ‘Starting a War’ to ‘Just for Show’: Chinese Social Media Views on Pelosi’s Potential Taiwan Visit
* Pelosi in Taiwan: “1.4 Billion People Do Not Agree with Interference in China’s Sovereignty Issues”

By Manya Koetse

 

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Featured image is an edited picture showing an image from Wolf Warrior 2 as posted on Weibo today.

References

Sun, Jing. 2021. Red Chamber, World Dream – Actors, Audience, and Agendas in Chinese Foreign Policy and Beyond. United States: University of Michigan Press.

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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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China Memes & Viral

The Impossible Love Story: Nancy Pelosi and Hu Xijin Become Popular Imaginary Couple

When Pelosi met Hu – imagining love in times of U.S.-China escalation risk.

Manya Koetse

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While everybody is watching whether or not Nancy Pelosi will visit Taiwan (with all recent indications suggesting that she will make a stop on the island), there is still time for some online banter amid growing tensions: Chinese netizens have created a fantasy love affair between U.S. House speaker Pelosi and Chinese Global Times commentator Hu Xijin.

On July 31st, Hu posted an old military photo of himself on Weibo to pay tribute to the active military for August 1st, the annual People’s Liberation Army (PLA) day. “We depend on you to safeguard our national sovereignty and territorial integrity and protect the interests of China’s peaceful development,” Hu wrote.

Hu Xijin has been making international headlines this week for his strong condemnation of a potential visit to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Hu suggested that a Taiwan visit by Pelosi would be a clear provocation of China, giving the PLA “good reason” for “waging a war.”

One of Hu’s tweets, in which he voiced the view that U.S. military planes escorting Pelosi to Taiwan could potentially be shot down, was deleted by Twitter on July 30.

Hu Xijin tweet which was deleted by Twitter on July 30.

Hu is an influential Chinese commentator and journalist, who is mostly known for being the former editor-in-chief of the nationalist state media outlet Global Times and his Hu Says political commentary videos on social media. He is also known for his ‘Wold Warrior’-style brash and bold statements, often echoing the Communist Party line.

At this time of great U.S.-China tensions in light of Pelosi’s potential Taiwan trip, there perhaps could not have been a more unimaginable couple than the American Pelosi (aka “Old Witch” 老妖婆) and Chinese Hu (aka “Old Hu” 老胡), yet the moment a netizen photoshopped an ‘old’ wedding photo showing a much younger Nancy Pelosi and Hu Xijin, it immediately went viral.

“The handsome and the beautiful, it’s a good match,” some commenters said, with others calling it a “classic” and a “fine match” between a “talented man and a beautiful woman” (郎才女貌 láng cái nǚ mào).

Others thought “it was not a good deal for Hu,” since Pelosi is twenty years older than him.

“No wonder he always climbs over the wall,” another Weibo user jokingly said.

The practice of imagining a relationship between two famous people or fictional characters, often using photoshop and fan art, is also known as ‘CP,’ an abbreviation for “coupling” or “character pairing.”

Although many netizens seemed to appreciate this CP joke, Chinese blogger ‘Chairman Rabbit’ (兔主席) did not approve of it, writing that the country is facing a serious situation and that this is not an appropriate time to joke around.

Hu Xijin himself, however, did not seem to mind. When someone sent him the ‘wedding photo’ of himself and Pelosi, he responded with three thumbs up.

Also read our latest article on Chinese online views on Pelosi’s potential Taiwan visit here.

By Manya Koetse and 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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