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China and Covid19

The German Expat Phone Call That Went Viral in Shanghai [Full Transcript]

This Shanghai-based German national has had it with local anti-epidemic measures.

Manya Koetse

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On Tuesday, April 19, a recording of a phone call between a German national living in Shanghai and a translator working for the neighborhood committee was shared from WeChat group to WeChat group and went viral on Chinese social media, as well as being shared on Reddit and Twitter.

The 9-minute phone call is about the fact that the Shanghai-based German national in question supposedly tested positive for Covid-19. The man demands another test, saying he is definitely negative, and he also refuses to be taken off to a quarantine location.

In line with China’s dynamic zero-Covid policy, every resident who tests positive for Covid-19 is to be isolated at a centralized quarantine location. There have been many complaints about this mandatory quarantine rule over the past weeks.

One issue that many are concerned about is that the living conditions at some of Shanghai’s quarantine locations are sub-par at best, with people complaining about toilets not being cleaned, trash not being handled, medical staff not being present, and supplies being so scarce that some locations even saw fights breaking out over water and food.

Another issue is that the handling process of taking positive Covid-19 patients to such locations is so slow (with a lack of staff and patients-waiting-for-beds “人等床” instead of beds-waiting-for-patients “床等人” being contributing factors), that people are sometimes required to go to a quarantine location nine days or longer after they first tested positive. By that time, most of these people have recovered from Covid and actually test negative again. Not only does it not make sense for them to go to a quarantine location, they might also risk getting infected again, which would only lengthen their mandatory stay at such a location. On social media, frustrated residents have vented their anger about this issue.

Earlier this month, another phone call in which a Chinese mother also refused to comply with orders to go to a quarantine camp since they were testing negative for Covid again also went viral online. A Shanghai-based Italian national also shared his story of testing positive on March 26 – he was not picked up for quarantine until April 9th.

Phone Call Transcript

The most recent phone call between the Juweihui (居委会 neighborhood committee, hereafter abbreviated to JWH) the German national (‘Ralf’) is as follows. You can also listen to this recorded phone call in this video.

JWH: “Hello, are you Ralf? Yeah we are the juweihui. You know you are positive of Covid-19.”

Ralf: “I’m not positive. The CDC [Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention] called me two days ago to come and test me, and they never came to test me. I was positive about 12 days ago and there is no way I’m still positive. So I’m demanding a new test.”

JWH: “So you think you are negative?”

Ralf: “I know I am negative. There’s no thinking.”

JWH: “But now the policy says you have to go to the camp.”

Ralf: “There is no policy in place. The CDC called me two days ago that they would come and test me. They have no people to come and test me, so that’s not my problem if there’s no personnel. So get the CDC, get them the f*ck over here to take a test and then we can talk. I don’t care about your policy – I really don’t care – because your system is really f*cked up, it doesn’t work. I’ve been to the camp already and they didn’t want me. They sent me back home. It’s ridiculous. It’s a disgrace for you, for the government, for Shanghai, for China.”

JWH: [trying to get some words in between] “Yes.. I know..”

Ralf: “It’s a really big joke. So get the CDC, come here, take a test, I’ll be negative, and then we can talk.”

JWH: “Yeah I know, I – I know the problem is that kind of thing. But..”

Ralf: “But that’s not my problem! This is not our problem. That’s your problem, it’s your government, not mine. So solve it. Get somebody here, test me. I will make a huge scene at the center. Don’t worry, I’ll have all the media involved. Just get me a test over here. I don’t want your excuses I really don’t care. Get the CDC over here. Take a test. I’ll be negative. We’re all fine.”

JWH: “Listen to me. I’m not a person from the government. I’m just here to translate because you can’t speak Chinese. They want me to tell you that someone will take you to the camp tonight no matter what you say.”

Ralf: “If you’re a translator you’ll translate both sides, right? You’ll also translate back to them? Or you’re just translating Chinese to English? Can you also do English to Chinese?”

JWH: “Yeah. I will tell them what you say. But they just want me to tell you, you have to go to the camp.”

Ralf: “Can you tell them in Chinese I do not f*cking care? I want the CDC here to take a test. This government is really f*cked up, there is no organization. I have been to the center already. They sent me back. Me and my wife have been there. My wife is here, she’s negative, everyone here is negative. So if there’s no people testing me I really do not f*cking care.”

JWH: “Yeah I know but..”

Ralf: “Sent the police over here, sent them with a test over here. Please report to your boss to send the police over here with the test, take a test with me, and then we can test.” [Shouting in background]

JWH: “Oh..ok…I..”

Ralf: “I tested negative, first positive on f*cking April, the 3rd. April 3!”

JWH: “You haven’t..”

Ralf: “Listen to me! They left us here for twelve days, then they decided to take us. Then they sent us back home after leaving us there in the cold for five hours. This is f*cking ridiculous. This is insane. So, I’m sorry that you are in the middle, but this is ridiculous. Get your boss. Tell him I tell him he sucks. Tell him the system sucks. Tell him to send a CDC officer here and take a f*cking new test with me.. [shouting in background]..and then we can talk. The CDC called me two days ago. They said, stay home, take a test. They did not send any single person here.” [Woman’s voice in background: “We have a recording of this!”] “I have a recording of this.” [Woman’s voice in background: “We can prove everything!”] “Your system is the most ridiculous I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. My children in kindergarten are more organized than this f*cking crap here. And that’s what you can tell your boss, with nice greetings from me.”

JWH: “I – I know what you mean.”

Ralf: “You don’t know what I mean! I have pets in this f*cking place, I had to pay 6000 RMB [$935] to get my cat in rescue because your government is a piece of sh*t. You do not understand what’s going on. You have no clue. You have no clue. So get the CDC over here, take a test, and if that’s positive, I’m more than willing to go. But it’s not gonna be positive so get the f*cking CDC over here and then we can talk. But that’s how the thing must go. If not, tell your boss to bring the police. My embassy is all over you anyways already. So this is going to be massive. This is a f*cking big joke, and you know it. And you do not understand. I’m sorry you’re in the middle of this, that’s your job. So go back to your boss and translate what I just said. Tell him this policy stinks, tell him this policy does not work – it is complete chaos, it is like a f*cking kindergarten. You can tell him exactly that. Do we understand?”

JWH: “Yeah I will tell them what you said.”

Ralf: “Go get the CDC over here. The CDC called me two days ago and said that they would come and test me and they did not come. The same happened to a friend of mine in Jing’an, same procedure. It’s f*cking ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. It’s a digrace for this country and for your government. You’re like a joke in the whole f*cking world now. This country is a joke, it’s seriously a joke. And that’s what you can tell your boss. If they would have this organized – no problem. [But] they leave us here with 8 people, corona positive, for f*cking 15 days. We’re all fine, and then they decide to take us? What sort of ridiculous rule is that? That’s ridiculous. There’s no logic to this. It’s completely f*cking random. So you understand?”

JWH: “Yeah, I understand. Ok. I will call you later, maybe, ok? Thank you.”

Ralf: “Maybe you talk to your boss and then you call me back. So then I’m going to have to call my embassy again and then they will be on your ass again.”

JWH: “Ok.. I know what to say, and I will talk to them, ok?”

Ralf: “So call me back. Call the CDC. Because we cannot reach the CDC because it doesn’t work properly. They call us with random numbers. They call us at 2 AM in the morning. They call us at 3 AM in the morning. We cannot call back. This is a disgrace. A disgrace for China. So call the CDC and have them call me back and get them come over here and take a PCR test. If I’m positive, hey, you can take me, no problem. I’m fine. If it’s negative, I’m staying.”

JWH: “Yeah, I..I.. I know you are..”

Ralf: “You don’t know, don’t say you know. You have no f*cking idea. You have no f*cking idea what’s going on here. I understand you are translating, you’re in the middle of this, I’m sorry for you, but this system that you’re putting in place – the system that you are supporting – is a piece of sh*t. A piece of sh*t. It’s not working. It’s totally random. Makes no sense. People are afraid to get deported more than to get sick. This is a f*cking joke. And you do not understand. So don’t tell me you understand. Go to your boss, tell him what I said, get the CDC over here, and then call me back.”

JWH: “Ok. I will call..”

Ralf: “I will not go anywhere. I’m fine. I’m home. I cannot run away. So get the CDC over here. If they are not capable of sending a person to test, that’s not my f*cking problem. That’s your f*cking problem. That’s your boss’s f*cking problem. That’s the CDC’s f*cking problem. And a f*cking Party problem. But certainly not my problem. So take your problem somewhere else and don’t put them on me. Get the thing sorted out and then we can talk.”

JWH: “Ok”

Ralf: “And I will make the same..I would make the scene or whatever if they take me. I’m fine. I’m going to have a really nice time at the camp. It’s gonna be really ridiculous for you guys. Ah, I’m gonna love it. I’m already in touch with all the media in Germany. This is gonna be lovely, lovely.” [Woman’s voice in background: “Global glory for China!”] “Global glory. This is a disgrace for this country. Yes. Any third-world country would do this better than this. This is really, really, really shameful.”

JWH: “…”

Ralf: “So give me a call back and tell me when CDC is coming for a test.”

JWH: “Ok, I will. I will talk to them and tell you when they will come ok.”

Ralf: “When will who come?”

JWH: “The…doctor to test.”

Ralf: “Thank you. Yes.”

JWH: “Ok I will call them.”

Ralf: “Thank you. Bye bye.”

JWH: “Thank you. Bye bye.”

As the recording has gone viral online over the past 48 hours (the WeChat link was no longer online at the time of writing), there are many people who applaud the German for criticizing the system, but there are also some who think his attitude and way of speaking is not right.

One Weibo user named ‘Unidentified Susu’ (@未名苏苏) writes:

“Unexpectedly, many people say the recording of the German man cursing at the Chinese employee is so good, but I was really angry to hear it. A foreigner, on Chinese soil, should abide by Chinese laws and cooperate with China’s anti-epidemic policies. If there is inconvenience or misunderstanding because the communication is not right, there should be proper communication to solve the problem. A big German guy telling our female employees f*cking this and that, the wife shouting and screaming bad words in the background, and then so many Chinese happily sharing and liking this recording, saying it’s good that he scolded them, that’s really distressing and makes me angry. What era is this that this foreign man in China is being so arrogant and bossy to our workers, scolding our government, cursing at our employees – does he think we’re living a century ago? China does not welcome this kind of foreigners, you go back to where you came from, go back to your Germany where you can use Russian natural gas.”

But not everyone agrees. A top commenter replies: “Do you know the saying ‘support who is reasonable rather than who is closer to you’ (帮理不帮亲)? If it were you, and after more than ten days you’ve tested negative again and they want to come and take you and place you together in a makeshift hospital with people who are all positive, risking getting infected again, would you go? This is nothing personal. If he were Chinese, I would also support him, because he makes sense.”

“I would be cursing if I were him, too,” multiple people say.

But there are also other people criticizing the angry German, such as this Weibo user:

“I saw the recording of the angry German versus the neighborhood committee in my WeChat group today. I’d suggest the neighborhood committee to bring the Germans under control the German way: ‘do a PCR test? You need to book it. Send a letter or email in advance to book it, or if it’s urgent, you can come and stand in line at 5 AM to get your number. We will then send you a letter stating your date of when you can do the test.’ This is how foreigners are treated in Germany and the entire system has been a joke for ages. And if we speak English? Forget it. This is Germany, you need to speak German. German only. In the end, if you really can’t, you might as well break down the door and drag the person away.”

As for Ralf, another video posted to social media shows him drinking a glass of sparkling wine. “I’m back home,” he says, adding: “I will say this openly – f*ck this bullsh*t, and f*ck the Party, they are f*cking idiots. F*ck that sh*t. We’ve been out for six hours on a bus for no reason. We just rescued our cat and paid tons of money to get our cat rescued (..) Now they drove every foreigner back home. And we can restart the same story tomorrow again (..) Cheers, we’ll have a drink now, on the Communist Party, which we love.”

“The foreigners in Shanghai are going crazy,” one Weibo user commented on the phone call recording, with others saying: “I support this foreign guy.”

Because Ralf mentions the rescuing of his cat, it’s likely that the video was recorded before the juweihui phone call went viral. At time of writing, there has been no update on whether or not the CDC has actually come to test Ralf yet.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

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©2022 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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  1. Avatar

    R

    April 20, 2022 at 5:37 pm

    I loved hearing it! I would have kept my cool, but in the end I would have reacted in the same way!

    And f* those id**ts who think we can’t complain against senseless bs from the CCP just because we’re foreigners!

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China and Covid19

The End to Zero Covid: China’s New 10 Covid Rules Are Here

“Everyone is really happy but there is a black cloud heading our way.”

Manya Koetse

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Over the past few weeks, China’s Covid measures have seen gradual changes, and various places across China have eased local rules regarding nucleic acid testing and the accessibility of public transport and venues. Now, central authorities have announced more measures that basically end the ‘zero Covid’ policy as we knew it. The ‘ten new rules’ became top trending on Weibo.

Just a month ago, on November 11, Chinese central authorities released a set of twenty new rules to “further optimize” China’s approach to Covid.

At the time, Chinese media emphasized that the new rules did not mean that China was letting go of its dynamic Zero Covid policy. Now, another ten new rules have been introduced that do indicate that the country is clearly no longer sticking to its ‘zero Covid’ goals.

After a central meeting that took place on December 6, authorities released a 10-point plan addressing changes in Covid measures. National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng (米锋) announced the measures during a live-streamed press conference of the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council (#国务院联防联控机制发布会#).

On Wednesday, several hashtags related to the new measures went trending on Chinese social media, including “Health Code” (#健康码#), over 450 million views), and “Ten New Rules” (#新十条#, over 440 million views).

 
These Are the 10 Changes:
 

1: Lockdown Changes
Risk areas should be assessed and divided according to science and it should be done precisely. We should no longer see the lockdown of an entire community or residential area; instead, it will be assessed by looking at household units, buildings, and apartment floors. The (temporary) closure of areas will no longer be allowed.

2: Testing Changes
The scope of nucleic acid testing was already limited in the previous adjusted rules, but will now be further limited. Instead of RT-PCR tests, rapid PCR tests will be used more often in accordance with local requirements. Nucleic acid testing will remain in place for high-risk positions and high-risk area personnel in accordance with relevant regulations, and some places including nursing homes, schools, and medical care institutions will still require negative tests, but negative nucleic acid test certificates and health code checks will no longer be necessary for traveling from place to place.

3: Quarantine Changes
People who tested positive but are asymptomatic or only show mild symptoms can isolate at home if they meet local requirements. Centralized isolation centers will still be in operation for more severe cases or those opting in for centralized quarantine. If nucleic acid tests are negative after the fifth day, the isolation period can end.

4: ‘High-Risk Area’ Changes
If no new cases have been detected for five consecutive days, local lockdowns should be lifted.

5: Medicine Availability Changes
Pharmacies should operate normally and cannot be arbitrarily closed. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for cough, fever, etc should not be restricted.

6: Vaccination Strategy Changes
The promotion of the Covid vaccination should be stepped up for Chinese seniors, especially in the 60-79 age group, with a clear focus on making sure they get all the vaccinations they need as quickly as possible. In order to boost the vaccination rates, temporary vaccination sites will need to be set up and they will need to be local incentives to get the seniors to vaccinate asap. This was actually also mentioned in the list of twenty optimized Covid measures in November (under rule 12).

7: Medical Classification Clarity
There should be clearer knowledge on the medical status of residents and whether elderly residents have any underlying medical issues and if they have been vaccinated.

8: Focus on the Normal Functioning of Society & Basic Medical Services
If areas are not classified as high-risk areas, people should be allowed to move around freely and have access to basic medical care, and there should be no restrictions on production, work, and business operations.

9: Strengthen Safety Procedures in Epidemic Situations
Buildings [in high-risk areas] cannot block fire exits, unit doors, or community gates under any circumstances. Community management departments should have effective modes of communication systems in place to contact local medical institutions in order to safeguard the medical needs of residents, including seniors living alone, children, pregnant women, and those with underlying conditions.

10: Improved Policies regarding Outbreaks at School Campuses
As also mentioned in the previous updated rules, on-campus epidemic control must be consistent, precise, and in accordance with science. Not only can there be no unnecessarily long lockdowns of campuses, but the risk areas within campuses should be more precisely defined, and normal teaching and living outside these areas should be able to continue as usual. Schools without any outbreaks should carry on normal offline teaching activities, and capus facilities such as supermarkets, cafeterias, libraries, etc. should be open.

 
Online Responses
 

One clear online response to China’s recent ‘optimized’ Covid measures is that people are buying a lot of medication, expecting to be infected with Covid soon. Some online stores had already sold out on the Traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen (连花清瘟), a herbal pill by Yiling Pharmaceuticals which is used for the treatment of influenza as well as Covid.

Sold-out Lianhua Qingwen pills.

One popular Weibo blogger (@咖啡布偶猫) wrote: “I feel as if the propaganda has seen a sudden change in direction. During the first half of the year and the epidemic in Shanghai, everyone would get scared the moment you talked about a positive case, they wanted to fiercely chase it and thoroughly reach zero cases. Now they are propagating that we should not panic, that we should accept the reality and actively respond to it, as if it is nothing alarming. But we should still pay attention to those with underlying medical conditions, those with respiratory issues, asthma, and lung disease. If you haven’t bought cold medicine yet, do so. Right now, some places even have a limit on buying Lianhua Qingwen.”

During the December 7 press conference, Guo Yanhong (郭燕红), director of the National Health Commission’s health emergency division, emphasized that it is not necessary for people to stock up on medication in light of the announced eased Covid measures and that there are sufficient supplies (#卫健委提示没有必要囤积抢购药物#).

“After being sealed for three years, it’s all lifted in a morning, all the prices go up for Lianhua Qingwen, rapid antigen tests increase in price, and if your symptoms get serious you’re still not able to get help anywhere.”

Some jokingly suggest that after messing around for three years, the pandemic is only now really starting.

“Everyone is really happy now but there’s a black cloud coming our way, we will know in a month or so if it is going to be light drizzle or a heavy rainstorm.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China and Covid19

Chinese Commentator Hu Xijin Expects to “Get Covid Within a Month” (and Why It Matters)

This Hu Xijin commentary can be seen as part of a wider trend of normalizing Covid in the Chinese online media sphere.

Manya Koetse

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Hu Xijin (胡锡进), the Beijing-based retired editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times, recently published a post on the Chinese social media platform Weibo about him getting mentally ready to be infected with Covid-19 soon.

The former journalist Hu, whose posts and statements often go trending and influence public opinion, also made a few other noteworthy comments.

On Sunday (Dec 4), Hu posted: “Over the past week, China has essentially ended widespread lockdowns, with places like Beijing and others beginning to allow home quarantine for many positive individuals, while reducing the scope of nucleic acid testing. These are amazing changes.”

Four weeks ago, right before China introduced its twenty new Covid measures, Hu already argued that strict lockdowns are no longer sustainable and that China should aim for a more relaxed and local approach (which is exactly what happened).

Now, Hu Xijin says that he is “mentally preparing to be infected with Covid within the coming month” (“做好了在一个月之内被感染上的思想准备”), further writing:

In order for young people to have a colorful young era, in order to save the livelihood of so many service industry workers, in order for people from all walks of life to avoid seeing their wages cut, in order for so many companies to get out of their predicaments, this 62-year-old ‘Old Hu’ is willing to participate in the risk of getting [a virus that] degenerated to only 2.5 per 10,000 rate of getting seriously ill.”

Hu’s post was published on December 2nd in the context of Hu Says, a regular video column by Hu Xijin.

A few months ago, such a comment coming from such a big account would have been unthinkable.

In May of this year, those who tested positive still complained about suffering from stigmatization in society.

But Hu’s comments come at a time when there are more discussions about getting Covid and sharing the experiences of having Covid.

In the second week of November, shortly after Chinese authorities launched their updated Covid rules, the hashtag “What Is It Like to Catch Covid-19?” (#感染新冠是什么体验#) already went trending on Weibo, along with other hashtags informing Chinese netizens about what it’s like to get Covid – a virus that so many in China never experienced first hand.

Since Hu Xijin (1960) ended his career as the editor-in-chief of Global Times in 2021, his role as a political commentator has arguably become even more important and more visible on Weibo than before, especially in China’s challenging Covid times of 2021.

Some find him overly nationalistic, for others he is not nationalistic enough; there are those who find him reasonable, and then some say he is repetitive and just dancing to the tune of Party propaganda. But then there have also been some discussions – in light of Pelosi’s controversial Taiwan visit – about Hu misleading public opinion by not matching the official stance.

Whichever it is, some things are certain: Hu has some 25 million followers on Weibo, and he is often the first major media account that is allowed to discuss in detail some major sensitive social topics, even if these online discussions are otherwise being tightly controlled (think of the Tangshan BBQ Restaurant incident, the future of zero Covid, the Urumqi fire, and the 11.24 protests across China.)

Hu’s comments about ‘catching Covid soon’ can be seen as part of a wider trend of normalizing Covid in the Chinese online media sphere, preparing people to face a virus they are still unfamiliar with since ‘zero Covid’ has always been the main goal.

On December 3, Hu further clarified his comments about preparing to getting Covid. He explained he expects to catch the virus because he is active in the media environment, through which he unavoidably is in touch with many different people. He also promised that if he might get infected, he would share his Covid experience with all of his readers.

As the idea of catching Covid is becoming more normalized (there are more and more trending hashtags informing what to expect after getting Covid, e.g. #新冠发病7天内身体会发生什么变化#), people are also exchanging non-scientifical advice on how to prevent catching Covid, such as drinking licorice ginger soup, holding Sichuan peppercorns inside your mouth when going out, or getting silicon covers for the drains in the bathroom to prevent the virus coming through via neighboring apartments.

Some express their worries about catching the virus. “I’m really scared. I’ve already replaced all of my masks with K95 ones,” one Weibo user wrote: “My immune system has been weak since I was little, and I have allergies. I have the feeling that if I get infected I might lose half my life, if I don’t die (..) I’m in a state of panic.”

Even though China is still far from ‘opening up’, some people are already preparing to ‘live together with the virus,’ reminding others that getting vaccinated, keeping social distance, and washing hands are all measures that will help in preventing getting Covid.

“I am worried about getting Covid but I also want to open up,” some on Weibo said.

“As much as I wanted it all to end, this feels abrupt,” one social media user from Inner Mongolia wrote: “It won’t be the same as before. The thorough ‘zero Covid’ [policy] has gone. The country’s protection of our health has gone up to this point. I hope everyone can now take care in prevention themselves, and protect themselves and their families. I hope the epidemic situation will end soon, that the world will be ok, and that we can have our freedom.”

Meanwhile, Hu Xijin informed netizens on Saturday that he had some milk, boiled eggs, pastry and pickled mustard greens for breakfast. While working on his condition and nutrition, he says that if his Covid positive time comes, he will not get any VIP treatment. If allowed, he’ll either recover from home or go to a centralized Covid location.

He will just have to wait and see what happens, just as millions of other Chinese citizens are waiting to see what this winter is going to bring.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

The featured images are all images that went viral recently in light of China opening up (including nucleic acid testing booths being taken away).

 

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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