Companion of China's 'Glacier Bro' becomes target of online harassment
Published: Jan 05, 2021 11:20 PM

Wang Xiangjun explores a glacier in Bomi county, Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region in November 2017. Photo: Courtesy of Wang Xiangjun

Wang Xiangjun, a popular Chinese social media influencer and environmentalist dubbed "Glacier Bro," has been presumed dead as his body has still not been recovered, while his companion, who saw him falling into the icy water, has become the target of cyberbullying by netizens who accuse him of failing to rescue Wang.

Wang fell into the water while exploring a glacial waterfall on December 20, 2020. The accident was recorded by Wang's companion, known as Xiaozuo on social media. The footage shared online appears to show Wang losing his balance while climbing near the base of the waterfall. He is then seen slipping into the fast-flowing icy waters.

In the footage, Wang is not washed away instantly but manages to hold onto the icy banks of the stream. Xiaozuo continues recording as he goes to help Wang and then the video stops. Many netizens have condemned Xiaozuo for not stopping recording and immediately moving to Wang's aid as quickly as possible and have questioned whether this led to Wang's death. 

"Why did you continue to shoot the video instead of going to rescue him instantly when you saw him falling in the water?" many Chinese netizens asked online.

The accusations have gradually turned into anger and harassment toward Xiaozuo.

In a livestream on Sunday, Xiaozuo said that he tried his best to save Wang, but the steep banks were covered by slippery ice and that Wang's down jacket had grown heavy with water so Xiaozuo could not pull him up by rope. After dozen of failed attempts, he went to look for a rescue team, the China News Service reported.

During the livestream, Wang's younger brother noted that when arrived at the scene he saw that Xiaozuo's clothes and pants were wet. He went on to ask netizens to stop harassing Xiaozuo as he believes the man did everything he could to save Wang at that time.

Some netizens agreed that Xiaozuo should not be held accountable and that he surely feels more sorrow over Wang's loss than those who are harassing him. 

Other netizens noted that instead of looking for someone to blame for the accident, how to prevent such tragedies when going on adventures or taking part in extreme sports would be a more valuable topic of discussion.

Extreme sports experts have suggested that wearing protective clothing and avoiding taking risks can decrease such accidents.

Bu He, a professor at Beijing Sports University, told the China News Service that the outdoor sports industry needs to establish a more refined system. From skill training for enthusiasts to qualification certification for coaches and guides, a more detailed and accurate industry system should be established.

"If he had moved more slowly and more cautiously, the accident may not have happened," one netizen wrote on Sina Weibo.

Wang was known for photographing more than 70 glaciers over the past seven years. He addressed the UN Climate Change Conference in 2019 to share his experience concerning melting glaciers.