In the past 20 days, 8 cases of school kids being sexually molested by either school teachers or government officials were exposed by Chinese media. It all started when, in early May, an elementary school principal in Hainan was found to take 6 of his female students to a local hotel to spend the night. Later joined him was a government official. Similar stories emerged one after another after the Hainan case broke.
Chinese netizens were shocked and outrageous, to say the least. Schools, which are supposed to be a safe haven for kids, are now hunting grounds for child predators.
Part of reason, many netizens argued, is that sex with minors isn’t always a serious crime in China. For example, it’s not if the offender claims that he didn’t know the age of the kid or if the kid was paid for sex. There have been calls for modification of China’s crime law on sex with minors for many years. The only result achieved so far was yesterday when China’s supreme court ordered tougher sentencing for child abuse at “all levels” with “absolutely no mercy.”
However, in another world, China’s social media world, which oftentimes feels like a parallel universe to what China is offline, Chinese netizens are starting an alternative war against child abusers.
Female activist Ye Haiyan, who has been fighting for rights for sex workers in China for years, was the first to start the online troll. Earlier this week on May 27, Ye went to Hainan to protest at local authorizes who tried to downplay the case mentioned above where a local school principal took 6 students to a hotel. The sign in her hands read:
“School principal: Get a room with me [if you need to]. Let go of the students!”
At the bottom of the sign, there was her name and contact information. Ye’s protesting picture was soon picked up by netizens and reached meme status. As of the time of this blog post, #get a room with me# ranked among the top trending topic on Sina Weibo, China’s most dynamic microglob service.To show support, netizens from all walks of life uploaded pictures with a similar sign.
Not everybody is happy with how things unfolded. While most netizens thought it was a good way to get their voices heard and to promote their messages, some viewed the campaign a little “low.” Like one netizen 小池泽晞 commented: “Get a room with ‘you’. So what? What we need is law enforcement.”
The meme, in any case, is a sad story to tell right before June 1, China’s annual Children’s Day.