Should We Be Laughing at This Chinese Toddler for Defending His Grandma?

A video showing a toddler picking up a steel pipe to defend his grandma from a group of Chengguan, or Chinese urban management officers, went viral last week.

In the video, the toddler yells: “Don’t touch my grandma,” and waves the pipe threateningly at a group of Chengguans who are laughing and videotaping the toddler. Onlookers also laugh at the scene.

Chengguan, who are responsible for maintaining public order by clamping down on illegal street vendors and enforcing rules on city sanitation, have been a target of public scorn due to their thug-like behavior. A few years back, videos showing instances of violent behavior by Chengguan often went viral online, and attracted a huge amount of criticism.

However, due to the increase of social media censorship in China, similar citizen witness accounts are now less visible. Instead, party affiliated media outlets have started picking up news about street vendors attacking Chengguans.

This time, the video also passed the ideological review as it shows a toddler’s “violence” toward Chengguan. The video clip went viral on various Chinese social media platforms on April 14, and was quickly picked up by the English-language side of People’s Daily, which shared the news report on Twitter.

On Weibo, China’s most popular social media platform, the majority of the people, like the onlookers, found the scene funny. But some felt sad for the toddler:

As the online discussions started to turn critical toward Chengguan, the propaganda authorities issued instructions demanding the video, pictures, and news reports be removed from the main news section of major news outlets on April 15 because they “unfavorably portray the law enforcement community.” More balanced, pro-law enforcement views are now dominating social media:

There’s an argument to be made that the video does in fact show the Chengguan’s violence toward the toddler — it’s just not physical, it’s psychological. The mobile phones, the cameras, and the laughter can embarrass and demean him.

Whether they agree that it’s violence or not, many netizens nevertheless didn’t see the video as amusing.

This article by Oiwan Lam originally appeared on Global Voices.

[Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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