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The “Tents of Love” Phenomenon: Chinese Parents Sleep in Tents At Their Kids’ New University

At the start of a new semester, more universities across China are setting up tented camps for parents who are seeing off their college freshman children. On Chinese social media, netizens discuss if these so-called “Tents of Love” (爱心帐篷) are indeed a sign of love, or epitomize the non-independence of China’s post-1990s generation.

Manya Koetse

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At the start of a new semester, more universities across China are setting up tented camps for parents who are seeing off their college freshman children. On Chinese social media, netizens discuss if these so-called ‘tents of love’ (爱心帐篷) are indeed a sign of love, or if they epitomize the non-independence of China’s post-1990s generation.

It is the first week of the new semester at Nanjing’s Forestry University (南京林业大学). While new students are getting enrolled and settled in their dorm rooms, their parents sleep in tents in the university sports hall.

Multiple Chinese universities, from Tianjin to Guangzhou, have started to set up tented camps at the start of the semester for the families of new students. There are also schools that simply provide mattresses, blankets and an air-conditioned space for parents of freshman students.

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The so-called ‘tents of love’ (爱心帐篷) are a relatively new phenomenon in mainland China. In 2012, Tianjin University was the first to set up an indoor ‘freshman parents’ camp with 200 tents, providing air-conditioning, free water, and shower facilities.

“Tents of Compassion”

It is common for Chinese parents to accompany their child when they first go to college. They sometimes run into problems, however, when they do not have a place to stay in the place where their child studies.

Some families arrive in the middle of the night after long travels, and nearby hotels and guesthouses are often fully booked at the start of the semester. There are also many parents who simply do not have the money to pay for accommodation.

Because this would previously result in parents sleeping on benches or laying down a mattress somewhere, some Chinese universities now offer free accommodation as a sign of compassion towards their student’s parents, which is why tents are called ‘tents of love’ or ‘tents of compassion’ (爱心帐篷).

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On Sina Weibo, netizens discuss the ‘tents of love’ after several Chinese media posted about them. The news has triggered discussions about China’s post-1990s generation. Many Chinese netizens think it is not right for parents to join their kids on their first days at college, as it makes them less independent and too pampered. There are also many, however, who think it is very normal for parents to see their children off and help them get settled in during their first days at university.

Spoilt and Pampered

“I went to school all by myself ever since kindergarten. Times have changed, and these are all only children – so precious to their parents,” one netizen comments.

The students that are now going to university belong to the post-1990s or post-1995 generation, a much-discussed age group in Chinese (social) media. Sometimes loved, sometimes hated, the generation is truly unique for being born in the new modern China, growing up amidst rapid socio-economical changes.

Not only are the post-1990ers mostly only children due to China’s one-child policy, they have also grown up in relative wealth in the era of modern house appliances, computers, and mobile phones. Because they generally are used to receive a lot of attention and (financial) help from their (grand) parents, they are often perceived as ‘spoilt princesses’ or ‘little emperors‘.

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“When I started university, my parents were busy. Nobody took me. I am quite envious of these kids,” one Weibo commenter says. Others say: “I understand they might want to bring their kids there, but why do they need to stay the night?”

On A School Trip

But many netizens support the initiative to set up tented camps for parents during the first days of college, and defend the custom for families to go to the university’s enrollment days together.

As one Weibo user writes: “What’s wrong with parents seeing off their kids? Who says it is a sign of their non-independence? When I just went to university, my parents also went with me. They stayed in a hotel, I stayed in my dorm room. After the registration process was finished, we went out to see my new town and new university together. It was like a family trip. I don’t see what’s bad about that.”

There are many reasons for families to join their kids on their first days at their new school. Mostly, it is for practical and emotional support. For many students it is the first time to leave their hometown, and their parents do not want them to travel alone to a strange city.

Setting out to start their life at campus, new students also bring a lot of luggage and are not able to carry everything by themselves. As a generation that has been pampered most of their lives, many post 1990s students can also use some help in other basic matters, such as purchasing bedsheets or navigating the city. One netizen writes: “My dad also brought me to college. He arranged my bed for me and cleaned the room. He left after he gave me a map of the city.”

But besides the worries parents have about their only child going off to a new school in a new city, there is also the simple curiosity of seeing the place where their child will study for the years to come. “There are many parents who do not necessarily have the money to stay at a hotel, but sending their kids off to college might be one of the very few chances for them to travel outside their hometowns,” one Weibo netizen says.

Another person remarks: “Parents also go because they want to travel a bit, have a look at the university their kid will be studying at, and walk around to see the scenery there. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

No Parents Allowed

In some cases, families are so proud of their college-going kid that they arrive at the university with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. As Quartz magazine reported, one family arrived at Anhui University with a group of 14 last year. The school even put the family picture on social media.

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But not everybody is happy with new students’ entourage, and tell them not to bring them. “My university says we have to come alone,” one female netizen comments: “Parents are not allowed to come. But I am a girl with many things and I can’t carry it alone. I am also going to a strange city. So I’ll let my dad come with me. My mum also insisted on coming, but I told her no. Her eyes teared up. But there’s nothing I can do.”

For most netizens, however, parents joining their children for their first days of college is nothing but normal. As one female netizen from Henan says: “The people who hate on these parents bringing their kids to university are crazy. Some students have to cross the entire country before they can study. Some have had very little contact with the outside world before going off to college. It’s only normal for parents to worry about them and coming along, and also it is a chance for them to make a trip. It’s just very good.”

– By Manya Koetse

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Insight

Exchange Student to Be Deported from China for Harassing Young Woman at University

An exchange student studying at the Hebei University of Engineering has been expelled and will soon be deported after harassing a female student.

Manya Koetse

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An exchange student from Pakistan who was studying at the Hebei University of Engineering (河北工程大学) has been expelled and detained after harassing a female student at the same university.

The incident, that is attracting much attention on Chinese social media this week, adds to the wave of recent controversies over the behavior and status of overseas students in mainland China.

On July 31, a female student at the Hebei university filed a police report against a Pakistani student who allegedly harassed her and attempted to forcefully kiss her and touch her breasts.

Screenshots of a supposed WeChat conversation between the exchange student and the female student, in which the man apologizes and claims the interaction is a “requirement for friendship,” are being shared on social media.

According to various reports, the police initially tried to mediate between the two students, which the female student refused.

Together with the school principal, the police then further investigated the case and found ample evidence of harassment after examining the university’s surveillance system.

On August 1st, the Hebei University of Engineering announced that they had expelled the student and that he will be deported from China. The announcement received more than 14,000 reactions and 150,000 ‘likes’ on Weibo.

The student is now detained at the local Public Security Bureau and is awaiting his deportation.

A photo of two officers together with a man in front of the detention center in Handan is circulating on social media in relation to this incident.

At time of writing, the hashtag page “Exchange Student to Be Deported after Molesting Female Student” (#留学生猥亵女学生将被遣送出境#) has been viewed over 310 million times on Weibo.

Among thousands of reactions, there are many who praise the Hebei university for supporting the female student after she reported the exchange student to the police.

“This may not be the best university, but at least they stand behind their students!”, some say, with others calling the university “awesome.”

Many say that the Hebei university should serve as an example for other Chinese universities to follow, with Shandong University being specifically mentioned by Weibo users.

Shandong University was widely criticized earlier this summer for its “buddy exchange program,” which was accused of being a way to arrange Chinese “girlfriends” for male foreign students.

Another incident that is mentioned in relation to this trending story is that of an exchange student who displayed aggressive behavior towards a Chinese police officer in July of this year. The student was not punished for his actions, which sparked anger on Chinese social media.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Insight

“Bolt from the Blue”: Mainland Tourists Can No Longer Independently Travel to Taiwan

Chinese tourists who were planning a solo trip to Taiwan are out of luck.

Manya Koetse

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Starting from August 1st, 2019, mainland residents can no longer individually travel to Taiwan for tourism purposes, and can only visit the island with a pre-approved travel group until further notice. The news has become top trending on Chinese social media.

After Chinese authorities announced on July 31st that China will stop issuing individual travel permits for mainland residents visiting Taiwan, the topic became one of the most-discussed topics on social media this week.

China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism stated on its website that independent travel to Taiwan will be suspended from August 1st “in view of the current cross-strait situation.”

The brief statement announcing the ban.

State media outlet Global Times writes that the individual travel suspension is a result of “repeated provocative actions by the Tsai Ing-wen administration and secessionist forces on the island.”

Taipei Times explained the move as “another attempt to isolate Taiwan in the hope of spoiling President Tsai Ing-wen’s re-election chances.” Taiwan will hold its presidential elections in January 2020.

On Wednesday night local time, hashtags relating to the individual travel ban had gathered millions of views and comments on Sina Weibo.

 

ROC Restrictions for Mainland Travelers

 

Tourists from mainland China face restrictions when traveling to Taiwan, Republic of China (ROC), and must hold a travel permit to visit.

In July of 2008, PRC passport holders were first legally allowed to visit Taiwan for tourism purposes, but only if they joined a pre-approved group tour organized by a selected travel agency.

In 2011, these rules were relaxed after Taiwanese and mainland authorities agreed on a trial to allow mainland residents visiting Taiwan as individual tourists.

Under the terms of that ‘trial,’ mainland residents from 47 cities could apply for individual entry permits to Taiwan. These cities included places such as Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Harbin, Xiamen, and others.

With Wednesday’s statement, that program is currently put on hold. According to Focus Taiwan, this is the first time Beijing authorities have banned individual travelers from visiting Taiwan since June 2011.

Mainland tourists who want to visit Taiwan will now have to go back to joining tour groups again.

The Taiwanese tourism industry relies heavily on Chinese tourists. In 2015, the year before Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen was elected, 4.2 million mainlanders visited the island, making up 40 percent of all tourists.

 

“A Bolt From the Blue”

 

On Weibo, the “Taiwan Individual Travel” account, an information channel for tourists, called the ban “a bolt from the blue” and said that it is unclear how long the restrictions will last: “We just hope that it is temporary.”

The post received over 11,500 comments from netizens, many of whom are confused about the ban and concerned on how it will affect their personal travel plans.

“I already received my permit, can I still go?” many wondered.

According to the China International Travel Service, mainland travelers with permits issued before August 1st can still go on their planned individual trips.

In a Weibo poll answered by more than 210,000 social media users, state media outlet China Daily asked people if they would still consider visiting Taiwan after the restrictions on individual travel permits.

The China Daily poll.

While more than 10 percent indicated they would be willing to join a tour group and still visit, a staggering 89,5 percent indicated they preferred free traveling and would not go at all.

“I will go once [the mainland and Taiwan are] unified,” some popular comments said.

Discussions over the ongoing Taiwan Strait Issue often flare up on Chinese social media. In August of 2018 for example, Taipei-born actress Vivian Sung ignited a storm of criticism on Weibo for a comment she made about Taiwan being her “favorite country.”

Last November, Taipei’s Golden Horse Film Festival was overclouded by controversy due to a speech about Taiwan independence (read here). Chinese state media responded to the issue by promoting the hashtags “China Can’t Become Smaller” and “Not Even a Bit Can Be Removed from China” (#中国一点都不能少#).

“Not Even a Bit Can Be Removed from China” propaganda images spread by People’s Daily.

Earlier this year, many Chinese netizens were furious to discover that the super popular Taiwanese online game Devotion contained secret insults toward President Xi Jinping.

Although big discussions on the current Taiwan travel ban are filtered on Chinese social media, there are still some smaller threads where Weibo users are speculating about the reasons behind the move.

Some blame Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, and see the latest travel measures as a way for Beijing to economically impact the island’s tourism industry to influence upcoming elections.

Others argue that the current ban is more of a “protective measure,” to make sure Chinese travelers who individually roam Taiwan will not be influenced by its election campaigns and media.

Then there are also those who think the entire issue is all about the ongoing Hong Kong protests.

Responses are overall very mixed. Although there are netizens supporting the solo travel ban, there are also those who think the measure will have an ‘opposite effect’ of that desired.

Although Weibo is mostly popular in mainland China, the social media platform is also used by Taiwanese netizens.

“I heard many of our Taiwanese online friends are happy to hear the news [about the travel restrictions]. Finally, this is something that cross-strait netizens can agree on!” one popular Beijing blogger (@地瓜熊老六) writes, sharing an online meme that shows Taiwanese scenery with the line ‘Welcome to Taiwan, without Chinese.’

Still, there are also many Weibo users who want to visit Taiwan by themselves and are just concerned about the practicalities: “So, when do you think I will be able to visit again?”

“I was just preparing to go and visit Taiwan,” one commenter writes, posting a crying emoji: “Nevertheless, I will still support China in this.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Featured image: Photo by Vernon Raineil Cenzon

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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