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Death of Policeman Draws Big Controversy: The Zhang Jiyong Case

The mysterious death of police officer Zhang Jiyong (张际勇) has caused a clamor of rumors growing on Chinese social media, with thousands of people questioning his cause of death. This is the second time this month that lack of transparency in the police force and failures in criminal investigation become the focus of public attention.

Manya Koetse

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The mysterious death of police officer Zhang Jiyong (张际勇) has caused a clamor of rumors growing on Chinese social media, with thousands of people questioning his cause of death. This is the second time this month that lack of transparency in the police force and failures in criminal investigation become the focus of public attention.

Zhang Jiyong (张际勇), a 34-year-old traffic police officer from Jiangsu province, suddenly disappeared while on duty on May 17. After being missing for 64 hours, his dead body was found in a nearby river on May 20.

His wife turned to social media to bring her husband’s case to the public’s attention, posting her story and pictures of her deceased husband’s face. Since his face showed traces of blood, severe bruisings and swellings, she alleges her husband was beaten to death [picture link, warning: death, shocking image].

But according to police and medical experts, Zhang died from drowning and there were no signs of homicide – pointing to suicide.

According to iFeng news, Zhang’s wife denies her husband was suffering from any kind of depression or other mental disorder that could have been related to his death.

Under the hashtag of ‘The Wife of Murdered Civil Policeman Zhang Jiyong’ (#遇害民警张际勇妻子#), netizens called on Weibo users to make this topic trending to help Zhang’s wife in her struggle to “find justice”. It hit the number one spot in Weibo’s trending topics list on May 24.

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The case has caused a clamor of rumors growing on Chinese social media, with some linking his death to his involvement in exposing a drugs crime; according to several Chinese media, Zhang’s wife stated that her husband spoke of ‘being followed’ and fearing for his life two days prior to his missing in relation to this drugs investigation.

There are also netizens alleging that Zhang’s hands were tied together when his body was recovered from the water (picture), and that suicide would thus be impossible.

Mostly, the case unleashed a storm of criticism from Chinese netizens about a lack of transparency in the police force and failures in criminal investigation.

Earlier this month, the curious death of Lei Yang also became big news. Lei Yang was a young man from Beijing who died after he was arrested for allegedly visiting a brothel. His wife also demanded that police further investigated this case, as she alleged her husband was beaten to death during his arrest. This case resonates with that of Zhang Jiyong, where netizens and relatives also ask for further investigation into the case.

 

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Zhang’s wife writes on her Weibo account (May 24):

zhangjiyong

“You all say Zhang Jiyong had mental problems, but you were with him at work on the night of the crime, and you’ve confirmed that he acted normal, and that there were no abnormalities up to his death. Yet you give a mental illness as the final conlusion. How can you, as law enforcement, make such logic errors? I ask a public apology from you. And if you won’t apologize, I ask that you come up with evidence for the claim that Zhang was suffering from mental problems. As a family member of the deceased, I have the right to defend Zhang Jiyong’s integrity and honor!”

Within 5 hours of posting, her Weibo post received over 9500 likes, 7500 comments and was shared more than 2400 times.

Except for anger about information lacking, as in the Lei Yang case, netizens are also angry about their comments being deleted by censors. As one popular comment says:

“I think I speak for everyone when I ask: why are our comments being removed? (..) A good policeman was killed, his hands were tied when his body was found, yet the officials still say it is suicide, do you think people are stupid? ? If you have a soul, then why delete our comments? We love our country, let our country love us back!”

For now, since officials have ruled out homicide and have concluded Zhang’s death to be due to ‘death by drowning’, there are no indications that the police will seek for any possible suspects in this case. According to local police, the blood and swellings in Zhang’s face were a “natural reaction” of the body after being in the water for a long time.

But on Weibo, the clamor is not gone yet, with many netizens refusing to believe official reports. As one netizen comments: “We know they are lying, and they know they are lying, and they know we know they are lying, and we know they know we know they are lying – but they are still lying.”

– By Manya Koetse

©2016 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 Insight

Red Cross Society of China in Bad Light Due to Online Rumors after Gansu Earthquake

Even though the rumors surrounding the Red Cross might be false, the public concerns surrounding charity efforts are real.

Manya Koetse

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A handwarmer for 500 yuan ($70), a tent for 2200 yuan ($308), a blanket for 100 yuan ($14)? An online list detailing items supposedly procured by the Gansu Red Cross for earthquake relief efforts has ignited controversy on Chinese social media in recent days. Although the Red Cross has denied all rumors, the incident underscores public skepticism towards the organization.

After the devastating 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Jishishan (积石山), a county in China’s Gansu Province’s Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, on December 18, Chinese social media platforms were flooded with news related to the disaster. The overnight earthquake killed at least 148 people and left hundreds injured.

News of the earthquake resonated deeply throughout the country, and the ongoing search and rescue operations and relief efforts, hindered by landslides, ruined infrastructure, and freezing temperatures, have attracted major attention online.

While much of the discourse revolves around the goodness of the people contributing to charities and doing all they can to help victims in the affected areas, there is also public distrust surrounding the motives of some charities or helping organizations that might use the disaster as an opportunity to make a profit.

One hotly debated topic revolves around the Red Cross Society of China, after a list surfaced online of items allegedly purchased by the Gansu Red Cross for relief efforts in the aftermath of the Gansu Earthquake.

Image published on Weibo via Red Cross Society of China (@中国红十字会总会).

The procurement list raised controversy due to the high prices of the common items listed, and because of a supposed “management fee” (管理费) of 1.6 million yuan ($224k).

In response, the Red Cross refuted these claims, asserting that they had not issued any such list (#甘肃红十字称没发布任何物资清单#). On December 24, the Gansu Red Cross took to Weibo (@甘肃省红十字会) to clarify that the circulating information was “grossly inaccurate.” They assured the public that all donations would directly aid earthquake relief efforts, without incurring management fees.

The Red Cross statement on Weibo.

Even though the procurement list might be false, the public concerns surrounding charity efforts are real.

“Why does the Red Cross end up in the top trending lists every time?” one commenter wondered: “Their information should be more transparent and timely.”

Others also suggested that merely denying the rumors was not enough, and that they hoped that the Red Cross would provide more details and information to show netizens, of whom many donated money, how their charity money is being spent to help relief efforts in the affected areas in Gansu and Qinghai.

The fact that the Red Cross Weibo post did not allow any commenting did not help: “Why are you afraid to let us openly discuss this?”

 
Red Cross Society of China: Tainted by Suspicion
 

The Red Cross of China, the nation’s largest charitable organization, continues to grapple with a tarnished reputation that partly stems from the 2011 “Guo Meimei Incident.”

Guo Meimei (郭美美), whose real name is Guo Meiling, became an infamous internet celebrity in the summer of 2011 after flaunting her excessive wealth online whilst claiming to work as a “commercial general manager” for the Red Cross Society of China.

The issue severely eroded the society’s credibility, which has been designated by the government as the central public donation organization during times of disasters (Cheng 2016). From luxury handbags to sports cars, the 19-year-old Guo showed off her money on Weibo, and quickly went viral on various message boards as people were angered over corruption and potential misuse of charity money.

Guo Meimei

Despite efforts by the Red Cross Society to debunk these rumors and distance itself from Guo, speculations persisted. Many speculated about Guo’s potential ties to the organization, even if she did not officially work there. As highlighted by Cheng (2016), the public’s negative sentiment toward the Red Cross triggered “a chain of credibility crises” and even spread to other charitable groups in China.

During the 2020 Wuhan Covid outbreak, the Red Cross faced scrutiny for allegedly stockpiling public donations of medical supplies in warehouses rather than promptly distributing them to frontline medical personnel facing shortages.

The current allegations against the Red Cross of China in the aftermath of the Gansu Earthquake also echo other past controversies, such as the one they dealt with after the 2008 Sichuan quake. Red Cross officials were then also accused of misusing donations by purchasing needlessly expensive tents and vehicles.

 
Donations for the ‘Underdog’: The Han Hong Foundation
 

The growing public distrust towards the Red Cross has arguably paved the way for other Chinese charities to gain prominence. A prime example is the Han Hong Love Charity Foundation (韩红爱心慈善基金会), established in 2012 by renowned Chinese folk singer Han Hong (韩红, 1971).

Although Han Hong has been engaged in charity for many years, during which she invested a lot of her own money, the charity she established became more known after the Han Hong Love Charity Foundation was committed to aid efforts during the Wuhan Covid outbreak in 2020 and the Henan floods in 2021.

Han Hong (center), picture via Xiaohongshu fan of Han Hong.

After the earthquake in Gansu on December 18th, Han Hong’s organization immediately organized rescue teams and provided people in the affected areas with clothes and (medical) supplies. Hang Hong was able to rake in millions thanks to her reputation of being compassionate and altruistic, as well as through her strong network in China’s entertainment industry, leading numerous Chinese celebrities to support her relief efforts.

But Han Hong’s organization is also affected by the public distrust surrounding charity in China. On December 23, it was rumored that her Charity Foundation was officially asked to leave the disaster area as well as to hand over a portion of their donations.

The foundation refuted these claims by issuing a statement on December 25 (#韩红基金会辟谣#).

Statement by Han Hong Love Charity Foundation refuting rumors that their charity work was hindered by officials.

In the public view, there seems to be a big difference between perceptions of large entities like the Red Cross and other ‘official’ charitable organizations versus smaller, more independent initiatives like the Han Hong foundation, which operates as a private charitable entity.

Reflecting on the rumors surrounding both the Red Cross and Han Hong’s foundation, one Weibo commenter noted: “These rumors come into existence because so many of these so-called charitable foundations actually treat charity as their business. And so, they become ‘competitors.’”

Meanwhile, Han Hong’s organization stresses that it operates under the guidance and oversight of the party and government, and only provide emergency support through their support.

In online discussions on the power of the Red Cross versus Han Hong’s organization, some commenters suggest that it is time for the government and authorities to reflect on why a private organization would be more trusted than the Red Cross, a government organized NGO.

One Weibo commenter wrote: “What Han Hong does is true charity instead of business.” Another person replied: “The biggest disaster here is actually the erosion of public trust.”

By Manya Koetse

References

Cheng, Yang. 2016. “Social Media Keep Buzzing! A Test of Contingency Theory in China’s Red Cross Credibility Crisis.” International Journal of Communication, June 2016: pp. 3241+.

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©2023 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 & Consumers

Tsingtao Brewery ‘Pee-Gate’: Factory Worker Caught Urinating in Raw Material Warehouse

The pee incident, that occurred at a subsidiary Tsingtao Beer factory, has caused concerns among consumers.

Manya Koetse

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A video that has circulated on Chinese social media since October 19 shows how an alleged worker at a Tsingtao Beer factory climbs over a wall at the raw material production site and starts to urinate.

The incident reportedly occurred at the Tsingtao Beer Factory No. 3, a subsidiary of the Tsingtao Brewing Company, located in Qingdao, Shandong.

After the video went viral, the Tsingtao Brewery Company issued a statement that they took the incident very seriously and immediately report it to the authorities, who have started an investigation into the case. Meanwhile, the specific batch in production has been halted and shut off.

The incident has caused concern among consumers, and some commenters on social media wonder if this was the first time something like this has happened. “How do we know this hasn’t happened many times before?”

Others speculate about what might have motivated the man to urinate at the production site. There are those who believe that the man is part of an undercover operation orchestrated by a rivaling company, aimed at discrediting Tsingtao. It’s even suggested that there were two ‘moles’ leaking in this incident: one doing the urinating, and the other doing the video ‘leak.’

Meanwhile, there are voices who are critical of Tsingtao, suggesting that the renowned beer brand has not effectively addressed the ‘pee gate’ scandal. It remains uncertain how this incident will impact the brand, but some netizens are already expressing reservations about ordering a Tsingtao beer as a result.

But there are also those who joke about the “pissing incident,” wondering if Tsingtao Beer might soon launch a special “urine flavored beer.”

By Manya Koetse

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Featured photo by Jay Ang (link).

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