A photo that has gone viral online of a young boy urinating into a garbage bin at Richmond Centre shopping mall, while a woman holds him, is sparking a fierce debate on social media websites over Chinese cultural norms and public etiquette.
The image, which appears to show a woman helping a child stand on the ledge of a garbage bin with his pants around his knees while he urinates, is making the rounds on Twitter and Reddit.
"#why would you let your child pee in the mall bins? They have toilets," wrote Twitter user DonMunnu.
Both the woman and child appear to be Asian, and the image has sparked a slew of racist comments online.
The image also drew responses from some people, who identified themselves as being Chinese, writing that the woman and child were likely from mainland China, where they said urinating or defecating in public is acceptable behaviour.
Since the photo went viral, one person has come forward claiming the woman is their aunt and the young boy their cousin, and that the incident has nothing to do with cultural norms.
"It's amazing how people come to conclusions without knowing the full story," the individual wrote in an anonymous post on Reddit, who was using a temporary "throwaway" account to "protect their identities." "I think it's a shame that people put race and culture as the main reason for peoples' actions," the post continued.
The author wrote their aunt noticed her son had started to wet his pants without warning. The bathroom was too far away to prevent a bigger mess, and to avoid having him soaked in urine, she had no option but to use a garbage bin.
"After seeing this picture go viral with top comments being about race, I'm realizing first-hand how discussions on Reddit can sound so convincing yet can be so damaging to people," the author wrote.
"Many of us have peed in public due to different circumstances and I don't see everyone making a huge deal about it."
A spokesperson for Richmond Centre said the centre is looking into the matter and ways to prevent similar incidents happening again.
"Our experience is that this type of behaviour isn't the societal norm," read the mall's statement. "Unfortunately this incident occurred so quickly that our team was only alerted after it took place."
In the meantime, however, the image continues to be mocked on social media.
Queenie Choo, CEO of SUCCESS, a social services agency focused on immigrant settlement in B.C., said she doesn't believe urinating in public is a cultural norm in mainland China.
"When you go out to China and you ask people on the street if it's acceptable to urinate in a garbage bin, nine out of 10 people will say it's not a cultural thing," she said.
Choo pointed out that in many areas in Vancouver, transient people who are not Asian also urinate in public but it doesn't result in the same public outrage.
"People are drawing conclusions and I think that we've got to understand the situation behind it," she said. "There is always a story behind what we have seen in the picture."
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