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People’s Daily: Burqa Ban Starts February 1st

Earlier this month, a ban on wearing burqa’s, or ‘face masking veils’ (蒙面罩袍), was legally approved in China. On January 18th, People’s Daily reports that the ban will go into effect on February 1st.

Manya Koetse

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Earlier this month, a ban on wearing burqa’s, or ‘face masking veils’ (蒙面罩袍), was legally approved in China. On January 18th, state-run newspaper People’s Daily reports that the ban will go into effect on February 1st.

The prohibition on burqa’s applies specifically to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, home to the majority of China’s Muslims. The article states:

“Wearing burqa’s (face-covering veils) will be banned in public places in Urumqi from February 1st. Wearing any other kind of clothing that promotes religious extremist ideology will also be prohibited, along with the wearing or using of religious badges, artifacts, memorabilia and symbols. The public places included in this stipulation are: institutional or organizational office spaces, enterprise or business establishments, public transport, stations, schools, hospitals, kindergartens, streets, roads and public community areas, places for leisure and entertainment, and other places identified by the government. Citizens, legal persons and other organizations who violate this regulation have to be reported to the public security bureau. Those who violate the ban on wearing burqa’s in public places will be punished in accordance with the laws and regulation of the public security bureau; violation is considered a crime and perpetrators will be held criminally responsible. The management and operators of public places and work spaces that are in violation will be given a warning, if nothing is corrected within due time, they will be fined 2000 to 5000 yuan.”

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While some Weibo netizens regard the new laws as being “too strict”, and are critical of the “grounds on which they are implemented”, others support it, saying that the burqa is “an apparel that stands for religious extremism” and that it is “an emblem for female oppression.”

– by Manya Koetse

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[box]This is Weiblog: the What’s on Weibo short-blog section. Brief daily updates on our blog and what is currently trending on China’s biggest social medium, Sina Weibo.[/box] ©2014 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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Backgrounder

More Than Just a Visit: Explaining the Chinese ‘Cuànfǎng’

‘Cuànfǎng’ became a popular word on Chinese social media and in official Chinese discourse this year. But what is it?

Jin Luo

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Since Pelosi’s stopover in Taiwan, the word ‘cuànfǎng’ has been all over Chinese social media to refer to this controversial visit. But ‘cuànfǎng’ is more than just ‘visiting’ alone. Jin Luo explains.

It was a sleepless night for many Chinese people when U.S. House Speaker Pelosi flew to Taiwan on August 2nd of 2022. A new Chinese word created in recent years, cuànfǎng (窜访) appeared in the official statement that was issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry at 11 pm that night, and subsequently it appeared all over social media.

Meanwhile, a pop song released more than 30 years ago titled “Tonight, Are You Coming or Not” (“今夜你会不会来”) suddenly became a Weibo hot topic before it was taken offline. What is this word lost in translation, and why did people suddenly get nostalgic over an old romantic song?

 
Cuànfǎng: A ‘Sneaky Visit’
 

Here is the original wording in Chinese and the official translation to English from the statement of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on the evening on 2 August:

In disregard of China’s strong opposition and diplomatic discontent, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited China’s Taiwan region” (“美国国会众议长佩洛西不顾中方强烈反对和严正交涉,窜访中国台湾地区.”) The word ‘visited’ in Chinese that is used here is “cuànfǎng” 窜访.

While the English verb “visit” is a neutral word by itself, the Chinese “cuànfǎng” 窜访 has much stronger connotations. According to the Wiktionary, the word is a derogatory, officialese way to say “to visit.” But it is not an easy word to translate, as there is no direct equivalent in English, and both the literal and implied meaning of the word need to be understood.

Cuànfǎng is actually a compound word: cuàn 窜 refers to fleeing, escaping, hiding, or running away; fǎng 访 refers to inquiring, seeking, or visiting.

Cuan as a compound character (Sohu).

To make matters more complicated, cuàn by itself is also a compound character. It is written as ‘竄’ in traditional Chinese: the top radical ‘穴’ means ‘hole,’ and the lower part is the character ‘鼠’ which means ‘mouse.’ The character, having the shape of a mouse hiding in a hole, therefore has the meaning of ‘hiding’ and ‘escaping.’

The origins of the character ‘cuan’ explained, image via Sohu.com.

The mouse or rat is an animal that is more often associated with negative things in Chinese culture. They are often considered sneaky, dirty, running around everywhere, and able to reproduce quickly. With mice so often carrying a negative association, cuàn ‘窜’ also refers to a kind of hiding and escaping that is negative or objectionable.

The second character fǎng 访 is a neutral word that simply means “to visit.”

At the New York Times, Chris Buckley captured the underlying meaning of this word in writing: “The Chinese word used in the official statements for ‘visit’ — cuanfang — connotes a sneaky or illicit encounter, not an aboveboard meeting.”

 
The Evolution of Cuànfǎng
 

Although it is a relatively new word, cuànfǎng already existed before the Pelosi incident and was not created in light of this controversial visit.

Since the word’s first appearance, translators have had some difficulties in properly translating the term into different languages.

Research papers in translation studies and international relations in China suggested that cuànfǎng is a “new derogatory term invented in recent years, specifically for the purpose of maintaining national security and unity, and condemning and exposing the national separatists” and “demonstrated the big wisdom of Chinese diplomatic discourse users; vividly described the image of the separatists, that they go on the run sneakily, just like thieves and mice” (source, in Chinese).

Other sources interpret it as “the unjust, improper visit conducted in order to reach hidden political agenda, to agitate and peddle the separatist ideas,” and:

1. You went somewhere where you were not supposed to go;
2. The visit was not accepted or welcomed by the (Chinese) government;
3. The purpose is to shake justice and create conflicts
” (source, in Chinese).

Cuàn was mainly meant to add an emotional aspect to the term and shows the contempt of the person who uses it.

Image via Wainao.

The word was first prominently used in Chinese official discourse when the Foreign Ministry in 2006 referred to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Israel. Since cuàn has the meaning of fleeing, it is especially suitable when referring to political dissidents who went into exile overseas.

Since then, it has been used again for further visits of the Dalai Lama to other countries (US 2014, Mongolia 2017), as well as for Rebiya Kadeer, Lee Teng-hui, Shinzo Abe, Joshua Wong, and others.

Although it is clear that the term is not only applied to Chinese dissidents, it is generally applied to those who conducted visits that were perceived to be hostile towards China, with Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit serving as a clear example.

Since the Dalai Lama has been living outside of China and conducted numerous visits to other countries, cuànfǎng was previously mostly used in this context until Pelosi’s visit, which ended up being good for more than 80% of the search results of cuànfǎng on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website.

If cuànfǎng is a word with such strong emotional connotations, why was it simply translated as “visit” in official English-language documents? Some say it is because of the mere difficulty to translate this word, while others say it is the routine sanitization of English translations by the Foreign Ministry.

David Gitter, president of the Center for Advanced China Research based in Washington D.C., said that the external goal of Beijing can be different from the internal goal towards the nationalist domestic audiences, and that “more accurate yet counterproductive translations … [often] breach normal diplomatic language.”

At this point, it remains up for debate whether this is a linguistic constraint or a political choice.

 
Tonight, Are You Coming or Not?
 

While the term cuànfǎng has been widely used in official discourse, it has also become a popular online word. Chinese netizens seemed to be as passionate as the Chinese Foreign Ministry – and perhaps even more so –  in condemning Pelosi’s Taiwan visit and demanding radical countermeasures.

Chinese netizens were watching the entire event unfold with mixed feelings – on the one hand, there was a strong sense of patriotism and anger, on the other hand, the massive attention to the event also turned it into something that was almost as exciting as a celebrity drama.

On that specific evening of Pelosi’s nearing arrival in Taipei, Chinese netizens were doing two things: watching real-time tracking of Pelosi’s flight, and listening to a classic pop song released in 1991 titled “Tonight, Are You Coming or Not” (今夜你会不会来) (video). Back in the previous century, Hong Kong singer Leon Lai expressed the emotions of someone waiting for his lover to arrive in this melodic song, singing:

“你是否愿意为我停留

Would you be willing to stay for me

今夜你来告诉我

Tonight, you tell me

你是否愿意陪我走过我的梦

Are you willing to accompany me through my dream?

我的所有

My everything

(Chorus)

今夜你会不会来

Tonight, are you coming or not?

你的爱还在不在

Is your love still there or not?

如果你的心已经离开

If your heart has left already

我宁愿没有未来

I would rather not have a future

今夜你会不会来

Tonight, are you coming or not?

你的爱还在不在

Is your love still there or not?

别让我所有的等待

Don’t let all my wait

变成一片空白

Go all in vain

 

In the middle of the uncertainty about whether Pelosi would come to Taiwan or not, this song served as entertainment for netizens and became a “collective carnival” of people jokingly applying the song to Pelosi, turning her into a ‘mysterious lover’ that might or might not show up. (Later, some were unable to play the song anymore, although it remains unclear if this was due to geographic restrictions or because the song was actually taken offline by censors.)

“Taiwan has been preparing for your cuànfǎng ‘sneaky visit’, are you coming or not tonight?” some netizens wrote, combining the title song with the cuànfǎng term. In doing so, Pelosi became both a ‘sneaky mouse’ and ‘mysterious lover’, both a target of condemnation and subject of fun and banter.

All jokes and cuànfǎng references aside, Pelosi did end up realizing that visit, and its aftermath, including a second Taiwan visit by a U.S. congressional delegation, has had a substantial impact on U.S.-China relations that were already strained before the move.

Will there be more cuànfǎng to Taiwan? It’s likely not an issue of if, but when. For next time, at least we’ve got cuànfǎng covered.

 

By Jin Luo 

Featured image by Alexa from Pixabay

 

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China and Covid19

“We Want To Be Trending” – Online Cries for Help from Locked Down Yili in Xinjiang

Yili residents wonder: “We’ve been in this epidemic for three years already, how can the measures still be so poor?”

Manya Koetse

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While all eyes have been on Chengdu as the city of 21 million has been in semi-lockdown since September 1st, netizens from locked-down areas in Yili, Xinjiang, are begging for help and are reaching out via social media.

Since July 30, Yili has had 1290 Covid cases. A total of 23 cases were added on Saturday, September 10.

Yili, or Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, is part of northern Xinjiang near the border of Kazakhstan. Its primary city, Yining (also known as Ghulja), is home to some 500,000 people and has been locked down since at least August 11. People complain about a lack of food, “outrageous” commodity prices, and a lack of much-needed medical care.

On September 7, one woman wrote: “I’m 41 weeks + 1 day pregnant and nine days past my due date. I’ve been bleeding today. I already was at the Xinhua Hospital for five hours when they told me they were closing the hospital. There are 8 to 9 pregnant women waiting here. Where are we supposed to go, what are we supposed to do?”

As the woman’s story attracted some online attention, Weibo later added an update to the woman’s account saying she had received medical care and that both mother and baby were doing well.

But her story is just one among many. On September 8, one Weibo netizen posted an “SOS” post saying that local people who had been in lockdown for 36 days were becoming “desperate” as some families were unable to receive medical care for sick children or elder family members.

One audio recording (video) featured a conversation between medical staff and family members, who had come to the hospital by ambulance with their ill (grand)father but found he could not be admitted due to new Health Commission orders. “He’s starting to vomit blood again,” one of the women can be heard crying out: “Don’t you care? There’s blood, he has difficulty breathing, what are you doing?! It doesn’t matter what the Health Commission says, what can we do? Doctor! Doctor! Doctor, are you there?!”

Other families were dealing with food shortages and allegedly had gone without food for days on end. “This is really happening during the Yili epidemic, the locals have tried many things to let the outside world know about our circumstances here. I beg of you, look at us, help us in this little border town, we’re locked inside and don’t have enough supplies, yet they opened the tourist scenic areas, help us, help us here, help the Yili common people!”

The post attracted over 60,000 likes, was reposted over 11,000 times and received thousands of comments, with some saying: “We need to get this trending, how is this possible, the outside world doesn’t know anything about this!” “It’s all true, thanks for speaking up for us,” one Xinjiang-based Weibo user wrote.

Later, another netizen posted: “We’ve already been in lockdown for 39 days, I don’t have the words to express everything that’s going on here. We want to be trending!”

“We’ve been locked in for 40 days and yet they opened up the tourist areas,” one local posted the next day: “Children who have a 40 degree fever can’t even see a doctor, pregnant women can’t even get into the hospital, we really can’t take this anymore.”

Wit its beautiful grasslands and amazing views, Yili is a popular travel destination in Xinjiang.

On September 9, Yili authorities held a press conference during which deputy governor Liu Qinghua (刘庆华) confirmed that there had been problems in access to medical care and supplies and that local authorities were working on ensuring public’s medical needs during this period.

But on social media, the complaints and cries of despair are still ongoing. Some people share screenrecordings of local community Wechat groups where mothers are crying out of worry for their children, there are people saying they are hungry and that they have not been provided with any food.

Close contacts and those testing positive for Covid who were taken to local fangcang or quarantine locations also complain about the conditions there. One makeshift quarantine location was set up in August on a sports field where people were made to sleep in tents despite the blistering heat, followed by wind and rain.

“We’ve been in this epidemic for three years already from 2020 to 2022, how can the measures still be so poor?” some wonder.

“I’m patriotic and I love my hometown,” one Xinjiang-based netizen wrote on Weibo: “After graduating I had no second thoughts about returning home to work here. But I’ve become desperate over the past few years (..) I know the government is just a state apparatus and it can’t be perfect everywhere and it can even be heartless, but the people behind it should at least have a heart. I’ve really become so numb.”

“Here in Xinyuan County in Yili, I’ve been in lockdown for 31 days, how about you?” one person asked in the ‘Yili Supertopic’ group on Weibo. “It’s my 42nd day,” one person answered.

Another person also wrote: “When can we go out, it’s been 42 days.” “When will the lockdown be lifted?” others wondered.

There is also online discussion about which posts are true, what is being censored and why, and how to distinguish rumors from what is actually happening.

Some stories circulating online suggested an older resident in Yili hung himself out of hunger and despair, another story suggested there was a family with three children who had a high fever but could not get any help. These stories were later denied by local authorities, who claimed they were “lies made up by people with ulterior motives” (link) – the three children did receive medial help and the suicide story was allegedly fabricated.

“What is real, is that the entire city has been silent for 41 days,” one Weibo commenter responded, with another saying: “First they say it’s fake news, then they apologize.”

Others also wondered why Yili still was not trending on Weibo, with many suggesting the topic was purposely kept out of the hot lists.

As rain is pouring down in Yili, some are worried about the patients in the tent quarantine camp, while others welcome the showers: “I hope the rain can wash away all of the virus, so that we can finally go out again.”

By Manya Koetse 

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Featured image via Weibo user @渣男90702.

 

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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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