And Finally

Snake charmer

Netizens riled by reptile release

Cobra w

Avoid the long grass

Faye Wong gave herself an unusual birthday gift last August. The Chinese pop singer – who is also a Buddhist – decided that the best way to mark her 44th year on the planet was to buy 1,000 birds, tortoises and fish and release them back into the wild.

But a woman in Shenzhen also claiming to be a Buddhist may have taken things too far in trying to mimic Wong’s liberation campaign.

A friend posted photos of her on weibo praying and then releasing a series of snakes. The shots included images of a cobra gratefully slithering off into the grass. The man wielding the camera added his own message in support: “I must give credit to this beautiful colleague who released all the poisonous snakes.”

The photos – described by the Shenzhen Evening News as “very creepy” – were soon attracting attention. Netizens were unimpressed, particularly those living near the release site, which was identified as the Wutong Mountain Scenic Area, a park popular with locals.

At the tamer end of the online denunciations: “If you go to the park for a walk, but unfortunately encounter a liberated snake, is this release an act of Buddhist charity or a sin?”

One person wondered whether the woman in question was “a terrorist or a nut”, while another netizen asked where she had purchased the cobra, as their sale is banned in Guangdong province.

Southern Metropolis Daily says the posting also drew the attention of the Shenzhen police force, which noted on its own weibo that they were investigating the matter. Four hours the cops showed interest, the posting was deleted and replaced with an apology stating that the snakes were set loose in a mountainous forest, and not in the public park.

But the Jiefang Daily was having none of this latest explanation, citing a photo with a cement flooring, meaning it was “ a place people are likely to walk around”. In what might be described as stating the obvious, it added: “Releasing cobras in areas where human activities regularly occur will clearly endanger the lives of others.” Southern Metropolis thought it acceptable for birds to be returned to nature but drew the line at venomous snakes. Other newspapers thought it was also reckless to set the reptile free in a habitat where it might upset the ecological balance.

As ever, some netizens chose to respond with black humour. “At least she done something good: no one will ever urinate in the park again,” one contributor quipped.

It is unclear whether the woman will face charges for the snake releases, although Jiefang Daily called for the authorities “to investigate the matter in strict accordance with the law and impose the proper penalty.”

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