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NGOs in China

Chinese NGO suspends Weibo account after criticising woman for breastfeeding on subway

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 November, 2015, 7:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 June, 2017, 1:05pm

A non-profit organisation in Beijing shut down its social media account after its post criticising a woman for breastfeeding on the subway caused a stir online, a mainland news portal reported.

According to The Paper.cn, the NGO called Beijing Tale posted on its Weibo account a photo of a woman in a red coat breastfeeding her baby on a crowded subway carriage,

The post said: “Mind you behaviour in public, and don’t expose sexual organs.”

The post continued, as if talking directly to the woman: “Mam, would you consider it appropriate to do this on the subway? You probably have forgotten where you are. This is Beijing’s subway, not the bus in your village.”

Chinese culture has long been sensitive to anything remotely approaching public nudity. Those who expose their bodies in public on purpose can be detained for between five to 10 days, according to China’s public security law.

The NGO said it didn’t take the picture – in a letter of apology published on Sunday after deleting the tweet – and later decided to temporarily close its Weibo account.

The original photo was originally taken and posted a woman, 24, who said she was graduate of Beijing Jiaotong University, according to her social media profile.

“We are not against or reject breastfeeding. Instead, we support and respect breastfeeding,” Beijing Tale said in its apology.

It said people have misinterpreted its purpose of publishing the post, which was used to encourage discussion on whether breastfeeding should take place in privacy.

“Our opinion is that [women should] breastfeed under cover if conditions permit; if not, they should lean sideways to breastfeed.”

The report did not mention the purpose of Beijing Tale, but it published its apology long after state media had picked up the post, which prompted a flood of responses both supporting and deploring the subway passenger’s action.

A related thread posted by the Communist Party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily was retweeted more than 10,000 times with more than 30,000 comments.

One of the top-voted comments wrote, “This [breast] is baby’s granary, not a sexual organ!”

Many posts criticised the NGO for discriminating against breastfeeding woman.

Others expressed anger at the woman who took the photo. One comment, which was reposted more than 8,000 times, called the photographer “a poisonous tumour of society”.

Another wrote: “Taking a picture of someone else in public and posting it online – just how moral is that?”

In response, the woman who took the photo later tweeted “So, blame me?” That received more than 8,000 replies, mostly negative, after which she closed the comment section.