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Online Outrage After University Professor Brutally Beats up Female Street Cleaner

A high education, but low morals – Chinese netizens are shocked by the violent beating of a female street cleaner.

Manya Koetse



A violent attack on a female sanitation worker has triggered public outrage in China, especially since one of the aggressors is a professor at the Shaanxi University of Science and Technology.

On October 4th, a netizen from Tianjin (@查派017) posted about a violent incident he witnessed that involved a female street cleaner and two persons, one being a professor from the Shaanxi University of Science and Technology. The two allegedly beat up a female sanitation worker for blocking their way on a road outside the university campus in Xi’an.

The person’s Weibo post about the incident was shared over 93,000 times within 24 hours, attracting ten thousands of comments from angry netizens.


“How much money do I make and how much money do you make?”


This is a full translation of the post*, which was published on Sina Weibo along with several screenshots of a video of the incident.

On October 4, 2017, around 2 in the afternoon, a male and female college staff member beat up a female sanitation worker. I want to expose these two pieces of scum.”

“I was just resting indoors when I heard a loud weeping coming from outside the window. I initially thought that parents were teaching their child a lesson, but after a few minutes, the crying grew louder and it did not sound like a child. From the window I then saw a female sanitation worker slowly getting up from a pile of garbage, while a woman was pushing her, yelling: ‘How much money do I make and how much money do you make? You’re now keeping me from making money!'”

Blood on the floor at the scene where the beating took place.

At this time, a man came forward to beat the female cleaner, and I shouted from my window: ‘You are bullying a sanitation worker, you are shameless!’ At this point, they discovered that other people were watching them, and they stopped what they were doing. The man wanted to back up his car and get away, but he was already stopped by some of the neighbors around.”

“As I rushed to the scene, the man shouted at me: ‘She let me beat her herself!’ The woman’s attitude was still bad. Before reporting to the police, I shot a video and told them I would expose them. Again their attitude changed, and at this time there were more and more people who were criticizing them. An older man told me that the man had hit the sanitation worker and that he had kicked her several times.”

The female cleaner, whose identity remains unknown, was beaten, pushed, and kicked.

While filing a report at the police station, there was a man who said he was the man’s assistant, and he explained to the police that the man originally came from the countryside but that he had lived in Japan and the US for some years before returning home and that he does not understand the situation here and that was why he beat someone.

The alleged aggressors were filmed by bystanders.

That infuriated me. As if he could just randomly beat up people in other countries? I also understood from his assistant that the man was a professor working for the Shaanxi University of Science and Technology, that he was a doctor who had just been given a 10 million yuan project, and that he hoped we would not expose him. I heard that the woman works at the human resource department of Shaanxi University. I am writing this after just coming back from the police station – I hope to let everyone know that these kinds of worthless people are not fit to be a teacher.

Of the thousands of people who commented on the post, the majority mainly criticizes the male professor involved in this incident and is enraged that someone with such a high social status would pick on someone so vulnerable.

“It is the Mid-Autumn Festival and you are having your vacation while this sanitation worker is at work. How can you be so low, you have no humanity in you. As a professor, you are unfit to teach!”, one angry commenter wrote.

“It is clear that educational background and moral standing are not directly connected,” another person said.


“Just suspended? Why not immediately fired?”


Shortly after published, the post triggered the so-called ‘human flesh search engine’ (人肉搜索), meaning that netizens worked together to identify and expose the persons involved in controversial incidents.

One commenter soon came up with personal details of the man involved, stating he was a 38-year-old Shaanxi resident by the name of Ge who was indeed working as a professor and had previously lived and studied abroad, being connected to both the Kyoto Institute of Technology and the University of Oklahoma.

On October 5, Chinese state media also reported the incident and confirmed it indeed involved a certain Dr. Ge who was a teacher at the Shaanxi University. They also wrote that the university has now suspended the man from his post and that local authorities are currently investigating the case.

“Just suspended? Why was he not immediately fired?”, many commenters wondered.

Chinese media have not reported on the status of the woman involved in the violent beating, but Shaanxi University has stated that she does not work at their institution, but is a family member of Ge.


“These kinds of people do not belong in education.”


Since the incident has attracted so much attention within just one day, the professor has apologized to the sanitation worker and her family through a letter.

The letter issued by the involved professor on October 5.

The letter was posted on the official Weibo account of the Shaanxi University of Science and Technology, which wrote that “Mr. Ge has realized that his actions are terribly wrong, and is active in [arranging] medical treatment for the person involved.”

The university also made a public statement that it strongly denounced Mr. Ge’s actions and that they were taking the matter very seriously.

The apology-letter post also received over 25,000 comments within hours. Many people say they do not accept Mr. Ge’s apology, and demand that he immediately gets fired, writing that “these kinds of people do not belong in education.”

This image of the beaten and crying street cleaner is going viral on Chinese social media.

Sanitation workers or street cleaners do not have an easy life in China, and face many difficulties. Although they are nicknamed “angels of the road” (马路天使), their working circumstances are far from heaven.

Public cleaners in China generally work long hours and receive the national minimum pay. Normally there is no workstation for workers to take a break or recover from the extreme heat or cold. Working safety is also an important issue, as street cleaners are exposed to dangerous situations when cleaning roads with busy traffic. Street cleaners are often get injured or even die due to road accidents.

To increase public awareness and appreciation for the work of street cleaners, October 26 has turned into a special day in China to honor the country’s street cleaners and sanitation workers.

By Manya Koetse

*Original post text:

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©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of 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 Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar

    Altyn Sultan

    October 8, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Apparently, this happened on Wednesday, and it’s a week of holidays. Hence, suspension is not the final decision, but an operational measure to carry out a disciplinary investigation. Noone fire staff without a proper investigation.
    I’m sure a proper and prompt decision will be taken by the University Administration.

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China and Covid19

The ‘Blank White Paper Protest’ in Beijing and Online Discussions on “Outside Forces”

As people in Beijing, Shanghai, and other places take to the streets holding up white papers, some have dubbed this the “A4 Revolution.”

Manya Koetse



A majority of social media commenters support those who have recently taken to the streets, using blank sheets as a sign of protest against censorship and stringent Covid measures. But there are also online voices warning Chinese young people not to be influenced by ‘external forces.’

Over the past few days, there have been scenes of unrest and protest movements in various places across China.

While there were protests in Shanghai for the second night in a row, Beijing also saw crowds gathering around the Liangmahe area in the city’s Chaoyang District on Sunday night.

Some videos showed crowds softly singing the song “Farewell” (送别) in commemoration of those who lost their lives during the deadly inferno in Urumqi.

Later, people protested against stringent Covid measures.

“The crowds at Liangmahe are amazing,” some people on Weibo commented.

Photos and videos coming from the area showed how people were holding up blank sheets of white paper.

Earlier this weekend, students in Nanjing and Xi’an also held up blank paper sheets in protest of censorship and as the only ‘safe’ way to say what could otherwise not be said. This form of protest also popped up during the Hong Kong protests, as also described in the recent book by Louisa Lim (Indelible City: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong).

The recurring use of blank paper sheets led to some dubbing the protests an “A4 Revolution.”

“When can we have freedom of speech? Maybe it can start at Beijng’s Liangmahe,” one person on Weibo wrote on Sunday night.

Another Beijing-based netizen wrote: “Before going to sleep I saw what was happening in Liangmahe on my WeChat Moments and then I looked at Weibo and saw that the Xicheng area had added 279 new Covid cases. I started thinking about my own everyday life and the things I am doing. I can’t help but feel a sense of isolation, because I can’t fight and do not dare to raise my voice.”

“I didn’t dare to believe this is happening in 2022. I didn’t dare to believe this is happening in Beijing. I do not dare to believe that again it will all have been useless tomorrow morning,” one Weibo user commented.

During the night, various people at the scene shouted out things such as “we want to go out and work,” and other hopes they have. One person yelled: “I want to go out and see a movie!”

“I want to go and see a movie.”

The phrase “I wanna go watch a movie” (“我要看电影”) was also picked up on social media, with some people commenting : “I am not interested in political regimes, I just want to be able to freely see a movie.” “I want to see a movie! I want to sit in a cinema and watch a movie! I want to watch a movie that is uncensored!”

Despite social media users showing a lot of support for students and locals standing up and making their voices heard, not everyone was supportive of this gathering in Beijing. Some suggested that since Liangmahe is near Beijing’s foreign embassy district, there must be some evil “foreign forces” meddling and creating unrest.

Others expressed that people were starting to demand too many different things instead of solely focusing on China’s zero Covid policies, losing the momentum of the original intention of the protest.

Political commentator Hu Xijin (胡锡进) also posted about the recent unrest on his Weibo account on Sunday night:

The people have the right to express their opinions, and you may have good and honest aspirations and have the intention to express legitimate demands. But I want to remind you that many things have their own rules, and when everyone participates in the movement, its direction might become very difficult for ordinary participants to continue to control, and it can easily to be used or even hijacked by separate forces, which may eventually turn into a flood that destroys all of our lives.”

Hu also called on people to keep striving to solve existing problems, but to stay clear-headed, suggesting that it is important for the people and the government to maintain unity in this challenging time.

The term “outside forces” or “external forces” (外部势力) increasingly popped up in social media discussions on late Sunday night.

“I worry a lot of meddling by external forces. Let’s be vigilant of a color revolution. I just hope things will get better,” one netizen from Hubei wrote.

“Young people should not be incited by a few phrases and blindly follow. Everyone will approve of people rationally defending their rights, but stay far away from color revolutions.”

The idea that foreign forces meddle in Chinese affairs for their own agenda has come up various times over the past years, during the Hong Kong protests but also during small-scale protests, such as a local student protest in Chengdu in 2021.

The term “color revolution” is recurring in these kind of discussions, with some netizens suggesting that foreign forces, such as the CIA, are trying to get local people to cause unrest through riots or demonstrations to undermine the stability of the government.

“It’s not always external forces, it can also just be opposition,” one person on Weibo replied: “In every country you’ll have different opinions.”

“What outside forces?” another commenter said: “I’m not an external force! I am just completely fed up with the Covid measures!”

Read more about the “11.24” unrest in China here.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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China and Covid19

The 11.24 Urumqi Fire: Mourning and Anger at Lives Lost in Apartment Building Inferno

As people mourned the victims of the Urumqi fire, they also expressed anger over how the last 100 days of their lives were spent in lockdown.

Manya Koetse



A fire that occurred in Urumqi city, Xinjiang, on the evening of November 24 has triggered waves of mourning and anger on Chinese social media. Ten people lost their lives in the fire, and nine people sustained injuries.

According to Chinese media reports, the fire broke out at 19:54 at the 15th floor of a high-rise residential building in the Jixiangyuan community (吉祥苑小区) in the city’s Tianshan district. The fire further spread up to the 17th floor, with the smoke going up to the 21st floor. It was not until 22:35 on Thursday night before the fire was extinguished.

There have been various reports circulating online suggesting that there was a delay in fire trucks arriving at the scene of the emergency. Obstructions on the road allegedly prevented firefighters from moving forward and the road obstructions (possibly also including pillars and parked cars) had to be removed first. Local authorities are currently investigating the incident.

A preliminary investigation into the cause of the fire indicates that it was of electrical origin, and was caused by a multi-plug power board located in an apartment bedroom. A hashtag related to this received over 220 million views on Weibo on Friday (#乌鲁木齐住宅楼火灾疑因插线板着火引发#).

Image via Phoenix News.

On Weibo, there are many questions and rumors surrounding the incident. Was there indeed a delay in the rescue operation? What prevented the fire trucks from coming to the scene, and why? Was the building in lockdown or not? Did the building management adhere to all fire safety guidelines, or could a potential lockdown have prevented a quick evacuation?

And why were several images of the incident censored on Weibo, where one hashtag about the case received 1.5 billion views (#新疆一高层住宅楼火灾致10人死亡#) (yet did not show up in the top 20 of most popular topics)?

“Over 1.5 billion views, nowhere to be seen in the hot lists..” one commenter remarked.

The fire led to more public attention to the Covid lockdown situation in Urumqi. Urumqi has been in (semi-)lockdown for most of the time since August 10 of this year. The Tianshan District of the city is among one of the areas that have been especially affected by local outbreaks. Last month, locals turned to social media for help and to vent about Covid symptoms, high food prices, boredom and depression, the living conditions in their fangcang (makeshift hospital for Covid-positive isolation), and difficult access to medical care.

As Chinese netizens mourned the victims of the fire, they also expressed anger over how these people spent the last 106 days of their lives in (partial) lockdown. Some posted protest images saying “NO” to excessive epidemic measures.

At the time of the fire, the Jixiangyuan community was officially designated a ‘low risk’ area according to Chinese official media reports, meaning residents should have been able to move around their residential building.

But many netizens pointed out that the community was still labeled as a ‘high-risk’ area according to local epidemic data. At the time of writing, the community is no longer listed among the 66 ‘high-risk’ communities/areas in Tianshan District.

Screenshot shared on social media, showing that the community in question was a designated high risk area.

A screenshot that circulated online shows a WeChat notification of local community staff on November 21, telling residents that positive cases had been detected in the latest nucleic acid samples and that they were required to stay home for three days and that the unit doors would be sealed. This screenshot has not been officially verified or confirmed.

The famous actress and dancer Tong Liya (佟丽娅), who is of Xibe ethnicity and was born in Xinjiang, also posted about the incident. She published an image mourning the victims of the fire, saying she hopes they can rest in peace (#佟丽娅发文悼念乌鲁木齐火灾逝者#).

Besides all the mourning and confusion, there is anger, especially because it has not yet been clarified if the residents who passed away were blocked from leaving their units.

Digital artwork made in response to 11.24 Urumqi fire, original creator unknown.

While waiting for official investigation reports to come out, some are calling out for letting other provinces or regions do the investigation because they are scared the truth might not come out if local officials are in charge of the investigation themselves.

“Last time it was the Guizhou bus, now it is the Urumqi apartment building fire,” multiple commenters wrote. “History keeps repeating itself and it’s the common poor people who pay the price.”

In September of this year, a bus transporting Guizhou residents to a Covid-19 quarantine facility crashed, killing 27 of those on board.

One popular post received over 200,000 likes on Friday, with the blogger writing:

The Guizhou transfer bus incident killed 27; a Chongqing pregnant woman miscarried; a child in Lanzhou died prematurely [link]; those going downstairs during Chengdu earthquake found emergency exits sealed; in Xi’an a pregnant women about to give birth bleeds outside the hospital waiting for nucleic acid results [link]; an Inner Mongolian girl did not get to spend the last moments with her mother who jumped off a building [link]. And here we go again today, with residents burning to death in Xinjiang (…).

On Friday, the Public Security Bureau issued a statement saying a 24-year-old woman had been detained for spreading rumors on Weibo about the Urumqi fire. The woman will be detained for ten days (#女子造谣乌鲁木齐火灾死亡人数被拘#). The woman allegedly spread rumors about the death toll of the incident.

We will post an update to this story once the official report regarding the Urumqi fire comes out. 


On Friday night, around midnight, local officials held a press conference regarding the fire (#乌鲁木齐1124火灾事故发布会#). During the press conference, officials refuted any rumors of the doors in the building being locked. They also confirmed that the building had been designated as ‘low risk’ and that residents were able to go downstairs since November 20.

One comment by an official in the press conference regarding how some residents lacked the knowledge or capability to timely rescue themselves (“部分居民自防自救能力弱”) triggered anger on social media. One commenter sarcastically wrote: “We’re sorry, lacking the knowledge to rescue ourselves, sorry to inconvenience you.”

Private cars parked on road sides, narrow streets, and safety pillars allegedly made it more difficult for fire trucks to reach the scene of the fire.

Within thirty minutes after the press conference starting, a designated hashtag on Weibo had received over 160 million views.

The contents of the stream of comments on Chinese social media directly following the press conference indicated that online anger had not been subdued at all.

“I thought they would come to apologize, instead they came to hold [residents] accountable,” some wrote: “It’s all the people’s fault.”

Read more about the “11.24” unrest in China here.

For more articles on the Covid situation in China, check here. If you appreciate what we do, please support us by subscribing for just a small annual fee.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes


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