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.
“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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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“The End of an Era”? – Beijing Bookworm Closes Its Doors
The Bookworm Beijing, at Nansanlitun Road, is a bookshop, library, bar, restaurant and events space that has become a center of cultural exchange for Beijing’s foreign community since 2005.
The location is a beating heart of Beijing’s literary world; a place where writers, journalists, students, diplomats, academics, and all kinds of people – both foreign and Chinese – come together to exchange knowledge, read, and sit down for a glass of wine.
Today, the Bookworm announced its sudden closure via WeChat, writing:
“It is with heavy hearts that we are forced to announce the impending closure of The Bookworm Beijing after 14 wonderful years in Courtyard No. 4 off SouthSanlitun Road. Despite our best efforts, we appear to have fallen prey to the ongoing cleanup of “illegal structures”, and we have not been able to secure an extension of our lease.”
The announcement further says that the location will be forced to suspend operations “most probably” as of Monday, November 11, and that the Bookworm will attempt to reorganize and find a new location.
News of the Bookworm’s closing has been becoming a topic of conversation on various social media sites from WeChat to Twitter and Weibo.
Famous Chinese journalist and author Luo Changping (罗昌平) writes on Weibo: “The Bookworm is forced to close! It used to be next door to my former office, and it was once like my living room. Sigh.”
Shanghai comedian Storm Xu called the closure of the Beijing Bookworm “the end of an era,” saying he looks back on many good memories there.
“They had many events, good food, special books; I used to go there a few times per year,” one person writes. “This really is so sad,” other Weibo users respond.
There are also various Weibo commenters who also mention that news of Bookworm’s closing comes just a day after the news that publisher of magazine-books and online bookseller Duku Books (读库) is forced to close its Beijing warehouse for the sixth time.
Over the past decade, many popular venues in Beijing have been forced to close their doors or relocate. Beijing hangouts such as Bed Bar, Salud, Vineyard Cafe, 2 Kolegas, Jiangjinjiuba, Mao Livehouse, Hercules, Aperativo, The Bridge Cafe, Great Leap Brewery Sanlitun, Jing-A Taproom 1949, and many others have all been closed over the past years.
Nightlife hotspot Sanlitun bar street was demolished and bricked up in 2017 as part of the mission of the city management to gentrify the area.
The demolishment of “illegal structures” in the city has been an ongoing effort of the local government for years. These efforts became especially visible in late 2017 when people in Beijing’s Daxing area faced a large-scale evacuation campaign after a big fire broke out there on November 18, killing 19 people.
The large-scale evacuation campaign was also expanded to other areas of Beijing in a campaign by the municipal authorities aimed at unlicensed developments to target “illegal structures” and “buildings with potential fire hazards.”
But many people on Weibo and WeChat questioned if the campaign was actually more about politics than about safety concerns – something that was strongly refuted by state media outlets at the time.
These questions will remain unanswered, also for the Bookworm. Is its closure really about closing down an “illegal structure,” or are there more politically-motivated considerations playing a role here? On Weibo, some commenters say the location is closed down for being a home of free discussions and “free thinking,” while others say that no matter what the place is, the building’s safety and legal status is what matters here.
Perhaps the future will tell. We surely hope the Bookworm will soon pop up and open its doors in another location very soon.
Those who are interested can support the Bookworm by coming by and buying books, which will be heavily discounted, until November 11.
By Manya Koetse
Images: Bookworm images by The Bookworm, edited by What’s on Weibo.
Sanlitun Image: Might have been taken by Manya in Beijing 2017, but we’re not 100% sure so let us know if we’re mistaken.
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Online Anger over Inappropriate Toast by Dutch Watch Brand Executive at Chinese Dinner Party
This is how NOT to do a toast in Dutch!
UPDATE: FYI – the videos relating to this incident have been taken offline after the publication of this article. There are no active video links in this article.
The Amsterdam-based watch & jewelry brand Rosefield has recently come under fire within the Chinese community in the Netherlands after a video went viral showing Rosefield’s CEO and its Head of Sourcing proposing an unusual toast at a Chinese dinner party.
The video, that was viewed over 173,000 times on Dutch site Dumpert.nl, shows a woman in a white blouse bringing out a toast, saying:
“In Dutch, we say ‘ganbei’ or ‘cheers’ in this way, and it would be nice if you all can say the same, we say: ‘dikke lul.‘”
The people at the table then proceed to toast saying “Dikke lul” – which, in fact, is not the Dutch word for ‘cheers’ but for ‘big dick,’ something that the Chinese people at the table are seemingly not aware of.
On WeChat, Chinese-language newspaper Asian News (华侨新天地) reported about the video and identified the Dutch woman and man at the table as the CPO and CEO of Rosefield Watches, a fast-growing luxury brand that is active in various countries.
Asian News describes the incident as a way of “ridiculing Chinese friends,” and writes it has triggered anger online.
Asian News (华侨新天地) is a Chinese language newspaper founded in 1992. It is mainly distributed in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. Its WeChat account has some 120,200 followers, and the post on the ‘cheers’ video was among its most-well read on WeChat this week.
The blog post noted that ever since the ‘dikke lul’ video has gone viral in the Netherlands, it has become one of the first results showing up when searching for the vulgar expression ‘dikke lul’ on Google.
Although it is not clear where the video was filmed and how it ended up on short video site Dumpert, it is rumored in WeChat groups that it was recorded during the Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair earlier this month, and that the Chinese guests are business relations of the Dutch brand (unconfirmed).
The comment section on the Dumpert site shows that although some Dutch commenters think the video is funny, there are many who find it “vulgar,” “rude,” and “distasteful.”
Although many (overseas) Chinese expressed anger in various WeChat groups – some expressing regret over a Rosefield watch they recently purchased – the Asia News blog does remind readers that we do not know the context of the video, and whether or not there was a certain pretext or common understanding to the joke.
Nevertheless, the blog states, this kind of behavior is not professional and if a company such as Rosefield wants to earn money in China, “it should also respect Chinese culture and people.”
Although there have been ample discussions about the controversial video on Wechat, there are no online discussions about this issue on Weibo at the time of writing.
Over the past year, many foreign brands became a focus for controversy in China.
In November of 2018, Italian fashion house D&G faced consumer outrage and backlash on Chinese social media for a video that was deemed ‘racist’ to China and for insulting remarks about Chinese people allegedly made by designer Stefano Gabbana.
Swiss investment bank UBS sparked controversy in June for a column which mentioned “Chinese pigs.”
Over this summer, various foreign companies apologized to China for listing ‘Hong Kong’ as a separate country or region on its websites and/or t-shirts.
Still curious about how to actually say ‘cheers’ in Dutch? It’s ‘proost’ and this is how you pronounce it correctly.
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