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Unanswered Questions Linger in the Aftermath of Tangshan BBQ Restaurant Beating Incident

The deafening silence surrounding the female victims of the Tangshan incident is trending on Weibo, where people are demanding answers.

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The shocking attack on female customers at a Tangshan BBQ restaurant on June 10 is still a major topic of conversation on Chinese social media, where the incident is also referred to as the “Tangshan Barbecue Restaurant Beating Incident” (唐山烧烤店打人案).

For a detailed description of the incident, which was captured by the restaurant’s security cameras (video link), see our previous article here.

In short, three women were sitting at a table together at 2:40 AM when a man came up and tried to touch one of them (a woman dressed in white). After the woman made it clear that she did not want him to touch her, the situation turned violent within seconds.

All of the women ended up getting beaten and kicked by a group of men. The woman dressed in white was dragged outside, where security cameras captured her being severely assaulted by the men. Another woman who tried to help her also ended up being beaten. After the outburst of violence, the men fled the scene, leaving the injured woman lying on the street. A day later, a total of nine men were arrested for their involvement in the attack.

While the two women lie motionless on the pavement, the men stand around.

The ‘Tangshan Barcebecue Beating Incident’ sent shockwaves across the country and triggered discussions on gang crimes, the safety of women, and what people can do to protect themselves and others.

Many restaurants took steps to provide women reassurance that they were safe and some businesses put up warning signs that any form of violent or aggressive behavior would not be tolerated.

Tangshan authorities also took action against crime in the city, introducing operation ‘Thunderstorm’ (雷霆风暴) on June 12, a two-week campaign for which a team of police officers are mobilized and deployed throughout the city to ensure public safety and crackdown on gang crimes.

The Tangshan incident led to dozens of people publicly discussing and exposing gang-related crimes. The fact that at least five of the suspects had criminal records was a cause of anger among those who felt that they should not have been allowed to be out and about at all. One former victim of a man involved in the attack also spoke out. He said he recognized Chen Jizhi (陈继志) from the security footage and that he was locked inside the trunk of a car for ten hours by Chen a few years prior. A hashtag related to the story received over 300 million views on June 17th (#男子称曾被陈继志等殴打险被活埋#).

Other people exposed other gang-related crimes via social media, disclosing their real names and holding their own ID in their hand to make their statements more credible.

One of them was a woman by the name of Zhang, who claimed that she was held hostage in May of this year at the bar where she worked by a local gang and was forced to sign IOUs together with her colleagues. After escaping and reporting to the police, they allegedly did not show up until seven hours later when everyone was gone. This story heightened people’s suspicions regarding police corruption in Tangshan.

Another story that went viral this week is that of a local ‘cake shop boss,’ who also claimed to be a victim of a local gang that has been extorting him since July of 2021, going as far as violently smashing up his shop and closing his business. One news post about this matter received over 340,000 likes on Weibo.

 

Deafening Silence Surrounding Victims

 

In light of the Tangshan restaurant beating, it seems as if everyone has stepped forward to have their say over the past week. The city has come forward with its special action, local businesses have put up signs, the owner of the restaurant where the assault took place published a tearful video in which she said that she too was a victim, some suspects’ family members also spoke out and pleaded with the public not to let their children suffer cyberbullying, and then other locals have spoken out about gang-related violence in the city.

But what about the female victims of the June 10th violence themselves? No statements, no updates, no family coming forward – the silence surrounding the female victims has been attracting a lot of attention on Chinese social media these days.

Many Weibo users suggest that news about the victims is purposely withheld and that people are being silenced about how the women are actually doing.

Text image shared on Weibo. “Please provide details about the injuries of the four girls. Four, not two! Stop covering up your mouth!”

According to previous official media reports, two female victims had been sent to the hospital for treatment and were in stable condition. Two other women reportedly suffered minor injuries and were not hospitalized. No further updates have been given, although the hospital did deny recent rumors that one female victim had passed away (hashtag #医院否认唐山被打女子去世传言#, 190 million views on June 17).

Online calls are growing louder for a follow-up on the victims’ situation and a more detailed report on what actually happened at the Tangshan Barbecue Restaurant. There are many people who are wondering what happened outside the view of the security cameras.

The original footage shows that when the violence starts, a woman (dressed in black) stands up from the table to defend her friend: she hits the aggressive man at their table with a beer bottle. Once her friend (dressed in white) is dragged out of the restaurant, we do not see her come out after.

This is the moment the two women are standing up while their friend is being dragged out of the restaurant. The woman on the right (in black) does not come out later.

On social media, people are speculating about what might have happened to the girl dressed in black and about what occurred in an alley behind the restaurant.

Security footage that was recorded from another angle shows that after the moment when the original video that spread online ends (at the end the guys leave, the girl is left on the street), the incident still continues. One of the women can be seen running into an alley or street behind the restaurant, with the others following. The woman in white, who was dragged by her hair, also stands up and runs away in the same direction.

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“What happened in the back alley?” is a question that lingers online, along with multiple other questions relating to what went on after the original video footage ended that night. One Weibo post asking many of these questions received over 275,000 likes within a day.

Image allegedly showing the back alley where the incident possibly continued.

The hashtag “Follow-up to the Tangshan Beating of Women” (#唐山被打女生后续#) received over 210 million views on Weibo on June 17. “The entire nation is waiting for a follow-up,” one Weibo user wrote.

Meanwhile, various videos, images, and sound recordings are flooding Weibo, but nothing has been verified at this point regarding what might have happened in the alley behind the restaurant. “I don’t want to believe it’s real. But I don’t know what to believe anymore,” one commenter said.

On Friday night, Chinese media reported that 320 Weibo accounts had been shut down for spreading rumors about the Tangshan incident and its aftermath. The hashtag related to the news received over 580 million views on Friday (#发布唐山打人事件谣言320个微博账号被关闭#).

Underneath the post, many commenters wrote: “We just want to know if the girls are okay” and “We just want to know the truth.”

By Manya Koetse
with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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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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China Society

Who’s to Blame for Hangzhou Toddler’s Deadly Fall from 8th Floor Window?

Nanny was distracted by her phone, the open window was easily accessible; both factors played a role in the fatal fall of the Hangzhou child.

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A tragic incident that happened in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, has become a trending topic on Weibo this week.

On June 14, a 21-month-old girl in the city’s Gongshu District was left in an elevator by herself while her nanny was not paying attention. The elevator went up to the building’s 8th floor, where the toddler walked out and ended up falling from a window. The little girl unfortunately did not survive the fall.

The details surrounding this tragedy have triggered much discussion on social media, where a security camera footage from the elevator was posted by the girl’s father on June 25.

The video shows the girl and the nanny getting into the elevator together on the 15th floor at 20:04. While the elevator goes down, the nanny is seemingly distracted and watches her phone while the little girl is playing on her little pink scooter.

Nanny and Xiaotao get into elevator together, Xiaotao holding her pink scooter.

When the elevator arrives at the first floor, the nanny steps out and takes the pink scooter with her, probably assuming that the toddler is right behind her. But then the elevator doors close and the little girl is left behind alone in the elevator, which automatically goes up to the 8th floor.

Nanny is watching her phone.

The nanny grabs the scooter and exits the elevator, only noticing that the girl is left in the elevator when the doors are already closing.

The footage shows that the little girl, Xiaotao (小桃), is crying after she is locked inside the elevator. Once the elevator stops and opens on the 8th floor, she can be seen exiting and walking into the hallway.

According to Xiaotao’s father, he received a call from the nanny after 20.00 that night, saying that she could not find the little girl. The father was at home at their 3rd floor apartment that evening. His daughter and the nanny had gone to the apartment of Xiaotao’s grandparents, who live on the 15th floor of the same building.

Rushing out to search for his daughter, the father inspected every floor of the building. The nanny had reportedly first told him she thought Xiaotao might be on the 8th floor, but later she changed her story and said she might be on the first floor.

The father later stated he did not trust what the nanny was saying. She had only been working for the family for seven days, and they had agreed to pay her a monthly wage of 8000 yuan (US$1195) for her services.

After he knocked on their doors, some neighbors on the 8th floor told the father they had heard a child crying. Going outside in search of Xiaotao, the father eventually discovered her body lying on the 2nd floor terrace right below the window on the 8th floor.

The question of whether the nanny can be held legally responsible for the deadly incident is one that is being discussed on Weibo. Although the nanny has stated that she very much blames herself for what has happened, many people also think those overseeing the construction and property management of the building should be held accountable.

An image of the window in question shows that children can easily climb up to the windows and that there are no safety bars.

The window from which the 21-month-old girl fell.

“This is a major design fault by the developers,” one commenter writes: “It’s the developer who is the main culprit. The nanny is the second.”

One Weibo user from Shanghai writes: “This kind of property management is life-threatening for any young child. These high-rise buildings have a barbarous design. In the end, it’s a matter of architectural design in China that doesn’t take the protection of young children into consideration at all.”

Many others also agree that the building’s construction and property management is mainly responsible for the deadly accident: “The window has a serious safety problem, that comes first. Second comes the nanny, who was too careless.”

Recently, there have been multiple news stories about young children falling from windows across China. On June 19, an 8-year-old child fell from the 17th floor of an apartment building in Chenzhou, Hunan.

 

“One mistake, one human life, such huge consequences”

 

While the Hangzhou case is currently being investigated by local authorities, the toddler’s mother spoke out in the media on June 27th that she felt that before exploring the criminal liability of the property management, the nanny’s legal responsiblity should be looked into first.

The hashtag “Mother of Hangzhou Girl Who Fell Out of Building Speaks Out” (#杭州坠楼女童母亲发声#) received over 180 million views on Monday. Xiaotao’s mother openly wonders why it took the nanny a total of eight minutes before she called to say she could not find Xiaotao. She also accuses the nanny of lying about why she was watching her phone while she was in the elevator; the nanny had allegedly claimed that she had received a message from Xiaotao’s parents about running some errands, but the mother says such messages were never sent.

The problem of caregivers not paying attention to their children because they are more focused on their phone has become a trending topic on Chinese social media before. In 2017, the shocking footage of a woman playing on her phone while her 4-year-old son drowned in the pool just a few meters away from her sparked discussions on the dangers of being a ‘smartphone addict’ (低头族).

There are also many commenters on Weibo who think the nanny is the main culprit. One commenter (@DareGoos__) wrote: “She is a high-end nanny, looking after the child is her job. I am unmarried and childless, and even I know that you’re supposed to hold a child with you when you’re taking the elevator, isn’t this common knowledge among adults?”

“I am more careful with my cat than she is with this child,” one commenter wrote. “One mistake, one human life, such huge consequences,” another person said.

But many people do not agree, suggesting that the elevator doors automatically closed way too fast, and that checking one’s phone on an elevator is a normal thing to do.

Others reacting to the Hangzhou news also say the parents bear some responsibility for this tragedy in handing over the care of their young child to this nanny. “When my mother gave birth to me, she stopped working and made our family – taking care of me – her job. The mom and dad should follow their kid closely, especially if it’s just two years old,” one Weibo user (@李佑嘉的前女友) wrote.

“I feel so sorry for the child,” a typical comment said: “This totally could have been avoided.”

For some, the Hangzhou case brought back memories of another tragedy that took place in Hangzhou which also involved a nanny. In 2017, a mother and her three children died in a fire on the 18th floor of a luxurious high-rise building in Hangzhou. After the fire broke out in the early morning around 5.00, the mother saw the fire and then alerted the nanny, asking her to run and seek for help. The nanny, who escaped the fire and survived, later turned out to be responsible for starting the fire (read more 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.

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China and Covid19

The Curious Case of the Henan Bank Depositors and the Changing Health QR Codes

“It must be American hackers who did this, right?”, some Weibo commenters wrote in light of the miraculously changing Health Codes.

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Where can people turn to once their money seems to have gone up in flames? How could Health Codes randomly turn from green to red? And who will stand up for justice? These are the questions asked by Chinese netizens in the Henan bank depositors case that is making headlines this week.

This week, the story of a Henan banking scandal and depositors’ Health Codes suddenly turning red triggered online discussions in China and even made international headlines.

In between online deposit products, financial platforms, regional banks, and Health Code systems, the story is a bit messy. Here, we’ll explain the story and its latest developments.

 

DUPED DEPOSITORS

 

The story starts in April of this year when people discovered that they were unable to withdraw money they had invested in online deposit products offered by various smaller regional banks.

Some people had deposited money via the Baidu money app (Du Xiaoman Financial 度小满), others had used another third-party platform, intermediaries, or one of the mini-programs run by the banks themselves.

By early May, it had become clear that dozens of depositors who once thought they had invested their money wisely had actually been duped. Four of the banks involved are located in Henan province, namely: the Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank (禹州新民生村镇银行), Shangcai Huimin County Bank (上蔡惠民村镇银行), Zhecheng Huanghuai Community Bank (柘城黄淮村镇银行), and the Kaifeng New Oriental Country Bank (开封新东方村镇银行).

But there are also other smaller banks involved, including Guzhen Xinhuaihe Rural Bank (固镇新淮河村镇银行) and Yixian Xinhuaihe Rural Bank (黟县新淮河村镇银行) in Anhui.

As reported by South China Morning Post by late May, multiple customers had confirmed that they had not been able to withdraw funds either online or in person.

The sudden apparent closure of their withdrawal channels set off a wave of panic among depositors, who then protested in the provincial capital of Zhengzhou on May 23rd, demanding the return of their money.

Yang Huajun (杨华军), deputy director of the Henan branch of China’s Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), arrived at the scene of the protests and – speaking through a megaphone – promised the demonstrators that as long as their funds were “legally” deposited, they would be protected by law.

Many depositers, however, were unsure of whether or not their deposits were actually made in a “legal” way and what the definition of “legal” entailed in this case.

Over the past years, Chinese smaller rural banks have partnered with online platforms, often offering relatively high returns, in order to boost their deposit-reliant funding base.

In December of 2020, platforms Alipay, Du Xiaoman Financial, JD.com and Tencent Wealth Management all suspended the sale of online deposit products via their financial apps in light of heightened scrutiny from regulators concerning funds raised by unstable smaller lenders.

The smaller banks that are now at the center of the recent financial scandal then (illegally) reached out to their existing customers directly after December 2020 and convinced them to download the banks’ apps in order to deposit even more money.

One of the persons duped is Mr. Sun from Shenzhen. As reported by Sina Finance, it was in 2020 when Sun came across a seemingly attractive online saving product via the Du Xiaoman Financial app. Although Sun was not familiar with the banks in question, namely the Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank and Shangcai Huimin County Bank, he could not resist the deposit interest rate of 4.6%, which was much better than what the big banks were offering at the time.

In early 2021, Mr. Sun received a text message from Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank saying that although the financial products had been taken offline, users would still be able to deposit through the bank’s own online application. Mr. Sun ended up depositing his entire savings into the Henan-based rural bank, thousands of miles away from his own home.

And then, earlier this year, Sun came across the news that Henan New Wealth Group, the primary shareholder of all banks involved, was under investigation for fraudulous practices. When he opened up his online financial application, there was nothing to see but a notice that the system was under maintenance. Sun could no longer access his funds. Hundreds of other customers were seeing the same empty screens.

According to media reports, the current suspected scam case affects some 400,000 customers of seven local banks and involves a money sum of 40 billion yuan ($5,6 billion).

 

IN THE RED

 

As thousands of depositors have been fighting to recover their savings over the past two months, they were duped a second time earlier this week. Dozens of affected depositors claimed they had seen their Health Codes turn red without any logical reason on June 13 or June 14 – the day of a planned protest.

In China’s Covid era, the Health Code system has become a pivotal tool in the country’s battle to contain the spread of the virus. The Health Code system is embedded in various apps, most importantly in Wechat and Alipay, and uses various data to assess an individual’s exposure risk. There is not one unified national Health Code application; they are developed by different actors and their management is different across Chinese provinces and cities.

If there is no detected risk, an individual is assigned a Green QR Code and is allowed access into any venue or location where a QR code scan is mandatory. With a Yellow Code, you should stay home for a week, and Red Code means you are high risk and need to quarantine for 14 days – this severely limits your freedom to move around and travel.

On June 13th, many affected investors saw their Health Code turn red when arriving in Zhengzhou, where they were allegedly coming to retrieve their savings and protest the injustice they suffered. The QR code color change was unexpected and strange, considering that there were no new reported Covid cases in their vicinity and also considering the fact that accompanying family members who made the exact same journey did not see their Health Codes change.

This raised suspicions that the duped depositors were specifically targeted, and that their Health Codes were being manipulated by authorities.

CNN reported that many distributors who had come to Zhengzhou were taken to a guarded quarantine hotel before being sent back to their hometowns via train the next day. According to a Chinese media report by Nanfang Daily, the depositors were not even asked to do nucleic acid testing and were told by local staff that they would get their Green Code back as soon as they left Henan.

Various media report that minimally 200 depositors saw their Health Code change from Green to Red earlier this week.

 

“OPERATION CODE RED”

 

The curious case of the Henan depositors scandal and the changing Health Code colors has become a trending topic on Chinese social media this week.

The topic of the duped depositors was also discussed online before this week, and it brought back memories of earlier financial scandals, such as the P2P chaos that occurred back in 2018.

But the topic of depositors’ Health Codes changing to Red is something that attracted much wider discussions on the apparent abuse of a system that has now become a part of everyday life for people in China’s Covid era.

The main proof for people that the Henan depositors were targeted in this apparent “Operation Code Red” is that, as mentioned before, the family members that were traveling together with the duped depositors never saw a change in their Health Code: those people who were listed on the affected regional banks’ depositors list were seemingly singled out and purposely targeted.

“Who is in charge of changing the Health Code colors?” became a much-asked question on Weibo, with many blaming local Henan authorities for abusing their powers to try and stop protesters from raising their voices in Zhengzhou. One Weibo post on this issue received over 1,6 million views. Meanwhile, Henan authorities still said they did “not understand” what had happened.

“It must be American hackers who did this, right?”, some Weibo commenters wrote, putting in a sarcastically smiling emoji, with others adding: “No, the aliens did this – it must have been the aliens!”

Others wrote that the situation at hand should be simple to figure out: “There is no way that this is an oversight or a data error. If you want to know who did this, look at who or which department has the authority to manage both epidemic prevention measures as well as finance affairs.”

Many comments also showed a sense of disillusionment with how China’s Covid management affects the people: “After seeing the chaos during the Shanghai lockdown, this does not even surprise me anymore,” one person wrote on Weibo: “All we can do is pray that it won’t happen to us.”

“Why is Henan’s “messy Red Code” incident so extremely vile and scary? Because once a person or institution holding public power looks at you in a bad light, they can give you a Red Code and take you away, in the name of legality. This is the evil that comes from unmonitored power,” one blogger from Anhui wrote.

Other people also worried about foreign media reporting on this issue, saying this incident is being used to cast China in a bad light while local authorities are to blame: “We should unify the Health Code system into a national system in order to avoid this from happening again.”

According to Chinese state media reports, the case has now been forwarded to the Health Commission of Henan Province for further investigation.

We will keep tracking upcoming developments. Meanwhile, check out our other reports on trending topics relating to China’s banking and finance here. For more about Covid-related trending topics, check here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Image via Weibo

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

References (all other sources included in hyperlinks)

Lee, Amanda. 2022. “Rural Banks Freeze Customers’ Accounts.” South China Morning Post, May 31.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

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

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