Human Flesh Nationalism and "Race Traitors"

Grace Wang: "The Most Ugly Exchange Student"
Grace Wang walked out of the Duke University dining hall into the middle of a heated debate between two groups - a "Free Tibet" group and their counterpart, a "Pro-China" group. Wang, a Chinese exchange student, did not intend to get into the middle of the argument, but after seeing friends on both sides, she decided to work towards reaching a peace between the two groups and allow them to sit down and discuss their differences. She even went so far as to write "Free Tibet" on the back of one protester's shirt to get him to sit down to talks.

But that image of her writing "Free Tibet" was all that was needed to spark Chinese netizens into a rage over one of their own compatriots aiding "the enemy." Chinese netizens saw that image and assumed Wang herself held a "Free Tibet" stance and did not value the geographic autonomy of the Chinese nation.

Web forums began criticizing Grace Wang and calling her a "traitor to her country." Her identity was quickly discerned and spread throughout the internet and within days her parent's home in Qingdao, China was attacked with animal feces causing them to go into hiding. The FBI got involved after offline threats were made to Wang, now deemed a "race traitor." One of the most astonishing aspects of her story is that the Chinese media even got involved and the following image was posted to CCTV's homepage with a caption in Chinese that reads "the most ugly exchange student."

Wang also faced criticism from her own parents and she stated that "they were really disappointed in me for a long time, and I persuaded them to think differently." She's been quoted as saying "those people who attack me so severely were the ones who hurt China’s image even more." Grace Wang became the face of these online Chinese witch hunts in the western media and has been hailed as heroic by western news sources. forum translated comments about Grace Wang:
1. “That foreign toady face of yours will always be a shameless one to the Chinese people!”
2. “Heavens...Qingdao #2 Middle School. Makes us lose so much face. Shoot her where she stands.”
3. “Race traitor! Traitor! Absolutely unacceptable! Sooner or later your whole family will have to pay!”

The Case of Lobsang Gendun
The Human Flesh Search Engine’s targets also do not solely pertain to someone living on the Chinese mainland, as is the case of Lobsang Gendun, a 44-year-old Tibetan man residing in the United States who was mistakenly accused of being an Olympic torch relay protester. As the torch relay made its way through Paris leading up to the games in 2008, protesters assaulted the parade and even tried to extinguish the torch from a handicapped young girl named Jin Jing. These protesters were singled out as being part of a “Free Tibet” organization and as such, enemies of China’s unity.

Lobsang Gendun’s life changed after this event when he was mistakenly targeted as the man who tried to make a grab for the torch away from Jin Jing in Paris. Gendun was mistakenly identified as such because of his ties to pro-Tibet groups in the San Francisco area and their involvement at various events during the international leg of the torch relay. Gendun was subsequently harassed and his life was put in danger. His case is distinctive due to the amount of information the netizens were able to uncover about him, and signifies the sheer power of the search engine.

Gendun coincidentally did protest the Olympic torch relay, but not in Paris; he was in San Francisco. Furthermore he has been quoted as saying, “I totally support the Olympics. I want the Olympics to be held in China so that Chinese people will be exposed to the outside world.” His peaceful group appeared in San Francisco and he never even saw the torch.

A few days after Gendun returned from San Francisco, the telephone in his Salt Lake City home rang at 2:00AM. It continued to ring six more times before he unplugged the phone. His e-mail inbox similarly was quickly filled with angry messages and pro-China sentiments. Quickly Gendun became the target of Chinese national anger, was called a terrorist and netizens demanded his employers get rid of him. A reporter from Hong Kong got in touch with him and said, “You need to be very careful, anything could happen to you in your life.” Gendun then realized that this was a very serious matter.

What is remarkable about this case is the amount of personal information that became available on the internet about Lobsang Gendun. The listing for his search, with over 25,000 comments criticizing Gendun and supporting China, listed his home address, telephone number, employer, and his e-mail. Netizens even went to the extreme of using a satellite imaging program to find a photo of his house, as well as a bird’s eye view of the surrounding neighborhood. With nothing left private to him, Gendun and his family were moved into a hotel for their safety.

However, Gendun was reported as looking to the bright side and seeing this as a way for the Tibetan cause to gain attention. “This is a very good thing to happen to me,” he said. “I get a chance to say what I have to say. This is a free land, and if you follow the rules and regulations, you can express your opinion whenever you want.

The Boycott of Carrefour 
This is one instance which I personally witnessed while I was living abroad in China. After the French president announced that he would not be attending the Olympic games amid controversy surrounding the Olympic Torch's global relay's leg through France, the Chinese public became outraged and pushed to boycott French supermarket chain Carrefour. Carrefour has retail stores throughout China and are a popular shopping destination for ex-pats and Chinese natives alike.

The boycott of Carrefour was unique because it spread quickly through the use of personal communications. While the idea began on the web, support for the movement spread through mobile networks, specifically through text messaging. Chinese spread dates of Carrefour protests through text messages and before long, many stores across the mainland witnessed crowds forming outside of Chinese nationals holding signs in support of the Beijing Olympics and urging consumers to rethink entering Carrefour.

The "I (heart) China"Instant Messenger Handle
Shortly after the Chinese nation was united by the devasting Sichuan Earthquake of early 2008, an online movement spread through the instant messaging services MSN Messenger and Tencent's QQ in an effort to unite Chinese nationals.

The "I (heart) China" movement was simple: netizens who utilized MSN Messenger and QQ put a heart symbol and the word 'China" at the end of their username to show their support and pride of China. The heart symbol even crossed international borders showing up in the online IM handles of overseas Chinese as well. This movement spread quickly and within days nearly all of the Chinese on my instant messenging service had put a heart beside their name.

Sichuan Earthquake Girl Speaks Out
Following the tragic Sichuan Earthquake of 2008, which mobilized the Chinese people and intensified Chinese patriotism in a way much like the September 11th attacks did to America, a young girl named Gao Qianhui from Liaoning Province released a video online in which she complained about the attention the earthquake and its victims were receiving through the media. Angered that the three day morning period blocked online gaming portals and removed television shows from the air, Gao decided to post a video of her feelings.

Some quotes from the video:
"I turn on the TV and what do I see? Dead bodies, injured people, corpses, rotten bodies, all the crazy acts you guys are putting up. It's not that I want to watch these things. I have no choice. Look, now the entire internet is black-and-white and without colour. Do you think we're all color blind like you? Have your eyes been hit by so much rubble you can't see any color now?"

"Today we're mourning for you. Tomorrow we're donating money to you? May 21 is such a great day. Lots of people trying to get married this year. And now we have to mourn for you. Do you think those couples should get married or not? ... Come on, how many of you guys are dead? Just a few, is it not? We've got so many people in China anyway."

Naturally, the video enraged netizens and went viral, with people calling out her choice of words and viewpoints. Many called for her to be arrested and netizens named laws that her rant could fall under. Other comments circulated online from people claiming to be relatives of Gao's who chastise her ignorant behavior but try to get netizens to sympathize for her rash behavior. Soon her information was posted online and Gao was detained for her own safety by police.

The video can be seen here.

"Chinabounder's" Sexual Escapades 
The Human Flesh Search Engine does not always pertain solely to Chinese nationals, as seen in the case of the blogger "ChinaBounder," revealed to be a British man named David Marriot. Marriot was a thirty-year old man living in Shanghai who opened a blog titled "Sex and Shanghai" (欲望上海) which logged over 570,000 hits since 2006.

His blog came under heavy attack from Chinese netizens after they viewed his numerous posts describing his sexual conquests and nights spent sleeping with his young students. Many argued that Marriot was "scum" and were horrified at his low morals, urging for his expulsion from China. At the onset, the blogger's real identity was unknown and he was referred simply by his handle name "ChinaBounder."

However, netizens wanted to weed him out and a "Who is ChinaBounder?" blog was created for such a purpose. Another startling aspect to this story is how one scholar, Zhang Jiehai, a professor psychology at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences threw in his two cents, calling ChinaBounder a "piece of garbage" and "an immoral foreigner." He went on to say "netizens and compatriots, if you are a Chinese man with guts and if you respect Chinese women, please join this internet hunt for the immoral foreigner." Zhang then led a manhunt for Marriot, forcing him to lay low.

After all of the criticism and scrutiny died down, David Marriot admitted to his online identity and used his fifteen minutes of fame to publish a book titled Fault Lines on the Face of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great.

Marriot's blog still resides on the internet at Posts documenting his Chinese dating excursions can be found in entries dating back to 2006.