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No More Online Anti-Islam Terms Allowed on Weibo – but Discussions Continue Anyway

After various controversies, Chinese authorities have now blocked various Islam-related words by Chinese netizens on Weibo.

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Chinese authorities have recently blocked various Islam-related words invented by Chinese netizens. The ban comes after consecutive online controversies on the topic of Chinese Muslims and Islam in China; the tone of the discussions reportedly “undermines ethnic unity.”

Posts containing terms such as “green religion” and “peaceful religion,” or any other online terms relating to Islam or Muslims invented by Chinese netizens, are currently banned from Chinese social media.

Chinese state media outlet Global Times reports that the ban comes amid an online backlash against national policies which some deem “overly favorable to Muslim minorities.”

Anti-Islamic Sentiments on Weibo

Anti-Islamic sentiments have been on the rise on Weibo over recent years, and often peak when people disagree with alleged “affirmative discrimination policies” toward Chinese Muslim minorities. China has an estimated 23 million Muslims.

One such incident occurred in 2016, when a Chinese university introduced separate shower cabins for Muslim students that offered complete privacy, while the ordinary dorm showers are usually open.

The case triggered anger online, especially among students, of whom some wrote: “I also have the f**cking rule that nobody should see me shower, am I going to have an exclusive shower cabin now?”

In July, online reports about the introduction of ‘Halal Only’ food delivery boxes also evoked anger as it sparked discussions about the ‘halalifaction‘ of food in China.

Image of food delivery box that says “special use for halal food.”

A very recent incident involved a case where a girl was harassed by a Muslim man on the Bund in Shanghai. When her online report was taken offline, and police did not give out any background details about the suspect, Weibo users complained that religious sensitivities were placed above personal safety.

Another incident took place in Tangshan in early September, where an alleged altercation took place between Muslim minorities and local staff at a toll station. Online rumors about the incident triggered a wave of anti-Islam comments, and videos of the incident were soon after deleted from Chinese social media.

“The Green Religion”

On Chinese social media, Islam is often referred to as the “peaceful religion” (和平教) or the “green religion” (绿教). While the first is mostly meant sarcastically, the second comes from the importance of the color green in Islam and is meant to refer to the religion in a negative way.

In the same type of derisive, derogatory online speak, Muslims are often referred to as “the greens” (绿绿) on Weibo. ‘Greenification’ (绿化) is another online word, meaning ‘Islamization.’

At the time of writing, abovementioned online terms such as “green religion” or “peaceful religion” were all banned from Weibo’s search function and showed no results.

No search results for ‘green religion’ on Weibo.

In its recent article, Global Times quoted a Beijing professor in saying that “it is necessary to timely remove radical phrases that discriminate against Islam and are biased against Muslims to prevent worsening online hatred towards the group” and that these online terms “severely undermine religious harmony and ethnic unity.”

In a Global Times column earlier this week, editor Shan Renpin conveyed a similar message in saying that there “might be negative consequences” to the government’s “protection of the harmony with minority groups and religions,” but that “overall, if the authorities would not do it this way, the other negative consequences are likely to be more serious.” (“这样做确实有时会有负面效果,但是综合起来看,如果官方不这样做,另外的负面效果很可能更大.”)

Ongoing discussions: Halal Mooncake

Despite the recent ban on certain terms, Chinese netizens still find ways to discuss Islam-related controversies. On Friday, another topic triggered heated discussions regarding halal mooncakes.

With the Chinese national Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节) holiday nearing, many people discussed how a Chinese university stated that all of their mooncakes (the traditional snack for this festival) will be halal in consideration for their Muslim students.

Beijing’s University Of International Business And Economics (对外贸易经济大学) issued a notice on September 22 (see below) regarding the mooncakes, saying “to respect the traditions of our Muslim students, all our mooncakes will be made from halal ingredients.”

The issue attracted hundreds of comments, with many saying: “Don’t these schools know that Muslims don’t even celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival?”

“Respect the Muslims – for this minority, we all have to eat halal.”

“Since when did the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival become a Muslim festival?”

Although much of the anger in this discussion is directed more so at the school’s organization (“Why does 99% of the people have to adapt for the 1%?”) than at its Muslim students, it does also include much hate speech towards Muslims in general.

One thing the latest controversy shows is that despite the fact that these discussions are now more heavily censored, their tone and terms are the same as before.

Although Global Times asserts that China’s “favorable policies” are intended to maintain ‘social harmony’ and accelerate ‘greater ethnic unity,’ most netizens commenting on these issues do not seem to be on the same page. Typical comments said: “How can they say we’re harming national unity by talking about Muslims?” and “I just don’t understand [..]. When did religion become a minority? Can a religion represent minorities?”

By Manya Koetse


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

©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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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Bruce Humes

    September 24, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Good to see coverage here — in English — of issues and language relating to Islam currently under discussion on China’s Weibo in 2017.

    Censorship extends beyond social media, of course. Muslim fiction writers in China dare not touch upon a whole host of issues, particularly recent laws and regulations that tightly restrict Muslim dress and worship in Xinjiang.

    One result is an introspective sort of fiction writing in which Uyhgur authors turn the focus almost entirely on themselves, their families and the Uyghur community. A good example is Xinjiang’s Alat Asem (阿拉提·阿斯木). Han Chinese rarely figure in his Uyghur universe. Its hallmarks are serial womanizers, disparaging monikers, and a hybrid lingo with an appealing Central Asian flavor. His novel, Confessions of a Jade Lord (时间悄悄的嘴脸), will be published in English in 4Q 2017.

    Another Uyghur writer to watch is Patigül ((帕蒂古丽), whose novel One-hundred Year Bloodline (百年血脉, due out in 4Q 2017 too), is the semi-autobiographical saga of a Xinjiang woman of mixed Uyghur, Hui and Han extraction who marries a Han husband and moves to Zhejiang. Obviously, there are Han characters, but the spotlight is clearly on Uyghur and Hui personalities, and their struggle to maintain their distinct ethnic identity.

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China Media

“Tyrant Train Woman” Goes Trending on Weibo and Unleashes Flood of New Memes

The hashtag “High-Speed Tyrant Woman” (#高铁霸座女#) already received a staggering 450 million views on Weibo today.

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While the bizarre behavior of a male passenger went viral in late August, this time, it is a female passenger’s rude behavior that’s become trending on Chinese social media. Some netizens think the two ‘high-speed train tyrants’ (高铁霸座) deserve each other, creating memes putting them together.

In late August of this year, one rude man from Shandong who refused to give up the seat he took from another passenger became known as the “High-Speed Train Tyrant” (高铁霸座男 gāotiě bà zuò nán) on Chinese social media.

A video showing the man’s bizarre behavior went viral, and netizens were especially angry because the man pretended he could not get up from the stolen seat and needed a wheelchair – although he did not need one when boarding the train.

The man pretended he needed a wheelchair, but actually did not want to give up the window seat.

The man was later temporarily blacklisted for his actions. Although he apologized in a public video, a newer video (Youtube link) made clear the man was everything but remorseful, as it showed him laughing, using an office chair as a ‘wheelchair,’ and joking around about his own behavior.

The “train tyrant” from Shandong.

The train bully that is now going viral, is a woman from Hunan who has been dubbed ‘High-Speed Train Tyrant Woman’ (高铁霸座女 gāotiě bà zuò nǚ”) by Weibo netizens. She had taken a seat assigned to another passenger while riding the train from Yongzhou to Shenzhen.

A video (YouTube link here) – that has become one of the most-discussed topics on Weibo today – shows how a woman on a high-speed train makes a scene when the train conductor tells her she is in the wrong seat. She refuses to get up from her window seat to return to her own seat.

Instead, she raises her voice, talks rudely to the conductor, and simply claims she has bought a ticket and will not change to another seat until she has reached her final destination.

The hashtag “High-Speed Tyrant Woman” (#高铁霸座女#) already saw a staggering 450 million views at time of writing.

According to a Weibo statement that has been issued by Hengyang Railway Security (@衡阳铁路公安处) since the topic has become trending, the incident occurred on Wednesday, September 19, on a G6078 train. The stubborn passenger is the 32-year-old Ms. Zhou. She has now been fined 200 RMB (±$30) for “disturbing the order.”

Weibo statement.

“Couldn’t you fine these passengers a bit more?”, some netizens wonder: “If the fine were higher, it might not happen that often anymore.”

Many netizens are simply outraged: “Isn’t this a society that is ruled by law? What do we do with these people?”

“How can people be so shameless?”, a typical comment says.

While the incident is a source of anger for many, it is a source of banter for some; the incident has triggered a wave of new memes today that put the Shandong train tyrant and the woman together.

Some examples here:

Here:

…here:

Or here:

Meanwhile, Guangzhou Railways (@广州铁路) has also responded to the issue on Weibo, stating that in cases such as these (when passengers are fined for their behavior), passengers can expect a 180-day ban from purchasing train tickets.

Just as in the case with the male ‘train tyrant,’ this time as well, the so-called human flesh search engine has come into action once the video went viral, meaning many netizens went digging to reveal the woman’s identity. Her personal details have since been exposed on social media – a burden that will probably weigh much heavier on her than a temporary train ban or a 200 RMB fine.

By 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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China Health

Chinese ‘Scientific’ Study Claims Acupuncture Performed on Parents Can Cure Their Children

“How could such a study be published in a renowned scientific publication?,” some wonder.

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Cartoon published by Beijing News in response to the study, by illustrator Liu Jun 刘俊.

A Chinese study published in a renowned academic periodical has received much online attention this week. The research, that suggests sick children could be cured by performing acupuncture on their parents, has generated waves of criticism – many of those commenting are doctors themselves.

A Chinese academic publication has stirred controversy recently, nearly a year after it was published.

In November of 2017, the Chinese journal Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion (中国针灸) published an article titled “Discussion on Quantum Entanglement Theory and Acupuncture” (试论“量子纠缠”与针灸), written by Wang Jun (王军), Wu Bin (吴彬), and Chen Sheng (陈晟), who are affiliated with Beijing’s Dongzhimen Hospital and its Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.

The authors of the study suggest that there is a so-called ‘quantum entanglement’ between parents and children.

As explained by Science Daily, ‘quantum entanglement’ refers to the idea that “two particles, no matter how distant from each other in space and time, can be inextricably linked, in a way that defies the rules of classical physics.” (Read more on quantum entanglement here).

A summary on the first page of the published paper.

In the controversial paper, Wang and the two co-authors argue that the characteristics of quantum entanglement are reflected in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), acupuncture theory, and clinical practice, and that acupuncture on a parent would theoretically also be able to treat their children; in other words, suggesting that a sick child (or a child in pain) could benefit from a mother undergoing acupuncture. The same principle would apply to sibling relationships.

Author Wang Jun and co-authors describe they have conducted experiments with 15 patients with pain symptoms and their direct relatives to prove their theory; 14 of these patients and their relatives were put in the same room when receiving the acupuncture treatment, while one patient was separated from their relatives when they received the treatment. Upon completion, the results indicated that all patients’ pain symptoms were at least somewhat alleviated. In four patients, the pain even disappeared.

The study received online attention when it was discussed on popular Q&A platform Zhihu.com and on a science blog earlier last week (September 14).

 

As a doctor, I’m speechless after reading this.”

 

On Zhihu.com, segments of the article were republished online, with the main poster asking: “How should we evaluate the ‘Discussion on Quantum Entanglement Theory and Acupuncture’ (试论“量子纠缠”与针灸)?”

The question, that was viewed more than 80,000 times, received many replies. One comment from a Beijing medical doctor (verified account) named Dr. Zeng said:

(..) “As a doctor, I’m speechless after reading this. This was published in the scientific journal Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion (中国针灸). Based on what I found online, this magazine was founded in 1981 and falls under the responsibility of the Chinese Science and Technology Association (中国科学技术协会); it’s a monthly joint effort by the Chinese Acupuncture Association and the Institute of Acupuncture and Moxibustion of the Chinese Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is a publication that is at the core of Chinese science and technology, it is a periodical that is at the core of Chinese-language science, and China’s scientific databases (..) In other words, it is a very authoritative publication within the domain of acupuncture. Your research has to be quite great in order for it to be published in it.”

The full version of the publication can be found in the online China Academic Journals Full-text Database, better known as CNKI (中国知网), a national online database under the lead of Tsinghua University.

Dr. Zeng continues:

To suggest that when children fall ill, their parents just need to undergo some acupuncture and they’ll be fine, because there is ‘quantum entanglement’ (量子纠缠) among blood kins – saying that acupuncture on the parents is equal to acupuncture on the children -, this is really serious. According to this theory, we might as well cancel pediatrics.”

The doctor further reprimands the magazine and the authors for letting such a controversial study enter the publication, and thus international academic databases.

 

The only thing that the researchers of this paper prove, is that they themselves need to be treated.”

 

The study, further also criticized on a Science Net blog (where parts of the study were also republished), then started to gain attention on Weibo and other social media platforms, where many popular accounts started spreading the study’s findings.

As a result, netizens started ridiculing the “miraculous” theory and let their imaginations run wild about all the future treatment possibilities. One Weibo users jokingly wrote: “This is a nice new way to discover who your real father is. If the treatment on your father doesn’t bring about any positive results on you, you might have to talk to your neighbor and let him undergo the treatment instead.”

One of the most popular Weibo comments said: “The only thing that the researchers of this paper prove, is that they themselves need to be treated.”

Hashtags such as “Treat the mum with acupuncture if the child gets sick” (#孩子生病扎他妈治疗#)received more than four million views at time of writing.

The research also received attention in Chinese newspapers and online media, where reporters asked other scientists to comment on the controversy.

In an interview in the Science and Technology Daily (科技日报), Zhang Wenzhuo (张文卓), an associate researcher at the Institute of Quantum Information and Technology Innovation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (中国科学院量子信息与量子科技创新), said that the theory presented by Wang Jun and his co-authors is a “very irresponsible abuse of the quantum theory.”

 

It is swindlers such as these who have destroyed TCM.”

 

Since the research has gone viral on Chinese social media, Beijing Dongzhimen Hospital has responded to the controversy from its Weibo account (@北京东直门医院) with an official statement.

The statement confirms that the authors of the publication are affiliated to the Dongzhimen Hospital of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, and says that the hospital has let other experts look into this research.

“After getting an understanding of the situation and closely examining the paper,” they write: “we believe that the theory belongs to the authors’ individual thinkings which they based on connected theories and phenomenon (..)”, and that this particular theory “is not instructive for clinical medicine.”

One of the most popular comments replying to the statement comes from a Suzhou doctor in internal medicine (verified account), who says: “In all seriousness, this is some serious nonsense (“一本正经的胡说八道”).”

Many people also take this research as an opportunity to criticize Traditional Chinese Medicine. “Traditional Chinese Medicine are a national treasure, but too many people use it to cheat on others,” one another commenter writes. “It is swindlers such as these who have destroyed TCM,” another person replies.

Amidst all condemnation of the research, there are some voices on Weibo who are pleading for people to look deeper into the research before attacking it. Others also respond to those saying that Traditional Chinese Medicine are not scientific, saying: “First, make sure you clearly understand what science is.”

According to Chinese online media outlet The Paper, the study’s authors have not responded to any requests to comment on the controversy over their theory.

By Manya Koetse and Gabi Verberg
with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Featured cartoon published by Beijing News in response to the study, by illustrator Liu Jun 刘俊.

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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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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