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Story of Shanghai Bund “Attack by Muslim Man” Triggers Online Furor in China

A personal story on Weibo about an altercation with a Muslim man on the Bund in Shanghai has stirred wide debate.

Manya Koetse

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A personal story by a Weibo netizen about an altercation with a Muslim man on the Bund in Shanghai has stirred wide debate on Chinese social media. The case has evoked both anti-Islamic sentiments and anger about censorship in the name of ‘ethnic unity.’

The account of a female Weibo user nicknamed ‘Ningsuk’ sparked a storm of debate over the past few days after the woman explained in detail how she was allegedly harassed by a Muslim man in Shanghai on the night of September 14th.

On her Weibo account, the woman wrote that she was “attacked by a Middle Eastern-looking Muslim man” and that the man also told her he was an Arab Muslim.

The incident caused a wave of online anger for various reasons. At first, her story mainly triggered anti-Islamic sentiment. When ‘Ningsuk’ later wrote on Weibo that her posts about the incident had been deleted for “undermining ethnic unity,” netizens were outraged about the alleged censorship of the story.

 

NINGSUK’S ACCOUNT

“He told me that there are many Arabs/Muslims in this area, and that they are all united.”

 

On the evening of September 15, Ningsuk wrote her initial long account on Weibo of the incident that happened on Thursday night.

The original post on Weibo

In her account, she writes that she arrived in Shanghai to meet her friend on Thursday after taking the train from Beijing. Since her friend was not able to meet her at the train station, they had agreed to meet later at the Starbucks on the Bund, where ‘Ningsuk’ arrived at 8.00 pm.

As ‘Ningsuk’ was having a coffee in the outside seating area, she writes that “a man with an Arabic appearance” asked her if the seat next to her was taken, joined her at the table, and started talking to her in Mandarin, asking if she was alone. “I told him I was waiting for my boyfriend,” the woman writes.

The woman then describes how the man took on a threatening tone: “He told me that there are many Arabs/Muslims in this area and that they are all united, unlike Chinese who just mind their own business. He said that with one phone call, he could have many people come over.”

Because ‘Ningsuk’ was meeting her friend there, had all her luggage with her, and her phone was almost out of battery, she did not want the situation to escalate, she writes. As he the man spoke to her about his “many friends,” she tried to reach her friend and told her to hurry.

When the man pulled his chair towards the woman and cornered her, saying “he did not have bad intentions,” and put his hands on her shoulder for “taking a picture,” she got up and ran into the Starbucks.

She writes: “He followed me inside [the shop] and forcefully grabbed me and pulled me to the corner. At this point, I started to shake and he continued to say that there were many (Muslim) people in the area that he could call over with one phone call.”

When the man then grabbed her and tried to pull out of the Starbucks, she ran behind the cashier’s desk and asked the staff for help. The man left the store, she writes, but waited for her outside and came back in at one time and attempted to slap the woman before the Starbuck’s manager stepped in and made him leave again.

After the woman’s friend arrived, the two women were threatened by the man once more outside the store before finally leaving together.

 

ONLINE ANGER OVER CENSORSHIP

“I should not cause racial tensions – the police contacted me.”

 

Ningsuk’s post received thousands of comments and over 30,000 shares. Many people responded with indignation, with some saying: “This is how it starts (..) we as Han Chinese have no feeling of safety (..).”

Triggering so many reactions, Ningsuk’s story was deleted not long after its initial publication.

The deletion also stirred much anger on Weibo, where many netizens suggested the post was only shut down because it involved a Muslim man and that personal safety issues matter more than ethnical sensitivities.

The woman ‘Ningsuk’ later posted: “I should not cause racial tensions – the police contacted me. I’m safe now, the original post has been deleted.”

Photo posted by ‘Ningsuk.’

She also confirmed to her followers that local authorities had reached out to her, that she met with them and that they were investigating the case. She also said that people were banned from commenting on any of her posts regarding this story.

 

SUSPECT ARRESTED

“I am very, very shocked that it turns out he is actually a Chinese person.”

 

On September 16, Shanghai police released a statement that they had detained a 23-year-old man for “repeatedly harassing [the] girl after he was drunk on Thursday.” According to the woman, the police stated the suspect was a Muslim of Chinese nationality.

She wrote: “They got him. The police let me see the person’s identity card and name. I am also very, very shocked that it turns out he is actually a Chinese person from a certain region. I asked the police whether or not he admitted that he had said he was an Arabic man and the police told me he admitted this, and that he says he talked big talk because he had too much to drink [that night]. They also have verified that he is a Muslim.

Within 24 hours, her last post was also shared over 26000 times.

Many netizens commented that they were happy the police arrested the suspect, but that it still did not validate the censorship of the woman’s story. There are also people who praise the woman for “having the courage” to put her story online despite its sensitivity.

“A girl is harassed by a Muslim man in a public place. Then all she does is she goes home and writes about it on Weibo. Then the relevant departments are directly on the phone and warn her not to destroy national unity, and then the police take her to ‘drink tea’ and then the post is completely deleted. This whole issue is not a mystery,” one person responded.

 

STATE MEDIA RESPONDS

“The online sentiments are complicated, and most internet users are convinced that the reason the woman’s post was deleted is because she said her harasser was Muslim.”

 

On Monday, Chinese state tabloid Global Times responded to the issue through its ‘opinion column’ by Shan Renping (单仁平), saying that it is only the woman who confirmed the man was indeed Muslim and that the police gave no official statement about his background.

“The online sentiments are complicated, and most internet users are convinced that the reason the woman’s post was deleted is because she said her harasser was Muslim. They are also unhappy with the fact the police did not [publicly] reveal the identity of the suspect.”

The column stresses that the Chinese state will prosecute everybody equally based on their crime and not their race, ethnicity or religion: “No matter who breaks the law (..) it does not matter what race or religion they are, the officials will always handle it according to law without any hesitation.”

It also said that officials always hide religious and/or ethnical identities of people involved in crime reports to “maintain national and religious harmony.” Although there might be negative consequences to this policy, the article says, the “other negative consequences”- if they do report all suspect backgrounds – “will be even worse.”

The article said that “some people are prejudiced about the measures taken by the State to protect Muslims, as they think it is unfair. We should take their ideas seriously.” It argued that the existing problems with Muslims in Western society has “also influenced Chinese society to some extent.”

The article concludes that when it comes to handling national religious affairs, “we must believe in the Party, the country, and the government because they will do what is good for the people.”

By Manya Koetse,Miranda Barnes, Richard Barnes


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.

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

Residents in Locked Down Lhasa Say Local Epidemic Situation is a “Giant Mess”

Manya Koetse

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They’ve been in lockdown for 42 days already, but according to some Lhasa-based bloggers, there have been no improvements in the local epidemic situation. They say there is a stark difference between what officials are reporting and the daily reality they are dealing with in Tibet.

“The epidemic situation is bad in Lhasa, please pay attention,” one netizen wrote on Weibo on September 15, pointing to many new posts surfacing on Chinese social media about the difficulties people are facing in Lhasa city in Tibet.

Over the past week, many Tibet-based bloggers have posted on social media about the local circumstances, and hundreds of Chinese social media posts talk about similar problems in the region. Despite the ongoing lockdown, they say, there are still a growing number of positive cases within Lhasa communities; buses are allegedly going back and forth to bring people to quarantine sites where those testing positive and negative are mixed; they claim that there is an absolute lack of management and control; and many locals suggest that the official reports do not reflect the actual number of Covid cases at all.

According to the official numbers, Tibet saw its peak in Covid cases on August 17 and has since reported fewer new cases, reporting a total of 118 new cases on Thursday.

“I am a bit shocked!” one local social media user wrote: “What I saw was a total of 28 buses lined up outside Lhasa Nagqu No. 2 Senior High School, and then still more [buses] were coming. One bus can fit around 50 people, so there must have been around 1400 positive cases. There was a blind man, there were elderly people in wheelchairs, there were swaddled-up babies, from getting on the bus at 9.30 pm up to now, we’ve been waiting for 5 hours and we’re still waiting now. It’s just pure chaos at the school entrance, there is no order. I won’t sleep tonight.”

On the 14th of September, another netizen wrote:

“In order to welcome central government leaders to Lhasa and to demonstrate the “excellent” epidemic prevention capabilities of the local government & the “outstanding” results of the fight against the epidemic to them, they moved citizens to the rural areas and let them all stay crowded together in unfinished concrete buildings, with all kinds of viruses having free reign.”

On a Lhasa community message board, one Weibo user wrote: “Lhasa has already been in lockdown for over a month, yet our little community has so many infected people that I’m wondering how effective a lockdown actually is? Has Tibet been forgotten? When other places in China have a few positive cases it becomes a hot topic. But what about Tibet? And what about Lhasa?”

Another anonymous poster writes: “Regarding the Lhasa epidemic situation, the numbers were already a bit fake before, but I can understand it was also to take the public sentiment into consideration. I personally don’t care how you report the data, as long as the epidemic prevention and control work is properly managed, then the lockdown can be lifted soon and nobody will say anything about it. But a month has passed already, and in a town with some hundred thousands of people, the epidemic work is increasingly getting worse. Many people around me have never even left the house and inexplicably turned out to test positive. Meanwhile those who tested positive are quarantined together with people who still tested negative, it’s a giant mess.”

 

“Lhasa hasn’t had a Covid outbreak for the past three years, the city doesn’t have enough experience in controlling the epidemic.”

 

“It’s the 42nd day of lockdown,” another person wrote on Friday: “People are lining up to go to centralized isolation, Lhasa has been in lockdown longer than Chengdu, but it doesn’t make it to the hot topic lists. People who tested negative again and again suddenly turn out to be positive. Lhasa hasn’t had a Covid outbreak for the past three years, the city doesn’t have enough experience in controlling the epidemic. It’s going to be hard to restore tourism here before the end of the year. Before, big crowds would come to visit.

Over the past few days, following a heightened focus on the situation in Xinjiang, there has also been more attention for the epidemic situation in Tibet.

“Please pay more attention to the topic of the Lhasa epidemic,” one person wrote, repeating a similar message sent out by many others: “Lhasa doesn’t need your prayers, we need exposure.”

On Friday, one popular gamer with more than a million followers wrote on Weibo:

“Many have been reaching out to me via private messages, saying that the epidemic situation in Tibet’s Lhasa is very serious. If it’s really like this, I hope matters can be settled as soon as possible. I don’t know if this post can stay up or not, but I want to try my best to speak up and generate more attention to this epidemic trend. I experienced two months of lockdown in Shanghai myself and understand what it feels like. I have faith in our nation, and I believe the country will definitely take action. Everyone in Tibet, jiayou [come on].”

Many of the comments and posts coming from Lhasa are similar to those we saw last week, coming from Yining in Xinjiang. Social media users based in these places complain that many of their posts have been deleted and that it is very difficult for local residents to make their voices heard.

This is different from the previous lockdown situations in, for example, Xi’an, Shanghai, or Chengdu, where people posted videos, photos, and shared their lockdown experiences, either from home, from the Covid testing lines, or from the makeshift hospitals.

On the one hand, the reason why people in places such as Lhasa or Yining have more difficulties in making their stories heard in China’s hectic social media environment relates to the fact that these places have a relatively small population size – while Yining and Lhasa have approximately 542,00 and 465,000 inhabitants respectively, there are 21 million people in Chengdu and some 26 million in Shanghai.

But a bigger barrier to posting about their circumstances is formed by the social media censorship that is extra strict when it comes to Xinjiang and Tibet as these places are considered sensitive political subjects, which is why topics related to these regions see far more aggressive online censorship – even for seemingly innocuous posts.

One Weibo user with over 600,000 followers wrote: “In such a sensitive place as Tibet, I really needn’t worry about whether they’re gonna see my post or not. I posted to vent my anger and scolded the leadership for a bit and within 24 hours the police came to my hotel and asked me to delete my posts. Now that everyone is asking for help like this, they will definitely see it, but they are determined to do this and do so on purpose, it’s clear they don’t care about people’s lives.”

Meanwhile, Chinese official media reporting on the epidemic situation in Tibet stress the collective effort to fight the virus in Lhasa. On September 15, People’s Daily reported how 18 sister provinces and cities across China sent their best teams to Tibet to help with local anti-epidemic work and to bring supplies.

The Tibet-based military blogger ZhufengZhengrong (@珠峰峥嵘) writes: “It’s been over a month and my comrade-in-arms are still fighting on the front line (..). I just hope the epidemic will end soon, and that I will be able to meet my family and hold my children and weep.”

By Manya Koetse 

 

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China Brands & Marketing

Young Chinese Woman Dies at Haidilao Hotpot Restaurant

The woman allegedly choked while having beef tripe.

Manya Koetse

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On September 8, a woman from Putian in Fujian Province unexpectedly passed away while having hotpot at a Haidilao restaurant in a local mall.

The incident went trending on Chinese social media on Thursday, with the hashtags “Woman Suddenly Passes Away While Having Haidilao Hotpot” (#女孩海底捞吃火锅意外身亡#) and “Haidilao Responds to Female Customer Passing Away During Dinner” (#海底捞回应女顾客就餐时身亡#) receiving 50 million and 300 million views respectively.

According to various Chinese news reports, the 21-year-old woman had just finished eating beef tripe, the edible lining from the cow stomach, and drank some water after which she suddenly became unwell.

Footage circulating on Chinese social media shows how restaurant staff gave first aid to the woman by performing the Heimlich maneuver while emergency workers were underway.

Although it is rumored the young woman choked on the tripe, this has not yet been confirmed as an investigation into the cause of death is ongoing. The Haidilao restaurant where the incident happened is currently closed, and Haidilao responded that they are deeply saddened and will do all they can to fully cooperate with the police to investigate the case.

Haidilao (海底捞) is one of China’s most popular restaurant chains serving authentic Sichuan hotpot, a dining style where fresh meat and vegetables are dipped in simmering broth. Besides its tasty hotpot and wide selection of ingredients and drinks, Haidilao is known for its high-quality service. The staff is thoroughly trained in providing the best customer service, and Haidilao has introduced new concepts throughout the years to enhance the customer experience.

Haidilao is a very reputable company and is known to respond quickly to avert social media crises (example here and here).

As the story goes trending, many Chinese netizens point out the choking hazard of beef tripe. One lung doctor (@呼吸科大夫胡洋) also responded to the incident, suggesting that the Heimlich maneuver might not have been life-saving in this case since beef tripe is long and soft and could block the respiratory tract if the Heimlich maneuver is performed while the person is standing up, since it could potentially cause the tripe to go deeper instead of being pushed out.

The doctor recommends in these kind of emergency situations that if possible, for a chance of survival, the person could then be placed into an upside down, upper body down position for the Heimlich maneuver.

Other doctors on Weibo also use this moment to provide more information about how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

Many online commenters think Haidilao is not necessarily to blame for what happened. “Judging from the video, the staff was quick and correct in their response. As for why the woman could not have been rescued, we’ll have to wait for the final reports.”

By Manya Koetse 

 

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