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  • On this episode of China Uncensored,

  • the pettiest fight you'll see on the internet

  • all day.

  • And that's saying something.

  • Hi, welcome to China Uncensored,

  • I'm your host Chris Chappell.

  • Meet Yang Shuping.

  • She was this year's student commencement speaker

  • at the University of Maryland.

  • And it's no wonder why.

  • When she came to the United States

  • five years ago,

  • she didn't speak a word of English.

  • She just graduated with a double major

  • in psychology and theater,

  • with a minor in German.

  • And to top it off,

  • she now speaks fluent English.

  • Now you would think,

  • this would be a proud moment

  • for Chinese international students.

  • One of their own,

  • singled out for achievement

  • at an American University.

  • Except, when she had the spotlight,

  • she said some things about the differences

  • between China and the United States

  • that were a little controversial.

  • It involved a student production

  • of a play about the beating

  • of Rodney King

  • and the LA riots of 1992.

  • The student actors were openly talking

  • about racism, sexism, and politics.

  • I was shocked.

  • I never thought such topics

  • could be discussed openly.

  • I have always had a burning desire

  • to tell these kinds of stories,

  • but I was convinced that only authorities

  • owned the narrative.

  • Only authorities could define the Truth.

  • You know, I applaud Ms. Yang

  • for tackling some big topics in her speech.

  • Of course, it's not quite as good

  • as my own commencement speech.

  • Which was about how as we go on,

  • we remember all the times we had together,

  • and about the importance of wearing sunscreen,

  • and also staying hungry and foolish.

  • It was a pretty great speech.

  • But back to Ms. Yang's speech.

  • Here was her key point:

  • Freedom is oxygen. Freedom is passion.

  • And then Chinese internet users

  • around the world exploded.

  • And believe me,

  • those were the more polite comments.

  • THEY WERE HARD TO FIND!

  • The speech also went viral on Weibo,

  • the Chinese version of Twitter.

  • The common theme was that she

  • shouldnt come back to China.

  • State-run media had a field day,

  • with article after article accusing her

  • of belittling and degrading China...

  • ...and even worse,

  • convicted her of the worst crime imaginable:

  • being deemed unpatriotic

  • by cyber public opinion.

  • Wow. Unpatriotic?

  • That was way harsh,

  • cyber public opinion.

  • This is what China's Foreign Ministry spokesman

  • Lu Kang had to say.

  • Finish her!

  • Sorry, wrong clip.

  • This is what Lu Kang actually said.

  • As long as in the end

  • they still ardently love their motherland,

  • and are willing to make contributions for her,

  • I believe that the Chinese government

  • will encourage, support and welcome it."

  • You see, as long as you wholeheartedly love

  • the Chinese Communist Party,

  • and do anything for it,

  • the Communist party will encourage

  • and welcome it.

  • I think that was what he was saying?

  • People always ask me

  • why did you come to the University of Maryland?

  • I always answer:

  • fresh air.

  • The air was so sweet and fresh

  • and utterly luxurious.

  • I was surprised by this.

  • I grew up in a city in China

  • where I had to wear a face mask

  • every time I went outside,

  • otherwise I might get sick.

  • However, the moment I inhaled and exhaled

  • outside the airport,

  • I felt free.

  • What happened?

  • Is attacking someone for a speech

  • on the other side of the world

  • somehow supposed to convince people

  • that China doesn't have a problem

  • with freedom of speech?

  • For more on this,

  • I'm joined by China Uncensored's

  • resident Chinese person,

  • Shelley Zhang.

  • Shelley?

  • Hi, Chris.

  • Now Shelley, I know that talking about

  • freedom of speech in China can be a big deal.

  • But Yang Shuping was speaking in America.

  • Why are people so upset?

  • They weren't complaining about what she said

  • about freedom of speech.

  • They weren't?

  • They didn't get mad because she said

  • democracy and freedom are the fresh air

  • worth fighting for?

  • No, they were mad because she mentioned

  • a different kind of fresh air.

  • Hold on.

  • Chinese netizens are upset

  • that she complained about air pollution

  • in China?

  • Yep.

  • Chinese people aren't seriously denying

  • there's a pollution problem, right?

  • Well, let's let state-run CGTN America

  • explain it.

  • Some bashed her for degrading China,

  • while others accused her of telling outright lies

  • about her hometown Kunming,

  • a city in China's southwest Yunnan province

  • known for its beautiful scenery

  • and good air.

  • Wow, Chinese state-run television's

  • use of promotional video

  • really gets across how beautiful Kunming is.

  • So the argument is,

  • yeah, well...pollution isn't really

  • that bad in that one city.

  • And I guess that if she's lying

  • about the air quality in Kunming,

  • that proves she's a lying liar

  • who lies about China in general.

  • And to prove how out of touch Shuping is,

  • the local Chinese Students and Scholars Association

  • got together a group to talk

  • about how much they love China.

  • What did they come up with?

  • This.

  • We are students from University of Maryland.

  • We are proud of China.

  • Nothing says freedom of thought

  • like a group of people reciting

  • a prepared speech that someone else wrote.

  • Well, then there was a video

  • of individual testimonials

  • from Chinese students.

  • Although we know that the US

  • is a very free speaking country,

  • 80% of what Shuping Yang said today

  • were deceptions and lies.

  • And then it goes into a montage

  • of Chinese students talking about

  • how nice their own hometowns are

  • and that they never had to wear facemasks there.

  • Well, that's...a good Chinese tourism video,

  • but it doesn't prove that Yang Shuping was lying

  • about wearing a facemask.

  • What if she has asthma?

  • Or overprotective parents.

  • And interesting note,

  • although Kunming is today considered

  • one of the best air quality cities in China,

  • five years ago,

  • when Shuping left,

  • it did not meet China's

  • national air quality standards.

  • But to do an in-depth investigation

  • into whether Kunming has great air,

  • state-run Xinhua News did

  • an hour-long livestream on Twitter

  • where they repeatedly stopped people

  • on the street to ask if they

  • ever wore facemasks.

  • That's the hard-hitting journalism

  • I expect from Xinhua.

  • But this whole things seems like

  • kind of an overreaction.

  • Well Chris, I do have to say that I understand where the Chinese students are coming from.

  • Really?

  • Sure. I came from China as a kid. I was the only Chinese kid in my class. I loved Chinese

  • culture. I wanted Chinese sports teams to win. I was proud of being Chinese. It was

  • either that or just be hurt everytime kids made ching chong noises at me.

  • So you're saying that the Chinese students were justified.

  • No, I'm saying I understand why they feel hurt

  • and why they want their Chinese identity

  • to be respected.

  • But then they took that

  • and went so far into left field

  • they can't even see the ballpark anymore.

  • There's an obsession with national pride

  • that's frankly a little unhealthy.

  • Popular phrases like

  • "You're nothing without your motherland."

  • So people are mad at her because

  • she was being ungrateful

  • to her motherland?

  • Well, making the motherland look bad.

  • But really, Shuping is not the one

  • making China look bad right now.

  • The extreme reactions from Chinese people

  • are keeping this story in the headlines,

  • and it's making us look weird.

  • I mean, Chinese netizens

  • publicly bullied this girl into shutting down

  • all of her social media accounts

  • and abjectly apologizing for using

  • an air quality metaphor

  • to talk about her love of individual freedoms.

  • Should we be proud of this?

  • Is the motherland triumphant,

  • now that this one voice

  • has been squashed?

  • This type of nationalistic anger

  • that won't be satisfied until someone

  • is made an example of

  • is an unfortunate legacy

  • of the Chinese Communist Party.

  • But here's what Shuping really did wrong.

  • And some of the criticisms of her

  • even say this bluntly.

  • She can feel the way she wants to

  • about freedom and democracy

  • and how great it is to be able to express

  • individual viewpoints.

  • Or even how crappy the air is in Kunming.

  • She just isn't supposed say it out loud.

  • Publicly.

  • So your opinion is fine

  • as long as you don't express it.

  • Wait, aren't you concerned about

  • getting attacked for expressing that publicly?

  • Chris, I fully expect the flamewar

  • in the comments section

  • to burn brighter than the sun.

  • Well, if there's one piece of advice

  • I could give you, Shelley,

  • it would be:

  • Wear sunscreen.

  • So what do you think about

  • what Shuping Yang said

  • and the reaction?

  • Leave your comments below.

  • Once again,

  • I'm your host, Chris Chappell.

  • See you next time.

On this episode of China Uncensored,