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Weibo Netizens Show Support for Shanghai Restaurant Harassed By Muslim “Noodle Gang”

What was supposed to be a celebratory opening of a new Hui noodle restaurant in Shanghai turned into a weeklong nightmare as a local “noodle gang” (拉面帮) harassed the owner and threatened him to close his business. Chinese netizens played an important role in supporting the restaurant to continue its business.

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What was supposed to be a celebratory opening of a new Hui noodle restaurant in Shanghai, turned into a weeklong nightmare as a local “noodle gang” (拉面帮) harassed the owner and threatened him to close his business. Chinese netizens played an important role in supporting the restaurant to continue its business.

On July 1st, halal restaurant Alilan Beef Noodles (阿里兰牛肉面) opened its doors on Shanghai’s famous East Nanjing Road. What was supposed to be a celebratory first day turned into a nightmare when more than 100 angry people, allegedly from the Hui ethnic group, surrounded the restaurant and blocked customers from coming in while threatening the staff. The Hui people are a predominantly muslim ethnic group in China.

In an interview published on video platform Miaopai, Alilan owner Xian Guolin, a Hui muslim himself, stated that he was offered 300,000 RMB (±45,000$) to close his business – a small amount compared to the 1,5 million RMB (±224,700$) he invested in it.

Restaurant owner Xian.

Restaurant owner Xian Guolin.

The people who harassed him claimed to be muslim representatives of Shanghai’s beef noodle shops and demanded the owner to leave. According to owner Xian, he was told that his own life and that of his family would be in danger if he would not close his business.

As reported by Sixth Tone, the people told him he needed to shut down his business because it allegedly violated the so-called “Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia treaty”, which claims that there should be no other beef noodles restaurant within 400 meters of a Hui muslim restaurant.

The ‘agreement’, that alleges to promote a “harmonious and stable” noodle market, states that those who do not abide by the rules will have to face the consequences and accept any financial losses. The document also states it is meant to protect ‘ethnic solidarity’.

The noodle agreement is highly controversial as it does not have any legal standing, with some calling it “ridiculous”. A similar conflict erupted in the south of China last summer when Lanzhou beef noodles where at the center of a huge noodle war also evolving around a local noodle contract.

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In the weeks following the opening of Alilan, the group of people remained to stand in front of the restaurant. According to the owner, this caused a daily loss of around 4500 RMB (±670 US$) to his business.

The topic became popular on Chinese social media under the hashtag of “Beef Noodle Gate” (#拉面风云) as owner Xian (@阿里兰牛肉面) shared the turbulence with his followers. It soon attracted 400 million views and 90,000 discussions on Sina Weibo.

With people like Weibo VIP user and editor Hey-Xiaodiao (@嗨-小刁) closely following the event and writing about it, the affair became a social media hype that resulted in many Shanghai residents showing their support for Alilan by dining there despite the presence of the noodle gang.

Diners at Alilan despite of the noodle gang standing outside (from @阿里兰牛肉面, posted on Weibo on 16th July).

Diners at Alilan despite of the noodle gang standing outside (from @阿里兰牛肉面, posted on Weibo on 16th July).

The Alilan restaurant kept its followers up to date on recent developments through its official Weibo account. On July 18, they posted the following pictures, writing: “They were chased away by the police today but then came back during the night with over 40 persons. There were netizens who confronted them while smoking. Because smoking is not allowed according to Islamic religion, this then led to an argument between them, and all our customers were also driven away.”

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Large numbers of Weibo netizens offered their support to Alilan and rejected the noodle gang for their actions. Many Weibo users also expressed their worry that such a thing could happen in one of China’s most famous city centers: “Is this Shanghai or is this Islam territory?!”

But over the past few days, netizens’ help seemed to bring an end to the blockade, as one diner wrote on July 22: “No more people standing in front of the door, and 50% discount thanks to netizens’ support”, and: “Business is quite good. Many things are sold out. Support Alilan and oppose white hats!” (‘White hats’ refers to Hui Muslims, who usually wear the taqiyah white cap for religious purposes.)

“Come over, food is good,” others wrote, posting pictures of the noodles and themselves having dinner at the restaurant.

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The Alilan restaurant thanked Chinese netizens for their overwhelming support through Weibo, and shared that it even had supporters coming from as far as Nanjing and Hangzhou to have dinner at their restaurant.

Although the Alilan owner and staff expressed their joy and gratefulness, many netizens were not satisfied with how the affair was handled as the actions of the “noodle gang” went unpunished.

“The ‘noodle gang’ has won”, one Weibo user (@霜叶不活跃) writes: “This shows all noodle gangs around the country that even if they cause huge problems in cities like Shanghai against their fellow ethnic minorities, they will not be punished for it. If they succeed, they earn loads of money, if they fail, they just need to walk away and find another victim. Nothing serious.”

Other netizens stressed that everyone should be equal before the law , and that there should be no excemptions made for conflicts taking place within ethnic or religious groups: “The Alilan issue seems be to a conflict among muslims (“穆斯林内部冲突“), but if you look at it from another side, it is also a collision and compromise between Han Chinese and muslims, and a manifestation of a culture clash between our national ethnic groups”, writes one netizen.

For now, the Alilan restaurant is seemingly doing good business as many netizens point out its tasty dishes and ignore the negativity of the past few weeks. “We will resist all people who attempt to dominate the market under the flag of religion,” one Weibo user writes.

“I congratulate Alilan noodles,” one netizen writes: “You have now become a famous Shanghai brand.”

-By Diandian Guo and Manya Koetse

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

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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China Brands & Marketing

The Price is Not Right: Corn Controversy Takes over Chinese Social Media

It’s corn! The “6 yuan corn” debate just keeps going.

Manya Koetse

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Recently there have been fierce discussions on Chinese social media about the price of corn after e-commerce platform Oriental Selection (东方甄选) started selling ears of corn for 6 yuan ($0.80) per piece.

The controversy caught the public’s attention when the famous Kuaishou livestreamer Simba (辛巴, real name Xin Youzhi), who has labeled himself as a ‘farmer’s son,’ criticized Oriental Selection for their corn prices.

Founded in 2021, Oriental Selection is an agricultural products e-commerce platform under New Oriental Online. In its company mission statement, Oriental Selection says its intention is to “help farmers” by providing the channels to sell their high-quality agricultural goods to online consumers.

Simba suggested that Oriental Selection was being deceitful by promising to help farmers while selling their corn for a relatively high price. According to Simba, they were just scamming ordinary people by selling an ear of corn that is worth 0.70 yuan ($0.10) for 6 yuan ($0.80), and also not really helping the farmers while taking 40% of their profits.

‘Sales king’ Xin Youzhi, aka Simba, was the one who started the current corn controversy.

During one of the following livestreams, Oriental Selection’s host Dong Yuhui (董宇辉) – who also happens to be a farmer’s son – responded to the remarks and said there was a valid reason for their corn to be priced “on the high side.” Simba was talking about corn in general, including the kind being fed to animals, while this is high-quality corn that is already worth 2 yuan ($0.30) the moment it is harvested.

Despite the explanation, the issue only triggered more discussions on the right price for corn and about the fuzzy structure of the agricultural e-commerce livestreaming business.

Is it really too expensive to sell corn for 6 yuan via livestreaming?

The corn supplier, the Chinese ‘Northeast Peasant Madame’ brand (东北农嫂), is actually selling their own product for 3.6 yuan ($0.50) – is that an honest price? What amount of that price actually goes to the farmers themselves?

‘Northeast Peasant Madame’ brand (东北农嫂).

One person responding to this issue via her Tiktok channel is the young farmer Liu Meina (刘美娜), who explained that Simba’s suggested “0.70 yuan per corn” was simply unrealistic, saying since it does not take the entire production process into account, including maintenance, packaging, transportation, and delivery.

Another factor mentioned by netizens is the entertainment value added to e-commerce by livestreaming channels. Earlier this year, Oriental Selection’s host Dong Yuhui and his colleagues became an online hit for adding an educational component to their livestreaming sessions.

These hosts were actually previously teachers at New Oriental. Facing a crackdown on China’s after-school tutoring, the company ventured into different business industries and let these former teachers go online to sell anything from peaches to shrimp via livestreaming, teaching some English while doing so (read more here). So this additional value of livestream hosts entertaining and educating their viewers should also be taken into account when debating the price of corn. Some call it “Dong Yuhui Premium” (“董宇辉溢价”).

Dong Yuhui (董宇辉) is one of the livestreamers that have turned New Oriental’s e-commerce into a viral hit.

In light of all the online discussions and controversy, netizens discovered that Oriental Selection is currently no longer selling corn (#东方甄选回应下架玉米#), which also became a trending topic on Weibo on September 29.

But the corn controversy does not end here. On September 28, Chinese netizens discovered that corn by the ‘Northeast Peasant Madame’ brand (东北农嫂) was being sold for no less than 8.5 yuan ($1.2) at the Pangdonglai supermarket chain (胖东来), going well beyond the price of Oriental Selection.

Trying to avoid a marketing crisis, the Pangdonglai chain quickly recalled its corn, stating there had been an issue with the supply price that led to its final store price becoming too high. That topic received over 160 million views on Weibo on Friday (#胖东来召回8.5元玉米#).

Behind all these online discussions are consumer frustrations about an untransparent market where the field of agricultural products has become more crowded and with more people taking a share, including retailers, e-commerce platforms, and livestreaming apps. Moreover, they often say they are “helping farmers” while they are actually just making money themselves.

One Weibo user commented: “Currently, ‘helping farmers’ is completely different from the original intention of ‘helping farmers.’ Right now, it’s not about helping farmers anymore, but about helping the companies who have made agricultural products their business.”

“I bought a corn at a street shop today for 4 yuan ($0.55),” one Weibo blogger wrote: “It was big, sweet, and juicy, the quality was good and it was tasty – and people are still making money off of it. So yes, 6 yuan for a corn is certainly too expensive.”

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 Brands & Marketing

Young Chinese Woman Dies at Haidilao Hotpot Restaurant

The woman allegedly choked while having beef tripe.

Manya Koetse

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On September 8, a woman from Putian in Fujian Province unexpectedly passed away while having hotpot at a Haidilao restaurant in a local mall.

The incident went trending on Chinese social media on Thursday, with the hashtags “Woman Suddenly Passes Away While Having Haidilao Hotpot” (#女孩海底捞吃火锅意外身亡#) and “Haidilao Responds to Female Customer Passing Away During Dinner” (#海底捞回应女顾客就餐时身亡#) receiving 50 million and 300 million views respectively.

According to various Chinese news reports, the 21-year-old woman had just finished eating beef tripe, the edible lining from the cow stomach, and drank some water after which she suddenly became unwell.

Footage circulating on Chinese social media shows how restaurant staff gave first aid to the woman by performing the Heimlich maneuver while emergency workers were underway.

Although it is rumored the young woman choked on the tripe, this has not yet been confirmed as an investigation into the cause of death is ongoing. The Haidilao restaurant where the incident happened is currently closed, and Haidilao responded that they are deeply saddened and will do all they can to fully cooperate with the police to investigate the case.

Haidilao (海底捞) is one of China’s most popular restaurant chains serving authentic Sichuan hotpot, a dining style where fresh meat and vegetables are dipped in simmering broth. Besides its tasty hotpot and wide selection of ingredients and drinks, Haidilao is known for its high-quality service. The staff is thoroughly trained in providing the best customer service, and Haidilao has introduced new concepts throughout the years to enhance the customer experience.

Haidilao is a very reputable company and is known to respond quickly to avert social media crises (example here and here).

As the story goes trending, many Chinese netizens point out the choking hazard of beef tripe. One lung doctor (@呼吸科大夫胡洋) also responded to the incident, suggesting that the Heimlich maneuver might not have been life-saving in this case since beef tripe is long and soft and could block the respiratory tract if the Heimlich maneuver is performed while the person is standing up, since it could potentially cause the tripe to go deeper instead of being pushed out.

The doctor recommends in these kind of emergency situations that if possible, for a chance of survival, the person could then be placed into an upside down, upper body down position for the Heimlich maneuver.

Other doctors on Weibo also use this moment to provide more information about how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

Many online commenters think Haidilao is not necessarily to blame for what happened. “Judging from the video, the staff was quick and correct in their response. As for why the woman could not have been rescued, we’ll have to wait for the final reports.”

By Manya Koetse 

 

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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