Netizens reject label of school principal as ‘China’s Mother Teresa’
Published: Oct 22, 2020 01:28 PM


Photo: CCTV

Chinese netizens have blasted media that called a school principal in Southwest China's Yunnan province "China's Mother Teresa," saying the West is not the beacon of morality, and the faith of the principal, a member of the Communist Party of China (CPC), is Communism, not any religion.

Zhang Guimei, 63, helped build China's first free high school for girls from impoverished families in a remote mountainous region. As the headmaster of the Huaping High School for Girls in Lijiang, Yunnan Province, Zhang has helped 1,645 female students receive a high school education since the school was established in 2009.

Zhang's efforts were widely covered by Chinese media in recent years, leading some media in reports to start calling her "China's Mother Teresa" in their headlines, which drew criticism from the Chinese public. 

Hashtag "Zhang Guimei is not China's Mother Teresa" soon made the hot topic list on Weibo on Thursday, with 20 million views. 

Chinese netizens rejected the title, slamming the media for Westernizing and attributing religion to a CPC member. 

"Don't connect everything with the West, making the West the model of human morality," reads a comment on Weibo that received 8,000 likes. 

"What supports her in going through all the difficulties to help those girls is the faith of the CPC, not religious factors. I don't accept such a title," another Weibo user commented. 

The sticky topic on the Communist Youth League of China's Weibo account on Wednesday was "Zhang Guimei is not China's Mother Teresa, she is a CPC member."

The Communist Youth League of China posted several screenshots of previous interviews of Zhang, who said she brought together six CPC members to build the school with her. 

Zhang, who appeared in the interviews with a CPC emblem on her blouse, said, "We will not lose on the front of poverty alleviation since we have CPC members here… Let's see whether this faith can bring us strength."

In establishing the school, Zhang has suffered from humiliations when asking people to donate for the school on the streets, and then after the school was finally established, it nearly paralyzed after half of the teachers resigned due to humble conditions. 

She managed to get through all of this with the rest teachers, most of whom are CPC members. 

Now, she is battling more than 10 diseases, such as emphysema and cerebellar atrophy, and six years ago, she stopped teaching due to poor health.

Some netizens believed the rejection of the label represented Chinese people's awakening from the Western narrative.

Many people seem to lose the Chinese perspective when calling a Chinese city "Paris of the East," or a company "China's Disneyland," but more Chinese are now waking up from the Western narrative and thinking about China's own path in terms of economic culture and other aspects, a Weibo user Lu Shihan commented. 

Zhang Yiwu, a professor of culture at Peking University, told the Global Times on Thursday that netizens' criticisms are reasonable, as the title for Zhang Guimei is inappropriate considering the two people's different social situations, even though Mother Teresa also did a lot of charity work. 

"We used to compare some Chinese people or places with Western ones, but it's not like we need to compare everything with the West," Zhang said, noting that some Western metaphors may not work at this time, when relations between China and the West are under adjustment. 

Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic nun who cared for the homeless and orphans in the Indian city of Kolkata. She won the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in 1979 and died in 1997. 

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