There is no faster way to lose support than to kill innocent people. On the evening of Saturday, March 1, ten or so uniformed assailants wielding foot-long knives launched an attack on civilians at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming. So far, the carnage has taken 29 lives and injured another 130.
Rumors first floated on China’s social media that the perpetrators are Uighurs, a Muslim minority from China’s western region of Xinjiang, an area known for ethnic unrest. A sign that looks similar to the star and crescent flag of East Turkestan Islamic Movement was reported to be found at the crime scene.
The rumor was later confirmed by China state news agency Xinhua who labeled the mass killing “an organized, premeditated violent terrorist attack carried out by Xinjiang separatists.”
The attack will be a milestone event that marks a turning point of how ordinary Chinese people perceive situations in Xinjiang. Ethnic unrests, especially violent clashes between Han people and Uighur people, are not uncommon in this far western region of China. While the Chinese government has invariably portrayed all unrests as acts of separatism orchestrated by Islamist extremists, many Chinese people actually do acknowledge that violence by Uighurs, to a certain extent, is provoked by the government’s repressive policies and religion restrictions.
The Kunming train station attack, however, took away many people’s sympathy for the Uighurs. “No matter who, for whatever reason, or of what ethnicity, chose a place as crowded as a train station, and targeted at innocent people – they are evil and they should go to hell,” commented popular liberal intellectual Li Chengpeng on Weibo.
Such sentiment is pervasive. Another popular account on Weibo @二逼瓦西里 commented: “Repeat this with me: I oppose all terrorist attacks targeted at civilians. No matter how much you’ve suffered or how lofty your motives are, when you take innocent lives, you are an enemy of humanity, a shameful coward, and a criminal deserving to die. I have no interest in your story; I don’t care about your plea; I see no point in having talks. The only thing that needs to be done is to punish with no mercy.” The post has been shared more than 250,000 times in a few hours.
Vows to retaliate aside, many are also calling for caution. A further deterioration of the already unfriendly relationship between China’s majority Han people and its Uighur minorities, though seems inevitable at this point, is probably the only worse thing than a mass killing that could happen.
The goal of the terrorists, as one netizen 罗新PKU pointed out: “is to create separation. If we treat all Muslims or all Uighurs as criminals, then the terrorists are successful.”
Popular Chinese writer Han Han wrote on Weibo: “Terrorist attacks directed at innocent people must be punished. But I also wish that we don’t place our hatred on an entire ethnicity or an entire religion.”
Another popular account 假装在纽约 echoed: “Please don’t turn angers towards the terrorists into fears of an entire ethnicity. Please don’t turn fights against violence into hostility towards an entire ethnicity.”
Xi Jinping: “Make socialist core values as pervasive as the air.”
Chinese netizens: “Also as toxic?”
China has a lot of animation fans, and it’s not uncommon to see someone who finds the two-dimensional world more attractive than the real one. Netizen Li27n is one such example. He has been updating his sweet life with his cute girlfriend on Weibo since early 2013. The only problem is that his girlfriend is hand drawn.
“I drew myself a lovely girlfriend.”
“She insisted that I took her to the theaters. Picture of her before the movie started.”
“Just finished dinner with my girlfriend. This is the first time that we ate together. I took a picture of the moment. Isn’t she cute?”
“Went to hiking with my girlfriend. So tired but very healthy.”
“We finally held hands. My heart was beating so hard.”
“My girlfriend was drunk. Good night, everybody.”
“My girlfriend is going to study in Japan. I’m sad, in tears.”
“She was studying in the library.”
“Don’t feel sorry for me, ok?! Look, I just bought a drum for my girlfriend. She seemed to like it. Isn’t she cute in pajamas?”
“My girlfriend was trying to take away my pen because she thought I spent too much time drawing and left little time for her.”
“Went to a hair salon with my girlfriend. Such a long line!”
“Her new haircut!”
“It’s my birthday and my girlfriend got me a cake. So happy!”
“My girlfriend was waiting for me in the bathtub.”
“My girlfriend and I had been watching TV at home for several days. Ah, don’t take away my blanket!”
“My girlfriend took out this when I stepped into the room. Is it for me? Thank you!”
Giving birth in the US is the new original sin in China.
Pictures of famous China Central TV host Chai Jing holding a newborn baby at the airport have been making the rounds on Chinese social media in the past few days. It’s reported that Chai, who is sometimes referred to as “the Chinese liberals’ goddess”, gave birth to a daughter in October 2013 in the United States.
Thanks to her many investigative pieces on the SARS outbreak, the Sichuan earthquake and several coal mine accidents, Chai’s public image is that she is a fearless and on-the-ground reporter. In her speech at the 2009 Beijing Journalists Association’s speech competition, she thus concluded her sensational speech:
“A country is built upon individuals; she is constructed and determined by them. It is only if a country has people who…build but do not take advantage of the land.”
It was this speech that first brought her to public attention and made her into a sort of celebrity journalist. Her act of choosing to give birth to her child in the US, however, is seen by many netizens as contrary to what she’s been advocating. A traitor and a hypocrite – that’s how some Chinese netizens call her now.
One netizen 再见二丁目c7 commented: “I have no problem of her giving birth in the US. But she shouldn’t put on a show on TV as if she is a patriot and cares about this country or its people.”
Another netizen HI-曹焱焱 agreed: “If she is an ordinary mom, I won’t be so disgusted. But Chai’s been trying hard to establish herself as a patriot who cares about this country. If so, be a Chinese!”
Yet another netizen 涛哥老吴 added: “This shows the hypocrisy of liberals in China. Their credibility is declining. People are glowingly disappointed at these so-called liberals.”
This overwhelmingly negative public perception of those who give birth in the US stems from China’s culture of corruption. Many of China’s corrupt officials are the so-called “naked officials” who move their entire families overseas (mainly to the US) and stay in China alone to cash in on their power.
These naked officials are considered to have no interest in improving the livelihood of Chinese people because the ones they love are already US citizens. The only thing that they care about is how to take advantage of their power to get richer, which, more often than not, results in the suffering of the people.
They are so hated that giving birth in the US itself becomes a “crime”, especially if it is done by someone with a certain degree of influence, such as Chai Jing.
For example, one netizen porton bitterly pointed out: “Those who criticize the system in China. Those who sing praises of the system in China. They all choose to have an American kid. That’s the ultimate universal value in today’s China.”