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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.

Boyu Xiao is an MPhil graduate in Asian Studies (Leiden University/Peking University) focused on modern China. She has a strong interest in feminist issues and specializes in the construction of memory in contemporary China.

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China Media

CCTV New Year’s Gala 2020 Overview: Highlights and Must-Knows

What is Chinese New Year without the CCTV Spring Gala? What’s on Weibo reports the must-knows of the 2020 ‘Chunwan.’

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Chinese social media is dominated by two topics today: the CCTV New Year Gala (Chunwan) and the outbreak of the coronavirus. Watch the livestream of the CCTV Gala here, and we will keep you updated with tonight’s highlights and must-knows as we will add more information to this post throughout the night.

As the Year of the Rat is just around the corner, millions of people in China and beyond are starting the countdown to the Chinese New Year by watching the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, commonly abbreviated in Chinese as Chunwan (春晚).

The role of social media in watching the event has become increasingly important throughout the years, with topics relating to the Chunwan becoming trending days before.

Making fun of the show and criticizing it is part of the viewer’s experience, although the hashtag used for these kinds of online discussions (such as “Spring Festival Gala Roast” #春晚吐槽#) are sometimes blocked.

The Gala starts at 20.00 China Central Time on January 24. Follow live on Youtube here, or see CCTV livestreaming here.

 
About the CCTV New Year’s Gala
 

Since its very first airing in 1983, the Spring Festival Gala has captured an audience of millions. In 2010, the live Gala had a viewership of 730 million; in 2014, it had reached a viewership of 900 million, and in 2019, over a billion people watched the Gala on TV and online, making the show much bigger in terms of viewership than, for example, the Super Bowl.

The show lasts a total of four hours, and has around 30 different acts, from dance to singing and acrobatics. The acts that are both most-loved and most-dreaded are the comic sketches (小品) and crosstalk (相声); they are usually the funniest, but also convey the most political messages.

As viewer ratings of the CCTV Gala in the 21st century have skyrocketed, so has the critique on the show – which seems to be growing year-on-year.

According to many viewers, the spectacle generally is often “way too political” with its display of communist nostalgia, including the performance of different revolutionary songs such as “Without the Communist Party, There is No New China” (没有共产党就没有新中国).

To take a look at what was going on during the Spring Gala’s previous shows, also see how What’s on Weibo covered this event in 2016, in 2017, in 2018, and in 2019.

 
Live updates
 

Check for some live updates below. (We might be quiet every now and then, but if you leave this page open you’ll hear a ping when we add a new post).

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes
Follow @whatsonweibo

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©2020 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

Iran “Unintentionally” Shot Down Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752

Despite the overall condemnation of Iran, there are also many pointing the fingers at the US, writing: “It’s all because of America.”

Manya Koetse

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First published

Shortly after Iran’s military announced on Saturday that it shot down Ukrainian Airlines flight 752 on Wednesday, killing all 176 passengers on board, the topic has become the number one trending hashtag on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

In a statement by the military, Iran admitted that the Boeing 737 was flying “close to a sensitive military site” when it was “mistaken for a threat” and taken down with two missiles.

Among the passengers were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three British nationals.

Earlier this week, Iranian authorities denied that the crash of the Ukrainian jetliner in Tehran was caused by an Iranian missile.

The conflict between US and Iran has been a much-discussed topic on Chinese social media, also because the embassies of both countries have been openly fighting about the issue on Weibo.

Although many Chinese netizens seemed to enjoy the political spectacle on Weibo over the past few days, with anti-American sentiments flaring up and memes making their rounds, today’s news about the Iranian role in the Ukrainian passenger plane crash is condemned by thousands of commenters.

“Iran is shameless!”, one popular comment says. “This is the outcome of a battle between two terrorists!”

“Regular people are paying the price for these political games,” others write: “So many lives lost, this is the terror of war.”

The Iranian Embassy in China also posted a translated statement by President Hassan Rouhani on its Weibo account, saying the missiles were fired “due to human error.”

Despite the overall condemnation, there are also many commenters pointing the fingers at the US, writing: “It’s all because of America.”

Meanwhile, the American Embassy has not published anything about the issue on its Weibo account at time of writing.

The hashtag “Iran Admits to Unintentionally Shooting Down Ukrainian Plane” (#伊朗承认意外击落乌克兰客机#) gathered over 420 million views on Weibo by Saturday afternoon, Beijing time.

Chinese state media outlet CCTV has shared an infographic about the US-Iran conflict and the passenger jet news, writing they hope that these “flames of war” will never happen again.

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

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©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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