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Uncovering the Secrets of Shanghai’s Red Mansion

The harrowing story behind the dilapidated Shanghai ‘Little Red Mansion’ has gone viral on Chinese social media.

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Chinese underworld kingpin Zhao Fuqiang turned his Shanghai “Little Red Mansion” into a hell on earth for dozens of women who were forced into a life of sex work within his organized crime network. The story has now gone viral on Chinese social media.

At number 632 on the intersection of Xuchang Road (许昌路) and Huimin Road (惠民路) in Shanghai’s Yangpu District, there is a six-story building that is locally known as the ‘Little Red Mansion.’

The Red Mansion has everything to do with Zhao Fuqiang (赵富强), a man who made headlines in September of 2020 when he appeared before a Shanghai court in relation to gang-related crimes.

Zhao Fuqiang and 37 other defendants were found guilty of leading and participating in organized crime, rape, prostitution, fraud, bribery and corruption. The court found that Zhao had been active as a criminal underworld leader since 2004. During this time, he recruited women and forced them to engage in prostitution for his organization.

The Shanghai Second Intermediate Court gave Zhao the death penalty, while the other 37 defendants were given various sentences, ranging from 30 months to 20 years of imprisonment. One higher government official in Yangpu District by the name of Lu Yan (卢焱) was sentenced to 17 years in prison for taking bribes and serving as an umbrella for Zhao and other criminals.

Zhao Fuqiang

Zhao was the owner of the Red Mansion. Throughout the years, Zhao, who is originally from Taixing in Jiangsu, was able to earn a fortune through his large and powerful business and government network. He ventured into the restaurant industry with his Huichi Huihe (汇吃汇喝) company and ran businesses in Shanghai, Beijing, and Taixing.

The Red Mansion case went trending on Chinese social media this week after China Business Journal (中国经营报) published about it on December 3rd. One article is titled “Uncovering the Secrets of the ‘Little Red House’ – Its Inside Story Is Unimaginable” (“‘小红楼’秘闻被揭开 内情令人难以想象“). The other in-depth article by reporter Cheng Wei (程维) is titled “Exploring the ‘Red House’ in Shanghai” (“探秘上海”红楼”“).

Cheng’s article is a detailed description of the building and its layout, with many photos showing the extravagant rooms and peculiar layout design. Although the reporter gives enough information for readers to get a hint of what was going on in the building before 2020, the other article gives more insights on what actually took place there.

The original title of that article was “In 19 Years, He Turned the Dilapidated “Little Red House” Into Hell on Earth for Victimized Women” (“19年时间他将一座破旧的“小红楼”,打造成迫害女性的无间地狱”). It was published on December 1st by 10PM Reading (@10点阅读) on the Netease news platform, but has since been deleted, although it is still available on some other platforms.

 

From ‘Hairsalon’ to Mansion

 

The main article explains how Zhao Fuqiang, originally a small-town tailor, first arrived in Shanghai in 2000 in search of the big money and that he became active within the world of organized prostitution. His own wife, who studied dance, allegedly first became a prostitute before he recruited a bigger group of young female migrant workers through his wife’s network.

The author claims that Zhao used threats and physical violence to get these young, rural women to work for him. After being raped, beaten, and scared into thinking that nude photos of them would be sent to family and friends, these women ended up having sex for money in one of Zhao’s two newly established Shanghai ‘hair salons,’ where men would pay 150 yuan ($23) per visit. The women would never see a dime of the money they earned for Zhao.

With the money Zhao earned through his ‘hair salon’ business, he ventured out into the world of subletting shops in the city. Through the help of his dubious yet powerful network, Zhao got his hands on over 1000 shops which he was able to sublet without ever making a big investment. In a timeframe of nearly two decades, Zhao probably made around one billion yuan ($156 million) from this.

Since his business was anything but legal, Zhao needed a safety net to protect him. Higher officials and big business figures could not be seen visiting one of his ‘hair salons,’ so he needed a more secure place to welcome his guests.

At the six-story so-called Little Red Mansion in Shanghai’s Yangpu district, Zhao would invite high-level governmental and business people. The security cameras within the building recorded them, potentially serving as blackmail material.

The place that once was the ‘Red Mansion.’

The article tells the story of one of the girls who was recruited to work at the Red Mansion. Chen Qian (陈倩) was a fresh graduate, studied in the U.S., and she first came to Zhao after seeing an appealing recruitment ad in the media that offered a high salary for a job at Zhao’s restaurant company.

After it became clear to Chen that her job would actually involve having sex with Zhao’s clients, there was no way for her to escape in a heavily secured environment. When the young woman finally had an opportunity to leave the premises to go to a bank in 2017, she asked the staff to alert the police to tell them about her situation and that of the other women who were held captive as sex slaves by Zhao.

It did not end well for Chen, since the police doubted her story. Zhao, who brought Chen’s mother to the police station, was able to convince the local authorities that it was just a matter of domestic dispute, and Chen was later put on house arrest without access to her phone, and she was beaten for her attempted escape.

To make matters worse, Zhao had also thought of an additional way to exploit the women he controlled: egg donation. Chen was one of the women who reportedly was forced to have a surgical procedure to sell her eggs to (illegal) fertility agencies in order for Zhao to make more money.

In Chen’s case, the procedures for egg retrieval at the clinic caused an abnormal build-up of fluid in the abdomen, and she eventually became infertile because of it.

 

The Red House Prison

 

A dance teacher by the name of Cui Qian (崔茜) was another victim of Zhao. Like Chen, she was also forced to donate her eggs, leaving her depressed and anxious. Having a Shanghai household registration, she was eventually forced to marry Zhao in order for him to officially become a Shanghai resident.

Women like Cui and Chen were not just imprisoned by the actual walls of the Red Mansion; Zhao made sure that their social circumstances would make it virtually impossible for them to leave by also recruiting their family members as helpers or cleaning staff. The Red House was not just where they all worked, it was all where they all lived.

When Cui filed for divorce in 2019, and again filing a report against Zhao for rape – an earlier report in 2018 was ignored by authorities – things finally started rolling. In front of the court, Cui Qian told about Zhao’s practices of bribery and forced prostitution, along with naming a number of people within higher-level positions as accomplices.

Cui’s actions led to Zhao’s downfall. Later that year, in 2019, he would finally be arrested after nearly two decades of running his illegal businesses.

However, the tragedy does not end with Zhao’s arrest. Besides the trauma experienced by his victims, the women in the Red House also gave birth to babies who allegedly were left without official registration, making it impossible for them to attend school or receive healthcare.

 

Exploring the Mansion

 

In the article by reporter Cheng Wei, we can see what the Red Mansion looked like after it was abandoned in 2019.

The author describes how the building, which once was a hotel and a teahouse, was somewhat of a mystery to locals, who had no idea what was going on there.

The Red Mansion after its closure in 2019.

The reporter describes how the first few floors of the building were basically all storage rooms, while some floors (such as 2nd floor) also had beds and rooms which looked like migrant workers’ lodging.

The building’s fifth floor had some basic guests rooms, some more luxurious than the others, just like any regular Shanghai hotel.

The sixth floor is the building’s most luxurious one, where the reporter saw upscale guest suites and a reception hall that one would expect to see in a palace.

Some of the rooms even had iPhone and iPad boxes and manuals in the bedside drawers, suggesting that guests would even find these kinds of complementary devices in their rooms besides the lavish bathrooms and closets filled with lingerie.

One of the rooms in the abandoned building, image by Cheng Wei.

The sixth floor was also home to the so-called “Fourteen Beauties Suite,” the largest room with seven bunk-beds, accessible through a hidden door (which looks like a regular mirror).

The mirror in this room is actually a door. From the other side, there’s also a concealed door leading to a closet which then leads to the women’s dorm. Photo by Cheng Wei.

On the same floor, there is also a dressing room and bathroom with enough space for up to 4-7 people.

According to the reporter, all closets in the suites have women’s clothings, from lingerie to role playing outfits and stockings.

The main rooms and corridors are equipped with digital combination door locks, so that people can’t enter any floor or room without knowing the required codes.

Besides discovering concealed doors, the reporter also found some left-behind documents, including time schedules for women’s training classes (dancing, performance) and books relating to female self-cultivation and etiquette.

 

Online Anger

 

On Weibo, the Red Mansion story has blown up and is also being censored. The hashtags used by China Business Journal in its post have also been taken offline. Meanwhile, hundreds of netizens are still putting together the pieces on what happened at the Red Mansion.

“I’m reading and screenshotting at the same time,” one Weibo user writes:

“I initially just thought this obviously was a prostitution case, but then I came to find out it was not just that..There are too many questions about officials shielding one another, the social grievances, and so on. Thinking your back was leaning against a big tree, only to find out it actually is a man-eating tiger. I’m slowly starting to understand what it means to speak out. This issue will probably be forgotten once again within a short while, but the memories of one person are also the memories of millions!”

“How many Red Mansions are there out there?” some other commenters wonder,with others writing: “How on earth is it possible that this place was able to exist for such a long time?!”

Many people are angered because Zhao allegedly was able to continue for so long through the help of people working for local authorities.

Others are also angry because the topic is being censored online, saying that the women who were victimized by Zhao are being silenced once again.

“When I first read this, I thought it was something that happened long ago,” one commenter writes: “But this is all so recent!” Others also write that they are shocked that this could happen in downtown Shanghai right in front of everyone, without anyone knowing.

Although many say that Zhao deserves nothing but the death penalty, which he already was given, they also call for more transparency regarding the local authorities who made it possible for him to run his ‘business’ for nearly two decades.

“These people can’t be punished enough,” some say.

“This is just too dark,” another Weibo user writes, suggesting that some of the secrets behind the ‘Little Red Mansion’ might just be too dark to ever come to light.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

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.

©2021 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 and Covid19

‘Little Sheep People’: The Stigmatization of Covid Patients in China

Has testing negative or positive for Covid become a matter of ‘good’ versus ‘evil’?

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As many people face Covid-related discrimination in China after testing positive, social media users are now speaking out against popular (online) language that refers to Covid patients as ‘sheep,’ saying the way people talk about the virus is worsening existing stigmatization.

As Shanghai is entering its sixth week of citywide Covid lockdowns, there have been over 60,000 confirmed cases of Covid, and more than 52,000 people have recovered. Meanwhile, other cities in China, including Beijing and Zhengzhou, are also seeing Covid cases rise.

Everyone who tests positive for Covid in China currently needs to go to a centralized quarantine location to ‘recover,’ even if they have no symptoms. Covid-19 patients are not allowed to isolate at home due to the risk of spreading the virus or developing severe illness.

Patients who have been discharged from quarantine locations do not always receive a warm welcome upon returning back to their community. They need to test negative for Covid twice in a row before being discharged, but then often face discrimination from neighbors or family members who fear they might still carry the virus.

In online conversations, people who have tested positive for Covid are also referred to as “little positive people” (小阳人). But because the Chinese (Mandarin) word for ‘positive’ (yáng 阳) has the same pronunciation as the word for ‘sheep’ (yáng 羊), the meaning has come to shift, going from ‘little positive people’ to ‘little sheep persons’ (小羊人).

Gradually, Covid patients have also started to be labeled as “two-legged sheep” (liǎngjiǎoyáng 两脚羊), with male patients sometimes referred to as rams (gōngyáng 公羊) and female patients as ewes (mǔyáng 母羊). On social media, netizens also simply use the emoticon for a sheep (🐑) to refer to Covid-positive people.

 

“Stop calling Covid patients ‘little sheep’!”

 

A recent WeChat article by the health and medical platform Dxy.com describes the trend of referring to Covid patients as ‘little sheep’ stigmatizing and disrespectful, calling on people to stop labeling (recovered) Covid patients like this (DXY 2022).

The article suggests it is harmful to discriminate against Covid patients, comparing the language that is being used to describe Covid patients to how people affected by leprosy have suffered stigma and discrimination throughout history.

Using the hashtag “Stop Calling Covid Patients ‘Little Sheep [Positive] People'” (#别再叫新冠患者小阳人了#), Weibo users are discussing the stigmatization of people with Covid, with many agreeing that the language used to talk about Covid patients needs to change.

“This is no different than when other countries talked about the ‘Wuhan virus’ at the start of the pandemic,” one commenter wrote. “I always felt puzzled when people would use ‘sheep’ to talk about infected people, it’s so disrespectful,” another person replied. “People are people, with feelings and dignity, it’s just inhumane to refer to them as ‘two-legged sheep.'”

In April, another online article – including a conversation with a Shanghai Disease Control and Prevention doctor – also pointed out the problem of Chinese Covid patients being stigmatized. Popular science author Wang Jie (汪诘), who is based in Shanghai, wrote that the misunderstanding and panic about the virus are actually more frightening than Covid itself and that the disdain for Covid patients is most harmful to them.

The article was controversial and ended up being taken offline from Wechat, mainly because Wang Jie stressed that in the midst of China’s zero-Covid policy and the Shanghai outbreak, the ‘cure’ against the wave of Covid infections seemed to be worse than the virus itself. In doing so, Wang also addressed that the way Covid patients are being treated is often based on fear and panic rather than science.

All of the panic surrounding the virus has placed those who are positive or even recovered under scrutiny. China’s low infection rates have also made persons who have tested positive for Covid an anomaly to many, and there is the simple fear the virus might be transmitted to them or their loved ones – a risk that would affect their family and might even have consequences for the entire community they live in.

In early stages of a local outbreak, some of the people who were among the first to test positive were also referred to as ‘spreaders’ (放毒). In many cases, their contact tracing records were made public to inform residents, leading to the entire country knowing a person’s recent whereabouts (in one case, this exposed the tragic story of a Beijing migrant).

 

“When did testing positive become a social problem, and not just a medical one?”

 

Despite using different vocabulary, Chinese state media reports on how to deal with discharged patients perhaps also do not help in fighting the Covid stigma. In April, Shanghai Daily reminded people that recovered Covid-19 patients won’t infect others after returning home, but at the same time, it also suggested that recovered patients should live in well-ventilated rooms alone and avoid close contact and meals with their family members, while also reducing contact with other residents in the community (Yang 20220).

The official guidelines for recovered Covid patients in Shanghai require seven-day home health testing (check temperature twice a day, another nucleic acid test on the seventh day), and also prescribe people to stay isolated at home in a room by themselves and keeping a safe distance from others.

“I talked to my neighbor who came back from the quarantine hospital. He said he felt that people were avoiding him, that he was discriminated against and getting stared at. He worried about how this might mentally hurt his daughter, afraid that others wouldn’t play with her anymore,” one Weibo commenter named ‘Walexandraw’ shared.

Another social media user nicknamed ‘Love is Torture’ wrote that the community where they lived did not allow them back in after returning from the quarantine facility, forcing them to stay at their company’s dormitory instead: “So what use is the government proof of recovery? Is it nothing but a piece of paper? I have a home I can’t return to, is this the correct way to handle things?!”

Recently, a photo showing a drawing on the back of the hazmat suit of an anti-epidemic worker also triggered some controversy online. The drawing shows a black and a white figure, and underneath it says “grabbing sheep” (捉羊).

The picture is based on Heibai Wuchang (黑白无常), two Chinese folk religion deities – the Black and White Guard, sometimes represented as one single person – in charge of escorting spirits of the dead to the underworld. Persons doing good will meet the deity of fortune, while persons committing evil will meet the malevolent deity (Eng 2019).

Many people condemned the drawing for the message it conveyed of wrong versus right, with the ‘sheep’ testing positive for Covid going to ‘hell.’ Some mentioned that this kind of objectification of people could contribute to a Lucifer effect where anti-epidemic workers actually start to internalize ideas about the people they are testing in terms of ‘grabbing sheep’ and ‘good versus evil.’

“This person is objectifying patients by referring to them as ‘sheep’ and using the Heibai Wuchang drawing along with it, really making people uncomfortable,” one person wrote, with another Weibo user commenting:

“Since when do you have to feel inferior and guilty about it all being your own fault if you get the virus? When did testing positive become a social problem, and not just a medical one? Why not give positive patients a respectful name instead of a wrong one like ‘little sheep person’?”

Weibo blogger ‘Directube’ also posted another digital art work highlighting this idea of medical workers fighting against the evil of Covid.

“Is this 2022 or 1822?” one person wondered.

Despite all the online calls to change the popular language related to Covid (“language is a tool for thought and shapes what we think all the time), there are also many netizens who find the nicknames funny and innocent, and continue to call Covid patients ‘little sheep’ and other related terms.

“I just thought the term was cute,” one person writes, with another netizen complaining: “We have another little sheep in the community – we’re in lockdown again.”

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

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:

References

DXY.com. 2022. “别再叫新冠患者「小阳人」了 [“Don’t Call Covid Patients Little Sheep]” (In Chinese). Dingxiang Yisheng 丁香医生 WeChat Account, May 6 https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/XbqZpi0PlP55RFe8RLV_1g [May 7 2022].

Eng, Khoo Boo. 2019. Understanding Chinese Culture in Relation to Tao. Singapore: Partridge Publishing.

Yang, Jian. 2022. “11,000 Patients Discharged after Recovery.” Shanghai Daily 23 (7496), April 11.

Wang Jie 汪诘. 2022. “比新冠病毒更可怕的,是对病毒的误解和恐慌 [What Is More Frightening Than the Novel Coronavirus Is the Misunderstanding and Panic about the Virus]” (In Chinese). Sohu.com, April 3 https://www.sohu.com/a/535112126_120083328 [May 7 2022].

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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China and Covid19

Chinese Netizens Respond to ‘Uplifting’ Covid News: “We’re Not That Dumb”

A viral WeChat blog criticizes Chinese journalists for ‘dumbing down’ and exaggerating Shanghai Covid news.

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Weibo commenters say they do not know “whether to laugh or to cry” about some state media news items that are desperately trying to turn news about Shanghai’s Covid situation into something ‘uplifting.’

This week, a WeChat article criticizing ‘uplifting’ news about Shanghai’s Covid situation has been making its rounds on Chinese social media.

“Sometimes, I really doubt the intelligence of some institutionalized journalists, I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry about it,” the author (大松子哟) of the Wechat article titled “Please Guys, Give Us Less Retarded News” (“求求你们了,少整点弱智新闻吧“) writes.

One of the recent news stories that is mentioned as an example of Shanghai blowing its own horn while also dumbing down news readers, is that of state media outlet Xinhua News about a drone flying over the Huangpu River to deliver priority life-saving medication to a cancer patient.

According to the state media report, the Shanghai local Committee of the Communist Youth League in Xuhui District received a help inquiry on April 27th from an elderly patient with advanced liver cancer who needed their emergency medicine from Shanghai’s Pudong District.

With the help of the fire and emergency department, the Committee immediately arranged for two drones to go on a mission over the Huangpu River to pick up and deliver the medicine, a journey of about 20 kilometers. The mission was reportedly accomplished in thirty minutes and the entire ordeal was filmed by the second drone for a Xinhua video.

“Such positivity,” one popular blogger wrote: “But what about just putting these medications in a car for transportation – they won’t go bad, and there are no traffic jams in Shanghai now. Transportation by car is a bit safer than flying them over the Huangpu river don’t you think?”

Another Weibo user wrote: “Shanghai bridges aren’t bombed, are they? The tunnels aren’t blocked, are they? Couldn’t the firemen just drive a car and deliver the medicine?” The idea that the two drones needed to fly out because the bridges and tunnels were bombed or blocked then became somewhat of a running joke on Weibo.

“This is all just to fit the propaganda messages, did you think people are stupid or something?” others wrote, with many commenters repeating the sentence: “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about it.”

“I’m laughing so hard over this, all this trouble with a drone delivering medication and then another drone following it to film it, they’re making things so difficult.”

Following online criticism, a hashtag page related to the news was temporarily disabled and later only eight comments praising the video were displayed below the Xinhua thread, which actually received nearly 5000 replies.

 

Grateful Sick Man in Wheelchair

 

Another example raised is a news story about an elderly sick man with an amputated leg living on the fourth floor of an apartment building (without elevators) who had to go downstairs for a mandatory Covid test. Unable to leave his apartment by himself, the old man was helped by five anti-epidemic workers who carried him all the way down in his wheelchair.

According to the original news report, the old man was moved and thanked the workers for helping him get downstairs.

“Wouldn’t it have been easier to bring the test upstairs?” many people wondered. “Wasn’t the news editor a bit entertained about this news himself?”

Others also wondered how and if the man in the wheelchair ever got back to his fourth-floor apartment again.

“So you think it’s not a good idea for one person to go to the house to do the nucleic acid test, but you do think it looks good for five people to carry the old man down with a wheelchair and take pictures of it?” the WeChat article author wrote: “And he was moved and actually thanked you? Are you sure he didn’t call you idiots?”

The blogger also wrote: “I understand the goal of these kinds of articles is to express positivity and to convey a feeling of urgency that ‘every second counts,’ but could you please also take our IQ into considering when setting the atmosphere?”

Adding: “I once heard a story as a kid about an Arab who had won a camel at a competition. When he got home, he wanted to slaughter the camel but discovered his knife was on the third floor, so he asked three of his neighbors to help him get the camel up to the third floor…” I always thought this story was just fabricated, but now I’ve come to realize I was just too naive.”

 

A Life or Death Mission

 

Another news story mentioned was originally published by Jiefang Daily (解放日报), the official daily newspaper of the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. It is a personal narrative of a Shanghai official who is going back to work ‘in the field’ for the first time in a decade.

This is how the story begins:

“On the evening of April 12, close to 10pm, I received a call from my unit that I would be part of a team of ten people as the first batch of cadres to get into the village. Actually, I felt afraid, I didn’t know what the situation would be like in the place where we were heading. What challenges would we face? Also, I have two sons in junior high school, I always help them in their schoolwork, I worried their studies would be delayed.”

“I told my sons to go up to the attic to get the biggest suitcase. They were stupefied, asking me: ‘Mum, how long will you be gone for? Why do you need such a big suitcase?’ I told them: ‘You can never be over-prepared. I don’t exactly know how long.’ I could see the panic in their eyes.”

“The next day, when my sons carried my luggage to the car, I turned around and hugged them both. I had never been so sad to part with them, and tears started welling up in my eyes. I held myself back and told myself: ‘You can’t cry, you need to be a good role model for your sons, when facing a catastrophe someone must stand up and bravely step forward. Besides, I’m not the one who is suffering the most – if others can do it, so can I.”

The WeChat blogger responds to the news article, writing: “I first thought the protagonist was leaving their family to go abroad for some secret all or nothing mission, moving heaven and heart, between life and death,.. but then I read on and, oh, my dear, it turns out to be an official who’s going to work at a neighborhood committee!”

The author criticizes the article for presenting the work of a local cadre at a neighborhood committee – doing simple work such as scanning QR codes and collecting PCR tests – as some life or death mission.

“Where does this kind of ‘self-moving’ [‘自我感动’, like stroking one’s own ego] come from? Isn’t it embarrassing?”

Meanwhile, on Weibo, the banter continues: “I remember someone saying that the person in charge of the Shanghai propaganda line came back from North Korea.”

This is not the first time that this kind of ‘positive’ reporting in times of Covid is deemed out of place and exaggerated.

In February 2020, Chinese media reports praised female nurses as true heroes for having their heads shaved before going to Wuhan to help in the fight against Covid-19. The reports and videos showed some women crying while having their hair completely shaved, and the media segment caused anger among Weibo and Wechat users who thought it was all about propaganda.

Gansu Daily report on women having their head shaved in preparation of their Wuhan mission, February 2020.

Many wondered why the women needed to shave off all of their hair while male nurses could keep their hair. Some experts chiming in claimed that having a bald head would not be helpful in the fight against the virus, as (short) hair also has a protective function, reduces irritation from wearing hats and masks, and prevents sweat from dropping into the eyes.

More recently, a CCTV video report on the situation in Shanghai went viral on WeChat after people thought the part showing a supposed Shanghai supermarket was “too fake,” with many suggesting it was filmed inside a film studio instead of inside an actual Shanghai supermarket in times of lockdown and grocery problems.

Afterward, a video made by social media users edited a Joker Xue song into the state media video, in which he sings about a relationship in which one person is faking it and the other just plays along and pretends not to notice for the sake of their relationship.

Official media then reported that the supermarket scenes were “authentic.” The very fact that state media outlets apparently felt the need to convince netizens that the state news program was legitimate, instead of being staged as some netizens suspected, says a lot about the current relationship between state media and Chinese netizens amid tensions surrounding the situation in Shanghai.

“These kind of news reports are an insult to my brain,” one commenter wrote.

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

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:

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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