A China Central Television (CCTV) program called ‘People’s Views’ recently interviewed Zheng Xing, known by his Web name “Bronze Mustache.” Zheng, a college student, was alleged to have had a love affair with a married woman. The two have drawn intense criticism online for their lack of morals.
The case had largely faded into oblivion until the CCTV interview. The station’s negative comments on the public criticism of the illicit affair angered the public. The majority of the online comments had supported traditional moral values.
The Bronze Mustache case began when the desperate husband posted an instant message of over 5,000 words on the forum of the Chinese commercial Web site for “World of Warcraft,” where Bronze Mustache and his wife (Web name Quiet Moon) had engaged in an online role-playing game.
The angry husband denounced Bronze Mustache, whom he suspected of having an affair with his wife. The public’s response on the Internet quickly climbed to about 100,000 hits a day.
The identity of the Bronze Mustache (a student at Yanshan University), his home phone number and much of his private information quickly became public. Some even harassed him at his parents’ home and at the university he attended until he dropped out of school in the face of the harassment.
The story also caught the attention of media outside China. The New York Times, Sueddeutsche Zeitung and other European and American newspapers reported the story. They characterized the Chinese public as “online mobs” trespassing on other people’s privacy and human rights.
On June 2, 2006, Bronze Mustache publicly responded to the charges on CCTV’s “People’s Views” through a phone interview. According to the CCTV program, a cyber incident had evolved into a large-scale outpouring of social condemnation.
Sociology scholars appearing on the show explained that although the reasoning of average people had a righteous foundation, the affair had angered people for personal reasons. Because their judgments were based on their own life experiences, Bronze Mustache and Quiet Moon had become scapegoats for venting their own anger, pain and resentment.
Outrage Over CCTV’s Treatment of Adultery
The program concluded by criticizing the “online mobs” for their vicious condemnation and attacks on Bronze Mustache and Quiet Moon. The show prompted a new wave of outrage on Internet bulletin boards where people protested the unjust criticism by CCTV and its failure to comment on the moral issue.
In online postings, people pointed out that traditional Chinese people value family above almost anything else. In real life, extramarital affairs happen frequently. However, the common complaint was that such affairs have damaged the ethical and moral baseline of human beings.
Angered by CCTV’s treatment of the public’s concern for moral standards, many of those commenting online said that the real victim of the incident may be people with conscience and values.
Indignation about the slowly disappearing traditional moral standards was a common theme of the online postings. Many messages expressed the longing for a return of social morality. And many expressed indignation at CCTV’s labeling them as “online mobs.”
Typical of the comments were: “CCTV supports adultery!” and “Save our love, hope, and morality. Give us a safe, healthy life in which we can trust each other.”