China’s LGBT Youth Face Lots of Bullying, Little Acceptance


From his first day at school, Sun Bin, now 21, was bullied for being feminine, a “sissy.”

“I’m used to being called a faggot or a pervert,” said Sun, who is now a junior at a university in central China’s Henan province.

There’s one instance from primary school that Sun will never forget. A dozen or so female classmates one day picked him up, carried him to the girls’ bathroom, and threw him inside. “I was scared and crying in the bathroom for hours,” Sun told Sixth Tone. “I felt hopeless and humiliated.”

Most LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender — students aren’t sure of their own gender identity or sexual orientation until they are in high school. Their classmates, on the other hand, are much quicker to draw conclusions, labeling anyone who deviates from the norm as “gay.”

“We got bullied because we are different, and being different is not appreciated,” said Sun.

School bullying in general is a widely discussed topic in China, and it even came up during the recently concluded “two sessions” — annual meetings of China’s top legislative and advisory bodies. Policy advisor Shang Shaohua noted that gender equality and gender diversity in particular should be included in teacher training as a preventive measure.

Though Shang’s initiative was widely applauded in LGBT circles, many feel that more should be done to raise awareness. “As a group, students of sexual minorities remain neglected by the public,” said Liu Zhaohui, a project officer at Tongyu, a Beijing-based lesbian advocacy group. “When they are bullied at school, they often have nobody to turn to for help.”

Sun’s experiences don’t stand alone. Chinese media reported last year that a female student was drugged with an aphrodisiac by three male students in Huangshan City, eastern China’s Anhui province because they wanted to see a lesbian “making a fool of herself.” The case was deemed a prank by the teachers and the police, and the boys got off with a warning.

Tongyu in 2016 surveyed 3,452 LGBTI (“I” for “intersex”) students about their school environment. Of the respondents — whose average age was 20 — more than two-fifths said bullying and violence against sexual minority students happened in their schools. Of the victims, over half were verbally bullied by homophobic remarks and were told to “pay attention to” their behavior and self-expression. Fourteen percent of victims were sexually harassed by their classmates or teachers.

“In some severe cases, victims were expelled from school or forced to transfer,” Liu at Tongyu told Sixth Tone on Monday, adding that such recourses violate the students’ right to an education.

Sun had hardly any friends at school, regardless of how hard he tried to get in everyone’s good books. “I always played as the monster in video games,” Sun said, referring to the characters that would usually end up getting beaten by the game’s hero, played by someone else. “Only in this way would they play with me,” he added.

Sun tried to report the bullying to his teachers. “They don’t really care how [bullying] can hurt a student mentally,” he said. “They just want to make sure you study hard and have good grades.” When he went to his parents for help, they thought what was happening to him was just normal children’s behavior. “They blamed me for not looking and acting like a ‘normal’ boy,” recalled Sun, who added that he was used to the people around him stereotyping men as tough and masculine.

After a long period of depression, Sun attempted suicide — and more than once. Though he got better, the mental strain impacted his studies and his score on the gaokao, China’s rigorous college entrance examination.

At primary, middle, and high schools, most bullying revolves around the gender expression of sexual minority pupils. But at Chinese universities, by which time students are more open and confident, most discrimination focuses on sexual orientation and gender identity. The survey conducted by Tongyu also showed that only 27 percent of respondents reported that their university campus is friendly or relatively friendly to sexual minority students.

Yang Zongxian, 20, told Sixth Tone that the majority of students at his university in northeastern China’s Heilongjiang province are LGBT-friendly. “Although they sometimes ask questions that make me feel uncomfortable, I don’t feel as if they mean me any harm, and are merely doing so out of curiosity,” he said.

Yang started a “rainbow association” at the university, but it hasn’t been encouraged or recognized by the school yet. “We are like an underground student group that has to be careful every time we hold an event,” Yang said.

Li, who identifies as bisexual, was not a victim of school bullying. “Sissy boys are easily bullied at school; tomboys, however, are usually fine,” said the freshman at a university in Yangzhou, in eastern China’s Jiangsu province.

Li witnessed one of her “sissy” classmates being physically and mentally bullied by his peers in high school. “They hit him with badminton rackets and threw his school bag out the window,” Li recalled.

“I wanted to help him, but I was afraid of being isolated by my classmates if I did so,” confessed Li, who only gave her surname to protect her privacy. She said her university is “not LGBT-friendly at all.” “Many heterosexual students feel disgusted and offended that our association organizes activities so often,” she said.

Another student surnamed Wang, a junior at the same university in Yangzhou, confirmed to Sixth Tone that many people on campus describe LGBT students as “disgusting” and “unpresentable.”

Wang, who identifies as lesbian, recalled that a gay senior student was refused a faculty position after school leaders found out about his sexual orientation. “Many of us are afraid of coming out, as this would adversely affect our career prospects in the future,” Wang said with a sigh.

For Sun, things eventually got slightly better at university. While the verbal violence continued, the physical bullying stopped. “But I’ve become strong and confident after connecting with so many LGBT friends,” Sun said.

Over the years, Sun said he has realized that he was bullied because he was weak and didn’t stand up for himself. “If you want others to respect you,” he said, “you have to respect yourself first.”


This article was published on Sixth Tone.

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Netizens Upset over Chinese Harvard Girl News Story


The news that an ordinary Chinese high school girl from Hangzhou was accepted by Harvard University created a stir amongst Chinese netizens on Sina Weibo this week. Thousands of Weibo users criticized the Chinese media for hiding information from the public when it turned out that the girl is actually a US citizen from a wealthy family.

Reports of an ordinary girl named Guo Wenjing from Hangzhou getting an early admission to Harvard University became big news on Chinese social media this week. The news created commotion amongst Chinese netizens for various reasons: first for the fact that a Hangzhou high school student was admitted to Harvard, and then for the fact that the story was partially untrue.

According to Qianjiang Evening News (钱江晚报), Guo Wenjing gained an early admission to Harvard with her talent in programming, and excellence in various fields. In 2014 and 2015, she won gold two times at the Olympiad in Informatics in the US. She was invited by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to participate in a programming tournament and won the second prize. Apart from her academic achievements, Guo has also taken up sailing and skiing. In addition, she attended summer schools of well-known universities such as Harvard and Berkeley.

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A number of major state media, including CCTV News (央视新闻) and People.com (人民网), posted about Guo’s admission on their Weibo account. They quoted the secretary of Harvard in China, who praised Guo: “Her computer skills are as excellent as any top American female programmer of her age, she got full marks in five subjects in the AP [Advanced Placement] exams, she speaks fluent English, and she is beautiful. She is almost perfect!”

Guo’s admission caught the attention of netizens, and the topic “High school girl’s early admission to Harvard” (#高三女孩被哈佛提前录取#) soon became trending on Sina Weibo. Thousands of users commented on the topic. Some complimented Guo on her achievements, calling her “the pride of China”, while others pointed out that China once again was sending its top talents abroad, and that Guo would “get a green card and then contribute to building up a better US”.

However, the next day, netizens exposed how Chinese major media outlets had left out some important information about Guo. Shibugui, the president of the Global Leaders Lab, revealed on his Weibo that Guo actually is an American citizen and that both of her parents graduated from MIT. Her father is the chairman of a publicly held company. He writes: “The media did not mention her nationality, and made her look like Cinderella. They sensationalized the news.”

The topic then became trending again, this time under the hashtag of “Harvard girl’s truth” (#哈佛女孩真相#), receiving a lot of attention on Weibo.

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“It’s a good thing that the Chinese media is trying to publish positive things, but please let them do thorough research because Chinese netizens are smart,” says Weibo user Echo.

The majority of Weibo users believe that Guo is an excellent student with great talents, but say that her success should not be glamorized. A user called “Dragon to the Sky” says that family background has a huge influence on one’s education: “I don’t think we can learn from her case. She was born in the US and raised by PhD parents. Her parents are probably more intelligent than our teachers. For ordinary Chinese, we have to fight for better education resources through continuous exams and competitions. So, CCTV and People.com, what are you trying to say by posting this news? ”

“When will Chinese media stop twisting the truth to make news?” user “JL” says: “They always make up these positive cases, it’s been enough! It seems like they want to encourage children from poor families to study harder, but the reality is that children from ordinary families don’t have the opportunity to attend summer school at Harvard. Do you think children can have hobbies like sailing and skiing just by working hard? Are you kidding me?”

Dongfeng Paiman, former reporter of Hangzhou Newspaper Group, adds: “The media made a shameless attempt to represent an American girl whose parents are PhDs as a beautiful straight-A student from an ordinary Chinese family. They hope to stimulate all Chinese parents who have big dreams for their children.”

“What they are saying seems correct,” a mother on Weibo replies: “I saved the news on my phone immediately after I read it. I wanted to share it with my son later, but my husband had already told him ahead of me. All Chinese parents would be excited over this. It’s a great example to encourage our kids!”

As Chinese netizens are fed up with untrue reports from the media, some of them try to figure out the best way to deal with this situation. User “Orz” asks: “The questions is, if it is a crime for Chinese netizens to post and repost untrue information, then what are the consequences for these public media accounts when they post these things on Weibo?”

User Chen Haiyan says: “Those who write false news should be detained for half a month. Only by that can we keep the internet clean and clear.”

By Yiying Fan

This article was published on What’s on Weibo.

China’s Neglected Problem: Student Kicked Out for Being Autistic


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A young boy from Henan was sent away from school for being autistic, leading to furious reactions from Chinese netizens. China’s education system is failing our children with special needs, they say.

In Puyang (濮阳, Henan Province) an 8-year-old boy named Xiaoxuan (an assumed name) was kicked out of school after over 40 parents opposed to him to studying in the same classroom with other students because of his ‘hyperactive’ and ‘weird’ behavior, Henan Sina reports.

According to Xiaoxuan’s parents, their son suffers from autism and hyperkinetic disorder linked to birth complications.

Xiaoxuan was unable to start school last September, at the age of 7. After his parents took him to Beijing for a year-long rehabilitation training, the doctors reassured them that Xiaoxuan would be able to attend a mainstream school. They took him to a regular primary school in Puyang this September, hoping their son could attend school like every other child. But he was nevertheless forced to go home in late October.

 

“Everyone should have equals right to learn. What those 40 parents did negatively affects their own children too.”

 

Xiaoxuan’s story has sparked heated discussions on Sina Weibo. The topic “hyperactive boy required to leave school” (#男孩爱动被要求离校#) has been viewed about 60 million times, attracting over 40,000 comments since November 11. Many netizens are angry about what happened to Xiaoxuan and call for equal rights in education.

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User Timfrk speaks out: “Don’t you have kids yourself? Can’t you put yourself in someone else’s shoes? Everyone should have equals right to learn. What those 40 parents did negatively affects their own children too.”

“The primary education period is a crucial time for kids to build perspective on the world, and it determines their outlook on life and values,” user Minoz explains: “Having a ‘special’ kid in the class is a wonderful opportunity for other kids to learn how to be understanding and tolerant. They now missed out because of their selfish parents.”

 

“Perhaps this boy is super smart, but his talent is burned out by China’s school system. This demonstrates how the education in China is failing.”

 

According to article 4 of China’s Compulsory Education Law (义务教育法), school-aged children and adolescents have equal rights to receive education. This means that children entering the education system are protected by the law, making it illegal to deprive them of the right to schooling.

In addition, according to the provincial law in Henan Province, Xiaoxuan’s school must take him in as a student, as there is no special school for him in the local area.

User Ahuang indicates: “These parents deprived Xiaoxuan of his right to education, which is against the law. What’s more, their behavior might make him diffident, withdrawn, and pessimistic. Who is responsible for that? Perhaps this boy is super smart, but his talent is burned out by China’s school system. This demonstrates how China’s education is failing.”

An important cause for the rejection of children with special needs is the Chinese approach of an exam-oriented educational system. The desire for high scores is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. Parents are concerned that the academic performances of their ‘normal’ children will be affected by the presence of ‘special’ children.

 

“A good learning environment is crucial to us. If there is a kid who talks a lot and interferes with others during class, not only the students but also the teacher will be affected.”

 

Students from Henan Province particularly suffer from the great pressure of the China’s college entrance exam system (gaokao). As higher educational resources (number and quality of universities) are distributed unevenly across China, it is said that students are not treated fairly during the admission process, which is called “regional discrimination“. A university usually sets a fixed admission quota for each province, with a higher number of students coming from its home province. But because Henan province has fewer universities per capita than for example Beijing, an applicant in Henan needs a significantly higher score than his Beijing counterpart to attend the same university. Therefore, fierce competition starts from grade one. Parents have no choice but to make sure their kids have the best learning environment.

Weibo user “Original” shares: “Parents and children from China, especially from Henan Province, are dealing with the huge pressure of schoolwork and college entrance exams. A good learning environment is crucial to us. If there is a kid who talks a lot and interferes with others during class, not only the students, but also the teacher will be affected. I sympathize with Xiaoxuan, but others should not shoulder responsibility for this problem.”

Another user named Lao Li writes: “We have to consider the enormous pressure that the students of Henan Province are facing. Schools are also extremely stressed about the high enrollment rate. The children are victims of the education system, generation after generation.”

 

“We should follow the Japanese example where schools put kids with special needs together in a class, and assign extra teachers to teach them and provide extra care.”

 

Though some users try to argue in favor of the 40 parents and the school principal, the majority of Weibo users condemn their decision and question the principal’s ability to cope with Xiaoxuan’s issue. “The school principal seems useless. He should have calmed the parents down, and should have resolved the problem with the right solutions instead of asking Xiaoxuan to leave school,” says user Lanear.

Weibo users also suggest their own solutions to the issue. For instance, user “Rabit9104” purposes: “We should follow the Japanese example where schools put kids with special needs together in a class, and assign extra teachers to teach them and provide extra care. This then also gives them the chance to engage with other students in a regular school. This is called inclusive education.”

Xiaoxuan is not alone. A similar case has happened before. In 2012, a boy with autism was refused by four regular schools in Shenzhen after principals received complaint letters from other parents. The number of special schools in China is limited, and mainstream schools don’t always have the facilities and funds for special education. Special needs children face considerably more difficulties in accessing education than their fellow students.

Zhang Xiujuan, an expert on special education at Shenzhen University, pointed out in 2012 that all teachers from regular schools should receive training on special education. She also suggests that teachers should be given a monthly compensation if they have special students in the class, since they will need to put in extra efforts. Local education departments should also increase the penalties and punishment for schools that refuse to enroll special needs students.

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This article was published on What’s on Weibo.

Weibo Netizens: Chinese Guys Are Weaker Than Girls


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Many of China’s universities have too many girls, professors say, which is not good for the development of male students. ‘Nonsense’, Weibo users argue: Chinese guys are just weaker than girls.

The ‘Chinese Language Development Summit’ (中文发展论坛) was held at the University of Anhui this week. Over 20 principals and professors from China’s key universities attended to discuss the development of Chinese language and traditional culture. One of the topics was China’s relatively high percentage of female students within liberal arts education, which was presented as an urgent concern.

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Dean of the Capital Normal University (首都师范大学), Ma Zili (马自力), stated at the summit that there was “not even one boy” in some of the classes. He and other professors suggested that the best solution to solve the problem of “too much yin and too little yang” (“阴盛阳衰”) is to accept more male students through university recruitment, in order to get a more equal balance between male and female students.

“This is not a good growing environment for boys.”

According to the President of Beijing’s Language & Culture University (北京语言大学), Cui Xiliang (崔希亮), girls account for 83% of this year’s Chinese language major freshmen. “This is not a good growing environment for boys,” he added: “I’ve heard from many girls that the guys in their class are not even as tough as they are.”

Once President Cui’s remark was posted on Sina Weibo, the topic “boys are less tough than girls” (#男生还没女生爷们#) triggered heated discussions.

The topic page has been viewed over 37 million times, attracting over 10,000 comments.

Some female students share what they have witnessed at college. For instance, user “Yu Yuxun” writes: “We were with over 200 students at an elective class yesterday, and we had to move desks and chairs. All the girls were working, while the guys did nothing and just stood there. Then they just sat on the chairs that the girls moved for them. I really believe that girls at university are tougher than guys.”

“Guys are spoiled by their parents and society at large.”

A lot of female netizens write that studying has made them stronger and more independent, especially because the guys are not “helping” at all.

User “Sophie Lee” says that she has become a “tough girl” (女汉子) after a couple of years at the Capital Normal University: “I was a typical vulnerable little girl before I entered university, but now I’m capable of doing a lot of physical work by myself. It’s mainly because I feel like I can’t trust or rely on guys any more. They are spoiled by their parents and society at large. Girls have to be tough and independent.”

In China, particularly in small cities and rural areas, families still prefer having sons instead of daughters. The one-child policy is often pointed out as the main reason for that.

“Chinese boys are raised to be sissies.”

As someone who grew up from a small town in China, user “ADnue” comments that Chinese boys are pampered and are raised to be sissy (“娘娘腔”): “In my hometown, boys always play around, while girls have to help parents with farming and housework. Parents and teachers are more tolerant with boys, and easily forgive them their mistakes. They just assume that boys will eventually catch up with girls. Girls are forced to be tough because of the idea that men are superior to women.”

A number of Weibo users are offended that some of China’s universities consider offering more entry opportunities for male students to balance the male/female ratio.

According to user “Silly Wool”, it is gender discrimination: “It’s normal that there are more girls than boys majoring in education or languages, because girls are generally better at it. I just really don’t understand the point of giving priority to male students. Female students majoring science and engineering find it difficult to get a good job after graduation, since a lot of related occupations prefer men over women. And now these college leaders and professors think they should enroll more boys in liberal arts? This is pure sexism.”

This is not the first time a similar topic has become trending on Sina Weibo. The question of “what is a true man?” is a recurring issue, especially amongst those coming from the post 90s generation.

Weibo users generally say that a true man should be responsible, decisive and self-motivated. A user called “Short-haired Cat” says: “When thousands of people say that boys are not as tough as girls, it is no longer an individual problem”. For the majority of Weibo users, it’s a fact.

By Yiying Fan

This article was published on What’s on Weibo.

Wine Education Needed in Shanghai


I was enjoying a glass of fine wine with a local friend on his belcony on a sunny afternoon the other day. He bought a bottle of French white wine at Shanghai French Week that was held later last month on Yandang road.

“That French guy told me that this is a famous wine brand in the world but I haven’t heard of it,” he confessed, “I still bought one bottle as it’s on promotion. 99 yuan per bottle for such a great wine is a great deal.”

Oh, yes! It’s great. We both agreed it tastes wonderful. Then I asked him how to judge a good wine and how to appreciate a good wine. He was speechless. I didn’t know the answers either.

I’m sure there are a lot of wine lovers in Shanghai. As Paris of the east, no other city in China has ever embraced exoit and diversity more than Shanghai. Shanghainese love to focus on life quality and enjoy life. That’s why Shanghai is also described as the heaven of petty bourgeoisie.

Sipping a glass of wine while chatting with a friend on a sunny afternoon is a kind of petty bourgeoisie. Shanghai should have the biggest wine market in China because it has the most highest density of five-star hotels, wonderful restaurants and people who are willing to pay for extravagant things. What’s more, in Shanghai, it’s full of business people who love to drink, to gamble and to have fun. From my own experience, it is in Shanghai that business people treat clients with wine, while in the North, in most cases, it is replaced with Chinese liquor or rice wine.

Then the problem occurred: how many of these wine lovers actually know how to taste wine? I was looking for a wine tasting class online but I haven’t seen many options. Then I read a story that a professor of Shanghai Jiaotong University developed a course this semester called the culture of wine. In his class, students can taste different wines with goblets while listening to the music and chatting with classmates.

It’s not surprised that this class is popular among students from Jiaotong University. They are lucky. The wine class I had was based on text books where the teacher just orally told us how to taste wine. Drinking wine is a regular method of socializing and it represents an elegant culture. If we could have an opportunity to learn knowledge on wine tasting at school and apply it in social life after graduating, it could embody personal manners. However, the sheer theoretical knowledge fails to express the essence of wine culture. Text book reading would just made students sleepy.

I also noticed a TV show called Connoisseur. It is produced by a small production company based in Shanghai. They have made 24 episodes so far and all the videos can be found on Youku.com. It shows you everything you need to know about wine in an entertaining way. I think it’s a great way to educated ourselves with wine knowledge when we can’t find a good wine class in real life or we don’t have time to go to such class.

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As one of the emerging wine market in the world and the biggest market in China, people in Shanghai are eager to learn more about wine. However, most wine brands haven’t really paid attention to the education. It’s extremely important to educate the customers and local partners if these foreign wine producers want to raise the quantity of wine sold in Shanghai, even in China.

I’m going to attend a wine tasting class and have myself educated. I hope I can pick up a good bottle of wine with specific reasons next year during Shanghai French Week.

Sports and education should be combined


Zhang Shangwu, a champion gymnast who was forced to turn to begging after injury ended his career prematurely has become a media sensation recently.

His case throws the spotlight on the plight of top athletes in China, who are taken from their homes as young as four to be trained in special sports schools, then struggle to adjust to normal life once their careers are over.

Everyone has his own views on this issue. From my perspectives, related sports ministry or society doesn’t have the direct responsibility, but we need to rethink profoundly of what our athletes lack.

In China, most athletes are not well educated. That’s because they are isolated from cultural education when they are little. These potential sports starts are being trained intensively at sports school and the main goal is to win the medals. Even they are arranged to study a couple of hours a day, all they can do is to pretend they are listening or just sleep in class. “I was too tired after the training and our teachers just turned a blind eye,” my friend, a former fencer sighed.

Currently in China, sports and education seems two parallel lines. It could be dangerous and pricy. Once the key potentials fail to make great achievements, it would affect the entire team performance and the athlete’s future. Take Yao Ming as an example. He was trained as the hope ever since he was little. But what if he turned out to be average or couldn’t make it to NBA? It’s way too risky to bet on a couple of athletes.

In the United States, almost all the athletes are selected from regular schools. They don’t have sports schools. The biggest talent origins for NBA is colleges. Coaches at university select excellent players from high schools and universities offer full scholarship. These basketball players are required to pass recruitment test. Their training period is strictly limited to make sure they have enough time to study. They can’t graduate if they don’t earn enough credits, just like every other average students.

Back home, our athletes are spending way too much time on training. They don’t have time and energy to learn what they’re supposed to learn. System is to blame, but I also sensed some of these athletes are guilty too.

As a top-level fencer, my friend didn’t study hard at high school because she knew she would go to university anyway. She only got less than 200 out of 630 scores in Gaokao but was still admitted by one of the top 3 universities in Shanghai. She then represented that university to compete in University Games domestically and internationally. But the reality is that even though she was entitled as a graduate from a top university, it didn’t help her at all when she was looking for job. She was too busy training and competing in the games. As a result, she didn’t learn any skill rather than fencing at school.

What about those athletes who don’t even have a chance to go to the university through bonus policy? Their situation would be even worse. However, in the U.S, athletes, no matter they are top ones or average ones, basically don’t have a problem of finding them other jobs after retirement. The combination of sports and education makes the society value sports. Often times, in the U.S, those who used to be athletes or are good at sports are popular and respected in all walks of life. But in China, unless you’re an elite who has won golden medals in world first-class game, your life after retirement would be harder than you can ever imagine.

In fact, the theory of combining sports and education has been spoken over 20 years in China. It’s just not working in the way we expected. I know our system is different from the U.S and other counties and we have difficulties that we haven’t figured out how to tackle, but we do need to speed up if we want to see the next Yao Ming soon.

We can’t just copy the model how American cultivate their sports talent, but we could at least let sports be part of the education. Sports and education are not supposed to be separated in the first place. In order to do that, we need to create a surrounding where sports and education are combined and it cannot be realized without the efforts of parents, coaches and athletes themselves. We need to help them understand the importance of education and how it will benefit their whole life.