‘Beat her up’: comments on UKrant article about Chinese scalpers are unacceptable

Every day, the editorial staff at the UKrant wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? ‘At UKrant’ is an irregular column in which we occasionally take a look behind the scenes.

People in the Chinese community in Groningen (both UG students and staff) were outraged by the article about the Xior student flat that UKrant published last week. Per the article, many rooms in this building are being rented to Chinese students through scalpers operating from China; they use software to scan for available rooms and then offers them to prospective tenants for a fee.

According to the Xior corporation, this is illegal. They’re aware of the issue, have been investigating it further, and will cancel any bookings made like this. ‘The city and the police have also been made aware of the situation’, Xior said in response to the UKrant article last week.

Unfortunately, many Chinese people in Groningen see the story as a racist attack on the Chinese community. Many people posted some intense responses saying so on ukrant.nl. When we shut down the comment section, they decided to express their anger elsewhere.

The editor-in-chief and the board of UKrant are currently exploring what steps we can take

Unfortunately, some people were more than just ‘angry’. In several closed Chinese groups on social media, people shared the article’s author’s information. Some people even called on others to ‘beat her up’.

This is entirely unacceptable. The editor-in-chief and the board of the Stichting Universiteitsblad Groningen, which ‘publishes’ UKrant, are currently exploring what steps we can and must take against this.

To explain a bit further:

1. The article was in no way intended to show the Chinese community in Groningen in a bad light. Rather, the story exposed the scalpers who exploit the housing crisis in Groningen, which victimises their fellow Chinese, who after all are the ones paying for their ‘service’.

Yes, the article was about Chinese people. If it had been Icelandic scalpers who were getting rooms for Icelandic students, the article would have been about Icelandic people. But there neither were nor are Icelandic scalpers active in Xior. The scalpers are Chinese.

2. Some people said that the use of the word ‘Chinatown’ in the article’s headline was derogatory. The definition of Chinatown is as follows: ‘a district of a large non-Chinese town or port in which the population is predominantly of Chinese origin’ (where you can usually get great food). It was never meant to be condescending, in fact, we meant the opposite. There are plenty of great films and books that use the word ‘Chinatown’ in their title.

I will not accept my editors being publicly and undeservedly accused of racism

3. Soon after the article was published, UKrant shut down the comment section. Why? Everyone is free to think what they want. But I will not accept my editors being publicly and undeservedly accused of racism or UKrant being portrayed as a platform that propagates hate against the Chinese community. These things are simply not true.

That is why we started removing the comments proclaiming this. Because people then started posting them again, telling us we’d ‘better not remove them’, we deleted all comments and shut down the comment section, also because we started receiving questionable anti-Chinese sentiments from certain political supporters.

That, too, displeased people. Shutting down the comment section was a ‘violation of our democratic rights’, the Chinese community said. That’s taking it a bit far. We have guidelines for the comment section; these can be found on our website.

Moreover, UKrant allows its readers to properly comment on our articles and engage each other in discussion. That’s a gesture on our part, not a ‘democratic right’ that’s been violated.

(The comment section on this column will remain open for now. If people abuse this privilege, we’ll once again shut it down.)

Rob Siebelink is editor-in-chief of UKrant



  1. Funny seeing Chinese people soo butthurt about nothing. Stop being so sensitive, it is laughable.
    All that arguing in bad faith, it’s amazing how you know you are wrong but are still arguing.

  2. Personally I do feel that while the intention of the Ukrant might not be bad, this article, like the one before it, suffers from the lack of evidence in the whole story. Rather than reflecting on the previous article, the staff decided to dig in their heels in the sand. It is commendable to stand by colleagues when they are threatened, but once again, all of that is based on alleged message in some private group chat.

  3. The titles of these two articles are indeed a bit misleading. But on the other hand, it is also indisputable that Chinese scalpers exist and that a large percentage of Chinese students get their housing through scalpers.
    I also have a Chinese friend who told me very proudly that she used the services of a scalper, so it was very easy to grab a house in xior that started in August. Meanwhile, it took me three or four months of attending numerous viewings before I finally found a very expensive and distant apartment. And I certainly thought it was a little unfair.
    I think it’s not just the scalpers who are responsible for the situation that has developed, but every student who has ever shared scalpers’ information with others and used scalpers’ services. They add to the city’s already poor housing market and exacerbate inequities.
    If students who have used the services of scalpers can come forward to provide evidence to find the true identity of scalpers, if students who have found housing through scalpers can take the initiative to move out of this housing obtained through illegal means, only by truly taking practical measures can we truly reduce the prejudice of others against us. Otherwise, signed petitions and angry comments are useless in the face of facts.
    Also, I wish ukrant would state more facts based on data rather than one-sided hearsay.

    • I have seen the same thing when it came to phd scholarship students. Our Chinese friends wrongly tell the dutch government that their scholarship is 700 euro while in total it is the same as us. Thus they receive thousands of euro as allowance. Some students know this and still they do it. This made it difficult to change the conditions of scholarship since these students enjoy better and unfair conditions

  4. As far as I’m concerned, the two articles (Xior Chinatown & this) show what an unprofessional platform Ukrant is. NO FACT-CHEAKING or evidence proving to a highly disputed conclusion. What is the exact CURRENT proportion of Chinese tenants in Xior? Does all the scalpers Chinese? Who exactly said “beat her up” and what are the reactions of the group towards it? NOTHING IS SHOWN HERE. Not even a picture. Hope the journalist take some serious courses before publishing a paper. What Ukrant has done by publishing the two papers is not only racist-triguring, but also break up this harmonious community we all live in.

    • Direct quote from the remarks of the original article:
      “Xior has noticed the abnormal bookings by Chinese scalpers, says Dick Schotman, director of operations for Xior Student Housing in the Netherlands.”
      The FACT is, there are Chinese scalpers (and not only one). Even there are scalpers with other countries of origin, it won’t change the FACT that there are Chinese scalpers. And this is a magazine article, not a hearing report. Ukrant did find further information source (e.g. by contacting XIOR directly, as shown above) and complementing the article, in my opinion they have done what they should do.

  5. Since when mentioning a wrong doer’s nationality is a discrimination act? I think all readers understand a person does not represent all his/her fellow countrymen/countrywomen.
    Putting all the unfavourable comments under an umbellar of “discrimination” is just an act of victimizing oneself.

  6. The immediately heated reactions again show a general inability to deal with criticism directed at fellow nationals in a lot of Chinese students. Whether that is due to the general sanitization of news in mainland China or a distorted perspective of other people’s views on China, who can say. What is absolutely unacceptable is doxxing an article’s author and the relativization of such an act that is happening here straight away again.
    It is also absurd to hear Chinese nationals to talk about a violation of their democratic rights through a mere closure of a comments section.

    • Interesting. So I guess you do agree that the article is about “criticism directed at fellow nationals”, rather than scalpers.

        • Then criticize the scalpers not the “fellow nationals”. Just like you dont criticize all germans or muslims just because some of their fellow nationals are nazis or terrorists

  7. the most ironical thing is most of readers are not agree with the arrogant talk from UKrant. No matter what nationalities they are.

  8. Stop your explanations about how to understand chinatown or good excuse to justify why you shut comments down. As a Chinese, we do not dare any threat or pressure from social media associated with politics or democracy. You even know to protect your colleagues, who are responsible to protect us? Leave the comments open and let more people to be engaged and lets see if your intention under the article is reasonable. PLEASE think twice and we will follow uo every article that is planning to be released in the future reaching to this issue.

    • ” As a Chinese, we do not dare any threat or pressure from social media associated with politics or democracy.””
      could you explain what you mean by this?
      “You even know to protect your colleagues, who are responsible to protect us?”
      this is also unclear and seems like a threat
      “Leave the comments open and let more people to be engaged and lets see if your intention under the article is reasonable”
      how will comments allow for an elucidation on the intent of the author?

  9. Let us first begin by making a distinction that is very important to make; intention versus portrayal (or how a reader might perceive the written word versus how it was intended to be read), and keep that in mind before we look into the remarks comments and explanation of what has been shown.

    I agree with the writers that, the intention of the article – the core – is a good one, exposing that new Chinese students, who are unaware of Groningen’s horrid shortage of student housing are scammed by middlemen; who profit from these new students desperate to find a living space for their study. Causing both problems for these new students who need to find accommodation, and the company that facilitates it; Xior. The problem isn’t with the article’s core, but rather, how the information is presented and portrayed in the article to the reader.

    In short – but explained below in more detail – is that the portrayal of the people affected (a.k.a. the victims, you could say) in this case is insensitive and reductive at best, and, as a lot of fellow Chinese expressed can be seen as derogatory.

    To go by things point-wise to keep everything in good order, yes there isn’t anything wrong with the core of the article, and I think particularly with the first point there might be a misunderstanding between the Ukrant and my fellow Chinese reading the article. To each I individually like to say:
    Ukrant, the problem is not the core, much moreso about point number two (more about that in a bit).
    To my fellow Chinese; except for what I will be discussing shortly, this article is not about making the Chinese people look bad, this is not about how all Chinese are scammers, or how all Chinese do things illegally or irresponsibly.
    People will profit from people in vulnerable positions, we just happen to speak the same language.

    Onto the main problem;

    Regardless of how the dictionary states what a Chinatown “actually is”, it has, like many words, a lot of context and meaning behind it that needs to be properly understood before using such a word, even in its lexical context.
    Chinatowns are primarily communities of people from two or more generation ago, who settled into their host countries and were brought in as cheap labourers (like how people of Turkish, Polish or Morrocan nationality were brought over), primarily coming from southern provinces like Guangdong and Fuijan and spoke Cantonese as their main language. Today these Chinatown consists out of these immigrants and their children, often having integrated and taking on part of the national identity of the host country.
    Equating Chinese who have come here from abroad, and who happen to be the majority of residents in Xior, collectively as a ‘Chinatown’ is therefore ignoring an important difference, and is thereby also a vast oversimplification (reduction) of our country, where our cities are about the same size of The Netherlands and our provinces are the size of larger countries.

    To put it in a more digestible perspective; In the past (19th century or so) farmers from The Netherlands (a lot coming from Groningen) emigrated to South-Africa, known as Boers back then. It is as if a Groninger went to study in South-Africa and be painted by a South-African national as a Boere, not making the slightest effort to understand the differences between two communities who have grown during a century living elsewhere.
    Or, you know, just calling a small enclave of Dutch people in Shanghai ‘Amsterdamtown’, because that’s all what tourists remember of The Netherlands anyway.
    This feeling is even more enforced because you talk of ‘great food’ and ‘movies and films’ with Chinatown in the title. That is not our food, and those are not our movies. Sure, we have a lot in common with them and understand them somewhat, but they belong to the people (primarily North American-Chinese) that are actually from there.

    So, finally we arrive to point number three, I admit, it has been a rollercoaster ride, and we’ve finally arrived from the big drop to the slow meandering at the end of the ride. People are upset, people are angry, people feel attacked, that’s all there is to it, and they will comment about it, because that is what people do.
    Should you take responsibility for these feelings? To a certain point where it doesn’t infringe on saying on what needs to be said naturally, but just as you hold the responsibility over showing or removing comments on these articles. You are nevertheless also responsible for what you post on your own website and what you put into the public eye.

    I’d like to ask Ukrant with the context given above to change the titles of both articles involved to something less sensationalist and less insensitive, because if we ever want to overcome this overgeneralisation of people and the hatred it creates, we need to start somewhere, and put some thought into proper representation.

    Here are some vague suggestions;
    For the original article: Chinese students scammed, Xior investigates perpetrators
    For the reply article: Response on the controversy of [previous article]

    • I agree with what was said in this comment.

      I think that all international students who applied to housing this year were scammed, the people who got/had to get in via a scammer and those who did not find a room because of it. In the end a lot of it comes down to the bad housing situation in Groningen.

      I think that the Ukrant team could try to openly engage with the commentors as long as this can occur in a peaceful and constructive manner. Should it run out of hand, sure shut the comments down. I feel like many comments are quite emotionally charged, which i can understand given the topic. However, it might be best to try and let go of our emotions, which are temporary and try to focus on the feelings of misportrayal and possibly the validity of “clickbait”-titles.

      I strongly condemn the notion of physical violence against anyone, especially journalists who do exert their right of free speech and to share their opinion, just as we are in these comments.

      • “However, it might be best to try and let go of our emotions, which are temporary and try to focus on the feelings of misportrayal and possibly the validity of “clickbait”-titles.”
        this sentance might be a bit unclear, I meant that we should calmly discuss these issues with the Ukrant board, to improve them in the future

  10. Don’t fall into their tricks. A random man said something inappropriate, and suddenly all Chinese people are guilty of it.
    Strongly agree with Luy, they have played this game for quite a while. I still remember they stated that Confucius Insititute is a spy agency, and insinuate that Chinese students are spies. They can always find some genius ideas to demonize the Chinese students and then disguise themselves as victims. Just like this time.
    I have been working here for four years. I love this City, RUG, and UMCG. But the most disgusting thing I have experienced here is the conceited and arrogant Editor and reporting from UKrant.

  11. We all reject violence. Shame on the person who said that if it is true.

    However, I suppose there are some obligations that an influential, just, and professional media platform should notice :
    1. As a college media, at least we readers believe it is, Ukrant may need to evaluate the consequence of publishing an article with a strong tendency to link using scalper to the whole Chinese community. The title is grandstanding.

    2. This is not eligible and qualified news:
    1) It did not give convincing evidence, like data from Xior showing the actual proportion of Chinese students living in this building;
    2) Many Chinese students moved into Xior in a righteous way. You have already hurt their feeling;
    3) This article only adopted one side of the argument but skipped other sides’ voices, like students who moved in a righteous way, Xior managers’ opinions, and students from other countries. And the article needs to show the source!

    3. Maybe Ukrant also needs to realize this is a diverse campus with many different people. Therefore, some words can only be used intragroup; otherwise, people feel offended. Obviously, the writer is unable to convey the right message in a diverse society.

    4. Yes, we all respect each others’ rights to voice. But overusing our right to express will damage the rights. A journalist can not only write what they “feel” but only the fact. A media that adopts such an article like this will only damage your credibility. It is a dereliction of duty as public media.

    5. At last, I have to say nobody like to pay a lot to use a scalper. We need to reveal the reasons that cause the phenomenon and develop a way to help all international students find a place to live.

  12. I believe 99% of the Chinese students would consider beating someone up is unacceptable as well. Stop playing this game, pretending to be pitiful while not giving an explanation that the data and assumption in the original article were no way verifiable and logical.

    “A lot of Chinese live here!” “Oh there are scalpers (and they are Chinese)!” “Chinese use this service!” “This is how it becomes a little Chinatown!” By this logic it’s unacceptable because a lot of Chinese students are victims of the scalpers too, and it’s really offensive for them to be related to the scalpers that they’ve probably never heard of before, like every Chinese living in this building is a rule breaker. The fact is that you could have written more about the structural disadvantages of the housing market in Groningen and how hard it is for internationals, not only Chinese students. This article only seems unprofessional with a very misleading message.

    • But unfortunately the intention of the article is not to write directly about the structural disadvantages of the housing market in Groningen and how hard it is for internationals (the Ukrant has written about that many times before, though). Instead, the article wants to address the wrongdoing of the scalpers and the desperation and, I think, also the vulnerability of the students that feel they have no other option than to use the services of a scalper to get a place in Groningen, while, unfortunately at the same time, showing the unfairness of this structure for other students – including Chinese students – that do not have the means to use a scalper.

      The issue is actually addressed by Chinese students in the article, so it definitely is something that is happening to (yes, they are victims) some Chinese students by at least, as it seems, one Chinese scalper/scalper of Chinese origin. I agree that the Ukrant is, however, unclear in how it ‘knows’ all the scalpers are Chinese. Since some of these scalpers seem to know the Dutch system of rental allowance, they might very well be Dutch. The Ukrant is also not clear in explaining if and how they asked non-Chinese students in Xior – or similar housing – if they used the services of a scalper. I also do not like the use of the word ‘Chinatown’ and would like to see the Ukrant replace it (I think Xiang in an earlier comment made some good suggestions).

  13. From a Chinese point of view, I don’t think publicly sharing the editor’s LinkedIn profile in a WeChat group and specifically stating that she is from Taiwan is appropriate (sorry I was in that group lol). However I also don’t think that only quoting the phrase ‘Beat her up’ as the title is objective.

    Both sides are using statements that can cause bias.

    I am ashamed of the presence of Chinese scalpers, but I also feel that UKrant is putting too much emphasis on nationality in this case. Hope people can put their efforts together to solve the problem of scalpers and housing crisis.

  14. – Linking China with democracy is a well chosen pun, out of all the comments!
    – How about an article on European Facebook scammers and Nederlandse makelaars?
    – I heard that Chinese students have previously reached out to “Nido” for help against scalpers, but they were dismissed, for “Nido” claimed that the deeds by scalpers did not interfere with the interest of “Nido”. Is it fair to exclude this incident and represent all Chinese students as complicit?
    – Why cancel the student’s booking when the scalper was to blame?
    – Why the university does not put a cap on the number of international students admitted, but instead claims to admit more in the Welcoming Ceremony? More incoming internationals could worsen the housing situation more than scalpers from a particular country.
    – China is a largely mono-racial country where the concept of discrimination may be less well understood. As someone educated in USA where discrimination is better characterized, I did not find the previous article “discriminatory”. However, both articles are incomplete, biased, and inconsiderate, with the potential to draw attack to a specific population. Both articles commit “micro-aggression”.
    With China being not a democracy as common knowledge, the quote generalizing the entire Chinese community’s reaction is especially bad-taste and evil.
    Walking with my Chinese face, I had negative experiences thanks to the publication of the first article. I also received support from students and staff of the university. Ukrant is not a paper that intends to divide students and create hate. I hope the editors can recognize the danger of words, and how it can fuel or direct hostility that already exists against a racial minority. Please be considerate. Please be compassionate.

    I personally made great effort to rent a big “international only” group house and whenever possible housed homeless internationals. The housing market is unhealthy and the culprit is not Chinese scalpers, European scammers, or Dutch makelaars. University admissions policy lies at the core of the housing crisis and a change to the policy can do so much more.

    • Since when China is a largely mono-racial country? Since Xi?

      I thought there are at least 56 ethnicities in China. But then some minorities are being “re-educated” so maybe you don’t count them?

      But I’m not from China so maybe I’m wrong.

  15. I’m curious whether the authors carefully checked the data published in the previous article and ever tried to communicate with the people involved. The authors mentioned that Chinese people living in Xior “even” have a Wechat group of more than 300 people. I don’t live in Xior, but I’m also in that group (seeking second-hand furniture). As far as I know, at least 3 of my friends who live elsewhere are in the group for the same purpose. But in the article, it seems that you used it as proof supporting Xior is occupied by Chinese students in a dishonourable way. I feel uncomfortable reading that, feeling myself labelled and misinterpreted.

    To the authors: You should be in that group to read how sad and scared of being maliciously treated people became after reading your article. Many people also struggled to book rooms properly (yes, yes, as Dutch students, English students, Iceland students…). But have you ever tried to ask about their experiences?

  16. The person saying “beat her up” was immediately condemned by the majority of the group members, and deleted the message.
    I totally agree that the comment function of this journal is not related to the freedom-of-speech.
    Many people I know and I also agree that hate speech should not be allowed.
    And probably you already agree, but to clarify, “the Chinese community” do not share exactly the same ideology, even among the people who are not happy with the previous article you released.

    • I look forward to frank and respective conversations in the city even between people who totally disagree with each other, and I hope Ukrant can find a nice way to facilitate this.

  17. This article used the quote “beat her up” as the title and mentioned it comes from a close group. Why the author can quote a comment from a close group (without permission and proof) ? Does it means that the author thinks people can not even express their opinions in a close group?

  18. “Shutting down the comment section was a ‘violation of our democratic rights’, the Chinese community said.”

    Democratic rights 101, lesson 1: Freedom of speech

    1. ‘Freedom of speech’ means that one doesn’t have to ask the government for permission to express ones opinion.

    2. It does not imply that one is entitled to a soapbox (a forum) to express ones opinion.

    3. It does not imply that it is legal to say anything.

    4. When there is a forum where one can express ones opinion, this forum is legally allowed — within the boundaries of the law — to have its own by-laws.


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