Carnivorous fish caught in Henan lake, volleyball players compete in masks, new “Minions” movie censored, and China’s last reindeer tribe’s leader passes away—it’s Viral Week
Viral Week is our weekly round-up of the weekend’s trending memes, humor, rumor, gossip, and everything else Chinese netizens are talking about.
Henan lake drained to capture 'monster fish’
Around 37 million people tuned in to watch the livestream of efforts to capture a carnivorous “monster” fish in a park in Ruzhou, Henan province. The North American alligator gar, considered a threat to local ecosystems because it eats other fish in the water, was first spotted by locals in the park in mid-July, but eluded capture until local officials decided to drain the lake. Two specimens were caught on August 26, with at least one of over 1 meter long, and the alligator gar has been spotted in other regions of China including Beijing. They are suspected to be released pets, or specimens that people bought online in order to “compassionately release” for good karma.
Motorcyclists help fight forest fires in Chongqing
Hundreds of local motorcyclists were mobilized to transport supplies and firefighting equipment to help combat multiple bush fires that were finally extinguished in the mountains near Chongqing on Friday. Many of the volunteers were young people born after the 1990s, who usually ride their motorcycles for fun in mountainous areas lacking paved roads. The bush fires are part of the severe heat wave that has led to droughts across the region and is impacting millions of people.
Chinese volleyball players compete in N95 masks
China's women's volleyball team courted controversy by playing in N95 face masks at the Asian Cup last Thursday, with Weibo users pointing out that it is dangerous to wear masks while engaging in physical exercise. The team lost its first set against Team Iran, but rebounded to win the match after most players took off their masks for the subsequent sets. China Volleyball Association apologized on Friday for the decision, stating it had required the players to wear masks off the court because athletes on other teams had tested positive for Covid-19, and blamed “lack of experience“ for its failure to remind athletes to remove their masks before playing.
Last matriarch of China’s reindeer-herding tribe passes away
Maliya Suo, the last female leader of the Ewenki Aoluguya tribe of northeastern China, died on August 22, officially aged 101. Suo’s recorded year of birth is 1921, though her actual age was unclear. She resisted government efforts to resettle her tribe in urban areas in 2003, and returned to live in the woods, where she spent the remainder of her life trying to preserve Ewenki’s hunting and herding culture and reindeer habitats in the Greater Hinggan Mountains.
Ending of new ‘Minions’ movie censored for China release
Film authorities in China changed the ending of the animated film Minions: The Rise of Gru for its domestic release on the mainland on August 19, more than a month after its international release. According to posts and screenshots from the movie shared on Weibo, the altered ending defined consists of Wild Knuckles, a thief and one of the movie’s protagonists, getting caught by the police and serving 20 years in jail. Gru, Wild Knuckles’ co-conspirator, "returned to his family," where "his biggest accomplishment is being the father to his three girls." China places a quota on the number of overseas movies that can be shown in domestic movie theaters, and many are edited to have scenes omitted or altered prior to release—including, notoriously, the version of Fight Club streamed on Tencent Video earlier this year, which ended with a title card explaining that the protagonists were arrested by the police after the events of the movie.
Moutai moon cakes scalped for over 600 yuan
Moon cakes branded under the Moutai (Maotai) Group, makers of China’s renowned Maotai baijiu wine, are reportedly being scalped online for 658 yuan for a box of eight. According to the Paper, after being criticized for selling eight moon cakes for 1688 yuan last year, Moutai released more economically priced versions of the traditionally dessert in July for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival in September. In the previous decade, pricey moon cakes have been the target of frequent government anti-corruption campaigns, and China's National Development and Reform Commission have announced this year it will “regulate” moon cakes priced over 500 yuan per box. Earlier this summer, Moutai also released baijiu-flavored ice cream priced at 39 yuan per serving.
Man struck by lightning while taking engagement photo
A man was tragically killed by a lightning strike while posing for photos with his fiancée during a thunderstorm at the Jade Dragon Mountains in Yunnan province, a popular scenic spot and backdrop for pre-wedding photos. Emergency services soon arrived on the scene after the man was struck, and took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. People who were standing close to the victim were unhurt. About 30 minutes before the lightning struck, the local meteorological authority has issued a yellow alert for lightning and thunder, the third-highest alert under China’s four-tier warning system.
Chinese court upholds death sentence for US citizen accused of homicide
The High People’s Court of the eastern province of Zhejiang rejected the appeal of Shadeed Abdulmateen, a US citizen sentenced to death for “intentional homicide” of his former girlfriend, and upheld the original decision. In April, a court in Ningbo found Abdulmateen guilty of killing a woman surnamed Chen after she tried to end their romantic relationship in 2019. The US Embassy says it is monitoring the situation but will make no further comments for privacy reasons.