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Where is Tang Lanlan? Chinese Netizens and Media Clash over Decade-Old Sexual Abuse Case

Ten years after it happened, a sexual abuse case involving a 14-year-old rural girl has ignited a huge debate.

Boyu Xiao

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A photo of Tang (right) with her mother and sibling in 2006.

The story of a highly unusual criminal case from 2008, in which 11 villagers were sentenced to prison for the abuse of a 14-year-old girl named Tang Lanlan (alias), has caused an online war between netizens and Chinese media reporters. On Thursday night, the hashtag ‘Tang Lanlan Sexual Abuse Case’ had received 50 million views on Weibo.

The story of a decade-old abuse case is causing an uproar on Chinese social media since it was first reported by The Paper (澎湃新闻) and other Chinese media outlets in late January. Many netizens on Weibo are outraged, as they believe reporters of the story are biased and have harmed the privacy of Tang Lanlan, the alleged victim in the case.

The story that is at the center of this ‘online war’ between media and netizens starts in October of 2008, when a then 14-year-old girl named Tang Lanlan (汤兰兰, pseudonym) wrote a letter to the local police station in Longzhen town in Wudalianchi, Heilongjiang Province, declaring that she had been raped and sexually abused by her own father, grandfather, uncles, teachers, the rural director and neighbors since she was seven years old.

Photo of the letter written by Tang in 2008, pulished by various Chinese media outlets.

The letter was the beginning of a police investigation into the case, leading to the arrest and prosecution of more than a dozen people, Chinese online news outlet The Paper reported. Throughout the prosecution period, Tang’s teachers and custodian parents supported the young girl.

In 2008, 16 people from the town were arrested on sex assault charges against a minor. Four years later, 11 of these suspects were sentenced to prison for rape and forced prostitution. Amongst them were Tang’s parents, who were also found guilty of forced prostitution.

Various Chinese media outlets report that although all of the 11 suspects sought to appeal the judgment against them and denied all allegations, the court remained with its original verdict during a second trial that took place by the end of 2012.

At present, five of the 11 suspects have been released, including Wan Xiuling, Tang’s mother, who was released from prison in 2017 after serving a sentence of almost nine years. Wan and the others are now asking lawyers to appeal, Global Times reports, claiming the 14-year-old Tang had been instigated by others to fabricate the story.

However, the only one able to verify the alleged falsity of the whole case, Tang Lanlan herself, now 23 years old, has changed her name and has moved to another place.

 
“Where is Tang Lanlan?”
 

Although the case was already reported on January 19, it caught the attention of Chinese netizens when The Paper (澎湃新闻) published its article about the case on January 30, which was titled “Looking for Tang Lanlan” (“寻找汤兰兰”*).

The article, for which a reporter traveled to Longzhen with Tang’s mother to interview the relatives of the other convicts, caused so much uproar online that it has since been removed from the website.

Many netizens criticize The Paper and its journalists Wang Ruifeng and Wang Le for their alleged bias in reporting about the case, and for posting a photo with the article that – although blurred – showed details about Tang’s possible new address and identity. Reporters were allegedly able to get their hands on the document upon a visit to the local police station.

The photo of a document regarding Tang, which, according to netizens, reveals too much information. (Blurred by What’s on Weibo).

Some Weibo users especially blame reporter Wang Le (王乐) for the controversial reports and claim that because she is female and around the same age as Tang, she should protect the victim instead of choosing the suspect’s side.

Although reports by The Paper and other media, such as BJnews (新京报), emphasize the lack of evidence in the case – suggesting the 14-year-old Tang fabricated the story – many commenters on Weibo say that it is normal for authorities to not disclose any information about a minor in an abuse case to protect the privacy of the child.

Some angry netizens felt so wronged about the reports on the matter that they even came forward and posted personal details of The Paper‘s reporters on Weibo in an act of ‘revenge.’

The Paper, or Pengpai (澎湃) in Chinese, was launched in 2014 as a new online media outlet, backed by government funding, aimed at young, mobile-focused people.

 
“Keep a clear mind”
 

Since the online commotion over the case and its reports, authorities in Wudalianchi city issued a notice on Thursday that urged netizens to “keep a clear mind,” Chinese state media outlet Global Times reports, writing: “We urge netizens not to believe in some people who deliberately create confusion.”

Despite the notice, the hashtag “Tang Lanlan Sexual Abuse Case” (#汤兰兰性侵案#) was already viewed over 49.8 million times on Weibo by Thursday night, proving the case has caught the strong interest of Chinese netizens.

“The public security authorities change the name and identity of the child, and then it’s the media who start a ‘human flesh search’ and reveal her identity, who would have expected this,” some netizens write.

“F*ck this, why turn this into a public trial now instead of going through the official legal channels?” others write.

By now, Tang Lanlan’s story has also attracted the attention of some of Weibo’s ‘big V’s,’ online influencers with a major following, who have shared their sympathy for the young woman.

Micro-blogger @Yijinyexing (@衣锦夜行的燕公子), who has nearly 4 million fans on Weibo, pointed out that the private information about Tang, released by the media, reveals that she is studying for her Bachelor’s degree. Yijinyexing wrote: “That’s good. I hope you can go abroad after your studies and see the world. We never need to know who you are, or who you’ll be. You can live the life of an ordinary person, and you’ll be just fine.”

By Boyu Xiao and Manya Koetse

*Full title of the controversial article is “Looking for Tang Lanlan: Girl claims she is the victim of sexual assault by relatives and their friends, 11 people jailed for years, now she’s gone ‘missing'”《寻找汤兰兰:少女称遭亲友性侵,11人入狱多年其人“失联”》

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.

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Boyu Xiao is a Research Master's student Asian Studies at Leiden University, focused on modern China. She is a Peking University graduate with a strong interest in feminist issues and the construction of memory in contemporary China.

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China Media

“Nearly 40 Robberies in 3 Months Time”: Chinese Embassy in Sweden Issues Another Safety Alert

Nearly 40 reports of Chinese nationals being robbed in Sweden over the past three months, the Chinese Embassy in Stockholm claims: their safety alert for Chinese in Sweden has been extended to March 2019.

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First published .

There have been nearly 40 reports of Chinese nationals being robbed in Sweden over the past three months, the Chinese embassy in Stockholm claims, yet no case has allegedly been handled by Swedish police authorities yet. A safety alert that was issued in September 2018 has now been extended to March 2019.

For the second time within four months, the Chinese embassy in Sweden has issued a safety alert for Chinese nationals visiting the country.

In September of this year, the Chinese embassy in Sweden already issued a safety alert stating that there was an increasing number of cases in which Chinese tourists had become victims of theft and robbery, as well as cases where victims had been treated poorly by Swedish police.

The alert was issued shortly after three Chinese tourists were dragged out of a hostel by the police in Stockholm. Even though it later appeared that the Chinese tourists had arrived long before check-in time and had refused to leave the hotel lobby, the incident sparked a diplomatic row between Sweden and China and became one of the most-discussed topics on Chinese social media of the past year.

The controversial incident involving Chinese tourists and Swedish police.

The incident and safety alert also occurred shortly after the Dalai Lama had visited Sweden on September 12th, something that some netizens at the time thought might have played a role in the media attention for the case of the Chinese tourists.

When a Swedish satirical TV show made fun of the entire ordeal, it only added fuel to the fire, and the Chinese embassy released a statement denouncing the programme and its insults to China.

The Swedish satirical show that sparked outrage in China.

Meanwhile, the case of Gui Minhai (桂民海), a Chinese-born Swedish scholar and prolific book publisher who has been in custody or under close surveillance in mainland China for the past two years, also continues to be an important point of disagreement between China and Sweden. Although domestic reasons were used as an explanation, the Swedish King recently canceled an upcoming trip to China.

 

“It is difficult to effectively safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of our citizens [in Sweden].”

 

This week, on December 23rd, the Chinese embassy extended the original safety alert (which was officially valid until December 22) to March 22, 2019, as security incidents involving Chinese tourists in Sweden are allegedly still a frequent occurrence.

In the past three months, the Chinese embassy claims, the Chinese consulate in Sweden has received nearly 40 reports of Chinese tourists being robbed, and yet, the Swedish police has failed to handle any of these cases. Hence, the Chinese embassy states “it is difficult to effectively safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of our citizens [in Sweden].”

The statement further stresses that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy and Consulate in Switzerland once again remind Chinese citizens in Sweden to be on guard and to be extra alert about which tourist spots and residential areas they visit.

 

“I won’t go to Sweden, I’d rather go to Switzerland.”

 

On Weibo, the recent announcement has sparked some scattered discussions but did not receive a lot of attention despite the fact that the notice by the Chinese embassy has been widely shared by Chinese state media websites, including the Global Times, People’s Daily, and CCTV.

Noteworthy enough, the hashtag “Travel to Sweden” (#瑞典旅行#) was set at 0 views and 0 discussions at time of writing (the hashtag page itself shows over 34 million views).

One Weibo user commented that it is “extremely rare” to find safety alerts for Chinese citizens visiting European countries unless there are some areas with social or political unrest.

On December 21st, two days before the safety alert for Sweden was issued, the Chinese embassy in France also issued a safety alert for Chinese nationals in that country, in light of the recent demonstrations by the ‘Yellow Vests’ (黄马甲).

Recently, the idea that Europe, in general, is not very safe, has often popped up in discussions on Chinese social media, such as when news of the Strasbourg shooting came out earlier this month.

“If you want to be robbed, just go to Sweden,” multiple commenters said about the Sweden issue.

“I won’t go to Sweden, I’d rather go to Switzerland,” one commenter said, with a few other netizens also commenting that they would not want to visit Sweden anymore: “They despise Chinese people, there is no need to go.”

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

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China Media

China’s Top Ten Buzz Words & Phrases of 2018

According to Chinese (state) media, these are the top buzzwords of the year.

Crystal Fan

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Earlier this month, chief editor Huang Anjing of the magazine Yǎowén Jiáozì (咬文嚼字) announced the “top ten buzzwords” in China of the past year. Yǎowén Jiáozì, which literally means “to pay excessive attention to wording,” is a monthly publication focused on Chinese language and common language mistakes made by authors or people in the media.

Chinese (state) media have been widely propagating the magazine’s selection of the top words and terms of the past year in newspapers and on Chinese social media.

The ten terms have also become a topic of discussion on Weibo this month. We’ve listed them for you here:

 

1. “Community with a Shared Future” 命运共同体 (Mìngyùn Gòngtóngtǐ)

“Community with a Shared Future” (命运共同体) is a political term which is widely used in the domains of foreign relations and national security, and which has often been used by President Xi Jinping since the 18th National Congress. The concept stresses the idea of China’s peaceful development and its role in the international community. It’s been used both in national as in international contexts.

 

2. “Koi fish” 锦鲤 (Jǐnlǐ)

Koi fish, which come in a variety of colors such as red, yellow, or orange, are a common symbol in Chinese culture. Chinese netizens like to forward the images of Koi fish to bring luck to themselves or their friends and family members.

This year’s ‘koi fish’ hype started with a lucky draw activity initiated by Alipay during China’s National Day. The winner, who was named ‘China’s Koi Fish’ (中国锦鲤), was drawn from millions of netizens who forwarded this post. Afterward, Chinese netizens continued to use the colorful fish to wish others “good luck,” and the term also started to be used for those people who win without really trying, thanks to sheer luck.

 

3. “Waiter” 店小二 (Diànxiǎo’èr)

The original meaning of “Diànxiǎo’èr” is “waiter” or the staff working in hotels, restaurants or shops. The term was commonly used in the past before the term “Fúwùyuán” (服务员) became more common.

According to the news outlet The Paper, a government official from Zhejiang added a new meaning to “Diànxiǎo’èr” in 2013. The official interpretation emphasized that all Chinese government officials and leaders basically need to ‘serve.’ Following this trend, more and more local governments allegedly started to re-think their role in society and their working relations with the public. According to The Paper, the term since started to appear in government reports and papers, to send off the signal that government bodies are willing to show their ‘service-focused’ attitude. Nowadays, a wide range of service people, such as employees of Taobao (Alibaba) also call themselves diànxiǎo’èr.

 

4. “Textbook style” or “Textbook case” 教科书式 (Jiàokēshū shì)

In May of this year, one online video got particularly popular on Chinese social media. In this video, a police officer is handling a suspect completely according to working procedure, clearly giving all orders and informing the suspect why he is being handled the way he is. According to many media sources and netizens, the officer was a ‘textbook example’ of handling criminals, which is why this became known as “textbook-style law enforcement” (教科书式执法). Now, you can find all kinds of ‘textbook styles,’ such as ‘textbook style performance,’ ‘textbook style design,’ etc. It can also be used in a negative way, talking about ‘textbook style scam,’ ‘textbook style debt collector,’ etc.

 

5. “Official announcement” 官宣 (Guānxuān)

Actress Zhao Liying and actor Feng Shaofeng posted the happy news of their marriage on October 16th of this year, only writing “official announcement” on their post. Thousands of fans then forwarded their announcement, leading to the term “official announcement” becoming a buzzword within a few days. The term uses the character ‘official’ as in ‘official website’ (官网), ‘official Weibo’ (官微). Usually, this full term is only used for formal official government announcements – the fact that it was used for a personal announcement made it special. Now, more and more people have started to announce personal or unofficial news by using the words “official announcement.”

 

6. “Confirmed by one’s eyes” 确认过眼神 (Quèrènguò yǎnshén)

This term comes from a Chinese pop song of which the lyrics say “My eyes have confirmed, you are the right person for me” (“确认过眼神,我遇上对的人”). According to Sohu, this phrase first appeared in a netizen’s Weibo post around Chinese New Year. The person posted a photo of a red envelope with just one yuan in it, saying: “My eyes have confirmed, you are from Guangdong.” This netizen used the phrase to make fun of people from Guangdong, who are often mocked for their stinginess. The running joke is now used in all kinds of ways, as explained by Inkstone, to confirm that something is ‘definitely true’: “I confirmed with my eyes that you are a jerk.”

 

7. “Leaving a group” 退群 (Tuì qún)

‘Tuì’ (退) means to leave, retreat, or withdraw. ‘Qún’ (群) here means group or organization. Apps such as WeChat often have groups of people communicating and exchanging information within a specific interest or work field. At some point, some people will inevitably exit such groups. Nowadays, netizens have extended its meaning to leaving an organization or workgroup in ‘real life’ too. After Trump became president, America withdrew from a few international organizations and agreements. In China, these actions are also informally addressed as ‘Tuì qún’ (退群) now.

 

8. “Buddha-like” 佛系 (Fúxì)

This word comes from Japanese. In 2014, a Japanese magazine described a certain type of men as ‘Buddha-like’; they prefer to be alone and focus on their own interests and generally dislike spending time on dating women. The term also started being used in popular media in China some years later to describe young people who are searching for peaceful lives and do not want to compete. Now, you can find many different kinds of ‘Buddha styles,’ for example ‘Buddha-style parents,’ ‘Buddha-like shopping,’ ‘Buddha-style relationship,’ etc. to describe the kinds of people who prefer to take things slow and calm. It also signals some negativity, describing a passive life attitude of people who are not very interested to improve their current status.

 

9. “Grown-up baby” 巨婴 (Jùyīng)

‘Big baby’ in English conveys the meaning of this word, literally describing abnormally large babies, but now meaning adults who act like a baby, are quick to lose their temper, and behave irrationally in certain situations. Over the past year, some incidents receiving massive public attention, such as the infamous ‘Train Tyrants‘ misbehaving on public transport, were labeled as being part of the ‘Grown-up baby phenomenon.’

 

10. “Internet trolls” 杠精 (Gāngjīng)

The Chinese character “杠” literally means “thick stick” and is used in the word “抬杠” (táigàng), which means ‘to argue for the sake of arguing.’ The second character of this buzzword “精” also has the meaning of ‘spirit’ or ‘goblin.’ The combination of the two characters is used to describe ‘trolls’ who enjoy arguing with people for the sake of it, not really caring about the truth or outcome, very much in the same way the term ‘internet troll’ is used in English.

Although the list with these ten terms has been making its rounds on Chinese social media, and has been shared many times by state media, not all Weibo users agree that these are the words that were actually ‘hottest’ in 2018. “They have a strong ‘official’ flavor,” some said: “we actually use different terms in everyday life.”

“We’ll forget about them soon, and new words will come,” others said.

One popular new term that became popular among netizens in late 2018 was the newly invented character ‘qiou,’ meaning “dirt-poor and ugly” – a term many Weibo users seemingly identify with more than the buzzwords selected by Chinese state media.

By Crystal Fan

edited for clarity 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

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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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