Tom Fearon

Professional communicator in Canberra

Top 10 Weibo Stories of 2011

Dec. 29, 2011

By Tom Fearon

2011 will be remembered in China as Year of the Weibo microblogger. The country's army of 300 million microbloggers was quick to report news both serious and light-hearted, ensuring the blogosphere was always buzzing with the latest in words and pictures. Weibo users were instrumental in breaking tragic news stories as they unfolded, with the Wenzhou high-speed rail accident in July serving as a prime example. However, they were also quick to pounce on stories that poked fun at people who made news for all the wrong reasons. Metro Beijing brings you the stories from across China in 2011 that proved sometimes fact really is stranger than fiction.

1. Official puts (pig's) foot in mouth

Liu Weizhong, head of the provincial health office in northwest China's Gansu Province, promoted traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to a new level when he gushed the benefits of "cure by pig trotters" on the office's official website. Asked why he published the article under his own name, Liu replied that it was meant to "allow subordinates to fully realize the policy, follow it and execute it." Pig trotters are renowned as a culinary delicacy the world over for those after meat on the cheap. But not everyone was impressed by Liu's pig-headed approach at using his office's website. "A website for official authorities is not a personal blog where officials air their viewpoints," squealed Chinese Academy of Governance professor, Zhu Lijia.

2. 'Brother Trudge' on epic journey

If there's one thing we love about monikers for Chinese Internet celebrities, it's the reference to them as family members. Hong Kong had its irate "Bus Uncle," who cursed a passenger behind him. Qingdao had "Swimsuit Aunty," whose anti-tanning suit only left holes for her eyes, nostrils and mouth. And who could forget Chongqing's "Sister Feng," who sought a boyfriend that met her picky criteria? In July, we were introduced to "Brother Trudge" from southwest China's Sichuan Province. Jing Weiquan, 21, spent seven days and six nights trudging 360 kilometers from Chengdu to Chongqing in his noble quest for a job. Just when it seemed our broke brother had set out in vain, the weary traveler who drank dirty water from ditches, ate strewn fruit on the ground and slept on the road found work at an IT company. Let's hope 2012 brings him good luck, and maybe a bike.

3. Motorway disguised as vegetable patch

Chinese officials who plan on building unauthorized motorways, take note: vegetable patches are no longer the sure-fire safeguard they once were. Miao Feng, deputy director of a district in Xiangyang of central China's Hubei Province, found out the hard way when he was busted for approving construction of a motorway on land seized from farmers. Miao's plan of agricultural allusion was genius: a thin layer of soil was placed on top of plastic film over the roads, then vegetables were "planted" to camouflage the roads so that they would appear as farmland to monitoring satellites. The ruse lasted about a month before the central government punished Miao and returned the land to farmers. The story was another victory for Weibo users, who proved China's satellites aren't the only ones watching officials behaving badly.

4. Scorpions used in eviction sting operation

Illustration: Peter Espina/GT

Illustration: Peter Espina/GT

A resident surnamed Chen from south China's Shenzhen woke up early one balmy July morning to discover a scorpion crawling on his body. Chen turned on the light and was shocked to see his bedroom full of scorpions, menacingly waving their venomous tails. Police and residents rushed to help, spending the whole night capturing nearly 50 kilograms of scorpions. The critters had been released by a real estate company to force reluctant residents to move out for the company's new construction project. Buyers outside of Shenzhen in Guangdong - a province famed for eating everything with legs, apart from tables and chairs - raced to snap up the apartments, driven by the promise of breakfast in bed.

5. Henan city freezes to achieve energy targets

If there's one thing needed for China to meet its reduced energy emission targets in a country this large, it's teamwork. In January, a large coal-fired power plant in Linzhou of central China's Henan Province decided to take one for the team by shutting down in the heart of winter. Sure, residents were left in the cold as temperatures plummeted to -10 C most nights, but everyone has to make sacrifices. While asking people to cut back on their energy consumption to prevent global warming isn't unreasonable, it's probably best not to ask at the freezing climax of winter.

6. Pollution brings professors to their knees

Professor Wang Quanjie from Yantai University in east China's Shandong Province led a "kneel-in" involving fellow academics to protest the environment's destruction. The protest took place outside the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Shenzhen on November 1. The humble sight of professors on their knees to officials stirred emotions on Weibo, with people divided over whether it was a powerful gesture or a shameful act of submission. Professor Wang posted on his Weibo: "Factories near the Yangtze University are polluting the environment and are harmful to students' and teachers' health. Professors have been petitioning authorities, but have received no response. Helplessly, we have knelt down in front of the district government gate in protest." Officials were not as moved by the demonstration as the professors had hoped. Wang claimed a district deputy director told the protesting professors: "There's no pollution in Africa. You should all move there."

7. Web users see red over spam-free listings

Nobody likes spam, that bland-in-a-can mystery meat that tries to pass itself off as being in the same league as chicken and beef. Even more detested is the electronic variety of spam that bombards our email inboxes and cellphones with their annoying advertisements. In October, a man surnamed Yang from Guangzhou had enough. The unbearable telephone harassment he endured coupled with the leaking of his personal details from telecommunication industry insiders prompted him to take Guangdong Telecom to court. In an effort to reach an agreement with Yang, a lawyer for Guangdong Telecom said in court that Yang had been placed on a "red list." This put Yang in company with provincial and city leaders who don't receive any spam. While a victory for Yang, it was sadly at odds with repeated claims by telecoms companies that they are unable to prevent cellphone users from being bombarded with spam.

8. Students learn etiquette around leaders

In another milestone in China's 5,000-year history, young university students in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region as well as Hubei and Fujian provinces were enrolled in May in courses that taught proper etiquette and manners for people in the company of leaders. Students eager to please their politically esteemed peers learned everything from avoiding dining faux pas to understanding the importance of letting leaders sit by the window in vehicles. Other valuable lessons learned included learning how to propose toasts to leaders at banquets, and realizing the importance of not breaking wind while sharing elevators with officials.

9. Swinger official fired after orgy

An official in southwest China's Yunnan province was busted in July for participating in a not-so-normal meeting. Identified only by his surname Cheng, the Kunming Commission of Development and Reform official was shown participating in a group sex romp that the commission claimed "severely damaged social morality." Cheng was also expelled from the Communist Party of China. The red-faced Cheng claimed he had been blackmailed for 63,000 yuan ($10,000), portraying himself as an innocent victim preyed upon by a group of four people who recorded him in the act using a hidden camera. Cheng is not the first Chinese official targeted by trouble-making sex fiends. Just shortly before Cheng's scandal, an official in central China's Henan Province was suspended for similar reasons. Tian Hanwen, a lawmaker in Ruyang county, was caught with his pants down in photos posted online by an anonymous woman. Police responded by announcing a nationwide crackdown on sexual predators targeting honest, hard-working officials.

10. Dying patient disturbs doctor's sleep

If watching American TV medical drama series House M.D. has taught us anything, it's that doctors are ungrateful, insensitive asses who make patients feel guilty for burdening them with annoying ailments. In March, Dr. Li Conglin was fired from a hospital in Shantou in south China's Guangdong Province and attracted the ire of thousands of Weibo microbloggers. On the surface, it seemed the 27-year-old doctor's only crime was caring too much about her patient's well-being; she merely wanted to make sure she could see her patient's loving, life-filled eyes when the morning came. Of course, Li also craved her beauty sleep. "The blood pressure of one patient has been dropping, and it seems that I might have to get up at midnight to dispose of the corpse," she moaned on her Weibo microblog. "It's not easy for me to keep my bed warm in such cold weather, so please don't die until I get off work." Doctor Sleep Little went on, saying in one entry that she "had received the best news," which was that "the patient was declared dead at 2:10 pm." This made her happy because she could "have a good sleep tonight and go outside tomorrow." Dr Li was removed from her post at the hospital in the wake of the scandal, with her prognosis of future employment in the medical profession not good.

See the original article here.