Mahjong busts, love under quarantine, fugitives give in, and free haircuts—China adapts to life with COVID-19
Viral Week is our weekly round-up of the weekend’s trending memes, humor, rumor, gossip, and everything else Chinese netizens are chatting about.
This week, the coronavirus outbreak continues to dominate life as couples celebrate Valentine’s Day from afar, fugitives find themselves with nowhere to run, and costumes become protective suits:
Love in the time of COVID-19
Couples across China separated by coronavirus quarantine measures found novel ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day without getting together. Some “met” online to play video games, some streamed movies simultaneously while video calling, and others sent bouquets of face-masks and hygiene products.
Hospital staff in Luzhou, Sichuan province, were much amused when a woman wearing an inflatable giraffe suit came to pick up medicine for her parents, explaining it was because she was unable to purchase any masks (health experts warn, though, that such costumes are not good substitutes for protective medical gear).
Nowhere to hide
While distributing rubbing alcohol to homes in Heilongjiang province, police came across one resident acting nervously, and later found him to be a suspect in a financial crime case who had evaded authorities for eight years. In Anhui province, police confronted a man for not wearing a face mask, and discovered he was wanted for a reckless driving offense.
The increased levels of surveillance and travel restrictions have also seen numerous fugitives, now with nowhere to hide, turn themselves in to police in Shandong and Shanxi provinces, and the city of Chongqing. Perhaps there’s a silver lining to the virus after all.
Pyramid of lies
A pyramid scheme in Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang province, was busted when a supermarket reported them on suspicion of hosting large gatherings of people, in contravention of disease-prevention advice from the authorities.
In Xiaogan, Hubei province, a group of men in red volunteer armbands were filmed barging in on a family playing mahjong, upsetting the table, and violently assaulting the owner in the name of disease control, despite the family’s protests that they have not left their home and no outsiders have come in.
Similarly, a family of four in Anlu, Hubei, was forced to make a public apology for playing cards at home, leading netizens to question whether local officials were abusing their quarantine-enforcement power.
Recalling the infamous Li Gang, a minor official in Jingzhou, Hubei province, is under investigation due his boastful son, who bragged on Weibo that his father had used “connections” to get him a ride home to his quarantined city (by sneaking him on board a supply van, it later emerged).
With hair salons closed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, a police officer in Jilin province with a talent for hairdressing offered to cut his colleague’s hair for free after noticing it was getting too long.
On February 8, Shanghai police dismissed rumors that they had caught several people trying to smuggle themselves into the city inside the trunks of cars. Days later, however, they did find several such stowaways, who apparently took inspiration from the dismissed rumors.
With many Chinese cooped up at home due to the coronavirus outbreak, many are finding novel ways to entertain themselves. On February 10, the “broom challenge,” where people try to make a broom stand on end, emerged as a social media fad based on what was claimed to be a NASA theory that this can only be done once a year on the day with the least “gravitation.” Later, NASA debunked the theory on Twitter, saying, “basic physics works every day of the year.”
Well-known director Chang Kai of Hubei Film Studio tragically passed away last week as a result of the coronavirus. In the space of 12 days, Chang’s parents and sister also died from the virus, while his wife remains in hospital.
Cover image from VCG