China: Reporter Resigns for Dirty Joke About Female Astronaut

Female astronaut Liu Yang has come to represent the recent launch of the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, a space mission for the manifestation of China's national glory. Prior to this, a decision by Southern People Weekly reporter Cao Linhua to crack dirty jokes about Liu and her fellow astronauts using China's largest social media platform, Weibo Sina, has resulted in his resignation.

Cao's original comment, dated June 12 (and since deleted, but published by Malaysia's Sin Chew Daily [zh]), read:


2 men and 1 woman go to heaven, but what if the latter comes back pregnant? Is this part of the national training for astronauts?
Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut. Image from Off Beat China.

Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut. Image from Off Beat China.

Cao's joke provoked some netizens in a big way, but at the same time served to illustrate how other netizens feel in comparing between the fate of two women, Liu Yang and Feng Jianmei in China.

The former is seen to represent the state and has touched heaven, at the same time that the latter has reached hell by means of a forced late-term abortion.

Liz Carter from Tea Leaf Nation has explained such netizens sentiment through translations of “Sudd's” (@假裝在紐約‘s) Sina Weibo comments:

We can successfully send a female taikonaut out into space, and we can also forcefully abort the fetus of a seven-months-pregnant woman from the countryside. The stark contrast between the fates of these two women, 33-year-old Liu Yang and 22-year-old [sic] Feng Jianmei, is the clearest illustration of the torn state of this nation. As glory and dreams illuminate disgrace and despair, cutting-edge technology exists alongside the shameless trampling of the people. Rockets fly into the heavens while morals reach new lows, the nation rises while the people kneel in submission. This is how the best of times meets the worst of times.

Sudd's microblog was then reposted by celebrity blogger Han Han to his millions of fans, received numerous mentions across social media platforms [Han Han's post was also deleted].

However, in contrast to the fate of CCTV's host Yang Rui, whose equally insulting comment regarding the “cleaning of foreign trash” was defended by commentators from state-run media, People's Daily [zh] quoted a current leading Weibo survey [zh], created by user Maenliesimao (@大史公說), and its result that 91% of netizens feel Cao should resign from the newspaper [down to 87% at the time the survey expired].

Cao eventually made a public apology on June 19. Although a separate survey [zh] created by Zhang Hai (@烟大張海) shows 64.8% of respondents opposed to demands for Cao's resignation, it seems public opinion offers little help to someone who insults not just the astronauts, but also one of the nation's glory projects.

As such, here are several Weibo comments debating calls for Cao's resignation [zh]:

@九成博友: 曹林华的错误属于言论型错误,这种错误受到惩罚的程度主要取决于扩散范围和影响。作为知名报社的记者,他在微博上发表言论导致的扩散范围和影响远超过普通网民。如果是普通网民,不可能有这么多人关注,也就不会造成如此大的扩散范围和影响。

@九成博友: Cao made a speech mistake, the punishment of which depends on its influence and the scope. As a journalist from a famous newspaper agency, the influence of his speech on the microblog is way bigger than that  of an ordinary netizen.  He would not be paid so much attention to if he were only an ordinary netizen.

@金台-夕照: 人只因其犯的错受到惩罚,而不因其所在的地位而受到惩罚,曹记者出口轻浮、隐念不堪、性别歧视,这远远超过“调侃”范畴。无论其是不是知名报社的记者都应 当受到惩罚,有些人会因为没有人注意到而没有受到惩罚 。

@金台-夕照People are punished only for their mistakes not for their status. Cao’s words are frivolous, and the gender discrimination within his words is far beyond the scope of a joke. To this end, he should be punished regardless of whether he is a journalist or not, or whether or not attention has been paid him.

@麦道与波音 我仍然坚持这是言论自由。道歉可以,上升到辞职就拔高了,捍卫他人的权益最终即是捍卫自己的权益

@麦道与波音I insist that this is about freedom of speech. An apology is necessary but a resignation is excessive. I believe that by protecting the rights of others, ultimately we're protecting our own rights.


@柯华上海Is it a joke? It’s an insult to women!

@木易金昆:“发微博的时候是一名公民”?公民就有肆意辱骂他人的权利么? @曹林华 就是个法盲加流氓,必须要让他付法律责任。大家可以联名起诉他。

@木易金昆Does he say he is a citizen when he is blogging? Does a citizen have the right to insult others at will?  He is an asshole and knows nothing about the law. He should shoulder the legal responsibility and be accused of insulting.

@莲花台888: 发微博和不发微博的时候都是人。人,在任何时候都不能把自己降低到畜生的档次。

@莲花台888You are a human being regardless of whether or not you blog. You should take yourself as a human being and not degrade yourself.


@美国移民律师事务所老叶Why is this young journalist being given so much heat? Americans openly discuss sex in space, I even saw a news report about it on yesterday.

1 comment

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.