Three Men Under One Roof


For over 15 years, Tan Zhiliang’s parents refused to let his family spend the country’s most important holiday — Spring Festival, or the Chinese New Year — with them. Old and conservative, Tan’s parents wouldn’t accept their son’s family. Since 2001, Tan, now 46, has been living with his partner, Chen Dezhou, 42, and Chen’s 18-year-old biological son, Jack. But this year, Tan’s parents finally agreed to allow Chen and Jack to celebrate Spring Festival together at their house. Tan thinks the photos of Jack he regularly sends his parents led to their change of heart.

Tan and his family have become minor Internet celebrities in recent years after he set up an account calledsannanyizhai, or “three men under one roof,” on microblogging platform Weibo in 2009 to blog about his family’s day-to-day life. Tan followed this endeavor with a public content account on social network WeChat in 2013, and the family now has over 50,000 followers across both platforms.

The family’s story has brought hope to many same-sex couples in China who also want to have their own families — an arrangement that to this day is still rare. Traditional beliefs about relationships and families dominate in China, and marriage law expressly forbids same-sex marriages, a fact emphasized by the recent case of Sun Wenlin and his partner, who lost their appeal against the rejection of their marriage registration earlier in April in Changsha, Hunan province.

Tan Zhiliang (right) and Chen Dezhou (left) pose at the rooftop garden of their apartment in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, March 16, 2016. Fan Yiying/Sixth Tone

Chen and Tan first met in 1997, when Chen was a migrant worker at a garment factory in Shunde, a small city 50 kilometers from Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province. One weekend in October of that year, Chen was reading magazines in a local bookstore, when he came across an article about a transgender woman. The woman was despised by her family and cheated on by her boyfriend for not being a “real” woman. It resonated with Chen, who was feeling miserable about his marriage, so he penned a letter to the journalist who wrote the article – Tan Zhiliang.

Over the next month, Tan and Chen exchanged more letters and phone calls, sharing the details of their lives. It was clear they had a lot in common, so Chen got on the train to Guangzhou at the end of Nov. 1997, to meet Tan for the first time. Chen confided in Tan that he felt no love for his wife. It was the first time Chen had ever told anyone, and he felt a great weight lift from his shoulders. The only route for young men in the small village Chen grew up in was to get married to a woman as soon as they hit their early 20s. This was a course that Chen, under pressure from those around him, also followed. Chen had already told Tan about the marriage before the two met. But there was one detail Tan wasn’t expecting: Chen’s wife was about to give birth.

Ten days later, Chen’s son was born into a home shared by two people who barely saw each other and who weren’t in love. With Tan on his mind, Chen told his wife that he was gay and in love with Tan. Her calm and composed reaction spoke volumes. “There was no love between us,” Chen says. He moved in with Tan in 1998, while Jack went to live with Chen’s parents. But after Jack badly burned his thigh reaching for a bottle of hot water in 2000, Chen worried that his parents were getting too old to look after Jack, and so he decided it would be safer if Jack moved in with him and Tan.

Initially, Tan started the Weibo and WeChat accounts to share stories about the family’s life together. But he soon realized that what he was doing mattered to other gay people in China. The family’s experiences have brought hope to many gay people who want children for themselves. For Tan, the message he wants to communicate is clear:

“Being gay doesn’t mean you can’t have your own family.”

But for most gay couples, having children is complicated. Adoption law in China prohibits applications that violate “social morality,” which includes those submitted by same-sex couples. If a couple is wealthy enough, they can use expensive services in the U.S. that provide surrogacy or in vitro fertilization. In rare cases relatives may let a couple look after their child. Abandoned infants are still a reality in China, and some gay couples might take one home if they happen to see one. But aside from the ethical implications, this is also illegal. The only option for the majority of gay couples in China is to remain childless.

It was 2001 when Tan invited his parents to Guangzhou to see his new apartment. Still in the closet to his parents, he introduced Chen as a friend and Jack as his godson. Naively, Tan thought his parents would be immediately accepting of the arrangement. But Tan’s parents hated the idea of their son raising another person’s child, and urged him to find a woman to marry as soon as possible.

In 2003 Tan’s mother told him to come home and visit a relative. But the order was a ruse, and when Tan arrived home he was confronted by a witch who put a spell on him. Superstitious beliefs are still common in China’s countryside, and Tan’s parents thought he was possessed by a female devil that was preventing him from finding a girlfriend. This was the last straw for Tan, and he told his parents the truth about his sexuality.

“I felt the air in the room freeze,” he says.

Tan and Chen live in Guangzhou, but because Tan is vice president of a state-owned media outlet means he spends most of his time in the city of Kunming, Yunnan province. However, the pair decided to live in an affluent suburb of Guangzhou because they think the city is more open-minded. Tan and Chen say that because their neighbors are well-off, they are more accepting of the family.

“Jack is active with the other kids in the compound and has never been confronted with awkward questions,” says Chen.

Photos of Tan, Chen Dezhou, and Chen’s biological son Jack, from their apartment in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, March 16, 2016. Fan Yiying/Sixth Tone

Jack doesn’t think his life has been unusual in any way.

“I just happen to have one more dad,” Jack says.

Chen and Tan have been able to maintain a degree of anonymity in spite of their popularity on social networks, but they have shied away from some public events in order to protect Jack’s privacy. Now 18, Jack realizes that his life and experiences might help others.

“I just want people to know that gay families are as ordinary as other families,” Jack says.

In reality, Jack has two fathers and one mother. Chen’s wife requested a divorce in 2003, and the split was amicable. Soon after, Chen and Tan helped her move to Guangzhou where, according to Chen, she is free to visit whenever she wants. Chen has a child in Jack, and he financially supports his family — the two main demands his parents had of him. Because of this, Chen’s family has been accepting of his relationship.

“My job as a son is done,” Chen says.

Tan’s relationship with his own parents didn’t improve after he came out to them. In the years following, he lied to his parents, saying he had broken up with Chen. He pretended to date a lesbian friend, even going as far as to consider a sham marriage with her. But deep inside, Tan knew he couldn’t go through with it.

In January 2016, Tan posted about the changing relationship with his parents on the sannanyizhai public WeChat account. For the first time ever, he shared a post from that account on his personal WeChat feed, where all of his contacts could read it. Tan was incredibly nervous: He was lifting the lid on his double life and coming clean about his sexual orientation. He even worried that he might lose his job.

But Tan’s post received tens of thousands of views and comments of support, including many from close friends and colleagues. Despite the support of people in wider society, Tan was made to wait by his own parents.

“It took them 15 years to finally accept my family,” says Tan.

The English name “Jack” has been used to protect the true identity of Tan and Chen’s son at their request.


This article was published on Sixth Tone.

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The Honeymoon Is Over: China’s Late Marriage Leave Cancelled


whatsonweibo

As of January 1st, the Chinese government has canceled the ‘late wedding leave’ that allowed China’s twenty-five-somethings to take a 30-day paid leave when getting married. With the policy’s cancelation, newlyweds can now take no more than a 3-day wedding leave. Chinese netizens are angry about the sudden reversal: “Who wants to get married if we don’t even have time for a honeymoon?”

At a news conference for China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee last Sunday, an amendment of the Family Planning Law was announced to cancel China’s so-called “late marriage leave” (晚婚假).

The amendment to the family planning law has come into effect on January 1st, 2016. Most newlyweds were previously entitled to a 3-day marriage leave plus the additional ‘late marriage leave’ that ranged from 7-30 days, depending on local policies. In China, the legal marriage age is 22 for men, and 20 for women. The ‘late marriage leave’ was meant for anyone who got married three years after their legal marriage age. With the revised policy, all Chinese newlyweds, no matter age or location, are only entitled to a 3-day leave.

The late marriage leave was introduced at the time of the one-child policy to encourage people to postpone marriage and childbirth (“晚婚晚育”) in order to help control China’s population growth. Now that China has started to adopt the two-child policy, the government no longer intends to encourage people to marry later on in life.

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Propaganda posters encouraging late marriage and late childbirth. 

On Sina Weibo, thousands of netizens commented on the news under the hashtag of “late marriage leave cancelled” (#晚婚假取消#). Many of them speak out against the new policy, believing that couples should be allowed longer paid leaves, also now that the two-child policy has been implemented.

 

“The government wants us to deliver more babies, but doesn’t help to reduce our stress.”

 

“The new policy just doesn’t make sense to me at all,” says Weibo user “ZPPPPL”: “The fact is that those who get married late need more vacations. The government wants us to deliver more babies, but doesn’t help to reduce our stress, nor does it offer us better welfare. That’s so unwise!”

According to Zhang Chunsheng (张春生), the head of legal affairs at the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the average marriage age for Chinese is now 25. This is already older than the previously established ‘late marriage’ standard age.

User “Jennifer” does not understand why the late marriage leave policy coincides with the implementation of the two-child policy: “I don’t think couples will get married earlier just so they can have two kids. Getting married late is related to higher education and improved living conditions – that’s the reason why so many people choose to get married after 25 nowadays. We really need those longer marriage leaves to have a break.”

 

“The 30 day paid marriage leave was the sole motivation to tie the knot.”

 

Employees working at state-owned companies in China are entitled to five days of paid vacation per year. The late marriage leave is very important for many of them. Over the past few decades, Chinese couples have come to view the ‘late marriage leave’ as their right. Now that this right has been taken from them, many go online to vent their anger and voice their disappointment, saying they were already looking forward to their late marriage leave for a long time.

According to some netizens, the 30-day paid marriage leave was “the sole motivation to tie the knot”.

A user nicknamed “Heavy Manual Labor” complains: “The late marriage leave is a precious vacation for me, and now it’s canceled. The government really takes extreme measures to push those twenty- or thirty-somethings who are still unwed to get married and have two kids.”

Medical worker “Eileen” writes: “I don’t have enough time to get rest. The prospect of the late marriage leave was extremely important to me. What can I expect now that it is canceled? The government doesn’t encourage us to get married late now, but it also doesn’t encourage getting married young by offering any favorable policies.”

 

“How are we supposed to make make babies without our honeymoon?”

 

Aside from the worries of not getting that much-needed vacation, many netizens also worry about more practical issues, fearing that three days is not enough time to prepare for the wedding, let alone to go on a honeymoon.

User “Miss Wang” writes that three days is nowhere near enough time to cope with all the concerns before and after the wedding: “Have you ever considered the needs of couples who work far away from their hometowns, and who will already spend days just to get home for the wedding? You can’t just change the policy like it’s a game. This must be a joke.”

Another user “Jugeng Xiaoran” adds: “We need more than three days to prepare the wedding banquet. What about the honeymoon? Who wants to get married if we don’t even have time for a honeymoon? And how are we supposed to make babies without our honeymoon?”

 

“I will still marry late, I won’t have two kids, I am the boss of my own life.”

 

A number of Weibo users also criticize the government and the Party from a human rights perspective. “How many kids we want should be our own business. It’s our rights. But in China, it’s decided by the government. No wonder so many Chinese choose to migrate to other countries,” one user says.

“Go ahead and cancel our welfare,” user “RiveGauche” continues: “I will still marry late, I won’t have two kids, I am the boss of my own life. Meanwhile, I will work harder so that I can move to another country where there actually are human rights.”

The cancelation of China’s late marriage came without warning, and took five days from its announcement to its enforcement. Many netizens are caught by surprise, and suggest a ‘deadline cushion’ for future change in policies. Weibo user Vincent writes: “The cancelation itself is unreasonable, but what’s more, there is barely a buffer period for it. These kind of distressing policies will bring about social unrest.”

The amendment has led to a wave of last-minute marriage registrations. Since it passed on December 27, many couples rushed to get registered by January 1st so they would still be entitled to the late marriage leave.

According to the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau, there was a 30 percent increase in marriage registrations compared to the same period last year. In Shenzhen, the wedding registration offices were flooded with couples who hoped to get registered before the new rule would go into effect. “Getting registered for the sake of the late wedding leave” (#为晚婚假扎堆领证#) even became a hot topic on Sina Weibo.

One Weibo blogger predicts that China’s divorce application offices will be packed within a year. Another netizen agrees, and says that in China, marriage choices are distorted by policies. “And that is pathetic,” he concludes.

By Yiying Fan

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 Year-end Bonus Game Has Just Started


yearend

The end of the year is approaching. This means that Chinese employees start to look forward to their annual year-end bonuses (年终奖). It is a tradition in China that can be both stressful and pleasant for full-time workers: is the boss finally giving out that promised bonus, or do they have to wait another season?

The year-end bonus became a hot topic on Sina Weibo this week. A number of China media, including China Daily (中国日报) and Caijing (财经网), posted the news of a Chinese boss paying terminated employees the year-end bonuses they were supposed to get four years ago.

Over 90 employees were forced to leave the Chongqing-based company in 2011 due to financial problems, and the employer failed to give them their year-end bonuses that year. Since the company has been doing better in 2015, the boss decided to reissue the bonuses that he promised his former employees four years ago.

The news received much attention on Weibo, where the hundreds of netizens responding to this post can be roughly divided into two camps: those who praise the Chongqing employer for being “such a wonderful boss”, and those who say that they just want to repost this news to their own boss as a subtle hint.

 

“Over 80% of employers paid year-end bonuses to their employees in 2015.”

 

According to PXC Consulting, a well-known human resource research organization in China, over 80% of employers paid year-end bonuses to their employees in 2015. Within these enterprises, 77.6% pay more than RMB 5,000 (±US$1,058), and 4.1% pay more than RMB 30,000 (±US$4,645) to each employee. Of all cities, Shanghai tops the ranking with the average employee working there receiving roughly 8,515 yuan (±US$1,319) on top of their monthly salary.

The height of the year-end bonus largely depends on one’s profession. People employed in the finance, e-commerce, automobile, and aviation sectors rank amongst the top earners when it comes to year-end bonuses, PXC Consulting reports.

 

“I only stay at the company because of my year-end bonus.”

 

For many Chinese workers, the year-end bonus is their motivation to work hard and stay in the company till the end of December. Sina Weibo user ‘Xiao Meng‘ is a typical example of such a worker: “My wages are nothing compared to the labor intensity of the job. What’s more, my company is a two-hour drive from home. I only stay at the company for the sake of my year-end bonus.”

The year-end bonus is also called the ‘December bonus’, which means that the bonus is supposed to be paid in December of every year. But over recent years, more and more companies choose to pay the bonus in the middle of the year or divide it into seasons, to make sure their employees don’t leave right after receiving the bonus.

Weibo user ‘CBH2015‘ complains that he might not be able to receive half of his year-end bonus. “My income is composed of a base salary and the year-end bonus. However, the year-end bonus is given out twice a year – in the end of December and in the middle of next year. I don’t think I will get the second half of my bonus, as I have just resigned.”

 

“Some employers have turned the ‘year-end bonus’ into a ‘stay-and-don’t-leave bonus’ to make sure their factory workers will come back after the Chinese New Year.”

 

It is up to each employer how much they pay for the year-end bonus, and when they pay it. Some employers have now turned the ‘year-end bonus’ into a ‘stay-and-don’t-leave bonus’. This way, they can ensure their factory workers will come back after the Chinese New Year. Since companies care about keeping good employees for the development of their businesses, and employees care about the receiving a bonus to boost their income, the delay of bonus-giving seems like a clever solution for many companies.

Pressured by rising prices, the timing of when to pay the year-end bonus and deciding on its amount seems increasingly crucial to employees. Therefore, most companies do not add the bonus to their labor contracts. Whether or not they give out the bonus depends on the company’s situation and recent profits.

 

“Last year, a Guangzhou Internet company gave away 10 Audi cars as year-end bonuses for its employees.”

 

According to Fu Ting, a labor relation lawyer from Beijing, employees should demand a written promise to ensure the pay of year-end bonuses. She writes that it is not required for companies to give out year-end bonuses, unless there is a contractual agreement. Such an agreement would avoid confusion and disappointments, benefiting both employers and their employees: “The written promise could be included in the work contract, in a compensation agreement or in the company regulations. The specific date of payment should be written in the contract as well.”

But in reality, many employers are not yet willing to contractually agree to give out the year-end bonus. They do not want to risk violating the contract once they cannot afford to give out money at the end of the year. Simply not putting anything on paper is the safer route to take.

 

“After I complained about it on Weibo, they decided to give out the bonus.”

 

The year-end bonus will be a hot topic for the coming weeks, as some workers will be surprised and some disappointed. It has created some social media hypes over recent years. Last year, a Guangzhou Internet company gave away 10 Audi cars as year-end bonuses for its employees. Another company reportedly gave out 1 RMB lottery tickets as a year-end bonus, making some employees resign on the spot.

If the boss is late paying, complaining on Weibo might offer a solution. User ‘Nikovsky‘ writes: “My company always delays the year-end bonus. The managers don’t pay us until we are back for work after Chinese New Year. But after I complained about it on Weibo, they’ve decided to give out the bonus in the end of December.”

By Yiying Fan

This article was published on What’s on Weibo.

Weibo Controversy over “Beijing Subway Breastfeeding”


breastfeedingchina

Two separate events where women were publicly shamed for breastfeeding in public have caused controversy on Weibo. The issue attracted the attention of UNICEF and Beijing authorities. 

A Sina Weibo user posted a picture of a young mother breastfeeding her baby in the subway in Beijing this week. The user, a 21-year-old woman, wrote that she felt that the mother needed to “pay attention to her manners in public place” and that she should not “expose her sex organ”. As the young mother looked like a rural woman according to the Weibo user who took her picture, she also added that “this is the Beijing subway, not the bus in your village”.

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The picture became a trending topic on Sina Weibo under the hashtag of “Beijing Subway Breastfeeding” (#北京地铁哺乳#), and accumulated over 70,000 comments and 80 million views.

“I don’t care if people are watching. I’ll breastfeed when my baby is hungry.”

Weibo netizens collectively responded to the issue; some agreeing with it being inappropriate, some defending the mother, and some attacking the woman who took the picture.

Some mothers write that a mother should always breastfeed her baby when it needs to be fed; she cannot let the child go hungry, no matter if it is on the subway. A Weibo user named Liz confesses: “I used to say I would never breastfeed my baby in public. I didn’t understand this behavior either. Just like most netizens, I thought I could try to avoid it or at least breastfeed in the public toilet. But after I became a mother, I realized there are too many uncertainties when you are out with the baby. I don’t care if people are watching. I’ll breastfeed when my baby is hungry.”

“Once I breastfed my baby in a toilet at the airport because I couldn’t find a nursing room. I still blame myself for feeding him with the smell of the toilet,” user “Anna Bailan” confides. “I wasn’t strong enough to breastfeed him in public. If the same thing happens again, I won’t let my baby suffer again, even if someone might post my boob online.”

“If you don’t like it, you can avoid it instead of taking a picture of it and posting it on Weibo.”

There are also comments teeming with anger and criticism, directed at the picture taker: “As a woman yourself, you will be a mother someday. You are arrogant and feel too good about yourself. You don’t even have a basic conscience. This is exactly what the younger generation lacks right now,” writes user “Sweet”.

A user named Sophya adds: “I feel so angry after reading this. This young mother did nothing wrong but to feed her baby when it was hungry. If you don’t like it, you can avoid it instead of taking a picture of it and posting it on Weibo. Do you have any idea how much damage you’re causing to this mother?”

“How I pity those who would actually belittle a mother for taking care of her child.”

The controversy over breastfeeding in public did not stop at the Beijing subway issue this week. Other news about breastfeeding in public also raised concern amongst Weibo netizens.

The issue concerned a U.S. case, where a man in Indiana took a picture of a woman breastfeeding her son in a restaurant and posted it on social media. “I understand that your child is hungry,” he commented, “but could you please at least cover your boob up?” The American mother, named Conner Kendall, then stroke back with a long post on Facebook. “You have given me a platform and a drive to advocate breastfeeding ferociously,” she wrote: “You’ve inspired me into a call of action. Rest assured, there will be action. Not only by me but others like me who feel you violated them and their rights. How I pity those who would actually belittle a mother for taking care of her child.”

Many Weibo users praise Kendall for being brave and strong. As user “Xiongbi” says: “She’s such a great mother for being brave enough to say things like that. We are also lucky enough to have her educate us and persuade us by her beautiful words.”

“Breast milk is the perfect natural health food for babies, which cannot be replaced.”

“God made mothers able to feed their children from their own breasts. It is the society that sexualizes them. Children do not sexualize breasts until they are taught to do so. True it is! Applaud her for being courageous,” expresses user “Wind and free”.

The “Beijing Breastfeeding issue” has not only created a buzz amongst netizens, it also made them realize the importance of establishing breastfeeding rooms in public. User “Evadi” is one of them: “I hope we can take advantage of this incident to continue urging the government to build more nursing rooms so that we can provide a better environment for breastfeeding moms in public places.”

UNICEF China also got involved in this topic on its Weibo account, and called for the whole society to be more supportive of breastfeeding by building more public nursing rooms: “Breast milk is the perfect natural health food for babies, which cannot be replaced. All mothers and babies have the right to on-demand feeding, including in a public place. A good nursing room could let mothers breastfeed their babies in a quiet and comfortable space. Infants and young children also have the right to enjoy public resources.”

Beijing authorities have been quick to respond to the issue. According to the local news program “News Late Peak” (新闻晚高峰), Beijing is to set maternal and infant rooms in subway stations of large passenger volumes and build maternal facilities in the toilets of other stations.

In the meantime, the woman who uploaded the Beijing breastfeeding picture has deleted her post and apologized for her behavior. “I didn’t expect that my post would cause such a stir on Weibo. I’m young and ignorant. This is a mother’s unconditional love to her child – she can do anything for her child, which I might not be able to experience yet. I’m so sorry for being disrespectful.”

By Yiying Fan

Featured image: women breastfeeding on Beijing subway on Breastfeeding Day, Aug 1st 2015, source).

 

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.

New Law Combats China’s ‘Yinao’ Phenomenon


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China has launched a new law to cope with the increasing social problem of patient-doctor violence, also called the ‘Yinao’ Phenomenon. The growing violence of patients against medical staff has made being a doctor a dangerous job in China. The new law makes it possible to sentence hospital troublemakers to up to seven years in prison.

The yinao (医闹, ‘medical disturbance’) phenomenon has become a growing problem in China’s medical sector over the past several years. Yinao is the organized disturbance and violence in hospitals against medical workers, mostly meant to get compensation for medical malpractices. It is often done by criminal groups that are hired by patients or their family when they are dissatisfied with the provided medical care.

The disturbance includes protests and violent attacks on staff. Some even involve the murder on health professionals.

Chinese media have covered roughly thirty medical related disputes from October 2013 to June 2015. These were only the terribly violent disputes (including fatal stabbings) that had a large societal impact; the thousands of small disputes happening in hospitals across China every day were not taken in account.

“The Ministry of Public Security has advised hospitals with 2000 beds to have at least 100 security guards.”

In October of 2013, the Ministry of Public Security has advised hospitals with over 2000 beds to have at least 100 security guards. The growing numbers of security staff, however, have not helped to combat hospital violence.

In November 2013, hundreds of medical workers protested at the No. 1 People’s Hospital in Wenling, after a dissatisfied patient overpowered security guards and stabbed three doctors, leading to the death of one of them.

The new law, that will be implemented on November 11th of this year, is to punish those who threaten and assault medical staff, damage hospital facilities or equipment, or in any way hinder the hospital staff and doctors from doing their work.

“Medical workers are constantly bullied, humiliated or physically hurt by ignorant people.”

On Sina Weibo, the topic “medical disturbance crimination” (#医闹入罪#) was posted immediately after the news was released. Over a million users participated in a discussion about the new law.

Among all the users commenting, there were are also many medical professionals and students. “Us as poor medical students can finally relax a little bit. Medical violence should have been incriminated years ago!” says user Sunshine Without Tears: “There have been so many hospital disputes, and medical workers are constantly bullied, humiliated or physically hurt by ignorant people. We need a law to combat hospital disputes so that the relationship between doctors and patients will improve.”

Doctor CSY summarizes the major factors contributing to the increase of violence in China’s health care: a rising consciousness of patient rights, deepening misunderstandings between patients and doctors, and provocative media reporting. He then adds: “I’ve witnessed a lot of disputes in the hospital over the past few years. All doctors want their patients to get better and healthy. We work so hard with not much income, and yet have to worry about our own safety. If any medical worker neglects his duty, he should be punished by the law instead of being hit by the patient’s family.”

“Patients sometimes spend their entire life savings when suffering from serious illnesses. When treatment fails, despairing patients and their families are quick to blame doctors.”

The market-oriented reforms of the Chinese health sector is also a major cause of the yinao phenomenon. With China’s economic liberalization, the state is no longer responsible for providing health care. Because public hospitals have started chasing profits to survive, people have to take more responsibility for their own care.

Patients sometimes spend their entire life savings when suffering from serious illnesses. When treatment fails, despairing patients and their families are quick to blame doctors and the hospital.

Most patients and their families are unwilling to solve medical problems through legal channels; not only is the process time-consuming, it also might end with no financial compensation. They believe a quicker way to get some money back is to cause trouble at the hospital.

Weibo user Huohuo is worried about the feasibility of the new law: “I don’t think ordinary people will go to court to deal with medical issues. In China, there is a long tradition of the law failing us, while the violators win. I just hope that China will be a developed country soon so that all Chinese people can enjoy free healthcare. It might be the best solution to decrease hospital disputes.”

“Doctors are the perfect target of revenge.”

There are also Weibo users who understand negative sentiments towards medical staff. Chinese doctors and other medical professionals are generally underpaid. The low income causes some of them to make extra money in “grey areas” such as drug kickbacks, over-prescription, and bribery. For many patients, this has ruined the image of doctors, and they find it hard to trust them. This partly explains why, when medical misfortune happens, doctors often are the perfect targets of revenge.

User East South West North comments: “Medical disputes happen for a reason. The truth is, that some doctors require patients to do unnecessary inspections so they can make profits. Patients have even died from counterfeit drugs prescribed by doctors.”

“I’m afraid no one wants to pursue a career in medicine if this vicious cycle keeps on growing.”

China’s violence against doctors has been cited as an important reason for a decrease in the popularity of healthcare career. User J_tomorrow points out that the government should heighten the punishment of ‘medical disturbance’ to ensure the safety of medical workers at hospitals: “Doctor is a high-risk and low-paid occupation in China. I’m afraid no one wants to pursue a career in medicine if this vicious cycle keeps on growing.”

Weibo user called Bottle of Chili admits that she has lost her passion of being a medical worker: “I used to be full of passion for my work, and I treated my patients with kindness. But after being misunderstood and humiliated by patients and their families years after years, I’m now doing my job like a robot. The whole society expects us to show selfless devotion, but we are humans after all!”

‘Medical disturbance crimination’ is the first step in improving the doctor-patient relationship. Many more measurements need to be taken in order to cope with this social problem. User Liyun expresses his support of the legal protection of medical worker. At the same time, he says: “We need to understand the underlying reasons of medical disturbance – the distrust between doctors and patients. Hospitals should not hide or cover up medical negligence. And patients should give medical workers the respect they deserve.”

Written by Yiying Fan

Edited by Manya Koetse

Image used: http://focus.cnhubei.com/consensus/200912/t883804.shtml

New Hot Job in China: “Mistress Discourager”


sinanews

A new career is recently emerging in China. So-called “third person dissuaders” or “mistress discouragers” specialise in persuading mistresses to step back from their client’s marriage, and make an annual salary of approximately one million yuan (157,500 US$).

Saving a marriage does not come cheap. China’s “third person dissuaders” or “mistress discouragers” sometimes charge as high as 250,000 yuan (±40,000 US$) to persuade ‘the third person’ (小三), or  ‘the other woman’, to step back from their clients’ marriage.

The mysterious occupation initially started in the cities of Shanghai, Chengdu, and Shenzhen, but is now spreading throughout China.

The phenomenon was pushed to the forefront during the Second Chinese Marriage and Family Counseling Services Summit (中国婚姻家庭咨询服务行业高峰论坛) on October 10th, and became a hot topic in Chinese media and on social media platforms.

“80% of failed marriages have to do with a mistress problem.”

According to Shu Xin (舒心), head of the China Association of Marriage and Family (中国婚姻家庭工作联合会), it takes time and money to drill a “third person dissuader”. Training them to become qualified takes at least six months and costs over 300,000 yuan (±47,000 US$) per person.

But the money apparently is worth it, as specialized senior “mistress discouragers” make around one million Chinese yuan per year (around 157,500 US$).

During the Chinese Marriage and Family Summit, it was stated that China’s divorce rate has been on the rise for twelve consecutive years, and in 80% of the cases, the failing of these marriages has to do with a “mistress problem” (小三问题).

At the summit, Shu Xin pleaded for a regulation of the profession and its training, in order to avoid ruining the market.

“This shows that more and more people in China are having affairs.”

Users on Sina Weibo are also actively engaging in this hot topic. So far the topic “third person dissuader” (#小三劝退师#) has accumulated nearly 6,000 comments with more than 15 million views.

A lot of netizens see it as a weird yet promising career with Chinese characteristics (中国特色). “Demand determines supply. We all know that the common cause of Chinese divorces is marital infidelity. The rise of such a profession shows that more and more people are having affairs now,” Weibo user Tangguoyun says.

A user who calls himself PQ agrees: “The emerging of the ‘third person dissuader’ is the result of market demand.” He goes on to emphasize that the profession faces the risk of violating the law and moral codes: “The process of getting rid of a ‘third person’ might involve monitoring and stalking. It could also cause personal safety issues. That is why specific professional norms should be established by the relevant departments.”

“Curing the symptoms, not the disease”

The China Association of Marriage and Family called together the relevant professionals this month to develop guide regulations for ‘mistress discouragers’. The association also opened a nationwide complaint hotline to supervise the service quality.

However, the majority of Weibo users still have doubts on this occupation and consider it to only “cure the symptoms, not the disease”.

User Domi says: “Such actions are just a temporary solution. Those who have affairs are not loyal, and have weak self-discipline. Even though the ‘third person’ might be persuaded to leave the love triangle this time, there will be a ‘forth person’ or even ‘fifth person’ in the future.”

“Couples should do workshops on how to maintain a healthy marriage.”

In most western countries, it is common for couples to go for marriage counselling when they are having relationship problems. But couple’s therapy is not popular in China yet, as most Chinese people do not feel comfortable discussing personal matters in front of a total stranger. Although professional counselling is offered at local Civil Affair Bureau and Divorce Offices, people generally feel ashamed to share such private matters.

Some users on Sina Weibo point out the importance of marriage counselling, and encourage couples with ‘third person’ issues to go into couple’s theory together. “Apart from third party counselling courses, it would be good for couples to do workshops on maintaining a good marriage.” says user ClaraSY. Until then, mistress discouragers can make a good living out of other people’s love affairs..

By Yiying Fan

This article was published on What’s on Weibo.

China Cancels Bon Jovi Gigs over Dalai Lama Pics


bonjovi3Bon Jovi’s first ever concerts in China was suddenly cancelled by government officials on September 9th. The band had been due to play Shanghai and Beijing next week.

The concert organizer AEG posted the cancellation on its public account on Sina Weibo: “We are sorry to announce that Bon Jovi’s concerts in Shanghai (September 14th) and Beijing (September 17th) have been canceled for some reason. A full ticket refund will be arranged. We apologize for the inconvenience and disappointment.”

Inconvenience and disappointment indeed. Many fans have been waiting for this concert for years and were thrilled about the upcoming gigs. Fans who don’t live in Shanghai or Beijing have booked flights and hotels just for the concert.

Weibo user “Z_SCAN” comments,

“We purchased the concert tickets in June and booked the flights and hotels. The concerts is due on 14th and you told us it’s canceled on 9th? Do you think the ticket refund could solve all the problems? What about the flights and the hotels we’ve booked? Do you have any idea how upset we are?”

Angry, disappointed, regretful and helpless. Chinese fans are fed up that the organizer did not even offer a reason for the cancellation as usual.

“What was the reason?” user “Aoe518” asks, just like a lot of other fans.

“If it’s the same reason with Maroon 5’s concert in July, then I’m wondering how Bon Jovi’s concert got approved in the first place? If the organizer can’t handle the authorities and Culture Ministry (文化部), please do not invite any international performers over to China! It has happened so many times in the past already.”

Although no official reason was given for the cancelation, netizens and fans have figured that it was political related. As media reports suggest that the Party discovered the US rock band had performed in front of a picture of Dalai Lama at a concert in Taiwan five years ago and had previously tweeted about the spiritual leader.

The issue of Tibet has always been sensitive in China and it’s extremely sensitive at the moment as the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region is approaching.

Bon Jovi’s fans on Weibo call on “let the music away from politics”. User “Zhao_Z” says,

“Music can heal and comfort us. It is a way to express individual freedom and make us think deeply. China is doing really a bad job on this. The government has closed the door to so many great musical and television works. We have the right to hear other voices and opinions!”

User “Star Commander” criticizes that China is a narrow-minded nation.

“Bon Jovi is such a good public figure – positive lyrics, healthy performance form, no sandal, etc. The gig got canceled in China simply because of  a picture of a monk? This is unbelievable. If China keeps being so narrow-minded, we will always be looked down upon by other countries.”

Other netizens can’t help but tease that the gig’s name should have been

“Long Live the Community Party · Jon Bon Jovi China Live”.

Gao Xiaosong, song writer as well as the Chairman of Alibaba Music Group also posts on his Weibo page that Alibaba Music had to postpone a lot of projects due to political reasons.

“(The government) wishes only if they could provide each Chinese individuals with a political advisor (政治辅导员) and each company with a political commissar (政委).”

However, not all the netizens are disappointed about the cancelation of the gig. Some believe that the government has made the right choice. User “Lakeshire” insists,

“As a celebrity, you are not supposed to interfere with other countries’ politics, especially if you are about to make tons of money from that country. Since Bon Jovi has chosen to support DL (Dalai Lama), he should get prepared to be banned.”

She continues that Chinese fans shouldn’t support any separatist to perform in China.

“What if they play all of these pictures of DL (Dalai Lama)during the concert in Shanghai and Beijing?”

Chinese netizens rarely talks about Dalai Lama on Weibo. Dalai Lama (达赖喇嘛) and Dalai (达赖) are not searchable on Weibo according to the relevant laws and regulations (根据相关法律法规和政策). Weibo users are “openly” commenting on the cancelation announcement, replacing the key words with “DL”, “some Lai (某赖)” or “the monk”.

“Too Loud, Too Rude”: Switzerland Introduces Separate Trains for Chinese Tourists


swissnews

Switzerland has introduced special coaches for Chinese tourists, as locals consider them to be ‘loud’ and ‘rude’. The news has triggered mixed reactions amongst Weibo’s netizens.

According to China’s National Tourism Administration (中国国家旅游管理局), China now sends more tourists abroad than any other country in the world. The number of Chinese outbound tourists exceeded 100 million in 2014, spending $155 billion.

Although destination countries welcome the money spent by Chinese travelers, locals often can’t stand the chaos and hassle some Chinese tourists bring to their countries. They consider them to be loud, rude, pushy, and all over the place.

“They’re loud and rude, and spit on the floor.”

Such is the case in Switzerland, visited by one million Chinese tourists every year. Locals and Swiss tourists often feel harassed by the Chinese, Heute reports, especially on the famous Rigi Railways. Chinese tourists are said to be “loud and rude”, and they “spit on the floor”. Their misbehavior has lead Rigi Railways to take special measures: since August there are extra trains for ‘Asian tourists’, and from September extra ones for ‘international guests’. There are also special signs on the toilet explaining tourists how (not) to use the toilet, according to Heute.

Although Rigi Railways officially has opened extra train carriages for ‘Asian guests’, a local Swiss newspaper clearly stated they were especially meant for Chinese, its headline being: “Zu laut, zu frech – Schweiz führt Extra-Züge für Chinesen ein” (“Too Loud, Too Rude: Switzerland Introduces Extra Trains for Chinese Tourists”).

The newspaper also published one of the train’s illustrations that instruct tourists to sit on toilet seats rather than to squat on them. The railway company assumes that Chinese tourists often stand on the toilet, and don’t clean their footprints afterwards.

“Some Chinese have bad manners, but we’re not all like that.”

Once the news was posted on Sina Weibo on August 25th, it gained over 2000 comments in one day. The reactions were mixed.

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Many users consider it to be discrimination against Chinese tourists. User “Shiya” doubts Europeans can tell the differences between Asians: “They can’t distinguish the different Asians from different countries. Chinese, Japanese and Koreans probably look the same to them. Why are they so sure that the footprints are left by Chinese? The news says that the extra coaches are meant for Asians. However, it tried to draw the public’s attention by emphasizing it is for Chinese in the title. This is discrimination.”

User “Luoluo” follows: “I thought people from western countries advocate freedom and equality, and that they oppose to discrimination. But to me, this [the news] is pure and simple discrimination. I admit that some Chinese don’t really have good manners, but it doesn’t mean we are all like that. I’m fed up that we are blamed for all the uncivilized behavior by Asians. Of course we need to stand up against misbehaviour, but we can’t endure the discrimination.”

“If you’re used to squatting, you just can’t poo by sitting on the toilet.”

Some users try to explain the culture of squatting on the toilet in China. Although ‘western-style’ toilets are popular in China’s bigger cities and airports, there are still lots of squatting toilets, especially in rural areas. Weibo user “JaneyPan” says that from a physiological standpoint, squatting is the best toilet position. “If you are used to squatting, you just can’t poo by sitting on the toilet. But I agree that we need to clean the footprints afterwards.” She then adds: “Maybe the Switzerland railway should consider building squatting toilets on the carriages meant for Chinese tourists.”

“They think they can do anything they want because they have money.”

A large number of netizens also self-reflect, saying it is high time to promote civilized behaviour amongst Chinese travelers, and restore the country’s image. User “Beer Happiness” comments: “Many Chinese now want to travel abroad to see the world as we are getting wealthy. Yet, a small amount of Chinese tourists with low quality have damaged our nation’s image. Most foreigners haven’t been to China. They know things about China through the news. That’s why they think all Chinese people are rude.”

The Switzerland railway issue is not the first case where Chinese tourists are treated differently. Earlier this year, Mainland Chinese tourists were temporarily banned from entering the Wat Rong Khun temple, one of the top tourist destinations in Chiang Rai, Thailand, because of inappropriate toilet usage. The temple was reopened to Chinese tourists on the condition that their tour guides would be held responsible for cleaning the toilets. As user “Xj” suggests: “The tour guide should give etiquette lessons to its clients, especially to the middle-aged tourists. They think can do anything they want because they have money. This is wrong.”

The Chinese government has taken actions to stop the uncivilized behaviour of Chinese tourists abroad. The National Tourism Administration has started to track the actions of Chinese citizens abroad since last year April. Provincial and national authorities will be in touch with unruly citizens upon their return to China. This measurement came into effect after a group of Chinese travelers scalded a flight attendant with hot water and threatened to blow up a plane from Bangkok to Nanjing.

“The saddest thing when traveling abroad is to witness the bad behaviour of our people. They really harm China’s reputation,” says user “FPA”: “I understand the intention of these foreign countries who treat Chinese tourists differently. I mean, who wants to travel with Chinese tourists who are loud, rude and fight over small things?” In the end, like a lot of other netizens, user “FPA” calls on Chinese travelers to respect the locals and their culture: “We are making progress on this. I just hope foreign countries won’t discriminate against us.”

By Yiying Fan

This article was published on What’s on Weibo.