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Crackdown on FIFA betting, interns eat bitterness, students lag on illegal loans, and 27-year-old burnouts—it’s Viral Week

Viral Week is our weekly round-up of the previous weekend’s trending memes, humor, rumor, gossip, and everything else Chinese netizens are chatting about. Think of this as a nice summer rain after a weekend’s heat wave, but one that actually makes the weather stays cool after.

This week, summer temps give new meaning to “eating bitterness,” students illegally resist illegal loans, and millennials are now over the hill (or are they?). But first…

China bets on FIFA

Beijing police cracked down on an illegal online FIFA World Cup gambling ring last week, according to the South China Morning Post, with 46 people detained after taking over 320 million RMB ($48 million) in bets. Gambling, thoygh illegal, is rife for major sports events in China—and football tops the list.

According to China Daily, the organizers “colluded with overseas online gambling platforms” and advertised the betting odds in WeChat groups. Similar online gambling rings have been busted in Shenzhen and Zhejiang, and Beijing police will continue to crack down on illegal betting for the remainder of the tournament, China Daily reports. (That’s July 15, btw)

While most forms of gambling in China are illegal, one legal option exists for placing bets on the FIFA World Cup: the government’s China Sports Lottery. According to official figures, Chinese spent over 28.6 billion RMB ($4.3 billion) in the weeks leading up to July  on this legal lottery.

Interns “feast” on bitter melons and raw eggs

“Eating bitterness” has a new meaning for 17 high school and university-age summer interns who took positions at a wedding photography studio in Yichang, Hubei, and were forced to eat raw bitter melon and raw eggs for failing to meet sales targets, the Chutian Daily reports.

According to the paper, the student temps had to sell services worth 99 RMB each on their first day, a sum that went up to 498 RMB on their second day—when the punishment was a serving of raw beef. Before this could happen, several students quit, and one angry parent turned up at the studio after her daughter complained of a stomachache. However, the wily owner, surnamed Yan, simply claimed she is practicing “entrepreneur culture,” which she learned from her own teacher in Shanghai, and that the punishment was no different from giving rewards for excellent performances.

After receiving several complaints, though, the Hubei government wasn’t having it, and demanded the studio stop their cruel and unusual punishment. Yan now claims she never had any intention of making the students eat raw beef, but just “wanted to scare them”—but three full-time employees have also reported being punished with raw egg and bitter melon in the past year. Incidents of  hazingharassment, and sketchy “team-building” activities remain a problem at certain  Chinese workplaces, particularly in the sales and service industries.

Loan sharks’ legal comeuppance unlikely

Is it legal to refuse to pay an illegal loan? More than 400 Chinese college students, who are refusing to repay a xiaoyuan dai (校园贷, campus loan) from Guangxi company 704 Financial Investments, think so.

Since January, 704 has been trying to sue the student debtors for their refusal to repay around 7,000 RMB that each had borrowed from the company, reportedly to purchase expensive items like mobile phones. However, according to Nanguo Morning News, most summons for payment sent to addresses on the students’ contracts were rejected, and over 20 students who did respond  have refused to negotiate. Last week, local judges announced that three of the students have paid, but the latter said they were forced by their parents, who were afraid they would lose job offers.

The government is cracking down on illegal campus loans of the type 704 were specializing in—super-high interest lending schemes that target low-income students to meet their increasing consumption needs. In recent years, loan sharks have become infamous for the violent recollections methods, which include several cases of collecting students’ nude photos as collateral. In 2017, the Ministry of Education made it illegal for any online lending company to loan money to students. According to Judge Huang Zhige, however, the students in the Guangxi case will still have to repay their debts: Failure to do so will result in their being blacklisted as a laolai (老赖, “deadbeat”) and affect their personal and social credit scores.

Quarter-life crisis

A term circulating on WeChat last week was “27-year-old Anxiety Disorder” (27岁焦虑症). A tongue-in-cheek phrase describing the quarter-life crisis one feels at 27,  the phrase was repurposed by WeChat account One文艺 to describe the ennui widespread among the post-90s generation, the eldest of whom will be turning 28 this year.

WeChat essays are calling for over-burdened jiulinghou to reclaim 27岁焦虑症 as a form of self-improvement, by getting involved in regular hobbies, training courses, or (groan) paid lectures called “Presentations of Success,” in order to stay up-to-date in the information-era—such courses are often offered, as it so happens, by WeChat public accounts that target their audiences’ insecurity and pressure to succeed in order to sell self-help wisdom that—of course—increases that very anxiety.

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