2020-06-03 11:10:53  + video 

An education bureau in northeastern China has confirmed that a school in Hegang asked one of its students to delete online videos in which he poked fun at teachers, The Beijing News reported Wednesday.

“The school contacted the boy after seeing the videos,” an education official surnamed Zhao from Luobei County in Heilongjiang province told The Beijing News. “As for us, we encouraged him to do more ‘positive energy’ videos to promote good things and good people during the COVID-19 outbreak, including the ‘positive energy’ behaviors of the teachers.”

When Sixth Tone called the education bureau in Hegang, the city that administers Luobei, on Wednesday, an official who would not identify himself said that neither the bureau nor the child’s school had requested that any videos be removed. Sixth Tone was unable to independently verify this with the school, as the official would not give its name.

“The boy and his family decided to delete the videos on their own,” the official said, adding: “We encourage children to pursue their hobbies.”

The young vlogger, who uses the online handle Zhong Meimei and is reportedly 13 years old, has accumulated nearly 700,000 followers on video-sharing platform Kuaishou, largely by imitating teachers, railway staff, middle-aged women, and other groups. Last week, netizens noticed that Zhong Meimei had deleted all of his videos that included unflattering — but extremely entertaining — imitations of his teachers. At the time, many suspected that the young blogger might have been under pressure from his school or the local education authorities.

A 13-year-old vlogger known as Zhong Meimei accumulated hundreds of thousands of fans on video platform Kuaishou because of his comical impressions of teachers. They disappeared after attracting attention from local education authorities.

The now-deleted Kuaishou videos — which can still be found elsewhere online — depict the young vlogger pretending to be a teacher criticizing students for bad behavior, groveling before education bureau officials, and attempting to hold class while sick, among other scenarios. In one video, Zhong Meimei presents himself as a teacher who asks his students to be on their best behavior while education authorities visit for an inspection, during which he as the “teacher” puts on a facade of being obsequious and deferential to the government guests.

According to netizens’ comments, many of the vlogger’s satirical scenarios aren’t too far from reality.

“This is exactly how my teachers were,” read one comment under a compilation video of Zong Meimei’s “greatest hits” on microblogging platform Weibo. “This reminds me of how much I dreaded going to school,” wrote another.

On Tuesday, Zhong Meimei told Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper that the authorities had not forced him to delete the videos.

“Those are rumors,” he said. “Why do I need a reason to delete my own content? It has nothing to do with the education bureau. If I was really facing pressure or blackmail, I would have deleted my whole account by now.”

A few days earlier, Zhong had addressed his fans on Kuaishou, explaining that the reason he had stopped posting videos making fun of teachers was because his followers were “fed-up” with them, and he wanted to “change his style.”

Despite the education authorities’ insistence that they did not pressure Zhong Meimei, some netizens have expressed displeasure at the possibility that the young comedian may have been muzzled.

“They met with the kid for ‘rectification’ and removed his works. This is the biggest joke on Children’s Day,” one Weibo user commented under The Beijing News’ post, referring to Monday’s holiday. “His only fault is that the imitations were too authentic, which caused the teachers to lose face,” wrote another.

China’s mainstream video platforms, including Kuaishou and Bilibili, have a history of encouraging users to upload “positive energy” content — a position that is consistent with regulators’ directives for other sectors such as online literature. In 2018, the Cyberspace Administration of China launched an annual awards event to recognize the country’s “top 100 online positive energy” stories.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: Screenshots show 13-year-old vlogger Zhong Meimei mimicking one of his teachers. From Weibo)