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“Soft Drink Prostitution” – How Beverage Bottles on Cars are Used for Soliciting Sex Outside of Chinese Campuses

People looking for paid sex have found a creative way of letting others know. In the world of so-called “soft drink prostitution,” green tea services are cheaper than Red Bull ones.

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The topic of “soft drink prostitution” has been circulating on Chinese social media over the past few days. It is a phenomenon where parked cars outside of Chinese campuses will have beverages on their rooftops, signaling students that they are willing to pay for sex. Different drinks represent different prices.

Over the past few days, various Chinese media outlets have been reporting about a new phenomenon popping up at Chinese campuses dubbed “soft drink prostitution.”

Just as shoes dangling from trees or telephone wire in many countries are associated with places where people can buy drugs, putting a drink on the roof or hood of a parked car in China (preferably a BMW), would mean the driver is soliciting prostitution.

A pet bottle on a car roof means someone is looking for some (paid) action.

Many recent articles about this issue, however, have been taken offline over the past two days from news sites such as Sina.com or Sohu.com.

Is it a new urban myth or is ‘soft drink prostitution’ in fact happening? What’s on Weibo dug deeper to find out more about what this phenomenon entails.

 

Different drinks represent different prices.”

 

The recent coverage of the ‘soft drink prostitution’ phenomenon in Chinese media was first triggered by a notice on the official website of Tianjin Normal University on December 11, 2017, titled: “About the Disposal of ‘Rooftop Beverages’ on Cars From Outside the Campus” (“关于清理校园外来车辆“车顶放置饮料”的情况通报”).

Screenshot of the Dec 11 announcement on the Tianjin Normal University website about parked cars with beverage bottles on them.

The notice explained that since the beginning of the semester, campus security started noticing that parked cars outside the campus gates would have beverage bottles placed on their roofs or hoods with the purpose of “luring in female students to prostitute themselves,” and that “different drinks represent different prices.”

The notice also included a warning that it is illegal for people to perform sexual acts in return for money or goods, regardless of whether such transactions would occur between people of the same sex or opposite sex.

 

This does indeed happen in various places.

 

Around December 29, 18 days after the original announcement was allegedly placed, news of the Tianjin University phenomenon started spreading on social media in China.

On one message board, netizens questioned the veracity of the announcement, as it was nowhere to be found on the official website of the Tianjin Normal University.

I’ve attentively examined the website of the Tianjin Normal University,” one commenter wrote: “And this particular news was not on the site. On December 11, they did post two articles, but one was about bank card skimming and the other was about the illegal recruitment of students for training programs. Also, the font used in the screenshot and that used on the official website is not the same.”

Although the critical readers determined this must be a fake news item, there were others who said that even if it were fake news, “this [practice] does [indeed] happen in various places.”

 

It may lead to misunderstandings.

 

As rumors about the Chinese campuses “soft drink prostitution” kept circulating online, news sources such as Modern Express (现代快报) and The Paper first covered the issue on January 2, 2018.

According to the The Paper, the announcement was, in fact, true, but that it was taken offline by the University because it “may lead to misunderstandings” because of its “wording.”

On Weibo, some netizens said that the article was more of a “manual” for students to how the phenomenon works than an actual warning against it.

According to a spokesperson at the University, the announcement concerned “a normal procedure,” and was not meant to attract so much attention online.

The spokesperson compared such a warning to regular announcements about pickpockets, and emphasized that no students had entered the parked cars.

 

Green tea represents the offer to pay 300 yuan (±45$), whereas a can of Red Bull stands for 600 yuan (±90$).

 

So-called “soft drink prostitution” is actually not an entirely new phenomenon around Chinese campuses. Various other media outlets and reporters, such this vlogger called ‘SheCar’on Baidu TV or this online newspaper already reported about the issue in 2016, explaining the difference between drinks types.

A bottle of mineral water means 200 yuan (30$), green tea represents the offer to pay 300 yuan (±45$), for instance, whereas a can of Red Bull stands for 600 yuan (±90$).

During a days-long experiment in which a Baidu TV presenter parked the car outside of various universities in Hunan with a beverage bottle on the rooftop, it turned out that several students -some female and one male- actually did pick up the bottle and got into the car.

In 2016, Sina news explained that the parked cars outside of campuses are mostly BMW brands. If a person gets into the car that is not to the driver’s liking, they can just say “they are waiting for someone.”

On Weibo, some netizens are surprised that the rumors and alleged “fake news” announcement have turned out to be true: “I always thought this was just some sexual fantasy,” one person comments.

There are also people who say that now that this phenomenon is more widely covered, it actually “reveals what people want to hide” (“此地无银三百两”).

Other people also point out that the beverage bottle trick does not always work. As one commenter writes: “I saw this in front of my school once. But no one got into the car all day. Finally, a street sweeper took the drink from the car roof and drank it.”

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.

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 and Covid19

‘Voices of April’: The Day After

“The best way to make videos go viral is by censoring them.”

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On April 23, a day after the video ‘Voices of April’ briefly took over social media before it was censored, the trending topic of the day is a hashtag related to new Covid cases reported in Shanghai.

Shanghai reported higher Covid-19 cases and deaths on Friday than the five days prior, which showed a daily decline in new cases. Shanghai reported a total of 23,370 new cases (including 20,634 asymptomatic ones), the municipal health commission said Saturday. A related hashtag by Xinhua News received over 910 million views on Weibo on Saturday (#上海新增本土确诊2736例无症状20634例#).

Although the hashtag was initiated by state media to inform about the Shanghai Covid situation, netizens started using it to criticize Shanghai’s handling of the crisis, with more commenters questioning China’s zero-Covid strategy. Similarly, other state media-initiated hashtag places also became online spaces where Weibo users vented their frustrations earlier this month.

Besides the ongoing online criticism and vocal disagreement with China’s Covid handling and policies, there are also many who express shock at the recent crackdown of any form of protest or criticism regarding the situation in Shanghai.

“‘Voices of April’ has been shutdown all over the internet, I’m simply dumbfounded,” one person said about the popular video that contained real recordings of events that happened during the city’s lockdown.

“If you still can find the video anywhere, forward it,” another person writes.

Besides Voices of April (四月之声), there have also been other videos over the past week that are meant to expose the mishandling of the Covid situation in Shanghai.

One of them is titled Farewell, Language (再见语言), another one is Shanghai Late Spring (上海晚春).

Farewell, Language (再见语言) is a 42-second sound art video by artist Yang Xiao (杨潇), who used over 600 commonly used propaganda phrases from Chinese official channels and randomly broadcasted the audio in the community where he lives.

The anti-epidemic workers just continue their work and do not seem to notice anything out of the ordinary at all. The video shows how this kind of language has been so normalized that for most, it has just become background noise in their everyday life – without even noticing nor critically assessing its meaning or logic anymore.

The Shanghai Late Spring (上海晚春) video is a compilation of video footage from the Shanghai lockdown, showing people struggling to get food, violent altercations between anti-epidemic workers and residents, people living in deplorable conditions in quarantine centers, and more (link to video).

The video uses the song Cheer Up London by Slaves, its chorus being:

You’re dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead
.”

One Weibo commenter responded to the video in English, using a text from Les Misérables: “Do you hear the people sing / Singing the song of angry men / It is the music of a people / Who will not be slaves again!” The phrase “do you hear the people sing” was also used by other social media users to address the situation in Shanghai and the censorship of related topics.

“The best way to make videos go viral is by censoring them,” one commenter replied.

Read our previous article about ‘Voices of April’ here.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by 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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China and Covid19

The Voices of April – The Online Rise of a Shanghai Protest Video

‘Voices of April’ is the biggest topic in China’s Covid social media era since the death of Dr. Li Wenliang.

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Voices of April is a video containing edited audio snippets that show the reality of a Covid-stricken Shanghai where residents struggle with feelings of powerlessness. The video seeped into every corner of WeChat, but not long after, it was gone.

On Friday, April 22, a video was shared on Chinese social media and when the evening fell, it suddenly was on everybody’s smartphone screen.

Voices of April (四月之声) is a compilation of real audio snippets from conversations recorded in Shanghai throughout April, providing an emotional and heart-wrenching account of what residents in Shanghai have gone through since the Covid crisis started in their city.

By early Saturday morning, Beijing time, the Voices of April (四月之声) video had seeped into every corner of WeChat. Not long after, it was gone.

The video, made by a person named ‘Cary’, first seemed to have appeared online on Friday with the following message:

One month after the outbreak of the epidemic in Shanghai, I’ve seen too many online voices coming by which then soon disappeared. Over time, I’ve become somewhat desensitized, but some things shouldn’t have happened. Since they did, they shouldn’t be forgotten. Too many of our compatriots have suffered in ways that could have been avoided. I made a video, as objective and realistic as possible, as a record to remember the voices of April, and hope that all of them will pull through.”

The video in question, embedded below, is almost six minutes long. (Update: Here is a link to a version including English subtitles.)

It starts its narrative on March 15, just a day before Shanghai introduced its so-called “grid screening” strategy – meaning that every resident in a city Covid key area would do two nucleic acid tests within 48 hours. That day, the total amount of Covid cases since the onset of the outbreak in early March was 1156. The audio is real – as all snippets are – and was recorded during an official Shanghai Epidemic Prevention and Control news conference.

“Right now, Shanghai has no lockdown, and there is no need for a lockdown,” the spokesperson can be heard saying, while the video shows aerial footage of Shanghai city.

The video then jumps to March 26, when the total number of cases since the beginning of the outbreak had risen to 12,527 (asymptomatic and symptomatic combined), the daily new added cases being 2676.

Still, Shanghai officials can be heard saying that there will ‘never be a lockdown’ in the city, suggesting that Shanghai is not just important for Shanghai, it is important for the economy of the entire country.

The video then shows its title page: Voices of April.

The video, showing aerial footage of Shanghai for the entire six minutes, then continues with snippets of audio fragments starting at the beginning of April, with worried residents calling local authorities to voice their concerns about their personal situation after the sudden announcement of a phased lockdown in Shanghai on March 27.

Through dozens of audio snippets, we hear the voices of residents, delivery drivers, community workers, parents, children, Covid patients, pet owners, volunteers, and more.

In doing so, through the words of those who witnessed it, Voices of April raises the issues that so many have been concerned about over the past 25 days or more. Shanghai residents going hungry; food supplies going to waste due to mismanagement and failing logistics; parents and children being separated in quarantine facilities; people unsuccessfully trying to get urgent care for a medical emergency in their family; cancer patients being unable to return to their homes after getting chemotherapy at the hospital; Covid patients arriving at centralized quarantine locations that have no supplies nor beds; a desperate mother who finds herself calling out to neighbors to get medicine for her sick child in the middle of the night; pet owners in tears over their dog being killed by anti-epidemic workers.

“The virus is not killing people, the hunger is,” one voice can be heard saying.

“Distribute supplies! Distribute supplies! Distribute supplies!” a group of people can be heard shouting.

Through the audio snippets, it becomes clear that it’s not just residents who have been suffering throughout this whole ordeal – it’s the entire city, including its volunteers and community workers who are also helpless in helping others due to the policies in place.

The video ends with a black and white screen showing the characters “上海, 早日康复” (Shànghǎi, zǎorì kāngfù): “Shanghai, get well soon.”

Not long after the video went viral, Wechat and Weibo users discovered they were no longer able to forward the file, and soon all links to the video ended up leading to a ‘404’ deleted message.

The censorship seemingly only added fuel to fire. “[You want] war? War it is!”, some said, with others posting images protesting the censorship: “You can’t censor the unity of the people of Shanghai!”

Straight away, netizens started coming up with various alternative ways to refer to the title of the video to circumvent censorship, suggesting that there can never be a ‘zero policy’ when it comes to silencing people’s voices.

Nevertheless, alternative hashtags and phrases were also soon taken offline, such as the hashtag “The Voices of Shanghai” (#上海之声#).

“You can’t treat everything that’s being deleted as something that never happened,” one Weibo user wrote. Another commenter said: “What are you deleting? For what? What is so terrible for us to know that you’ve come so quickly to censor it?”

“It’s just a record of actual events, what good does it do to censor it? Originally, we were just sad, not angry. Now it’s a revolt of the people. A cover-up only makes matters worse.”

The only time during China’s Covid era when there was an online outpouring of anger comparable to this instance is probably when Li Wenliang passed away – the doctor who was initially silenced when he tried to warn others about the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (read more here). His death, and the censorship surrounding it, also led millions of people to vent their frustrations online. The censorship, as in this case, only added fuel to the fire.

One word that many people commenting on the Voices of April video use after seeing it is ‘powerlessness’: “I watched the Voices of April. Putting all of the powerlessness together, this world seems even more helpless.”

“Tonight is the night of the deleted voices [404之声],” one Weibo user wrote.

For context:
Growing frustrations during early outbreak of the city’s Covid crisis
Children and parents being separated for isolation
Pet dog killed by anti-epidemic worker
Deplorable conditions at quarantine locations

Update, also read: Voices of April, The Day After.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by 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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