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No Santa, No Reindeer, No Mistletoe – Party Members Banned from Celebrating Christmas

Local authorities in Hengyang are not dreaming of a white Christmas.

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An official notice by the Public Security Bureau of Hengyang has stirred debate for prohibiting party members from celebrating Christmas.

A notice issued by the local government of Hengyang, the second largest city of Hunan Province, has stirred controversy for telling government officials and their families not to celebrate Christmas.

A Wechat article about the notice made its rounds on Chinese social media over the past few days but was pulled offline on December 22.

Chinese state media outlet Global Times reported about the issue, and explained it in the following way:

The Communist Party of China (CPC) does not separate political ideology from religious faith and experts say this means Party members, officials and their family members are required to only believe in communism. The CPC’s constitution includes a criterion for membership that requires new members to declare they are not worshipers of a religious faith.”

They also reported that the Hengyang authorities warned Party members and government officials it would impose heavy fines on anyone making or selling artificial snow.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) covered the topic on December 20, writing that the local authorities called Christmas “”spiritual opium”, and that they warned that those who violated the rules would have to “bear responsibility.”

The RFA article suggests that this is not just a local issue, but part of a broader official ban on Christmas.

A wider ban on Christmas

This idea was also further supported in the Global Times article of December 21st, which said that Hengyang is not the only jurisdiction to issue a notice on Christmas celebration and that people in other cities, including students and workers, had received a similar notice.

Several media report that some universities across China, including one in Shenyang, have banned their students from celebrating Christmas.

Multiple people on Weibo posted photos of notices regarding the prohibition of Christmas activities.

One netizen on Weibo, author Wang Zhan (@作家王湛), posted a photo of such a notice in Shenyang, writing:

This school has banned the celebration of Christmas, but shouldn’t they also prohibit the celebration of New Year’s Day? Because the nature of New Year’s Day and Christmas are the same; they are both Western religious festivals that are celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar, and they are not traditional Chinese festivals. Also, this notice should not actually write the date using “2017”, instead it should be written as the year of this or that dynasty or go by the sexagenary cycle, according to Chinese tradition. This Gregorian calendar was issued by a Christian ruler. Shouldn’t you put your money where your mouth is?

Some people commented on the issue that they agreed that Party members, at least, should not celebrate Christmas. “It is a wise decision to prohibit Party members from celebrating Christmas,” a Shaanxi local judge posted.

“I also think a Christian festival is meaningless for atheists; it’s nothing more than a commercial event,” one other person wrote.

Growing resistance? 

Although China is a predominantly atheist country with a small proportion of Christians, Chinese businesses have increasingly started to incorporate a commercial Christmas theme into their winter seasons throughout the years.

As pointed out by Cat Hanson in the article ‘Christmas in China: Santa Claus is Coming‘, Chinese law allows these sort of “normal religious activities” that do not “engage in activities that disrupt social order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state.” The Chinese Communist Party is atheist and Christmas is not a public holiday.

There are more signs that, apart from in Hengyang, there is a growing government resistance against the presence of Christmas in China – both its religious and commercial aspects.

A Kunming local area administrative committee posted on Weibo on December 21: “In accordance with the administrative committee and the Commerce & Industry Bureau, a unit from the bureau inspected the Gaoxin District urban area today for the sale of forbidden Christmas  products.”

The photo posted by the Kunming local administration committee.

Despite all controversy, for the seeming majority of netizens on Weibo, the issue of Christmas is not a big one at all. For many, it is just another workday, for others, it is another opportunity to do some shopping and enjoy a nice meal.

One Weibo commenter does not care about the festivities either way: “Whether it’s Winter’s solstice, Christmas Eve, Christmas, or New Year’s, I’m spending it all by myself. I’m just planning to have dinner, wash up, and go to bed.”

By Manya Koetse

Miranda Barnes has contributed to this article.

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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    January 2, 2018 at 10:55 pm

    Dear ‘Very Curious’, your comment has been removed here because it is off-topic. You can email us at info@whatsonweibo.com and we will answer your questions there.

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China Insight

The Day After the “3•21” Devastating Yancheng Explosion: 47 Dead, 640 Injured

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The enormous explosion at a chemical plant in Jiangsu’s Yancheng on March 21st has sent shockwaves through the country. While state media are focusing on the efforts of rescue workers, Chinese social media users are mourning the lives lost and are searching for those still missing.

One day after a devastating explosion occurred at a chemical plant in Yancheng city in Jiangsu, at the Xiangshui Eco-chemical Industrial Zone, the number of confirmed casualties and injured has now gone up to 47 dead, 90 critically injured, with around 640 requiring hospital treatment (issued Friday 19.00 local time).

The explosion happened on Thursday around 14.48 local time at the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Plant (天嘉宜化工厂). Images and videos of the explosion and its aftermath quickly spread on Weibo and other social media, showing the huge impact of the blast.

Site of the explosion.

Footage showed shattered windows from buildings in the area and injured persons lying on the streets. Other videos showed children crying and blood on the pavements. There are residential areas and at least seven schools located in the vicinity of the chemical plant, leading to injuries among residents and students due to glass that was allegedly “flying around.”

According to official sources on Weibo, a total of 930 firefighters worked side by side to control the fire.

Trending photo on Friday: exhausted firefighters.

The hashtag “Lining Up to Donate Blood in Xiangshui” (#响水市民自发排队献血#) also attracted some attention on Weibo, with state media reporting that dozens of local residents have donated blood to help the injured. On Thursday night, there were long lines at a local mobile blood donation bus.

What is quite clear from the Chinese media reports on the incident and the social media posts coming from official (authorities) accounts, is that there is an emphasis on the number of people who are helping out, rather than a focus on the number of people that were killed: there are at least 930 firefighters, 192 fire trucks, 9 heavy construction machinery, 200 police officers, 88 people rescued, 3500 medical staff, 200 people donating blood, etc. – the number of people joining forces to provide assistance in the area is overwhelming.

Meanwhile, there are desperate family members who are turning to social media in search of loved ones, posting their photos and asking people if they know anything about their whereabouts since the explosion.

While dozens of Weibo users are airing their grievances on what happened, there are also more personal stories coming out. The wife of the local factory worker Jiang is devastated; her husband of four years, father of one son, celebrated his 30th birthday on Thursday. She received a message from her husband twenty minutes before the explosion occurred. He was one of the many people who lost their lives.

On Thursday, Chinese netizens complained that their posts about the Yancheng explosion were being taken offline, suggesting that information flows relating to the incident are being strictly controlled. “This is just too big to conceal,” one commenter said.

This is not the first time such an explosion makes headlines in China. In 2015, an enormous explosion at a petrol storage station in Tianjin killed 173 people and caused hundreds of people to be injured. Two years ago, an explosion at a Shandong petrochemical plant left 13 people dead.

By Manya Koetse 

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Insight

Chinese Netizens’ Response to New Zealand Mosque Attacks

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The shocking New Zealand mosque attack, killing at least 49 people, is making headlines worldwide. On Weibo, it is the top trending topic today. A short overview of some of the reactions on Chinese social media.

At least 49 people were killed and 20 wounded when an attacker opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday. According to various media reports, one man in his late 20s had been arrested and charged with murder. Three other people, two men and one woman, have also been arrested in relation to the attack.

Footage of the brutal shootings, which was live-streamed by the gunman, has been making its rounds on social media. Although the videos are being taken down from Facebook and Twitter, people are still sharing the shocking images and footage on Weibo at time of writing.

The gunman, who has been named as the 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, reportedly also posted a 70-page manifesto online expressing white supremacist views.

On Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo, the New Zealand mosque attack became a number one trending topic on Friday night, local time, with the hashtag “New Zealand Shootings” (#新西兰枪击案#) receiving at least 130 million views, and thousands of reactions.

“It takes the collaborate efforts of all people to work on a beautiful world, it just takes a few people to destroy it,” one Weibo user wrote.

“Extremism is incredibly scary,” others said. “I saw the livestreaming video and it’s too cruel – like a massacre from a shooter video game.” “I’m so shaken, I don’t even want to think of the panic these people must have felt.”

“I’ve seen the footage, and this is so horrible. It makes me want to cry. It’s a massacre.” Other commenters also write: “This is just so inhumane.”

One aspect that especially attracted attention on Chinese social media is that, according to many people posting on Weibo and Wechat, the main suspect expressed in his manifesto that the nation he felt closest to in terms of his “political and social values” is “that of the People’s Republic of China.”

Journalist Matthew Keys reportedly uploaded the main suspect’s manifesto, which was published on January 21, 2019. This article says that to the question about whether he was a fascist, Tarrant indeed wrote that “the nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China.”

Some netizens wrote that, in mentioning the PRC, the shooter “also vilified China.” Others also said that the shootings definitely “do not correspond to the values of China.”

There are also dozens of Weibo users who blame Western media for the attacker’s comments on China corresponding to his own values. “What he appreciated is what Western media is propagating about our management of Muslims in Xinjiang,” some say: “He was influenced by the foreign media disseminating that we’re anti-Muslim.”

“He sympathized with the China portrayed by foreign media, not with the real China.”

“Western governments and media have demonized China for a long time, what they are making Western people believe about what China is, this is what the New Zealand shooter felt closest to in terms of his values,” one person wrote.

“These kinds of extreme-right terrorists would be destroyed in China,” others wrote.

Among all people expressing their disgust and horror at the Christchurch shootings, there are also those expressing anti-Muslim views and hatred, with some comment sections having turned into threads full of vicious remarks.

Then there are those criticizing the Muslims that are also commenting on Weibo: “The Muslims in China were quiet when it was about the [islamist extremist] attacks in Kunshan, but now that this massacre happened at the pig-hating mosque, they are all bemoaning the state of the universe and are denouncing terrorism.”

Among the thousands of reactions flooding in on Weibo, there are countless comments condemning those who turn the shocking attack into an occasion for making anti-Muslim or political remarks. “This is a terrorist attack. The victims are ordinary people. Why would you make malicious comments?”

One Weibo user simply writes: “The world has gone crazy.” “A tragic event. I hope the victims will rest in peace.”

By Manya Koetse 

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please email us.

©2019 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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