The CEO of a Beijing-based educational tech start-up has found himself on the wrong side of party and public opinion for using his Weibo account to complain about why his child was unable to attend a public school in the Chinese capital.
Zhang Xiaolong, whose company runs popular online training platform fenbi.com, ranted about Beijing’s onerously rigid hukou (household registration) system on his Weibo account, which at one point had almost 700,000 fans. According to Zhang, he paid four million yuan (US$626,000) in taxes each year and his company turned in some 80 million yuan in profits tax, but still but his child was denied a place at a public school in the city.
The repercussions of his post were surely beyond his expectations: his page was soon inundated with angry commentators telling him that nobody could “buy” a Beijing hukou and public schools in the capital city were not for the rich and powerful. Zhang soon had to delete the post to contain the commotion, stressing that as a father, he just wanted his kid to get fair, quality education.
This wasn’t enough to stop a “doxxing” operation from indignant netizens who retrieved a slew of politically incorrect remarks on that Web that Zhang had vented in previous years.
In one Weibo post in 2012 the outspoken Zhang wrote that, historical records showed Chinese people in eastern and northeastern cities occupied by Japan led a better life than those under the rule of indigenous governments during World War II. He even went so far as to suggest that perhaps Diaoyu Island, Taiwan and even all of China could have had a better future had the Japanese not pulled out after the war.
Zhang also expressed strong opinions regarding China’s still rampant corruption. “The only place in China that’s relatively corruption-free is Hong Kong, because it was once a British colony… I’d rather be a traitor living under a clean colonial government than be exploited by my fellow countrymen,” he wrote.
The Beijing Daily, mouthpiece of the municipal government of the capital city, joined in the recriminations, claiming in two op-eds that Zhang “desecrated his Chinese identity”, “crossed the bottom line of one’s morality and values” and “insulted his nation and his patriotic compatriots while making himself rich”.
The paper went so far as to question if it would be suitable to allow Zhang’s fenbi.com, popular among candidates for civil service exams, to continue to operate. The company is a recipient of Beijing government funding for tech start-ups and SMEs.
The groundswell of criticism forced Zhang to issue an apology, as well as a statement being issued from fenbi.com that the improper remarks issued by its boss had nothing to do with the stance of the company.
But media outrage has shown no sign of easing, with papers labeling Zhang a troll and malcontent unfit to run an educational website.
Beijing government’s publicity department also said it would take necessary actions to hold anyone, in particular well-known figures, to account for spreading malicious ideas.
Zhang has deleted his Weibo account.