Xuzhou Government Outlaws Human Flesh Search

"iPhone Girl"

From NetEase:

In recent years, the “human flesh search” has received widespread attention from netizen’s because of its ability to advance issues. But according to “Yangzi Evening News” report, on January 18, the “Xuzhou City, Computer Information System Security Protection Ordinance” was passed by seventh meeting of the 11th Naional People’s Congress Standing Committee. The ordinance expressly provides that: Other’s private information may not be exposed on the internet. This regulation also explains that the “human flesh search” consistently used by netizens is also prohibited.

Other details about the law:

  • The ordinance will come into effect on 2009 June 1.
  • Forbids unauthorized dissemination of other people’s private matters, disclosing or making other’s information available online.
  • The publisher, communicators, and other violators can be fined a maximum of 5000 yuan.
  • In serious cases, the punishment can be forbidding using the computer to go online for half a year or forbidding the use of a computer
  • Privacy includes personal information, including age (especially for women), personal or family property and composition, income, residence, wages, etc. and especially interpersonal relationships.
  • “The regulations also stipulate that those providing internet access to the public such as internet bars, hotels, and related establishments should install security  systems approved by the country, that records the internet user’s true identity and relevant internet-usage information. These records must be stored for no less than 60 days and cannot be be deleted or changed during this time. Upon violation, the public security department may give  a warning, a 1000-10,000 yuan fine, and in serious cases can revoke operating licenses.”
READ  Koreans Panic-Buy Seaweed & Salt Fearing Japanese Radiation
The Free Tibet supporter who attacked Jinjing in Paris.
Zhou Jiugeng, corrupt government official.
Lin Jiaxiang, perverted government official.

Comments from NetEase:

Only government officials are allowed to commit arson, while the peasants are not even allowed to light lamps. [The authorities are allowed to commit big crimes but the normal people are not even allowed to do what is reasonable/necessary.]
If you stand correctly and sit correctly [do nothing wrong as a government official], would you be afraid of human flesh search engines?

The leadership is angry again.

You only need to see a government official to know he is oppressing the common people!

Seeing what happened to that Nanjing government official, Xuzhou’s bosses/masters are unable to sit still [are worried for themselves].

“The regulations also stipulate that those providing internet access to the public such as internet bars, hotels, and related establishments should install security systems approved by the country,” Yet another opportunity for ill-gotten gains!

As long as it [human flesh searchs] is used reasonably and correctly, this is also our right as citizens.
Haha, the might of the internet cannot be bound by his little little city.

Higher authorities using their magical rights to oppress us, afraid afraid afraid afraid afraid afraid! What are they afraid of? Their guilty conscience?

Human flesh searches is an embodiment of the common people’s right of expression and right of supervision. One reason why this kind of embodiment has a big impact upon some people in society is because the common people do not have better channels embodying these two rights.

Human flesh Xuzhou…everyone go!

Chinese government officials serve to fight against the Chinese masses.

The people have the right to know the truth.

Shut down the BBS discussion forums, take away the internet, return to the past, and everything will be good!

See which leaders drew up this law, and human flesh search them.

All the rights of The People’s Republic of China belong to the people.

Whoever made this proposal is the corrupt official. An innocent person definitely would not come up with this kind of suggestion.

Comments from QQ:

This is a ruling of a despot, right? Afraid to end up like Commissioner Zhou, right?

It is only 5000 bucks! No big deal! Unable to use the computer to go online for half a year is no problem, at worst just use the cell phone [to go online], and if even worse, I can use PSP to go on, okay! Half a year later is yet another hero! Resolutely and clearly “say no” to this oppression of  “human flesh searches”.

They are afraid.
But they are not afraid enough.
We must make them more afraid.
We must make them terror-stricken.

Legislating this kind of law, is it the wish of all the people of Xuzhou? Is the National People’s Congress representing the people’s will!!! As a Xuzhou person, I feel ashamed! 9.6 million Xuzhou people firmly oppose!!!

It is time to consider how to use human flesh search as a means of public supervision.

Having done too many guilty things, using this as an excuse, so how come train tickets still do not have a real name system? [Why start a real name system (identification) for the internet when it has not yet been done for train tickets to fight against ticket scalpers?]

I will not human flesh search in Xuzhou, but I should be able to if I go to Zhengzhou, right?  If I cannot in Zhengzhou, then I will go to New Jersey, and then see what you can do about it…

Xuzhou, this will make you famous.
If there was nothing wrong, what would you be afraid of?
No 300 taels of silver buried here. [A Chinese idiom, refers to revealing something when trying to deny something].

I represent all the people from the rest of the country in expressing our sincerest condolences towards Xuzhou!!!

The person who drew up this regulation is going to be screwed.

See more posts about human flesh searches:

Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.

  • Peteryang

    china’s internet vigilantism against corruption is a good thing but it has little to no effect on corruption of this magnitude. we’ve got like 2 or 3 officials down so far but there are millions of cadres who I believe take bribes daily and you never know the real boss.

    all it can do is create an atomsphere of fear, and that has too much collateral damage. these boyscouts need to know if they continue like this the government will be very likely to ban this thing once and for all.

  • Kai

    Hard to support human flesh searches of corrupt government officials and other evil-doers (as a replacement for a free press and government accountability to the people) without some relatively innocent people having their privacy violated over relatively innocent and inconsequential matters.

    Oh, FIRST.

  • Kai

    Aw dammit, Peter…

    In response, though, you’re right. There’s a lot of collateral damage, but it is much more satisfying believing that the government is enacting this law not out of consideration for the private citizens that were victims of human flesh search engines but out of consideration for themselves. The use of human flesh search engines against government officials is definitely a byproduct of a popular discontent and distrust with the authorities policing themselves.

  • fireworks

    This reminds me of a children’s book called where’s wally or where’s waldo (US).

    Anybody now can find wally in a sea of people.

  • Fritz

    What’s the iPhone girl’s story?

  • Peteryang

    the whole flesh search thing started few years back when some dude playing world of warcraft had a filthy relationship with one of his guild members and netizens were outraged and posted his phone number and address on forums, ensued was hate calls and death threats and whatnot.

    apparently alot of nerds have found this to be very satisfying because they could hide behind a modem and vent all sorts of diatribes without fearing any consequence.

    I certainly don’t like where this is going but simply banning speech online won’t stop the madness, when people have issues they can’t complain in real life then guess what? and you should know the real solution.

  • firsties

    first failed firstie.

  • blkaznluver

    who is iphone girl?

  • Gareth
  • wuxia

    Again an interesting development in Chinese society. I wonder why these “flesh searches” have not popped up in other countries as obviously as here (or do we not know about them)?

    When first reading about them I found them pretty scary…not because of my bad conscience but because of judgment without process (connecting to what Kai says). The one who opens the flesh search is in the opportunity to write history so to say.

    Forbidding the searches is pure censorship of course which can not be supported either, and could be a sign of fear by government officials (like Peter says).

    Who can help me find out why this phenomenon is developing here and now? Why is it that in China apparently the population feels the need and supports taking right into their own hands?
    Intuitively I feel fear and insecurity (hiding behind the modem) but the urge to undertake action or have action undertaken by somebody braver. This leads me to believe that there is still an incredible feeling of powerlessness in China.

  • Mike

    Because other countries have stalking laws and are serious about protecting people’s privacy… not that I’m against human flesh search engines catching the bad guys.

  • Samael


    Who can help me find out why this phenomenon is developing here and now? Why is it that in China apparently the population feels the need and supports taking right into their own hands?

    why? pretty simple, because chinese court system and law enforcement is rubbish.

    why now? because people are rich now and can afford to be dibber dobbers. plus most of the people in these searches could very well directly affects their private wellbeing.

    why these “flesh searches” have not popped up in other countries as obviously as here (or do we not know about them)?

    they in fact do exist everywhere else in the world but on a much less serious scale and is usually for bored nerds who “DO IT FOR THE LULZ”

    one exception being the phenomenon knowns as pedo baiting where individuals ‘trap’ online pedophiles for either personal gain (blackmail) or turn them over the the authorities. (as in the case of http://www.perverted-justice.com/)

    however on the whole non-chinese ‘human flesh search’ has more to do with pranks and having fun than actual vigilantism

  • NuEnvy

    Something like this could be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” in terms of how China’s internet community feels about its government’s (already) oppressive behavior. Citizens have a right to privacy, but there are cases where the “human flesh search” is (and was) very valuable in finding criminals. I believe the benefits outweigh the privacy issue – how often does anyone even consider participating in a “HFS” if the person is of low interests and has not commited a crime, inhumane deed, or in a pathetic situation? I sense the corrupt officials are just trying to avoid the possibility of being caught with the HFS and are using “privacy” as an excuse. Since when was China ever a strong proponent for privacy issues anyway? Ever hear any Chinese say that they really like living in China because of the privacy? One billion, plus people living in China – I’m sure they know that their privacy is nonexistent.

    Oh, and what is with the, “first and firsties” thing?

  • Kai

    @ wuxia:

    Well, China has a cool name for it, cool enough for even Google to poke fun at it with their logo (was it April Fool’s Day last year? Forgot…). Okay, maybe not “cool” but the name for it (too literally translated) simply pricks people’s ears.

    Seriously, mobilizing people over the internet to search out and share information about something or someone is NOT new. It is pretty much the BASIS for the internet as a medium of communication. The thing with “human flesh search engines” itself is not so much about WHAT it is as opposed to HOW it is used.

    Two big themes tend to get labeled as “human flesh search engines” (particularly in the eyes of Western observers). One is the exposure of corruption. The other is the retribution against people who go against popular and strongly-held sentiments.

    Just about everyone seems unanimously in support of the first use and some of the reasons for this include, as I mentioned before, a widespread dissatisfaction with government officials and distrust in the government policing itself. Human flesh searches get more play because there’s far less exposure and critique of the government in other channels many Westerners take for granted such as the media and opposition organizations.

    In America or Europe, you’re constantly hearing dissent, criticism, and exposes by either the opposition parties or opponents, especially as disseminated by a free media. Online variants are therefore comparatively cheap. You’re going to pay less attention to some wingnut website that argues that Obama is a Muslim bent on jihad when you have much more mainstream mouthpieces from the Republicans, atheists, environmentalists, homosexuals, etc. freely voicing their own concerns.

    In China, that is far less the case. While freedom of dissent and expression has come a long way since the worst days of Mao (and they were indeed bad), there is still plenty of popular dissatisfaction and the more the mainstream media tries to ignore it or say otherwise, the more attention people will pay to seeming “exposes” in alternate media such as what the internet functions as in China. Now, it does take on airs of lynch mobs but that alone is a byproduct of a unsatisfactory political feedback system. Misery loves company, and the more miserable you are, the more appealing the mobs of the internet can be, both in offering sympathy and understanding as well as hints of recourse.

    The second one is a bit more subjective, and the propriety depends on what side you happen to be on. These stories tend to piss off Westerners far more, because it only seems to echo authoritarian thought-control and persecution for dissent or free-thinking. Yet, in a way, it is somewhat unavoidable for the world to literally be a giant popularity contest. Whether you like it or not, there is always a possibility that something you do is going to piss off a large enough group that is motivated enough to give you hell for it. Getting caught on camera standing with the Free Tibeters across from Chinese pissed off that Tibetans were carving butt chunks out of Chinese police officers = getting shit thrown at your family’s front door? Meddling in the Middle East = suicide bombers and terrorists?

    You can’t really stop people from disagreeing and disagreeing to the point where they will violate your rights. Yet in China, what exactly are your rights? That hasn’t been clearly defined, and even if they were, you’re still going to get some people who will harass you for your opinions or beliefs. It isn’t as if there aren’t cases of Americans trespassing to steal your property (You McCain or Obama poster) or pro-lifers stalking and harassing abortion doctors with phone calls and death threats. This stuff happens everywhere but the story is much juicier with the backdrop of authoritarian China and its brain-washed mobs, right?

    Right, and even if China is authoritarian and its masses are socialized to believe what they do, it still doesn’t change the fact that human flesh search engines are not unique to China or even a phenomenon that is bigger in China than elsewhere, save for accommodations to the fact that it boasts a much larger population whose netizens tend to cluster around a few key BBS forums.

    I think I just vomited a bunch of stuff without striking home a point. Too lazy to revise so just take my ramblings as you will.

  • Angu

    These regulations are not unlike those in many other countries. In Sweden, for instance, you are not allowed to publish private information about anyone on-line without their consent, unless you are a journalist. Sure, it’s good to be able to expose corruption, but it seems most people actually use the net to heap insults on people they don’t like. You can really cause enormous harm to others – there are numerous cases of young people killing themselves after falling victims to on-line slander.

  • Peteryang

    the root cause is threefold:
    1. people constantly got pissed off in real life so they need somewhere to vent off frustrations, or repair their self-esteem.
    2. herd mentality and intolerance on the uneducated mass.
    3. being Mr. Anonymous feels great.

  • Peteryang

    this is a typical state vs people scenario, the state bans it on the street so people take it online, and its going to be a hell of a fight.

    with chinese characteristics of course.

  • enlighted

    One of the first posts on this blog was about victim of HFS. Girl was wrongly accused to be a “gold digger”. Someone stole her pics and put on BBS. Soon, her life was ruined.

    Problem with HFS is mob behavior of netizens. There’s to many collateral casualties of HFS.

  • wuxia

    Ah…very interesting.
    Thank you Kai for laying things out like that, but indeed you don’t make a point and although having a better insight then me, also have a problem pinpointing the cause I think.

    I agree that finding people over the internet is not new, but in other places and nations I don’t think it had such a massive follow up as here. I think your arguments about the amount of netizens on a few forums are more or less invalid since this always tends to happen on the net. People will find focussed groups that correspond to their interests, but apparently in “The West” there is no large interest in these kind of hunts.
    It seems that here in China people tend to react more emotional to these searches then elsewhere, and maybe my question should have been what the reason for this reaction is.

    When it comes to tracking down corrupt government members I understand better now. As I understand from you and from my Chinese friends, there is no way the government is really checked. As you pointed out there is no opposition party to do this.
    In other dictatorial governments protests might be violently oppressed but now I see that China is actually facing the clash of the Communist Regime with the Capitalist economy. It is trying to find the fine line between regulating what the people think and opening up to the outside world, but of course this is something that is more or less contradicting as is expressed in these flesh searches. (Maybe similar to the clash between religion and economy in the other post).
    Still interesting though that this doesn’t happen that much in dictatorships like Singapore (maybe an exception).
    Any government anywhere might praise itself lucky if it can make 60% of the population content 40% at least will always be complaining or feel treated unfair. In China these numbers are huge. It is not the court and law system that sucks but the inability for people to give feedback. As Kai said there is no opposing party and no way to take the government to trial. If you want to contribute please support your statement with arguments instead of making random connections.

    @ Kai, Peter and Samael
    The second stream of HFS leaves me far more in the dark though. As Samael points out there is more wealth which gives people the opportunity to spend time worrying about other things, which I think is more or less true. Still that does not explain the strong, active, emotional reaction of the Chinese netizens. Peter gives 3 reasons for those which are intuitive but not very supported by arguments either. Each of the arguments could happen anywhere in the world although I sense that there is indeed a higher level of saved up anger in China then anywhere else.
    This is more or less the point Kai is making: This happens everywhere.
    Still I feel that it happens more frequent and with stronger reactions here in China (I think of the search for the guy that blew up the cat). It seems that the examples Kai is giving regarding US flesh searches are more ideological while in my feeling the ones in China are more retaliatory. Maybe incorrect, but I’d like to explore it a little more with Peter’s first reason.
    Anger and frustration are everywhere but I’ve seen several examples in China where it seemed to come out strongly. Whenever the people feel it is justified explosions of violence will happen (think of anti-japan riots or groups of people beating up one person – not uncommon).
    When I first came to China I noticed that everybody was fearful (changed a lot in 5 years). Police officers let you off because they were embarrassed to speak English, people were even afraid of putting their hand between elevator doors to keep them from shutting. Examples of everyday life but still examples of fear (in a broad sense of the word). This fear was part of the education and indoctrination system that promoted hierarchy together with the general concept of losing face.
    This fear can be linked to several things:
    1 it is saver to operate in masses. Similar to Peter’s reason no.2, but not the same. When in a mass it is harder for law enforcement to pick one person out that is guilty. HFS are always based on “uniformly held sentiments” as Kai points out, which gives it the necessary amount of people.
    2 This brings us to the second point. As it is “uniformly held sentiment” it is something people feel comfortable with punishing people without being retaliated on themselves. A caught pickpocket will get a tremendous beating because people will feel that this is clearly “on the dark side”. Fear of authorities and losing face will disappear since they feel that this is true justice.
    3 Peter’s anonymity seems to be a point indeed. Combined with the growing availability of internet it seems that this is a great way to avoid the fear or loss of face.

    To summarize my thoughts regarding the second theme HFS: countries with authoritarian regimes in an area that has the concept of “face” have a high risk of sporting a population with unreleased emotions. Currently in China this has led to the vigilant human flesh searches. An opening economy has led to more available internet and time which gives people the opportunity to avoid fear for authority and loss of face.

    As an example there is also Indonesia with the anti-chinese riots. Counter example is of course Japan, but they have a completely different way of dealing with frustrations :-)

    Please feel free to shoot holes in my arguments.

    On a side note: I think that it is funny (and scary) that the Xuzhou government used privacy as an excuse and not punishment without trial.

  • wuxia

    Sorry, maybe I should have clarified the following: I’m linking fear to frustration as follows:
    Fear in general and of authorities especially leads to a very cooperative population. This will come along with the fear of voicing opinion though. This leads to frustration in a lot of daily situations were people feel unjustly treated (not only by authorities, but many more daily situations), but are not brave enough to stand up for themselves.
    Once many people believe something is unjust this fear will disappear with the masses as I expressed above.

  • Kai

    @ wuxia:

    Yes, I was too lazy to organize my comment but my underlying point was precisely an answer to your question of “what is the reason for the reaction towards human flesh searches in China?”

    Amongst the Chinese themselves, I think the big reaction is towards the power of the human flesh search engine (or more mundanely, organizing and disseminating controversy over the internet). This power has proven to be both attractive and frightening. Attractive because it can do good, and frightening because it can do serious harm. This reaction is nothing special really, and in fact, a rather typical human process of coming to grips with the power and responsibility (go Spiderman) that comes with new paradigm-shifting technology.

    My more subversive point and answer to your question was poking fun at Westerners for latching onto this phenomenon but projecting and attaching a slightly different and set of interpretations onto this phenomenon. This is the reason I brought up how Westerners view human flesh searches against a very specific and politicized backdrop. The human flesh searches take on a different meaning to them, because it seems even more like some sort of romantic fight not just against corruption but for freedom.

    The Chinese will focus on human flesh searches empower them to exercise oversight over their government officials, while the Westerners will focus on human flesh searches as an embodiment of the fight against authoritarianism and a fight for freedom.

    Of course, these sentiments (and others) are present in both Chinese and Western perspectives, but I trust you understand the relative different emphases between the two groups’ interpretations and reception of this phenomenon. In other words, I think it is arguable that Westerners are partially seeing what they want to see.

    The same is arguably true for the negative side of human flesh searches. While the Chinese certainly see the great harm it can cause, especially to innocent people, Westerners go further and add subjective value-judgments that human flesh search engines represent the unbridled havoc a brainwashed mob can wreck upon an individual who dares to be, well, an “individual.” So suddenly larger concepts of “individualism” and “conformity” get dragged in, and now human flesh searches represent evil “communist” propaganda triumphing over free thought and free thinkers. The masses participating in a “bad” human flesh search” are now viewed as a proxy for some Chinese central government monolithic entity versus the poor, powerless, and oppressed individual who didn’t recite the party line.

    We have to careful to distinguish between how the Chinese themselves personally regard human flesh searches versus how Westerners regard them. I think the strong Chinese reaction has more to do with coming to terms with a discovery (whoa, the internet is powerful) than with the ideological considerations that are often evident in the Western reaction. I think some Westerners are overestimating what this phenomenon will usher in.

    Chinese: Oh shit, we finally have a way to get those corrupt bastards!

    Westerner: Oh shit, this is the beginning of the end for the Communists!

    Do you understand what I’m saying?

    I do not think my mention of population size condensed on a few forums is invalid, but it was meant to be a factor that supports how “big” this phenomenon appears. China DOES have the world’s largest netizen population. That this population still clusters around certain very popular portals/forums IS a relevant contrast to Western netizens who have progressed and migrated to a more decentralized net experience where portals are no longer the powerhouses they were back in the 90s. Westerners are now migrating to a net experience where they have information from various sources delivered to them. For many Chinese netizens, the information is brought to the portal, to their adopted community, and shared. There’s qualitative differences between these two internet usage patterns and I invoked them simply to show how this may, in contrast to what Westerners experience at home, magnify the phenomenon of human flesh search engines.


    Population size matters. The number of views and comments on the Chinese forums consistently dwarf even the hottest topics on the biggest forums in the West.

    I don’t think it is entirely accurate or fair to say there is no large interest in these “hunts” in “The West.” I’m not saying there are zero sociological differences but part of my response was to point out the prevalence of alternative channels in the West to seek redress whereas there are less in China. As others above have mentioned, there is an element of the Chinese psyche seeking to exert power in an environment where they often feel powerless, but that is also precisely why it is important to consider what options/channels the people have. People say China is a police state, and to a degree, it certainly is. That needs to be factored in to understand WHY it seems there’s more interest in or emotional reaction to authority-subverting channels in China.

    To be honest, I don’t know Singapore very well but from what I’ve heard, the government seems to do a good job fighting corruption, which would arguably satisfy a lot of the citizens. Dictatorships and authoritarian regimes are not by definition “bad.” They are usually judged by how the people under them react. If Singapore does a good job governing without pissing off the people, there’s no reason why the people won’t assent or consent to that form of government. The problem in China is that the current system results in very obvious inefficiencies that seriously piss off the people. That doesn’t seem to be the case in Singapore, and you’ll have more than a few Chinese apologists citing the relative size disparity between Singapore and China.

    The point I am making is only IN PART that this happens everywhere. The actual point is that the reasons for human flesh search engine’s existence and appeal are rooted in human nature common to everyone everywhere in the world. It is just an expression of camaraderie, a desire to exert control, etc. The other point I was trying to make is that it APPEARS to be more poignant in China because of CONTEXTUAL reasons such as population size congregating and focusing at specific points (forums) and the lack of alternative channels. All of this makes this phenomenon bigger but you have to determine what actually IS bigger and what just SEEMS bigger in comparison to Western precedent.

    Human flesh searches may seem retaliatory in China because they often are, as is all manifestations of vigilante justice, and vigilante justice is resorted to when there is popular distrust of achieving justice through “legal” means. I think you understand this.

    Time to sleep, too lazy to respond to everything you said, but I hope this refines, clarifies, and reiterates some of what I mentioned earlier.

  • Sean

    Does anybody else get queasy just reading the name human flesh search engine?

    The equivalent in North America usually only do it to track down people who scammed someone or to find info on a hot girl.

  • Joe #2

    Have they figured out which people in the Xuzhou government sponsored this legislation? They have until June …

  • No Links

    4, 2, or @, Kai
    Interesting view on western perceptions and interpretations of the human flesh search engine, though I struggle to understand how you came to such conclusions. Here in the west the human flesh searches, as they are briefly mentioned, have been communicated by the media as nothing more than successful vigilantism on a grand scale, without implying any deeper cry for freedom of a yearning Chinese. In this way, the western view doesn’t differ from the Chinese view that you proposed.

    And you seem to be concluding that China conducts internet-aided vigilante justice due to specific circumstances in China, which naturally goes without saying. However, I think the reason you’ve stressed this is because you want to make the erroneous distinction between what you see as westerners blaming the non-corruption searches on the ‘brainwashing’ of the CCP, and what really determines the searches, essentially not brainwashing right? That is, Chinese ‘nature’ leads no more to a people that is ‘out for blood’ than any other?

    Naturally the context, or what circumstances encourages or permits vigilantism is important, but I think the fact that like their government, the Chinese people are generally less tolerant of ‘dissenting’ views/actions is significant, thus they are more likely to punish those that express such views/acts, hence this important reason should not be dismissed merely as a reference to brainwashing as it shows that: should other nations lack such searches it may not be because of their lesser population for example, but because of their different ‘nature’, the Chinese ‘nature’ most likely conditioned by the unique authoritarian government. (Though tolerance has increased some what since the reforms)(I’m not saying this is the only reason or even the most vital (I’m too tired for definites), however, it may explain the vicious searches that the west doesn’t understand, and ‘probably’ wouldn’t initiate)

    (I haven’t slept for 25 hours and have only had a two hour and then a four hour sleep in the past 57 hours, so if what I’ve written is incoherent or way off the mark, or does actually advocate a ridiculous notion of brainwashing: apologies.)

    …all right, sleep time


  • Kai

    @ No Links:

    It is entirely possible that my more critical perspective of how Westerners view human flesh engines is skewed by the crowds I mix in and the Western perspectives I personally encounter. In fact, it is more than possible, it is quite likely probable. I suppose I took what I often hear from Western critics and erroneously generalized it to all Westerners and I’ll apologize for that so long as everyone acknowledges I meant no harm in it.

    I fully grant that the vast majority of “everyday” Westerners probably don’t give two shits about what’s happening in China and might dismiss human flesh search engines like they dismiss videos of dog fighting: something that shocks them for the moment before they go back to doing whatever it is they do, relegated to the back of their minds until the next time they might remember to contribute in a rare conversation about their opinions of China and the Chinese people.

    So the “Western” perspective I offered above may be be more accurately limited and only prevalent amongst Western expats in China and “China watchers” rather than “Westerners” in general. Even among them, it may be limited to those who take an interest in China beyond mingling with the locals the next time they’re out a pub.

    I don’t see how you arguing that Chinese people, “like their government,” are “generally less tolerant of ‘dissenting’ views/actions” is any less erroneous than my general point that “China conducts internet-aided vigilant justice due to specific circumstances in China” which you think I am stressing. In fact, they sound like the same thing to me really. Couldn’t an allegation that a people have a less tolerant attitude towards ‘dissenting’ opinions be a “specific circumstance” of a country?

    I think it is tempting and a slippery slope to say Chinese people are generally less tolerant of ‘dissenting’ views/actions because it is easy to implant the idea that “Westerners” are generally “tolerant.” I personally am inclined to believe that too, but I think it really depends on what issues are at stake. Chinese and Westerners value and tolerate different things differently so you run the risk of wading too far into moral and cultural imperialism here which, despite my proclivity to agree with you, I think needs to be acknowledged by us.

    I understand your use of the word “nature” but I do want to caution how easy it is for people to interpret that as a racial difference. I don’t really think it is and in true scientific fashion, I prefer the word “nurture.” Of course, here I acknowledge that my use of the term “brainwashing” is heavy with emotional connotations but I hope everyone recognizes I’m talking about socialization or “nurture.”

    Earlier I mentioned that the reasons behind and the appeal of human flesh searches or vigilante justice is common to everyone everywhere. Likewise, I think a Chinese person’s nature is no less inclined towards tolerance or intolerance than a Westerner’s but is the socialization process and the socialization players (family, friends, education, society, culture, etc.) that “brainwashes” them into being more or less tolerant with regards to this or that. For example, you can argue that Chinese are socialized to be generally less tolerant of dissenting views. Okay, sure, and I can argue that Westerners are socialized to be generally less tolerant of infidelity or hell, smoking. Neither is a product of one’s “nature” but of how they were socialized. You can make value judgements that “oh, well, infidelity and smoking is bad, evil, blah” but my point remains that these are just examples of different values accorded with different tolerances. This is why I pause when I read your arguments about “nature” because it is very easy for lay people to nod their heads reading your word and storing “Chinese people = intolerant” in their heads. I think a reasonable argument can be made that they’re just tolerant and intolerant about different things, and the mere observation of this in a Westerner’s mind is actually a manifestation of their own tolerance and intolerances.

    Of course, that’s normal, because our human nature makes sense of the world in part by a consideration of similarities and differences. Westerners and Chinese are socialized differently so there are qualitative differences in their behavior and perspectives.

    Who was that guy, Tom Doctoroff? In his book, “Billions,” he goes on at length trying to explain how Confucianism have influenced how Chinese people think and behave. That’s socialization and it is indeed a specific circumstance or environment in which Chinese people grow up. But again, it isn’t “nature.” Nature is what we are born with, while nurture is how we were raised.

    You accuse me of stressing something to say something, and I quite frankly feel you’re stressing something to say something as well. Heh, but that’s the art of discourse, right? However, I don’t really see how your opinion differs from mine, which is why I think your response is a bit odd.

    I believe human flesh searches, as the phenomenon is called in China, seem less in the West for a multitude of factors, of which population is one (that I don’t think is negligible or easily dismissed) and certainly socialization another. However, I want Westerners to be sure they understand that the underlying reasons for why human flesh searches appeal to Chinese people are not actually alien to Westerners but rather that their environments and their socialization is different.

    Okay, I have to get back to work now. Talk later.

  • Name

    Man you guys write alot. I skipped most of it and sorry if someone else already wrote this, but as far as why Western countries don’t have Human Flesh Searches, well its because we have the press and the paparazzi. Usually they break stories before the general public finds out anything.

  • wuxia

    @ Kai
    I think we agree on the first theme of the HFS: the political one. There is no feedback or control system, so with the power of the internet the Chinese find their own way.
    For the other theme you are pointing out that the large differences between the west and china is:
    1 perception
    2 Chinese coming to terms with their powers
    3 concentration of netizens in a few hotspots
    4 less tolerance regarding dissenting views
    5 distrust in the legal system
    Please correct me if my summary is off.
    Regarding the first argument I think that this is slightly besides the point unless you are trying to say that my perceptions are completely off. I’m sure that there are some people that see this developments in these subtly different lights, but that doesn’t take away the fact that there are sociological and cultural differences between HFS in the west and in China like you point out yourself.
    I’m not sure about typical western views on these things but No Links probably has a point saying that it is less then you say it is.

    Your second argument is interesting although this is only a prediction. We don’t know what this is leading to and it might as well be the Green Goblin as it might be Spiderman.
    Currently the HFS in China still have a different reaction then in the west and the interesingness of your point is that you say it is a reaction to a long history of oppressing opinion. This might be a factor but maybe this is canceled out by the generation gap. The last generation was oppressed, but the new generation is more or less completely free. This makes for interesting sociological developments in itself, but the link to a reaction to the oppression is gone.

    You are convincing me of the third argument though. I probably didn’t realize this as much before since my knowledge of the Chinese net is limited but I guess Chinasmack shows that there are only several really large BBSs. In this way, perception (the first argument) might be essential, although you say it APPEARS to be more massive. I would like to say that it IS more massive because of this (amount of netizens and concentration in hotspots) although it is the same phenomenon.

    The fourth argument is interesting as well. Whether Chinese culture is more or less tolerant is very debatable and will eventually come down to splitting tolerance up in different areas. Some of them might be more tolerant and some might be less tolerant.
    Then there is also the discussion to be had about what is tolerance and what is culturally inherited context (spitting on the street, belching)
    Then we can think about perceived tolerance in Chinese culture that gets contradicted by certain HFS. As an example I would intuitively say that death is more accepted as part of life in Chinese culture and that animals are traditionally seen as far inferior to humans (while the west has been keeping cats and dogs as pets for ages, here it is quite new). Yet, a HFS is started on a guy that blew up a cat, which would hardly happen where I am from.

    In the fifth argument it seems that you are supporting Samael’s point that I maybe dismissed a little too easy in my last post. Seems to be valid to me.

    In summary:
    I think that together with frustration being triggered by an authoritarian regime together with the concept of face you make a good point about concentration in numbers and distrust in the legal system.

    Thank you for the discussion gentlemen (and ladies?). I think I just gained a better understanding of HFS.

    P.S. The mentioning of Singapore was of course rhetorical. It is widely known as one of the only beneficent dictatorships in the world.

  • Peteryang

    how they write laws isn’t important, because they can later interpret however they want, and most of the times they don’t even need a court.

    so I wouldn’t care too much about the actual terms, all they want is to get the HSF off their asses, its THEIR privacy THEIR bank account THEIR life that matter, not ours.

    and Kai the thing you said about westerners and chinese, well, I do find alot westerners boggled at some of our mindsets, there was a piece by christian science monitor on how chinese netizens battled with a pro-tibetan chinese girl at duke university and our filthy party cadres, they were wondering are we pro or anti government. I understand there are some overseas chinese student geniunely supporting the ccp but apparently majority of netizens acted on their own value.

    and yes retaliation by the offended mass is not a chinese invention, it does happen in other places at times but whats happens here tends to spin out of control and gets very extreme and irrational.

  • wuxia

    @ No Links
    Sorry I disregarded your post a little but as youcan see above, I’m basically standing behind my previous arguments of frustration and powerlessness more then I stand behind arguments based on “Chinese Nature” as I indicate this is very hard to define.

  • wuxia

    Hmmm….I just thought of something triggered by Kai’s camaraderie remark.
    There are some items that would not start a HFS in the west, but they do here. Some things even that are seen as despicable are not being followed up upon (women raped in public, people beaten to death with witnesses standing around). In the western press the reason behind this was explained as extreme individualism.
    So although I think that “less tolerance towards dissenting views” is hard to prove or define, I think that the more community based Chinese culture makes for easier triggering of HFS. This is of course closely related to “less tolerance”.

  • chinabounder

    as a cat killer, corrupt criminal, some1 whose sucessfull with chinese women i totally agree with this law

    as the song says “these boots r made for walking”

    I rather like the whole thing. i got nothing to lose, and im the fuk up out of here soon. a new account and i become the new chinabounder, good chinese practice too. i smell a chinabouder on chinq bbs soon………

    a cynic might say the chinese r deperately inadequate, impotent, hateful limp-dicks.

    thankgod the other govt rule about needing to show a id card isnt enforced, like every other rule.

    BTW neither the name or e-dress is real

  • SPP

    Chairman Mao instructed Chinese people to “speak out freely, air views freely, hold great debates, and write big-character posters”(大鸣、大放、大辩论、大字报).
    Why are they doing exactly the opposite?
    I just don’t understand.
    Man! What’s wrong with this country?!

  • wuxia

    @ Kai
    When I was typing the above your reply to No Links was not on my screen yet (strange enough). But I think we are agreeing (although you put it into words much better then I do of course).
    Thank you for setting out the socializing process very clearly. I think this corresponds to my sense of Chinese community.

    Your argument of East and West both having the same sentiments and both having flesh searches is valid, but I also think that the interesting part of the discussion is why they are not the same.
    What is it in the socializing process of the Chinese that makes specifically vigilante HFS so popular? Of course this question has been answered quite sufficiently above. I’m just saying that nobody disputes that they exist both in the west and the east.

  • Yabo

    @Admins I know this isn’t terribly important, but the link to the Chinese article isn’t the article that is translated on this page. It is a link to a story about netizens self-imposed restriction on the human flesh search phenomenon, not about government imposed restrictions. It is still interesting, but can you try to provide the link to the article translated here?

  • Kai

    @ Sean:

    Haha, yeah, but government officials misusing public funds is something of a scam too, right?

    @ No Links:

    Just finished reading your earlier comment where you sign off on how you haven’t slept. No worries, I understood your comment and although I went off on a tangent stressing a distinction between nature and nurture, I know you weren’t actually trying to imply that Chinese are born less tolerant to dissenting views. I just wanted to respond and make that clear should anyone be stupid enough to interpret you that way. Though you repeatedly emphasized “nature” I now note that you wrote “conditioned” as well, which is synonymous to my use of “socialization.”

  • Kai

    @ wuxia:

    I believe HFS (human flesh searches) get a lot of attention because it is one of the few ways the Chinese populace have relatively recently found to be an effective way to express themselves and/or exert a new measure of control over what they historically perceive as a difficult to control environment.

    Not only do certain aspects of their culture socialize them to “accept” certain things in life as things they cannot change and ought not bother trying to change (“mei ban fa”), there indeed has been a historical precedent that many things cannot be changed or helped. Yet, with the advent of the internet, they’re discovering a medium and tool through which they can express, disseminate, discuss, expand, promote, organize, and execute their will.

    I’m too lazy to enumerate the actual points I was making in my previous comments so I’ll just respond to you based upon your numbered list:

    Re: 1. perception

    I’m a little confused by what you’re trying to say or what you think you’re responding to with this one. One of my points was indeed that people will interpret the HFS in different lights based upon their backgrounds as well as what they themselves want to see. That’s why I mentioned “projecting” and “attaching values.” I’m further saying how their different interpretations affects their interest in HFS and its significance.

    Now, I granted earlier that I was probably bringing up only a minority “Westerner” perspective that I run into repeatedly in Western media or from Western observers of China, particularly through English blogs about China. I granted that the vast majority of Westerners don’t know two shits about China or the ramifications of HFS beyond seeing it as a bunch of Chinese lynch mobs, frightening but otherwise not more important than the next round of American idol.

    My basic point which I hope I can strike home with you is to understand the qualitative differences in the “significance” attached to HFS by the average Chinese and the average Westerner that is familiar with HFS. I see a trend in the Westerner to extrapolate from HFS phenomenon a hope for Chinese revolution, amongst other ideological and political consequences. That’s understandable and surely there are Chinese people who see extrapolate the same things. However, I’m just cautioning that most of the Chinese may only have shallowly begun recognizing that the internet can be harnessed to voice grievances to keep the government accountable, and have not once considered HFS being something of a first step or symptom on the road towards overthrowing the Chinese central government.

    Do you understand? I am, in a way, just trying to caution overenthusiastic Westerners.

    Now, the above pertains to perceptions relevant to “good” HFS that targets corruption or scandal, etc. But what about the “bad” HFS?

    With “bad” HFS, Westerners bemoan the invasion of privacy, the intolerance of dissenting views, the violation of other individual rights, etc. Many Chinese feel likewise, but many Westerners will still return to some conception that the group always overrides the individual in China whereas the individual is rightfully supreme in the West. That perception is not wrong or unreasonable to have but I do think it becomes unfair when Westerners start thinking phenomenon similar to HFS doesn’t or couldn’t possibly happen from where they’re from because their people, unlike the Chinese, respect privacy, rights, and dissenting views.

    The examples I gave were merely to remind Westerners not to fall into that superiority complex, the trap of self-righteousness or exception. Again, the reasons why HFS exist and the appeal of HFS is common to all people everywhere. Everyone wants to expose, share, discuss, argue, or right what they perceive to be wrong. People fight for the right of investigative journalism and a free press, or the right to assembly and protest precisely for these reasons. Hell, that PETA group on Facebook regularly sends visitors to chinaSMACK to check out these gruesome Chinese animal abusers, and those visitors occasionally leave some bigoted, angry comment. Some even think this website promotes animal abuse and one said they were going to report chinaSMACK to the police! There’s little difference between what that PETA group is and what an ad hoc human flesh search engine is.

    So if people from everywhere engage in similar behavior, why do Westerners seem to think HFS are a bigger deal in China?

    Because the intolerance of dissent, invasion of privacy, violation of individual rights, etc. all play beautifully into the Western narrative of China, China’s government, and Chinese society. Westerners are socialized from young to view “communism” and “communist countries” as antagonists, as entities that stood in opposition to Western values and ideals. All these aspects of HFS play into a specific backdrop embedded into Westerners, appealing to certain conditioned emotional responses and ideological convictions. HFS is a big deal because it seems to corroborate their preconceived socialized notions of China, nevermind that its really not that black and white, but a matter of shades of grey.

    My point about perception is to differentiate between what actually is and what only seems that way, either due to context or due to your own subjective socialization.

    Re: 2. Chinese coming to terms with their powers

    Your disagreement with what you refer as my second argument (I’m too lazy to enumerate the various points of my previous comments here, so I’ll just respond to what I’m reading from you) is wrong in my opinion.

    1. I don’t know why you think the current generation is “more or less completely free.”

    2. How are you defining your generations? It isn’t as if all of the netizens are post 90s or whatever, and there are plenty of 30-40 something netizens who remember what happened in the last year of the 80s.

    3. Free from what? Government control? Government propaganda? Social and cultural norms and mores? Confucian social hierarchy? Traditions?

    It is reasonable to say Chinese living today have experienced increasing freedoms over time but I do not think it is remotely accurate to say there is no “reaction to oppression” much less that they are “more or less completely free.”

    Moreover, my point here was two-fold. It is coming to terms with a new technology (the internet) that did not exist in the past, AND coming to terms with how this new technology enables them to do things they could not do prior to this technology existing and through other channels in present life (ineffective petition system, state-controlled media, physical demonstration, etc.)

    3. concentration of netizens in a few hotspots

    Right, and I’m also saying you have to consider “massive” in absolute terms or in relative terms. China’s population alone will make anything massive in absolute terms, but there’s a reason why things like GDP per capita.

    4. less tolerance regarding dissenting views

    Right, but I think dogs and cats have been kept as pets in China for ages as well. They’ve kept a lot of other cool animals and insects as pets for ages as well. ;)

    Um, I think a Western equivalent to a HFS would easily happen in the West where I presume you’re from. Are you telling me that students at a university wouldn’t make a big fuss about finding the prick who blew up their beloved and adopted university cat? I think they would, but sure, they’re probably going to get farther with the school administration, the police, or at least they’ll likely get better lip service. The resort to HFS is because upset people were ignored by the authorities they ought to turn to or they think they will be ignored. The Chinese students did plenty of normal things. They posted fliers and posters looking for the suspect. Do Western university students not do that? I remember tons of fliers about just about anything back in my college days. It also really isn’t that odd for students to post, discuss, and express emotions about the incident on a school or public internet forum. I really don’t see this being alien or foreign to Western society.

    Also, I don’t think the cat-bombing HFS got really big either compared to other more notable HFS. Also keep in mind that a call for HFS has become something of an internet meme on China’s internet. It doesn’t mean every person who utters “human flesh search him/her/them” is actually going to do it or participate in it. It has largely become something akin to “go get that/those fuckers!”

    5. distrust in the legal system


    Re: Summary

    Cool. Cheers.

  • Kai

    @ peteryang:

    and yes retaliation by the offended mass is not a chinese invention, it does happen in other places at times but whats happens here tends to spin out of control and gets very extreme and irrational.

    And then you have McCain campaign volunteer Ashely Todd carving a B backwards into her own face and then blaming an imagine black guy who also mugged her and told her that she’s going to be an Obama supporter. LoL.

    But yes, extreme and irrational shit gets reported a lot with the Chinese.

  • Kai

    @ USTCer:

    Awesome comment and definitely a good reminder for those visiting chinaSMACK and thinking it represents everything about China’s internet or all the Chinese netizens. I seriously doubt Fauna and her band of merry men/women could cover everything, but they do a good job translating some of the more interesting stuff that crops up. Much easier than trying to wade through the Chinese forums yourself without being really proficient in Chinese.

    @ SPP:

    Yeah, Mao said that at one point, but then he didn’t like what he heard/saw, changed his mind, labeled them all as counter-revolutionaries, and had them all cleansed. So much for that.

  • river

    human flesh is banned in xuzhou but xu zhou is just a small corner of china.
    why not human flesh the official in xuzhou. damn people’s servant.
    in china there is a saying:
    ci di wu yin san bai liang

    downstair please explain it

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  • LoobyLooby

    isn’t human flesh search and what happens afterwards just like the old communist denunciation sessions?

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  • Jiang

    This “flesh searching” may have helped stop corrupt officials, but the damage it does to peoples’ lives should not be underestimated. Did you hear about Grace Wang, the girl who tried to moderate a debate about TIbet at Duke University? Her family was forced to go into hiding because Chinese nationalists revealed her address online…