Chinese netizens are taking over the White House…petition site: “Hello! Comrade Obama”

Alia | May 7th, 2013 - 8:31 pm

What would you do if you don’t trust in the ability of your own government to answer your needs? For China’s always-cynical netizens, the answer is easy – to appeal to the US government.  As of the time of this blog post, the 6 most recent petitions submitted to the White House are all from China, some even in Chinese. 

It all started with the poisoning case of Zhu Ling which has remained unsolved for almost two decades. Zhu’s case was dug out after a recent similar poisoning case at Shanghai’s Fudan University, and soon attracted national attention again. Sun Wei, the alleged poisoner of the once attractive and talented Zhu Ling, is her roommate at one of China’s top universities, Tsinghua University. The fact that Sun is from a powerful and well-connected family makes many netizens suspect that her family has used their influence to block the case.

Calls for a re-investigation are everywhere on the Chinese Internet. Anger and frustration among netizens peaked when, on May 3, the term “Zhu Ling” and many other related terms were banned from search on Sina Weibo, China’s most dynamic microblog service. Probably out of desperation, someone submitted a petition to the White House, asking the US government to investigate and deport Sun Wei, who now lives in the US under a different name.

Within 2 days, the submission has successfully collected more than 130,000 signatures, surpassing the threshold at which the While House is pledged to respond. No one probably expects the While House to commit to the case. But soon after the petition news broke, the term “Zhu Ling” was searchable again on Sina Weibo, and major Chinese official media were all over the case, doing interviews and special reports.

Seeing the impact, some netizens apparently reach the conclusion that the While House petition is a good, or a fun, tool to attract attention to their appeals. Therefore, after “occupying” Obama’s Google+ page in February, 2012, Chinese netizens now have their eyes on the White House petition site.

Among all the petitions submitted by Chinese netizens, there are political ones, environmental ones and even ones that deal with individual rights. But what they care the most seems to be tofu soup (豆腐脑, doufunao).

There are not one, not two, but three petitions submitted to ask the Obama administration to rule on whether tofu soup should be made savory or sweet. The very first of such petitions was in Chinese: “We petition to the US government to set salty as the official taste of tofu soup, the kind that has cooking wine, soy sauce, jelly fungus, mushroom, day lily and eggs as gravy ingredients.” The entreaty so far has 1,713 signatures.

Believe it or not, this is a serious question if you are living in China. Tofu soup, a popular snack and common choice for breakfast, is often made differently depending on where one lives. In most parts of Northern China, tofu soup is savory and salty, whereas in Southern China, it’s made sweet. There have been debates on which is the “right” taste of tofu soup for as long as everyone can remember. Neither side ever gives in. Now, it has become an “international” issue.

A separate petition on the topic “We request the United States government will tofu curd official taste is salty” received 984 signatures so far. Another one from the sweet side “We request the United States government will tofu curd official taste is sweet” received 247 signatures so far.

If any of these petitions surpasses the threshold of 100k signatures, the Obama administration will have to respond and thus potentially have the power to influence a centuries old eating tradition in China. Doesn’t it sound great?

Of course, the Chinese netizens aren’t all about tofu. Below is a list of some other petitions that they submitted to the White House。

The normal petitions

“Please Remonstrate with Chinese Government about the PX Project in Kunming, Yunnan Province of China.” 7,230 signatures so far.

This past Sunday, hundreds of residents in the city of Kunming took to the street to protest at plans to build a petrochemical plant that is potentially harmful to local environment. Now, it is on White House petition.  

The trivial petitions

“Please investigate Chinese public intellectual [common term refers to liberal intellectuals] Kai-Fu Lee.” 28 signatures so far.

Kai-Fu Lee, originally from Taiwan, is the former head of Google China. He has over 40 million followers on Sina Weibo and is a vocal advocate of democracy. The petition accused Kai-Fu Lee, with his vast troops of online followers, of being a treat to the national security of the US, and asked FBI to investigate his background.

“We strongly suggest that the College English Tests CET4 and CET6 be called off. And Gaokao as well.” 3 signatures so far.

The level 4 and the level 6 of the Chinese college English tests are mandatory tests that every college student in China has to pass in order to graduate. They have been a huge headache for many struggling students. And Gaokao, China’s notorious college entrance exam,  is probably the NO. 1 nightmare for most children in China.

The will-get-you-in-trouble petitions

“Send troops to liberate Hong Kong.” 598 signatures so far.

“Send troops to liberate Chinese people!” 2,246 signatures so far.

Considering that some of those who occupied Obama’s Google+ pages last year left similar hopes, we couldn’t help but wonder how some Chinese netizens truly view the US. A capitalist global evil power? Or the ultimate savior?



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