Browsing through Tianya forum, one of the most popular Chinese forums ( along with MAOPU, Xisi）has become a daily habit of mine to follow the interests and concerns of China’s netizens. I am always fascinated by the diversity of topics people take interest in, which range from exposures and rage over local governmental corruptions to experience-sharing about how to prevent your husband/boyfriend from having an affair. Two popular posts after the Chinese New Year celebration especially seem interesting to me, and I thought through them you might be able to have better a sense about what are the things grassroot population in China are interested in. But if you read Chinese, I seriously recommend you visiting the forum yourself. You might get a little overwhelmed at first, since most Chinese websites do not care much about user-friendly interface and regular visitors of the forum use all kinds of jargons and abbreviations ( some purely for fun, some to better evade censorship). Yet once you get use to it, you would surely be greatly entertained. And Chinasmack do provide full translations for some of the most hyped stories on those forums.
“Brother Sharp” is a begger that an amateur phogographer happened to take some street shots of in Ningbo. His pictures debuted in a photography forum, yet soon they gained immense popularity due to the his well mashed-up bohemian outfits and his melancholy yet unrestrained air. Netizens hailed himself as more stylish and avant-garde than Hollywood Celebrities and Korean/Japanese drama actors.
The sad-side story was also revealed through netizen’s “human flesh search engine“. One netizen from Hangzhou claimed that he interviewed “Brother Sharp” last year as part of his research project about homeless people who might be suffering from mental illness in Ningbo. “Brother Sharp” is clearly a victim of past emotional trauma, the netizen claims, because at times when “Sharp Brother” is sober, he makes comments that he wants to find a woman to love him, and is trying to make himself feel completed by wearing women’s cloths.
Thus suddenly, amid all the admirations of “Sharp Brother”s handsomeness and style, people are also calling for proper social care for those more out there roaming on the street suffering from mental illness. Potential for more activism? Let us wait and see. For now, let us see how “Brother Sharp” drove everybody crazy.
The second event is “drinking Hot Water”, another ridiculous explanation given by police officers about the death of a suspect in a detention center . ( last year’s equivelant was “eluding a cat“, which explains that a criminal suspect’s death results from him hitting his head against the wall while playing hide-and-seek with his cell-mates.)
Politice officers said, “At the time, he said that he was thirsty. The police poured some boiled water for him, but it was too hot. Meanwhile another policeman was drinking water mixed with cold medicine and offered the mixed drink to Wang. When Wang drank this mixed, he reacted badly both physically and psychologically. He was quickly taken to the hospital where he died.” (courtesy of translation from EastSouthWestNorth) When the family was notified and saw his body in the hospital however, they saw bruises and injuries all around his body. The most outrageous things were that his nipples were cut out and his penis was injured as well.
You can always take multiple perspectives when events like this happened. Procedural justice and criminal are indeed new concepts in China, and thus forced convinctions and physical abuses of the new comers by prison bullies are said to be more than frequent, especially in second-tier cities and towns. The positive lesson of stories like this is how they are publicized, sensationalized and openly discussed on internet, which in the end leads to governmental corrective measures and policy adjustments. Last year’s “eluding the cats” was concluded with the criminal convinction of several prison bullies and the administrative penalty for 6 members of the public security bureau and the Procuratorate a week after the incidents. This year, upon revelation of the incident, four police officers reponsible for the interrogation were sent to the Procuratorate for trials, and both the Cheif and Deputy Cheif of the Lushan Police Bureau are now forced to resign.
Signs of progress and possible legilation adjustments about detention centers? The thing is, it is really hard to have total faiths in China’s straightforward progress. As netizens usually said, the country is more like a snail, moving two steps forward and taking one step back. Let us hope for the best for now.
Yet another interesting question to be raised here is, why the government tolerate discussions of these kinds of sensitive topics in the first place, given that they would potentially weaken the credibility of the government? ( in China, people basically view the Courts and the Government as the same thing. And to some extent, it is a very true claim…) I have been thinking about this question for a while, and trying to formulate a convincing story. I will come back when I have one.