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The Trending Controversy Behind an Extraordinary Mount Everest Rescue

Chinese social media played a significant role in shaping the outcome of this incredible Mount Everest story.




The extraordinary nighttime rescue of a female Chinese mountain climber at the treacherous altitude of 8000 meters on Mount Everest was already a notable news story in its own right. However, when it was revealed that the woman declined to assume the full US$10,000 rescue fee, the story quickly spread across Chinese social media platforms, sparking fervent discussions on courage and (in)gratitude.

Recently, the news of two Chinese mountain climbers giving up on their dream to reach the summit of Mount Everest in order to rescue a female climber in distress has garnered widespread attention.

What initially seemed like a heartwarming tale of heroism quickly sparked intense debate when the 50-year-old Chinese woman refused to fully compensate her rescuers.

This incident has ignited discussions among netizens, covering financial concerns, moral responsibilities, and the notion that no good deed goes unpunished.

Sacrificing a Costly Dream

On May 18th in Nepal, at an altitude of 7,950 meters, four members of the Hunan Mountaineering Team (湖南登山队) embarked on their journey from the C4 camp on the southern slope of Mount Everest with the goal of reaching the summit.

At approximately 20:30, team leader Fan Jiangtao (范江涛) spotted a Chinese female climber huddled on the roadside at an altitude of 8,450 meters. The woman’s clothes were severely torn, one hand was exposed and blackened, and her face was coated with a thin layer of ice.

The woman seemingly undertook her climb without the aid of a Sherpa, who are typically experienced mountain guides and partners of climbers, belonging to the Nepalese ethnic group. They provide guidance and support to climbers during their ascent to different camps and, ultimately, the summit.

At an altitude of 8,000 meters on Mount Everest lies the treacherous “death zone,” where rescuing others can endanger the lives of the rescuers.

Despite initially intending to proceed with their ascent, Fan made the courageous decision to rescue the woman anyway. Along the way, he encountered another team member, Xie Ruxiang (谢如祥).

Luckily, Xie’s Sherpa guide was strong, and in order to convince the guide, Xie promised a reward of $10,000 if the Sherpa could safely bring the survivor back to the camp. Through the collective efforts of multiple individuals, including the determined Sherpa, they successfully brought Ms. Liu, who was in grave danger, back to the C4 camp.

A photo of the mountain climbers rescuing Ms. Liu, source: Beijing Evening News.

Consequently, the two rescuers had to relinquish their long-held dream to reach the summit of the Mount Everest during this significant year, which marks the 70th anniversary of the first human ascent. Not only was reaching the summit at this particular time of great importance to the mountain climbers, they also spent approximately 400,000 yuan (around US$57,000) in preparation and training fees.

Mountain of Wealth?

As the Mount Everest rescue story gained attention on Chinese social media after Hunan media outlets reported it, news emerged on June 3rd that the rescued woman allegedly intended to contribute only part of the rescue fee owed to the Sherpa who had aided in her rescue.

This information was later confirmed by one of the rescuers, Fan Jiangtao. Fan revealed that the woman had given a tip of merely $1,500 to the Sherpas, while other members of the team gave $1,800. Additionally, she expressed willingness to pay only $4,000 of the total $10,000 rescue fee.

“This angered me, and I informed her that if she maintained this attitude, I did not want any of that money, and she need not give it to me,” stated Fan. Consequently, Fan and the other rescuer, Xie, ended up paying the $10,000 fee themselves.

Fan Jiangtao (left) and Xie Ruxiang (right) after rescuing Liu, source: Beijing Evening News

As the hashtag “Woman Rescued on Everest Does not Want to Pay the Full Rescue Fee” (#珠峰被救女子不愿支付全部救援费用#) received over 370 million views on Weibo, the story ignited a fierce online debate.

While some netizens argued against criticizing Ms. Liu without knowing the full context of her personal financial circumstances, many others condemned her, stating that financial constraints should not serve as an excuse for individuals engaging in such mountain climbing endeavors, especially on Mount Everest.

Several Weibo users discussed how climbing Mount Everest would require a minimum budget of at least 500,000 yuan (approximately US$70,000) to cover expenses such as climbing permits, gear, guides, flights, not to mention the necessary training and preparation time.

Considering the widely acknowledged high costs associated with climbing Mount Everest, including rescue fees, many contend that Ms. Liu’s refusal extends beyond a mere financial issue. Additionally, most commenters suggest that Liu should not impose the burden of her rescue expenses on the rescuers.

One Weibo user expressed, “[If I were her], even if it meant going bankrupt, I would still borrow money to cover the training and preparation fees of those two rescuers [due to their failed summit attempt], let alone $10,000!”

The Farmer and the Snake

After the media exposed Ms. Liu’s refusal to pay the full amount, the two rescuers made an appeal to netizens, urging them not to engage in online harassment towards the rescued woman. They emphasized: “Rescuing people is our duty, and whether or not she expresses gratitude is her own choice. These are two completely separate matters.”

However, many argued that their critical remarks about Liu were not to be equated with ‘online harassment,’ asserting that individuals should face consequences for their actions.

Some Chinese social media users also suggested that individuals displaying ingratitude like this are unworthy of being rescued. They drew parallels to the well-known Chinese fable of “the farmer and the snake” (农夫与蛇, nóngfū yǔ shé), where a compassionate farmer saves a freezing snake during a cold winter, only to be bitten and killed by it later on. People argue that no good deed goes unpunished and also use the idiom “it’s hard to be a good person” (好人难做, hǎo rén nán zuò).

The farmer and the snake, image via

Liu was also labeled as a “white-eyed wolf” (白眼狼, bái yǎn láng), a term used to describe someone particularly heartless and cruel. One Weibo user commented, “We should collectively raise money to send her back to the mountain.”

Concerns were also raised that this incident might have implications for future rescues involving climbers in distress, as it could make other climbers more hesitant to come to the aid of those in need.

Various state media outlets, including Nanfang Daily (南方日报) and Hongxing News (红星新闻), urged the woman to take responsibility and acknowledge the heroic actions of the rescuers. By emphasizing the importance of not discouraging selfless acts like this, the story continued to generate online discussions, with netizens actively putting more pressure on the case.

More to the Story

On June 10, there was a somewhat unexpected follow-up to the story. As reported by and other Chinese media outlets, Ms. Liu traveled to Changsha on June 7th to personally meet her rescuers and thank them for what they did for her.

In an in-depth article titled “They Gave up Reaching the Mount Everest Summit to Save Someone: Why Did the Rescued Person ‘Not Thank Them’ and ‘Not Pay Her Rescuers’?” (“他们放弃登顶珠峰救人:被救者为何“不感谢”“不付救援费?”), the Chinese magazine Sanlian Lifeweek (三联生活周刊) shared additional details about the entire incident, addressing some lingering questions.

According to the article, Ms. Liu arrived in Kathmandu on May 6th this year. Just 13 days later, she was found in a perilous situation, struggling for her life during her Mt Everest summit. This short time frame between her arrival and summit is highly unusual, as the usual preparation, climbing, and acclimatization period takes around 40 days.

Ms. Liu had registered with the Chengdu-based Kaitu Mountaineering company (成都凯途高山户外运动有限责任公司) to climb Mount Everest and paid them 400,000 yuan (US$56,110) for the expedition. The woman had allegedly spent all her savings to fulfill her dream of climbing Mount Everest.

As an experienced cross-country runner, the 50-year-old woman was in good physical condition and had undergone prior training for the expedition. Interestingly, she was also part of the same mountaineering team as her rescuers Fan and Xie.

Before commencing her journey, Ms. Liu discussed her climbing plans with the team leader of the company. Despite informing them that she needed to complete the summit and descent within just 20 days because her employer at a state-owned company would not allow a longer abscence, she was assured it was feasible. Normally, an Everest expedition takes about two months.

Although Ms. Liu embarked on the mountain separately from the other team members from Hunan, she had a Sherpa accompanying her. However, due to unfortunate circumstances and miscommunication, she found herself stranded and exhausted at an altitude of approximately 8000 meters, with limited oxygen, before being discovered by Fan Jiangtao at 20:30 on May 18th.

The difficult rescue of Liu took place after dark, image via

Liu’s Sherpa had apparently signalled the need to return to the C4 camp for boiled water, and Liu couldn’t communicate her physical exhaustion and desire for him to stay. She then found that she was unable to detach herself from the rope due to the locking mechanism of the carabiner getting stuck, rendering her immobile.

Fan and later Xie never expected to find their team member on the mountain, assuming she had withdrawn from the expedition long ago upon learning that her job wouldn’t allow her to be away for 40 days. Without Fan and Xie, Liu’s life would have been lost on the mountain.

The Sanlian Lifeweek article doesn’t feature an interview with Liu herself but emphasizes that she is not a wealthy person and works an office job. It also highlights her introverted nature, which might have contributed to the perception of her being ungrateful.

During her visit to Changsha on June 7th, Liu finally had dinner with Fan Jiangtao, Xie Ruxiang, and several other team members to address mixed emotions and misunderstandings after her rescue. Allegedly, she also brought US$10,000 and an additional 20,000 yuan ($2800) to give to Fan and Xie, although they declined the offer.

Meanwhile, the Chengdu-based Kaitu Mountaineering company has now stepped forward and declared their commitment to bearing the financial burden of Liu’s rescue. They acknowledge the role they played, along with their Sherpa, in contributing to Liu’s predicament.

In a statement released on June 10, the company expressed gratitude towards the rescue team and announced that they had reached an agreement with the rescuers, the Sherpa rescue team, and Ms. Liu regarding the coverage of expenses (#珠峰被救女子所雇登山公司发文#).

Despite understanding the complete story, many netizens still express their inability to comprehend why Liu didn’t come forward earlier to cover the entire amount.

Others also think that being an introverted person has nothing to do with not being able to properly express gratitude for someone saving your life.

And then there are also those who are happy with the current outcome and the role played by social media in pressuring the responsible parties to provide financial compensation: “Without the internet, this never would have happened.”

By Zilan Qian and Manya Koetse

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Stories that are authored by the What's on Weibo Team are the stories that multiple authors contributed to. Please check the names at the end of the articles to see who the authors are.

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China Society

“Elderlies” in Their Thirties: The Growing Interest of Chinese Youth in Nursing Homes

Some Chinese nursing homes are evolving into sought-after havens where China’s younger people can “lie flat” without worrying about meals and household chores, while enjoying a high-quality lifestyle.

Zilan Qian



Chinese nursing homes are changing their image in the social media age. While Chinese vloggers experiment with living in old people’s homes, and nursing homes are modernizing their facilities, some senior care centers are offering young people the chance to reside in their communities for free – as long as they spend some time with their elderly residents.

In China, nursing homes (养老院, yǎnglǎoyuàn) are usually not linked to lively living spaces. Many picture elderly residents trapped in dull daily routines, lacking companionship, without any visitors or children around, simply awaiting the inevitable alone.

However, these places, once synonymous with boredom, loneliness, and the end of life, are now piquing the interest of younger generations in China, breathing new life into them and transforming them into more vibrant living communities.

Recently, a nursing home in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, began to recruit young people to live there. The initiative is a part of the “Companion Aging Program” promoted by the local civil affair bureau.

Its objective is twofold. One the one hand, it provides new living environments for younger generations facing difficulties in securing housing. On the other hand, it alleviates the burden of social isolation on seniors who struggle to stay in touch with the communities around them.

The program is focused on attracting young people, especially those who have just entered the workforce. They can stay in one-bedroom apartments within nursing homes for free, with only a small monthly management fee of 300 yuan ($41). The only requirement is that they spend at least ten hours each month engaging in activities with elderly residents, like sharing meals, going for walks, or having conversations.

A young resident is accompanying an elderly at the nursing home. Image via The Paper.

The government initiators stress the program’s win-win situation. A staff member at the bureau explains, “The program can provide accompany to satisfy seniors’ emotional needs, while also helping ‘companions’ to save on rental costs.”

To ensure that the program is indeed mutually beneficial, the government has established specific criteria for potential senior companions. These requirements include not having current residents in the city, holding at least a junior college education level, and having desirable backgrounds in fields such as medicine, psychology, information technology, arts, or law.

The program has been well-received thus far. In a Weibo poll with the hashtag “Are you willing to live in nursing homes for free by accompanying old people?” (#你愿意陪伴老年人免费入住养老院吗#), initiated by Xinjin News (@新京报), 55% of the respondents wholeheartedly support the initiative, while approximately 30% remain undecided.

According to another recent Weibo post by Sina News, the nursing home has already received hundreds of resumes from applicants.

“The Old Man in His Thirties”: Young People Who Want to Live in Nursing Homes

In the meantime, living in nursing homes seems to have become increasingly popular among young people in China, even when it’s not always free of charge. Nursing homes have not only been portrayed in more favorable lights on social media by state media outlets, they have also taken proactive measures themselves to improve their image.

Thanks to these collective efforts, what were once seen as lonely and uninspiring places are now seemingly transforming into popular residences where China’s younger people can “lie flat” (read more), without worrying about meals and household chores, while enjoying a high-quality lifestyle.

On social app Xiaohongshu, one user named “The Old Man in His Thirties” (三旬老汉) has recently been documenting his experience of moving to a nursing home.

In his first video, somewhat jokingly, he talks about quitting his job due to overwhelming work demands and choosing to embrace a “lie-flat” lifestyle (“躺平”). He was drawn to the nursing home because it provides meals, takes care of residents, and handles daily chores.

Titled “Day xx of living in a nursing home at the age of thirty” (“三十岁入住养老院的第xx天”), his subsequent videos showcase the nursing home staff preparing delicious meals for him, getting him snacks, and even engaging in esports activities with him. These videos also feature his humorous interactions with his roommate, a senior resident in his seventies.

Another post-95 generation Xiaohongshu user (久久姨家政) recently also shared his experiences of living in an old people’s home. His videos revolve around talking to older residents, enjoying meals with them or joking around. There are also other accounts, all young Chinese vloggers, sharing their own journeys of moving into senior care facilities.

This 25-year-old vlogger shared his experiences of living in a nursing home.

Although these videos are apparently filmed based on written scripts, many netizens still see the attractiveness of nursing homes through these kinds of videos and posts. Many viewers have left comments under these videos expressing their desire to reside in senior living communities, asking for locations and inquiring about the costs.

Since the first video by “The Old Man in His Thirties” was posted in mid-June, the series has documented approximately 70 days of life in the nursing home. By now, the account has nearly 60,000 followers, and the videos accumulated thousands of likes.

In addition to improving their image through social media, some nursing homes in China have also enhanced their appeal by upgrading facilities. Gyms, swimming pools, snooker tables, free wifi and esports rooms – a variety of amenities have been introduced to transform nursing homes into modern spaces that also cater to the preferences of younger individuals.

Some private nursing homes also market themselves as “nursing homes even young people would want to live in,” emphasizing the exceptional quality and modern standards of services and facilities.

A Xiaohongshu blogger promoting a private nursing home equipped with gyms, swimming pools, and spa services under the title “what does it feel like to live in nursing homes in the thirties?”

This online promotion has had the surprising by-effect that younger and middle-aged people are also changing their attitudes about moving into nursing homes when they are old and retired.

Hiaohongshu user experiencing life in a nursing home in Suzhou: “I’m only 20 years old and living in an old people’s home already!”

While some nursing homes across the country are offering free short stays for young Chinese, other individuals have gone as far as paying for a short stay to personally experience various nursing homes. One Xiaohongshu user, after spending a night at a local upscale nursing home and sharing her experience with a friend, commented, “After the immersive experience, I’m eager to apply for long-term residency right away.”

A Path to Change Eldercare in Aging China

The growing interest of young people in nursing homes is not merely a coincidental trend arising from local government initiatives or viral social media trends.

Elderly care services have been a significant focal point of China’s national strategies for several years, driven by the projected fourfold increase in the elderly population, from 36 million to 150 million, in the next three decades.

In early May of this year, the government issued guidelines aimed at establishing a comprehensive elderly care system by 2025. These guidelines emphasize the provision of material support to elderly individuals living alone, which includes the improvement of services and facilities within nursing homes.

This increased focus on nursing homes may indicate a shift in China’s eldercare strategies, particularly in light of the significant decline in birth rates. From 2011 to 2020, China prioritized a home-based eldercare system, encouraging younger generations to live in close proximity to their elderly relatives through restructured healthcare facilities and the promotion of filial piety.

Between 2015 and 2020, the central government allocated 5 billion yuan (approximately USD 743 million) to support new pilot programs for home-based elderly care services (Krings et al 2022).

However, with record-low marriage and birth rates, it is likely that a significant number of young people today will later lack the younger family members needed to provide home-based care as they age. Consequently, nursing homes are bound to play a more crucial role in China’s future eldercare industry.

Xiaohongshu post promoting a Suzhou high-end nursing home.

In Chinese society, older adults residing in nursing homes are often regarded as examples of personal failures for not having loving families with caring children (Luo & Zhan 2911). Moreover, concerns about potential mistreatment of vulnerable elderly residents by staff members at nursing homes persist.

The increasing interest and recent active involvement of young people in nursing homes offer a way to challenge old stereotypes and bring new ideas to the changing eldercare landscape in China. Perhaps most importantly, it helps combat the loneliness that many seniors face while bridging the gap between the country’s younger and older generations.

By Zilan Qian

References (other sources hyperlinked in text):

Krings, Marion F., Jeroen D. van Wijngaarden, Shasha Yuan, and Robbert Huijsman. 2022. “China’s Elder Care Policies 1994–2020: A Narrative Document Analysis.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 19, no. 10: 6141.

Luo, Baozhen, and Heying Zhan. 2011. “Filial Piety and Functional Support: Understanding Intergenerational Solidarity among Families with Migrated Children in Rural China.” Ageing International 37, no. 1: 69–92.


This article has been edited for clarity by Manya Koetse


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China Local News

Changsha Restaurant Employee Pays the Price after Protecting Abused Child

A Changsha restaurant employee who intervened when a mother beat her child ended up paying the price for it.

Manya Koetse



The story of a restaurant employee who had to pay the price for sharing a video of a mother beating her child has triggered anger on Chinese social media.

The incident happened on September 14, when Mr. Jiang (江), an employee at the ‘Peng Shu’ Western-style restaurant in Changsha, stopped a mother from beating her young daughter at the shopping mall where the restaurant is located.

As reported by the Guizhou media channel People’s Focus (@百姓关注), a mother and daughter at the restaurant drew the staff’s attention when the mother began physically assaulting her daughter.

The mother, clearly overwhelmed by her emotions, resorted to kicking, hitting, yelling, and even attempting to strike her child with a chair, allegedly in response to the child accidentally spilling ice cream on her clothing.

During this distressing incident, which was captured on video, Mr. Jiang and another colleague intervened to protect the child and immediately alerted the police to the situation.

But the one who was punished in the end was not the mother.

The video of this incident was shared online, leading the woman to repeatedly visit the restaurant in frustration over her unblurred face in the video. The police had to mediate in this dispute.

To the dismay of many netizens, the employee ended up being forced to pay the woman 10,000 yuan ($1369) in compensation for “moral damages.” He has since resigned from his job and has left Changsha. A related hashtag was viewed over 110 million times on Weibo (#餐厅员工发顾客打娃视频后赔1万离职#) and also became a hot topic on Douyin.

The majority of commenters expressed their anger at the unjust outcome where a restaurant employee, who had attempted to protect the child, faced repercussions while the mother appeared to avoid any legal consequences for her actions.

“Where is the All-China Women’s Federation when you need them?” some wondered, while others wanted to know why the incident was not followed up with an immediate investigation into the child abuse. Others suggested that if it were a man who had beaten his child, authorities would have been quicker to intervene.

The issue of corporal punishment for children often comes up in Chinese social media discussions. While many people find it unacceptable to beat children, using violence to discipline children is also commonplace in many families.

When China’s first national law against domestic violence came into effect on 1 March 2016, article 5 and 12 specifically addressed the special legal protection of children and made family violence against children against the law.

By Manya Koetse

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