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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.

Manya Koetse

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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.

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 Brands, Marketing & Consumers

More than Malatang: Tianshui’s Recipe for Success

Zibo had its BBQ moment. Now, it’s Tianshui’s turn to shine with its special take on malatang. Tourism marketing in China will never be the same again.

Manya Koetse

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Since the early post-pandemic days, Chinese cities have stepped up their game to attract more tourists. The dynamics of Chinese social media make it possible for smaller, lesser-known destinations to gain overnight fame as a ‘celebrity city.’ Now, it’s Tianshui’s turn to shine.

During this Qingming Festival holiday, there is one Chinese city that will definitely welcome more visitors than usual. Tianshui, the second largest city in Gansu Province, has emerged as the latest travel hotspot among domestic tourists following its recent surge in popularity online.

Situated approximately halfway along the Lanzhou-Xi’an rail line, this ancient city wasn’t previously a top destination for tourists. Most travelers would typically pass through the industrial city to see the Maiji Shan Grottoes, the fourth largest Buddhist cave complex in China, renowned for its famous rock carvings along the Silk Road.

But now, there is another reason to visit Tianshui: malatang.

 
Gansu-Style Malatang
 

Málàtàng (麻辣烫), which literally means ‘numb spicy hot,’ is a popular Chinese street food dish featuring a diverse array of ingredients cooked in a soup base infused with Sichuan pepper and dried chili pepper. There are multiple ways to enjoy malatang.

When dining at smaller street stalls, it’s common to find a selection of skewered foods—ranging from meats to quail eggs and vegetables—simmering in a large vat of flavorful spicy broth. This communal dining experience is affordable and convenient for solo diners or smaller groups seeking a hotpot-style meal.

In malatang restaurants, patrons can usually choose from a selection of self-serve skewered ingredients. You have them weighed, pay, and then have it prepared and served in a bowl with a preferred soup base, often with the option to choose the level of spiciness, from super hot to mild.

Although malatang originated in Sichuan, it is now common all over China. What makes Tianshui malatang stand out is its “Gansu-style” take, with a special focus on hand-pulled noodles, potato, and spicy oil.

An important ingredient for the soup base is the somewhat sweet and fragrant Gangu chili, produced in Tianshui’s Gangu County, known as “the hometown of peppers.”

Another ingredient is Maiji peppercorns (used in the sauce), and there are more locally produced ingredients, such as the black fungi from Qingshui County.

One restaurant that made Tianshui’s malatang particularly famous is Haiying Malatang (海英麻辣烫) in the city’s Qinzhou District. On February 13, the tiny restaurant, which has been around for three decades, welcomed an online influencer (@一杯梁白开) who posted about her visit.

The vlogger was so enthusiastic about her taste of “Gansu-style malatang,” that she urged her followers to try it out. It was the start of something much bigger than she could have imagined.

 
Replicating Zibo
 

Tianshui isn’t the first city to capture the spotlight on Chinese social media. Cities such as Zibo and Harbin have previously surged in popularity, becoming overnight sensations on platforms like Weibo, Xiaohongshu, and Douyin.

This phenomenon of Chinese cities transforming into hot travel destinations due to social media frenzy became particularly noteworthy in early 2023.

During the Covid years, various factors sparked a friendly competition among Chinese cities, each competing to attract the most visitors and to promote their city in the best way possible.

The Covid pandemic had diverse impacts on the Chinese domestic tourism industry. On one hand, domestic tourism flourished due to the pandemic, as Chinese travelers opted for destinations closer to home amid travel restrictions. On the other hand, the zero-Covid policy, with its lockdowns and the absence of foreign visitors, posed significant challenges to the tourism sector.

Following the abolition of the zero-Covid policy, tourism and marketing departments across China swung into action to revitalize their local economy. China’s social media platforms became battlegrounds to capture the attention of Chinese netizens. Local government officials dressed up in traditional outfits and created original videos to convince tourists to visit their hometowns.

Zibo was the first city to become an absolute social media sensation in the post-Covid era. The old industrial and mining city was not exactly known as a trendy tourist destination, but saw its hotel bookings going up 800% in 2023 compared to pre-Covid year 2019. Among others factors contributing to its success, the city’s online marketing campaign and how it turned its local BBQ culture into a unique selling point were both critical.

Zibo crowds, image via 163.com.

Since 2023, multiple cities have tried to replicate the success of Zibo. Although not all have achieved similar results, Harbin has done very well by becoming a meme-worthy tourist attraction earlier in 2024, emphasizing its snow spectacle and friendly local culture.

By promoting its distinctive take on malatang, Tianshui has emerged as the next city to captivate online audiences, leading to a surge in visitor numbers.

Like with Zibo and Harbin, one particular important strategy used by these tourist offices is to swiftly respond to content created by travel bloggers or food vloggers about their cities, boosting the online attention and immediately seizing the opportunity to turn online success into offline visits.

 
A Timeline
 

What does it take to become a Chinese ‘celebrity city’? Since late February and early March of this year, various Douyin accounts started posting about Tianshui and its malatang.

They initially were the main reason driving tourists to the city to try out malatang, but they were not the only reason – city marketing and state media coverage also played a role in how the success of Tianshui played out.

Here’s a timeline of how its (online) frenzy unfolded:

  • July 25, 2023: First video on Douyin about Tianshui’s malatang, after which 45 more videos by various accounts followed in the following six months.
  •  Feb 5, 2024: Douyin account ‘Chuanshuo Zhong de Bozi’ (传说中的波仔) posts a video about malatang streetfood in Gansu
  • Feb 13, 2024: Douyin account ‘Yibei Liangbaikai’ (一杯梁白开) posts a video suggesting the “nationwide popularization of Gansu-style malatang.” This video is an important breakthrough moment in the success of Tianshui as a malatang city.
  • Feb – March ~, 2024: The Tianshui Culture & Tourism Bureau is visiting sites, conducting research, and organizing meetings with different departments to establish the “Tianshui city + malatang” brand (文旅+天水麻辣烫”品牌) as the city’s new “business card.”
  • March 11, 2024: Tianshui city launches a dedicated ‘spicy and hot’ bus line to cater to visitors who want to quickly reach the city’s renowned malatang spots.
  • March 13-14, 2024: China’s Baidu search engine witnesses exponential growth in online searches for Tianshui malatang.
  • March 14-15, 2024: The boss of Tianshui’s popular Haiying restaurant goes viral after videos show him overwhelmed and worried he can’t keep up. His facial expression becomes a meme, with netizens dubbing it the “can’t keep up-expression” (“烫不完表情”).

The worried and stressed expression of this malatang diner boss went viral overnight.

  • March 17, 2024: Chinese media report about free ‘Tianshui malatang’ wifi being offered to visitors as a special service while they’re standing in line at malatang restaurants.
  • March 18, 2024: Tianshui opens its first ‘Malatang Street’ where about 40 stalls sell malatang.
  • March 18, 2024: Chinese local media report that one Tianshui hair salon (Tony) has changed its shop into a malatang shop overnight, showing just how big the hype has become.
  • March 21, 2024: A dedicated ‘Tianshui malatang’ train started riding from Lanzhou West Station to Tianshui (#天水麻辣烫专列开行#).
  • March 21, 2024: Chinese actor Jia Nailiang (贾乃亮) makes a video about having Tianshui malatang, further adding to its online success.
  • March 30, 2024: A rare occurrence: as the main attraction near Tianshui, the Maiji Mountain Scenic Area announces that they’ve reached the maximum number of visitors and don’t have the capacity to welcome any more visitors, suspending all ticket sales for the day.
  • April 1, 2024: Chinese presenter Zhang Dada was spotted making malatang in a local Tianshui restaurant, drawing in even more crowds.

 
A New Moment to Shine
 

Fame attracts criticism, and that also holds true for China’s ‘celebrity cities.’

Some argue that Tianshui’s malatang is overrated, considering the richness of Gansu cuisine, which offers much more than just malatang alone.

When Zibo reached hype status, it also faced scrutiny, with some commenters suggesting that the popularity of Zibo BBQ was a symptom of a society that’s all about consumerism and “empty social spectacle.”

There is a lot to say about the downsides of suddenly becoming a ‘celebrity city’ and the superficiality and fleetingness that comes with these kinds of trends. But for many locals, it is seen as an important moment as they see their businesses and cities thrive.

Even after the hype fades, local businesses can maintain their success by branding themselves as previously viral restaurants. When I visited Zibo a few months after its initial buzz, many once-popular spots marketed themselves as ‘wanghong’ (网红) or viral celebrity restaurants.

For the city itself, being in the spotlight holds its own value in the long run. Even after the hype has peaked and subsided, the gained national recognition ensures that these “trendy” places will continue to attract visitors in the future.

According to data from Ctrip, Tianshui experienced a 40% increase in tourism spending since March (specifically from March 1st to March 16th). State media reports claim that the city saw 2.3 million visitors in the first three weeks of March, with total tourism revenue reaching nearly 1.4 billion yuan ($193.7 million).

There are more ripple effects of Tianshui’s success: Maiji Shan Grottoes are witnessing a surge in visitors, and local e-commerce companies are experiencing a spike in orders from outside the city. Even when they’re not in Tianshui, people still want a piece of Tianshui.

By now, it’s clear that tourism marketing in China will never be the same again. Zibo, Harbin, and Tianshui exemplify a new era of destination hype, requiring a unique selling point, social media success, strong city marketing, and a friendly and fair business culture at the grassroots level.

While Zibo’s success was largely organic, Harbin’s was more orchestrated, and Tianshui learned from both. Now, other potential ‘celebrity’ cities are preparing to go viral, learning from the successes and failures of their predecessors to shine when their time comes.

By Manya Koetse

Independently reporting China trends for over a decade. Like what we do? Support us and get the story behind the hashtag by subscribing:

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.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Media

Two Years After MU5735 Crash: New Report Finds “Nothing Abnormal” Surrounding Deadly Nose Dive

Nothing abnormal about the abnormal MU575 crash?

Manya Koetse

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A new report by China’s Civil Aviation Administration has found no abnormalities in the circumstances surrounding the MU5735 incident. Two years after the flight nosedived in mid-air, people are still waiting for clear answers on what led to the devastating crash in Guangxi that killed all 132 people on board.

Two years ago on March 21, China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 dominated Chinese social media headlines as the Boeing 737 crashed with 132 people on board.

The Boeing 737 was scheduled to fly from the southwestern city of Kunming to Guangzhou. However, it disappeared from radar near the city of Wuzhou, Teng county, just before 14:30 local time, roughly half an hour before its scheduled arrival in Guangzhou.

Around 15:30 local time, news of the crash began to spread on Chinese social media after the real-time flight tracking map Flightradar24 showed the flight dropping some 7000 meters within 120 seconds, leading some to believe it was a “bug.” Two hours later, China Eastern confirmed the crash.

A video showing the plane right before it crashed also went viral on Chinese social media. The footage, taken by cameras belonging to a mining company in Teng county, some 5.8 kilometers from the crash site, shows the plane nosediving from a clear blue sky in a matter of seconds. It plunged more than 20,000 feet in less than a minute.

Security cameras captured the plane nosediving.

A massive week-long search operation in forest-clad, muddy mountains near Wuzhou attracted a lot of attention on social media at the time. While rescue workers were still searching for the second black box, Chinese state media confirmed that all passengers and crew members were killed in the crash.

Search and rescue efforts after the 2022 March 21 crash. Image posted by Caixin on Weibo.

Although a preliminary report about the crash stated that there were no unusual weather circumstances nor abnormal communications before the crash occurred, a final report on the crash still had not come out by late 2022.

This week, on March 20, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) reported further details about the investigation into the MU5735 crash. According to the report:

  • All paperwork and qualifications held by the MU5735 flight and cabin crew were in order; they possessed the necessary licenses and certificates, underwent regular health checks, and adhered to standard duty and rest times.
  • The aircraft’s maintenance and certifications were up to date, and the maintenance personnel met all requirements.
  • No faults were detected with the aircraft itself before takeoff, and there were no abnormal conditions reported, neither with the weather nor radio communication. The loading of the flight met all requirements.
  • No anomalies were found in the qualifications of any personnel working at air traffic control, with normal functioning of communication, navigation, and surveillance equipment. There were no abnormalities in radio communication and control commands before the incident.
  • The qualifications of relevant personnel at the departure airport on that day met requirements, and facilities and equipment operated normally, following standard procedures.

In summary: no abnormalities were discovered. Compared to an earlier report, this one explicitly ruled out the aircraft itself as the possible cause. The report also stated that the research team will continue to investigate the causes of the incident.

The report on the ‘3・21 incident’ leaves many questions unanswered. The pilot and co-pilot in charge of the plane that day were highly experienced, boasting over 39,000 hours of combined flying experience. The 32-year-old pilot, reportedly following in the footsteps of his father who had also flown for China Eastern, had held the position of captain since early 2018. The 59-year-old co-pilot, allegedly on the brink of retirement, boasted over 30 years of flying experience. Meanwhile, the 26-year-old second co-pilot has been with the airlines for three years.

Despite multiple (foreign media) reports saying that the airplane was deliberately crashed, the latest CAAC update does not mention the possibility of deliberate action leading to the crash at all – and does not even hint at it. In 2015, a Germanwings flight carrying 150 people crashed in the Alps. The incident was later determined to be a deliberate suicidal act by the co-pilot, who had locked the captain out of the cockpit (the captain’s last words were reportedly ‘Open the damn door’). In the case of MU5735, it is unclear what information was gathered from the black boxes or if they were damaged.

A Weibo post by CCTV news about the CAAC report attracted over 108,000 likes and more than 11,000 comments. The majority of commenters express confusion or anger over the report and the lack of any mentions of deliberate actions leading to the crash. Some of the top comments said:

“If everything was normal, then explain if it was caused by people on the plane, or if it was caused by sudden external forces!”

“You still don’t have the contents of the black box??”

“What about any recordings?”

“You might as well have said nothing at all.”

“Another year has passed! I hope, sooner or later, that the truth will come out.”

Elsewhere on Weibo, people also wondered why, after two years, the CAAC came out with such a vague and inconclusive statement.

“There’s no need to be secretive [about what happened]. We should seek truth from facts (..) If not, the damage to the government’s credibility will be even bigger if we keep revisiting the issue every year.”

“I haven’t seen any air crash investigation lasting two years. Whether it’s mechanical failure, weather conditions, or human error, there’s usually a general idea of what has caused it.”

It is unclear when and if there will be more conclusions coming out regarding the ongoing investigation. It might again take until the next anniversary of the deadly incident until another statement is released. For many, it is all just taking too long. One commenter wrote: “There should be an investigation into this investigation.”

By Manya Koetse

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

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©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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