Student heckled by Chinese netizens after praising US fresh air and free speech
On Sunday, Yang gave a speech during her graduation at the University of Maryland, where she compared the air quality between her home and host country. Source: YouTube/石湖论见.

Netizens in China are accusing a fellow citizen of snubbing the country in her graduation speech at the University of Maryland, where she heaped praises on the “fresh air” in the United States and the nation’s respect of free speech, South China Morning Post reports.

The student, Yang Shuping, has denied their charges against her, but also apologised and urged for understanding over her speech on her time studying in the US.

“The speech was only to share my experience abroad and did not have any intention of denying or belittling my country and hometown. I deeply apologise and sincerely hope everyone can understand, I have learned my lesson for the future,” Yang wrote on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

“I deeply love my country and my hometown, I feel extremely proud of my country’s prosperous development and I hope in the future to use my time abroad to promote Chinese culture, contributing positively for my country.”

In a statement released Monday, the University of Maryland stood by Yang’s speech and defended the value of being a tolerant and “informed global citizen” who embraces diversity.

“The university proudly supports Shuping’s right to share her views and her unique perspectives and we commend her on lending her voice on this joyous occasion.”

Can’t a girl talk about fresh air?

On Sunday, Yang gave a speech during her graduation at the US public university where she compared the air quality between her home and host country, literally and with a metaphor, citing the US’ “fresh air of free speech”.

“People often ask me, why did you come to the University of Maryland. I always answer, fresh air,” Yang, who graduated with double degrees in psychology and theatre studies, said to the audience’s laughter.

“I grew up in a city in China where I had to wear a face mask every time I went outside, otherwise I might get sick. However, the moment I inhaled and exhaled outside the airport, I felt free … at the University of Maryland.”

Yang then said: “I would soon feel another kind of fresh air for which I will be forever grateful. The fresh air of free speech. Democracy and free speech should not be taken for granted. Democracy and freedom are the fresh air worth fighting for.

But her jabs on air quality and attempt at poetry were lost on Internet users in Yang’s home country.

Instead, she was accused of disgracing and lying about China in the eyes of the world, with many levying personal attacks against her.

“I would be so pissed off if anyone disgraced my country with deceptions. Eighty per cent of what Shuping said were deceptions and lies,” Jing Xinliang, a fellow Chinese student at Yang’s university said on social media.

Another Chinese commenter, writing on YouTube, which is blocked in China, said: “Very superficial and despicable speech, and full of lies. Not to mention that nobody will get sick if you don’t wear mask everyday in China, but also the fact she talks trash of her homeland and lick America’s ass in order to win some fake applause, or potentially, green card.”

Netizens also took issue with her comments on China’s air quality, saying Kunming, Yang’s home region, does have fresh air compared to the rest of the country.

According to SCMP, even the Kunming government’s social media administrators chimed in: “Up to May 8, the percentage of days with good air quality in Kunming was 100 percent”.

It said, “In Kunming, air is very likely to be ‘sweet and fresh.’”

Students from China make up the largest cohort of international students in the US, but suffer from a lack of integration with locals as well as with certain democratic values of their host country.

Less than flattering views on China by fellow citizens or foreigners are usually met with fury by these students, a consequence some say is due to the ruling Communist Party’s indoctrination of this generation since young.

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