Placeholder Photo

Chinese shoe vigilante video sparks social media debate

Screengrabs showing videos posted on Sina Weibo and MiaopaiThe unknown man (L) disposed of the air passenger’s (R) shoes

A Chinese social media user who filmed himself throwing away the shoes of a sleeping barefoot traveller has caused a social media storm.

The video, uploaded to the popular web portal NetEase, shows an angry man at an airport in southern Xiamen province picking up the traveller’s shoes and throwing them into a nearby bin.

“I saw a man lying on the seats with his shoes and socks off,” the man says. “What will foreigners think if they see such ill manners – they will wonder about how low Chinese peoples’ standards are.”

Video showing shoes being thrown in a bin from Chinese web portal NetEaseThe video was uploaded to popular web portal NetEase

Over 7,000 social media users have left comments on his video. A further 20,000 have posted on shares of the video on Sina Weibo by state media China Daily and China National Radio.

Barefoot taboo

The video by the man, who has not yet been named by the media, has caused a stir because it is frowned upon to be barefoot in China.

Feet have long played an important part in Chinese culture. In traditional Chinese medicine, they are considered crucial to a person’s health. And the ancient custom of binding a woman’s feet was a popular means of displaying status.

A member of the Bound Feet Women Dancing Team, wearing her 'Three Cuns Golden Lotus' shoes, prepares for dancing practice at Liuyi Village on April 2, 2007 in Tonghai County of Yunnan Province, China.Image copyrightCHINA PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES
Image captionFoot binding was a way of portraying status

Being barefoot is considered unhygienic, and in public it is an extreme taboo.

But it is also frowned upon in the home. It is common practice for people – including visitors – to wear slippers around the house.

‘A little extreme?’

The unnamed man who threw away the shoes of a barefoot traveller has won online respect.

Many popular comments on NetEase and Sina Weibo users praised the “handsome” man for his actions.

Many comments said he “did the right thing” and that the shoeless man was “breaking public order and morals”.

“His approach is certainly right”, user “Qing Agoin” says, but she asks whether his behaviour is “a little extreme?”

A pair of feetImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionSocial media users have been talking about the “uncivilised” shoeless traveller

Many said that the shoeless man’s behaviour was “uncivilised”, but others took an equally dim view of the vlogger, saying that “throwing away someone’s belongings is illegal”.

Some accused the vlogger of seeking publicity and trying to “get his name out there.”

“Marong” accused him of “grandstanding”, asking why he wasn’t “able to first talk with the man”.

And “TristaBXGE” asked whether China needs to do more to improve its image which has been tarnished by badly-behaved tourists abroad.

“Why is everything linked to ‘overseas?'” she asked. “Is ‘improving quality’ all for foreigners?”

By KERRY ALLEN, BBC May, 24, 2016