The year in people

By Metro Beijing staff Source:Global Times Published: 2012-12-30 22:34:28

In 2012, Metro Beijing interviewed people from all walks of life, from overnight video sensations that did the rounds on social media to preservationists devoted to maintaining Old Beijing. We've rounded up the voices that stuck with us throughout the year, both inspirational and irrational, humorous and controversial. Let's take a look into how they might impact 2013, too.

1 Xiong Dun - comic crusader


Xiang Yao, or as she's better known by her pen name, Xiong Dun, 29, drew humorous comic strips to record her battle against non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, and died on November 16, after being first diagnosed on August 21, 2011. Her funeral was held in Babaoshan Funeral Parlor in Shijingshan district two days after her death, with dozens of her fans in attendance. Though Xiang has left us, her optimistic attitude lives on through her comic books, Be gone, Mr Tumor, which was released in September and made the bestseller lists of many online bookstores. Her upbeat comic strips attracted thousands of followers and she became an icon of optimism for those who suffer from cancer. After she died, thousands of people expressed their mourning on her Sina Weibo. According to Xiang's lawyer Wang Yun, Xiang received donations from all over China. After deducting the part that was used for her treatment, Xiang wanted to donate rest of the money to support the public welfare.

2 Zhang Wei - Old Beijing preservationist


After 12 years in operation, Old Beijing ( was shut down in May by the Beijing Internet Information Management Office. The site, founded by Zhang Wei, a Beijinger himself, brings together people that represent the older way of life in Beijing, in hutong and courtyards. All the materials on the site, including 600,000 pictures and 20,000 members, suddenly lost their homes, a story not unfamiliar to the hutong dwellers the site connects. Luckily, Zhang was able to get his own server in time, and all the materials were saved. Now, his new site, also known as Tinder Lamp, is open to the public with all the rescued materials on it. "So far, 60 percent of our old website users came back to post on this new website and the suspended Old Beijing Shoot and Record Activity will resume after Spring Festival," Zhang said.

Zhang also told Metro Beijing that people could download the app of to their cell phones through, but "currently, this is just a beta version which will be updated soon." Zhang hopes that policy-makers will allow websites operating in the name of public service to function more freely. "I hope government can provide help for websites like us rather than formulating strict rules and regulations that confine us," Zhang said.

3 Xu - unlucky taxi rider


A man surnamed Xu was pricked in the leg by an HIV-positive needle while he was riding in a taxi on August 27, and is suing the taxi company for negligence. His experience raised public concern online about the safety of taking taxis.

However, Xu's misery didn't end there. After the incident, he received an indifferent response from the taxi company and lost his girlfriend, all while the possibility that he could have HIV made him intensely nervous.

Three months later, Xu was proven to be not infected, and he is now able to stand firmly against the taxi company for his rights as a taxi passenger. In November, Xu reached a Metro Beijing reporter with his plan for suing the taxi company. Now, he said that he won't take taxis anymore, sticking to the subway or buses instead. As for his ex-girlfriend who left him once she learned that Xu had the possibility of being infected with HIV after the accident, Xu expressed that "what is done is done" and doesn't want to talk about her any more. The latest news for Xu is that his case has been accepted and will head to court in January.

4 Wang Jia - ALS fighter and fundraiser


Wang Jia, the 28-year-old patient in the later stage of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, as it's known in the US, set up the Wang Jia Foundation - the first foundation aimed at helping ALS sufferers in China. Wang established the foundation on November 4, one month after Metro Beijing published his story. On December 12, Wang was selected as the 2012 Beijing Idol to honor him for sticking with charitable work even while undergoing medical treatments.

Wang spends most of his time designing art that he sells to raise money for the foundation, and he occasionally makes appearances in the media.

Though Wang's health is not stable, he keeps others informed of his situation on his Sina Weibo. Wang's latest post give thanks for the gifts he received for Christmas and prays for a happy life and a miracle to help him recover. As for love in the New Year, Wang is still holding out for the moment he meets a women who is kind-hearted and beautiful.

5 Mike Sui - 12 Beijingers actor


Mike Sui, 28, is best known as the self-deprecating impressionist who on April 27 uploaded a video, entitled 12 Beijingers, in which he plays 12 different Chinese and foreign stereotypes sitting at a bar.

Speaking to Metro Beijing from the warmer comforts of a Koh Samui holiday resort in Thailand, Sui - whose mother is American and whose father is from Beijing - is reaping the benefits of his firecracker fame; perhaps a reward for his years of hard work and anonymity in various media industries. The main thing, however, is that he's now comforted by his bank account, which has swelled from "like four digits to six, man."

"I feel I'm very lucky that 12 Beijingers hit at the right time. If there's anyone I know that is a textbook example of how to handle overnight fame, it's me. I deserve it," he said.

Whilst remaining humble as best as he can, Sui has since signed with a management company and has had work hosting various TV shows and events throughout the country. A regular segment for Hunan TV provides him the steadiest income.

Since late September, Sui has been "acting non-stop" with a role in a Hangover-style 25-episode TV series, literally translated as The Bendover: "It's a decent-sized role," he said.

Not only that, Sui is keen to traverse the world of rap. Although admittedly, he does not possess the talent to compose music on his own, he is confident he can "conceptualize" what he wants for any audio backdrop to accompany "my good lyrics."

"I don't have a rap name yet. I'm trying to figure out what it would take for a Chinese song to go international," he said. As for a 12 Beijingers sequel, Sui said he's working on it, but he needs a good song and dance routine to go with his yet-to-be-seen Indian persona.

6 Yan Lianke - outspoken author


In April, Yan Lianke, a top author in China, published the article "The Year of the Stray Dog" in the New York Times, emotionally likening himself to a lost, stray dog in a dark tunnel. This came after the compound he lived in was forcibly demolished, and his writing was repeatedly rejected by a number of Chinese publishers.

His complaints about the government have made him a beacon of controversy. Over the past 16 years, Yan has been famous for his outspoken novels on war and revolution.

However, his new work depicting the pains and sufferings of Chinese people during the famine in the 1950s was banned from publication.

As the year 2013 is approaching, the 53-year-old author told Metro Beijing that he has recovered his peace of mind when recalling 2012. A collection of his essays about his pastoral lifestyle with a vegetable garden was finally published in November. He and his neighbors won the lawsuit against the property developer behind the illegal demolition.

"I will keep writing as I have done before," he said. "Now I have no illusions, but I remain hopeful about having my work published in 2013."

7 Stephon Marbury - basketball hero


The year 2012 marks the year Stephon Marbury, 34, successfully made the transition from a New Yorker to a Beijinger. Among the foreign sports personalities who come to China to revive their sports careers, he was the only winner.

The point guard of the Beijing Duck basketball team was embraced by Beijingers as their new city hero, after he helped the formerly mediocre team of the China Basketball Association (CBA) claim its first championship in 17 years this March.

Having experienced career difficulties in recent years, the former-NBA superstar finally saw his game reach a new climax in Beijing. "2012 was a great year for rebuilding," Marbury wrote in an e-mail to Metro Beijing. "I've gone through my share of ups and downs, but I never got too high and I never got too low."

"There were two happy moments in 2012," he wrote, "One was when my teammates and I won the CBA championship and the other was when my statue was unveiled at the MasterCard Center."

But the upcoming 2013 season will still be a challenge. The back-to-back victories on the court are the main reason for his popularity. If he wants to maintain his heroic image, he has to take wins seriously.

"My goal in 2013 is to continue to try to be a good person, and, of course, win another championship," he wrote. "That's the only reason why we work so hard."

8 Jesse Appell - "Laowai Style" creator


American Fulbright scholar and xiangsheng (cross talk) student Jesse Appell, 22, came to fame this year for "Laowai Style," a viral music video parody of South Korean pop star Psy's "Gangnam Style" about life as a foreigner in Beijing.

By the end of November this year, "Laowai Style" had over 350,000 plays on Youku.

The success of the music video prompted the suits at BTV to invite him and his friends to shoot an on-stage version of the video to be broadcast nationally. According to Appell, the re-shoot at BTV went very well.

"We had a ton of fun fighting our way through the freezing cold to the studio and perfecting our dance routine," he said.

The final version aired two Sundays ago. Impressed, BTV has already invited him back to perform his xiangsheng comedy routine on the Global New Year's Gala.

As for progress on the development of his comedy troupe, Appell states that it's "coming together slowly but surely," and that over the past month he has been in touch with filmmakers and fellow actors to help fund a pilot episode.

Overall, Appell is excited as ever and considers the past few months "a great success."

However, Chunjie - Chinese New Year - will allow him a much-needed break from his ever-busy schedule.

A young, talented, single man stalks the capital. Ladies, beware.

9 Mark Kitto - I'm STILL leaving China author


On August 8 this year, Welsh businessman and author Mark Kitto made international headlines when he posted his eloquently earnest departure letter to China online.

The article - "You'll never be Chinese" - explained his reasons for leaving China after 16 years living, working and raising a family in the country.

Moreover, it struck a deep chord within the Chinese expat community, being re-tweeted 4,500 times and shared on Facebook by 43,000 people.

His reasons for leaving after so long were because he had "fallen out of love [and] woken from [his] China dream."

"I've made a bit of an industry leaving China," Kitto said in a November interview with Metro Beijing.

In the end, it was his children's lack of opportunities for extracurricular activities in the Chinese schooling system that prompted Kitto's departure from the rural village of Moganshan - a scenic resort town west of Shanghai where Kitto, his wife and two children still live - to Norfolk in the UK.

In a recent e-mail to Metro Beijing, Kitto had nothing to add and will still leave China in 2013 as planned.

10 Zhang Jiao - go-for-broke environmentalist


Zhang Jiao is a lonely fighter, trying to keep alive her private nature protection zone at Jiuliliang in northwest Beijing's Yanqing county.

Once a successful businesswoman who amassed a 10-million-yuan ($1.6 million) fortune through selling fruit, she poured her riches into protecting the environment and wildlife to the point of bankruptcy.

In the blizzard in early November, she was trapped on the mountain for two days and was later rescued. Having spent all her money and getting no support from the government or the residents, she faces a tough situation.

Zhang told Metro Beijing that as the New Year approaches, she is without a clue of what to do. Since the blizzard, her friends and fellow environmentalists have gathered together to call for donations and make rescue plans for the animals, but there are no new developments. She is still in need of funding and a viable plan to make her protection zone work, which she said would definitely be beneficial for society as a whole.

The year 2013 is going to be a tough one for Zhang, but she hasn't let go of hope just yet.

Posted in: Metro Beijing

blog comments powered by Disqus