Netizens vs. Animal Cruelty

Rabies Scare of 2006
In South China's Yunnan Province, three people died in 2006 due to a rabies scare which prompted an extermination of over 54,000 dogs. Stray dogs and pets alike were captured and clubbed on the spot by vigilantes and government workers and then thrown into the back of a truck. Even some domestic pets were force-surrendered.

These acts created an outpouring of sympathy from netizens who questioned what type of government could commit such acts and how this fit China's plan for "harmonious" growth. Online petitions circulated and the government began to listen, and Chinese citizens quickly realized that the internet, growing larger and larger by the day, was becoming the go-to place for Chinese to voice their concerns.

Comment pulled by the New York Times from MOP and
“This is just another stupid decision by several foolish officials taken in a small room, totally unreflective of the people’s will.”

The Kitten Killer of Hangzhou
Wang Jue wanted to distance herself from anything reminding her of her failed marriage. She had been quoted on her QQ space (a popular website in China which allows user to create a personal webpage to post information, images, and blogs) as saying, “I furiously crush everything to do with you and me.” She took a video which features her crushing a kitten with the heel of her shoe, shocking netizens across the country. Outraged, viewers lashed back and demanded she be identified and punished for her cruelty to animals.

She posted the video on her personal blog on the internet for anyone to see. The video became instantly popular as news about this gruesome act quickly spread across the Chinese internet. Viewers were outraged by the footage and spoke out on various web forums, demanding that the unknown woman be brought to justice for her inhumane act. From the video alone Chinese netizens were able to determine the location where the video was shot. The location was not a well-known area, but because of the sheer number of viewers that watched the video, enough netizens watched the video who were familiar with that bridge to pinpoint her location.

Netizens were similarly able to determine the woman’s identity by tracing an online purchase of stiletto shoes through, the same pair worn by Wang in the video, to a personal website set up under the name “Gainmas”. Through this detective work, netizens were able to uncover her QQ profile and her identity.. Through this purchase of the shoes worn in the video, netizens were able to trace the buyer back to a personal website that contained images of Wang Jue and included her personal information.

While China has lenient laws concerning the welfare and treatment of animals, both Wang Jue and the man credited with taking the video were promptly fired from their jobs. This is a very common occurrence with those targeted by the Human Flesh Search Engines – where bad publicity and fame alone are enough for your employer to sack you. Regardless of innocence employers will promptly let an employee targeted by the web go or force resignation in order to keep their own name clean

Hebei University Cat Killer
Another frightening facet of the Human Flesh Search Engine is that it doesn't discriminate based on age, as shown through the story of the Hebei University Cat Killer. On January 11, 2009 a student on the campus came across the dead body of a beloved cat that hung around the campus nicknamed Garfield. He recalled walking by the spot a minute prior and hearing a small explosion and made out the description of a young boy fleeing the scene:

"He thought that no one would notice his immoral act, but “thanks” to the body movement of this sadistic boy, it allowed me to again take a deeper look at his appearance: body height between 165 to 170 cm, wears glasses, back slightly bent, but probably bent because he committed this crime, wore grey-black down fill clothing. We are alarmed to encounter such a sadistic act. The sadistic boy ran from a small road next to the grass landscape towards Jingguan Road."

The student went home and created a post on, a popular Chinese web forum titled "Deviant Boy Brutally Kills Garfield." He went on to criticize the young boy:

"I really want to ask this male student, when you were born, did your parents not put you to death because they didn’t know that you are an animal? Or your parents are animals themselves and they put a little animal like you into our school ground to commit such a despicable crime? Do you know that we feel disgusted to have you on our school ground? We shockingly have to share a place with you and use the same class room? Why won’t you just die?"

Photos of the youth were posted to the internet, possible taken from his own social networking profile, clearly showcasing his face making it easy for identification. However, the photos referred to the boy simply as the "suspect" and did not reveal his name. The astounding fact is that the post creator admitted to being unsure if that was indeed to the actual boy, which could pose dire consequences for the boy photoed.

A poster, strongly resembling a Big Character Poster of the Cultural Revolution era, was put up on the campus calling for people to help in tracking down the boy. The poster reads:

"I ran into a boy who was hiding behind XXX when I got hot water at nearly 11:00am. After a short while, he ran away and a loud exploding noise was heard. Then I hurried to the back of the lawn of XXX and tried to find out what had happened, and to my surprise Garfield (the cat) was laying there with a bloody face. Its blood was everywhere. It couldn’t even give a little meow, as it’s throat was hurt by the blast. Finally it died with great pain. Its stiff body is still there. Hopefully those who used to feed, pet it, or know it can see it once more and say goodbye. (The next section is not legible due to the image) Also I hope that those who get any information about the killer can get in touch with me. Let’s investigate together and give the killer the punishment he deserves. Since this guy could be so cruel and rude to an innocent cat, he can surely be dangerous to innocent people. So watch out and take care of yourselves. My telephone: 15532209890 – contact us if you know anything." (translated by me)

Surely it is dangerous for netizens (and offline citizens alike) to call for a hunt of a young boy in order to "give [him] the punishment he deserves." What makes this story unique is that while netizens show remorse for the violent acts against an innocent animal, they lash out violently against the victim and call out for justice, turning the anonymous into defenseless prey to abuse and backlash against, thus turning the victim themselves into an animal.