By Zoe Li, CNN April 16, 2014 — Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT) STORY HIGHLIGHTS Hu Yaobang’s death sparked student demonstrations in 1989, ending in tragedy Netizens were allowed to mourn Hu’s death anniversary on Tuesday All other mentions of the student protests or political reform still censored (CNN) — Twenty-five years ago, Chinese college […]Continue reading
- Twenty-Five Years Later, Tiananmen Square No Less Taboo for China’s Censors
- Japan’s Puffer Fish Capital: Delicious and Deadly
- Chinese Residents Line Up for Bags of Fresh Mountain Air
- Taiwan Police Clash with Students in Protests Over Trade Deal
- Chinese Dance Companies a “Joke” Overseas, Says Chinese Official
- Chinese Plead for Canada to Let Them Immigrate
- Rich Chinese Anxious to Leave China
- Chinese Rights Activist Cao Shunli Dies After Being Denied Medical Care
By Kevin Pilley, for CNN April 4, 2014 — Updated 0529 GMT (1329 HKT) STORY HIGHLIGHTS Shimonoseki, Japan’s puffer fish capital, is home to a market specializing in the deadly sea creature Trained specialists need to remove the liver, ovaries, roe and kidneys before the fugu can be served Japanese fish breeders have developed a […]Continue reading
By Frances Cha and Hiufu Wong, CNN April 3, 2014 — Updated 0700 GMT (1500 HKT) STORY HIGHLIGHTS Zhengzhou residents lined up to try vacuum-packed bags of mountain air Zhengzhou is one of the most polluted cities in China Event was a tourism publicity stunt for nearby Laojun Mountain in the same province (CNN) — […]Continue reading
By Sophie Brown and Zoe Li, CNN March 24, 2014 — Updated 0726 GMT (1526 HKT) STORY HIGHLIGHTS Riot police disperse protesters who stormed Taiwan’s executive building Student protesters occupying government buildings call for controversial trade deal to be scrapped Taiwan’s president defends the pact as beneficial to the economy Protesters call on universities to […]Continue reading
There are some things that one would expect a Chinese official to keep quiet about: Like the embarrassing spectacle of empty theaters when state-run performing arts groups travel abroad. But this is just what members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference discussed on March 10, with journalists in China present. The CPPCC, as it […]Continue reading
By Associated Press | March 4, 2014 BEIJING (AP) — Chinese millionaires on Tuesday pleaded for the Canadian government not to throw away the immigration applications of thousands of Chinese nationals as part of its plans to end a backlogged investor program. At a news conference, 10 investor applicants delivered their crestfallen message — that […]Continue reading
By Ren Yi, Epoch Times | March 15, 2014 China is experiencing a drain of wealth as entrepreneurs are leaving the country, taking billions of dollars to safer shores. “We will feel safe only when we leave; it’s hard to say what will happen in mainland China,” are words often spoken by rich Chinese. Most […]Continue reading
Radio Free Asia A prominent Chinese human rights activist died on Friday after she was denied medical treatment for months while in detention, according to her brother and fellow activists who blasted the government for using medical care as leverage to silence critics. Cao Shunli, 52, who had been in police custody since September last […]Continue reading
Chinese food scandals have made media headlines for years now. From deadly melamine in milk products to harmful honey, China has long allowed toxic food products (and other dangerous exports) to leave its borders. Most American media and the U.S. government have not made enough effort to inform the public that food from China may be dangerous and is rarely inspected by the Food and Drug administration. FDA inspectors examine a mere 2.3 percent of all food imports. Thus, it is left up to consumers to safeguard their own health by making smart choices about what to put on the table.
Here are the top 5 products imported from China that you should watch out for.
Tilapia is the current fish of favor. Whole Foods Markets are promoting Tilapia with an onsite chef and free tasting. TV commercials promoting Tilapia are frequent. Yet 80 percent of the current tilapia supply—382.2 million pounds per year—comes from China.
It is well known in China fish farmers won’t let their children eat the seafood they cultivate. There was a report in China a few years ago of a young girl living in a fish-farming village who started to get her period at age 7 because of the high levels of hormones used in fish cultivation. Farmers use strong antibiotics and growth hormones to keep fish alive in often overcrowded dirty conditions.
About 51 percent of cod on the U.S. market is from China, or about 70.7 million pounds per year. What is true for tilapia, is equally the case for cod farming.
3) Apple Juice
If you are buying a bargain apple juice that doesn’t taste very good, it might be a product that has traveled a long distance—all the way from China. About 50 percent of the apple juice sold in the United States originates in China—about 367 million gallons per year.
Pesticide residues that remain on fruits, vegetables, and processed foods when they enter the food supply have long been a problem. China is the world’s largest pesticide producer and has largely failed to address illegal or dangerous chemical residues on foods, a fact made evident by the nation’s generous maximum allowable residue levels.
4) Processed mushrooms
Try to steer clear of canned mushrooms; 34 percent of processed mushrooms are from China, or 62.9 million pounds per year.
There are many ways garlic can enter into all kinds of processed food. About 31 percent of garlic, or 217.5 million pounds per year, is from China. You might see label “organic product,” but in reality, there’s no third party to checking and certifying “organic” products in China. To turn a profit, anyone can label a product as “organic.”
* The above information is based on the 2011 data presented on May 8, 2013 in testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hearing on the Threat of China’s Unsafe Consumables. Food imports from China have been increasing by about 7 percent each year.
If you wonder how dangerous these food products could be to your health, check out these reports on environmental pollution in China.
Understanding the Pollution Problem in China
According to the South China Morning Post, “As much as 70 percent of Chinese rivers and lakes are polluted from industrial facilities like chemical and textile plants.” Recently, residents in Zhejiang, one of the less polluted provinces in China, offered 300,000 Yuan ($50,000) if government officials would dare to swim in the local waterway.
The U.S. embassy in Beijing releases air pollution reports each hour. Americans living in Beijing depend on that information to decide whether they’ll go out or not at that time.
There have been numerous reports on China’s horrific pollution of air, water, and soil. With that level of pollution, it is almost impossible to have safe food.
Approximately 15 percent of China is experiencing heavy smog, with the main concentration being around Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei Province. Hospital emergency rooms are overcrowded with respiratory patients.
Last week, Beijing saw the worst smog on record. Toxic air obscured the sun, and visibility at times was only about 220 yards. Some residents said that the air is filled with the smell of burning tires, industrial cleaners, and automobile exhaust, while others complained that their eyes feel constantly irritated from the air pollution.
Beijing resident Ms. Qi told the Epoch Times that the pollution recently has been unusually severe, making it difficult for her to breathe. She said she is also suffering from headaches, a dry, itchy throat, and sore eyes.
Ms. Gao, from the Dongcheng District of Beijing, said she lives on the 25th floor. She had hoped that living on an upper floor would give her cleaner air. However, the entire sky has been heavily clouded and hazy, making it look dark outside her windows.
Ms. Gao said she has stopped taking her 4-year-old grandson out for walks as the haze and pollution are so severe.
“I don’t dare go out for fear of being poisoned,” she said. “This weather makes it difficult to breathe, for both adults and children.”
Emergency Rooms Full
On the morning of Feb. 22, the respiratory clinic of Chao-Yang Hospital in Beijing was crowded with patients, according to Beijing Evening News. Personnel at the clinic said the number of patients with respiratory problems increases whenever there is haze, because it exacerbates people’s illnesses.
A staff at the emergency department of Beijing Anzhen Hospital told Epoch Times that the respiratory department schedules 15 appointments with a respiratory specialist each day, and the appointments are filled up very early in the day. With this kind of weather condition, the number of people coming to see doctors is very high, and it is hard to say how long one has to wait to see a doctor, the staff said.
According to Beijing Youth Daily, at several major hospitals in Beijing recently, the emergency rooms for intravenous infusions and resuscitations have been overflowing with patients. But the situation may become even worse.
Lin Jiangtao, the director of the respiratory department at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital said diseases caused by the smog are still in an incubation period, and the peak of patients seeking treatment may come in a week. Lin said that, based on his experience, it takes some time for the harmful substances to accumulate in the body and for the respiratory discomfort to turn into illness.
Worst Smog on Record
China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a Feb. 23 report that 1.43 million square kilometers in China is affected by “haze pollution,” with the areas of Beijing, Hebei, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Shandong, Henan and Liaoning being most heavily affected. Near the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Province region, 20 out of the 39 cities at the prefectural level and above were suffering severe pollution.
At 7:00 am on Feb. 24, the National Meteorological Center of China’s Meteorological Administration issued a “yellow haze alert,” the fifth consecutive day for a yellow alert. This is the worst air pollution on record for Beijing.
Translated by Quincy Yu. Written in English by Christine Ford and Gisela Sommer.
By Euan McKirdy for CNN
February 17, 2014 — Updated 0854 GMT (1654 HKT)
- China’s “baby hatches” provide a safe environment for people to anonymously abandon infants
- Supporters say the program significantly improves mortality rates of abandoned infants
- Some critics see hatches as band-aid to overall problems with China’s welfare laws
(CNN) — The number of China’s so-called “baby hatches” – a place where mothers can leave newborn babies anonymously – is set to increase as the government tries to protect more of the country’s abandoned infants.
The hatches, which were first introduced in Shijiazhuang, the capital of China’s northeastern Hebei province in 2011, consist of a temperature-controlled room equipped with a baby’s cradle and an incubator. Once dropped off anonymously, an alarm is sounded and a welfare worker attends to the child minutes later.
There are currently 25 baby hatches in 10 provinces across China, and the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) told state media agency Xinhua that more will be set up, in a further 18 regions.
Despite its illegality, an estimated 100,000 babies are abandoned each year in China.
Children are often given up due to disability or severe illness — largely to parents without the necessary means to provide for their offspring — and historically, due to the sex of the child in a country where boys are traditionally favored and strict one-child policies have put pressure on families to produce male heirs.
While statistics point to a largely even split between boys and girls, almost all the infants given up at baby hatches suffer from disabilities or severe illness.
Proponents of the system say that the “baby safety islands”, as they are officially known in China, significantly reduce the mortality rates of abandoned babies, providing a safe, warm environment with immediate care and improving on the wretched conditions that infants are often left in.
The baby hatch system is not without its detractors, however. Some in the country criticize the policy, saying that it could encourage parents to give up unwanted infants.
Since opening in late January, a baby hatch in the southern city of Guangzhou has received almost 80 infants, according to a Xinhua report cited in the party-funded English-language People’s Daily.
A China National Radio report said a baby hatch in Nanjing was “crowded with visitors.” The owner of a nearby convenience store told CNR that she saw parents drop babies off at the facility every day.
Li Bo, head of the CCCWA, says that there is no evidence to show that baby hatches lead to an increase in child abandonment, and that the service should be viewed as a practical move.
“Laws emphasize prevention, while baby hatches focus on rescue after the laws are broken,” he said.
The original baby hatch in Shijiazhuang reported a comparable number of infants abandoned in 2009-10 to that recorded since the service was established in June 2011.
“I don’t think the baby hatches would encourage people to abandon their babies,” population expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Fuxian Yi said.”Nanjing is an individual case. The story has been exaggerated. Its impact is waiting to be seen, it’s too soon to judge.”
The efficacy of the baby hatches aside, the number of abandoned infants in China does, for some critics, point to deficiencies in China’s welfare system, especially for children born with illnesses or disabilities.
A comprehensive system that goes far beyond the immediate care offered by baby hatches should be a priority, according to Tong Lihua, who runs a Beijing legal aid and study center for adolescents.
“We need a comprehensive system to better protect them,” he is quoted as saying. CCCWA’s Li says a medical insurance system, reinforcing other support mechanisms, should be implemented.
Recent moves to relax China’s strict one-child policy may also positively affect abandonment numbers in the country.
The program is attracting debate on Chinese social media as well. “It’s good for the babies, but the most important issue now is where would they go when they grow up,” said one Sina Weibo user.
“Is it a sign to legal[ize] abandoning babies?” asked another.
CNN’s Dayu Zhang contributed to this report
By Madison Park, CNN
February 17, 2014 — Updated 1040 GMT (1840 HKT)
- Report by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry will be released online Monday
- Testimonies by North Koreans refugees presents bleak portrait of human rights in regime
- Witnesses tell of inhuman treatment, arbitrary detention, abuse and starvation
- Pyongyang has refused to participate in the investigation, condemning it as a “charade”
A North Korean prison camp survivor told of a pregnant woman in a condition of near-starvation who gave birth to a baby — a new life born against all odds in a grim camp. A security agent heard the baby’s cries and beat the mother as a punishment.
She begged him to let her keep the baby, but he kept beating her.
With shaking hands, the mother was forced to pick up her newborn and put the baby face down in water until the cries stopped and a water bubble formed from the newborn’s mouth.
It’s just one example of the kind of testimony heard during an 11-month inquiry into alleged violations of human rights in North Korea. The report by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea will be released online with a press conference Monday 2 p.m. in Geneva.
According to leaked reports of its findings, the commission is to conclude that North Korea has committed crimes against humanity. The commission investigated issues regarding the right to food, prison camps, torture and inhuman treatment, arbitrary detention, discrimination, freedom of expression, the right to life, freedom of movement, and enforced disappearances, including abductions of other citizens.
It remains to be seen what impact the report might have and whether China, a member of the U.N. Security Council and staunch ally of North Korea, would block action seeking human rights redress.
Collection of evidence
Since its creation last year, the commission of inquiry has examined satellite imagery, evidence and testimonies from more than 100 victims, witnesses and experts regarding North Korea. Some of the testimonies were held confidentially because of protection concerns for family still remaining in North Korea.
International attention on North Korea has previously focused on halting its nuclear weapons program, but, in response to increasingly detailed reports of human rights abuses emerging from the isolated state, the U.N.’s Human Rights Council elected in March to establish the commission.
For many North Koreans who testified, it was an acknowledgment of the sufferings they endured living and fleeing the regime. North Korea is said to practice “guilt by association” — punishing members of a person’s family and succeeding generations for one person’s perceived misdeeds.
Pyongyang has refused to cooperate with the investigation and rejects the commission’s validity. The commission of inquiry requested access to North Korea and also invited its authorities to examine its evidence and also contribute in the process.
In May 2013, North Korea sent a letter saying it “totally and categorically rejects the Commission of Inquiry” and has not answered subsequent letters, said Michael Kirby, the chair of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry.
The commission comprises three appointees, chaired by Kirby, a former Australian High Court judge, along with Sonja Biserko of Serbia and Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia.
Through its official news agency, KCNA, North Korea in August condemned the hearings as a “charade” to “hear testimonies from human scum.”
A life in imprisonment
Throughout public hearings held in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington, D.C., former North Koreans told of torture and imprisonment for watching soap operas or trying to find food to sustain their families. Many of them ended up in prison camps for crossing the border to China or for having family members who were suspect to the regime.
The North Korean prison camps have survived twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and much longer than the Nazi concentration camps.
One witness said that young male inmates in North Korean prison camps became so desperate for food they would eat live worms or snakes caught in the field to feel something in their stomachs.
“Because we saw so many people die, we became so used to it,” one prison camp survivor told the commission. “I’m sorry to say that we became so used to it that we didn’t feel anything. In North Korea, sometimes people on the verge of dying would ask for something to eat. Or when somebody died we would strip them naked and we would wear the clothes. Those alive have to go on, those dead, I’m sorry, but they’re dead.”
Jee Heon A told the commission of her time in a North Korean prison. She was sent there after being repatriated from China. She befriended a young girl, named Kim Young Hee and became like a sister to her. While they were forced to work in the fields, they were looking for a type of grass to eat, as their prison rations were not enough.
“We finished our work and we were about to pick up this grass or the plant that we knew we could eat,” Jee told the commission. “And then the guards saw us, and he came running and he stepped on our hands and then he brought us to this place and he told us to kneel.”
They were forced to eat the grass along with the root and the soil as punishment. Kim became increasingly sick with diarrhea after eating the soil.
“There was nothing I could do,” Jee said. “I could not give her any medicine. And when she died, she couldn’t even close her eyes. She died with her eyes open. I cried my heart out.”
She wrapped Kim’s body in a plastic bag and the other prisoners buried her and about 20 other bodies from the prison on a hill.
“We covered the hole with clumped and frozen earth, but after a week when we went to the tomb, it was gone, the bodies were not there. We felt strange when we were going up that hill. We later found out that the old man who was guarding the place had his dogs eat the bodies. He raised five dogs and the dogs were eating the heads and the body parts of dead bodies.”
This is the reality of the North Korea prison, Jee stated.
She ended her testimony saying: “I am embarrassed, I am ashamed to be here. There are people dying but because I was so desperate to make ends meet for myself, I was not able to help and I’m guilty of it.”
“I live like a prisoner, the reason for my living, the reason that I had to come to South Korea, in addition for my own freedom, is to survive and live on behalf of those who didn’t make it. People died for no reason. To help their souls rest in peace I have to be accountable for their lives.”
CNN VIDEO – North Korea Human Rights Abuses
Journeyman Pictures – 31 August 2010
JOURNEYMAN PICTURES VIDEO – Female Genital Mutilation
By TERRIL YUE JONES | REUTERS
Published: June 9, 2013
It was white wine with a label proclaiming it was from the vineyards of Romanée-Conti; the bottle bore the logo that is on bottles of Château Lafite-Rothschild, declaring its origin as Montpellier in southern France.
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, better known for highly prized and highly priced vintages from the Burgundy region of France, makes only a tiny amount of white wine, labeled Montrachet. It has nothing to do with the equally prestigious Lafite, which is from the Bordeaux region, and neither brand is produced anywhere near Montpellier.
“It’s the most magnificent example of a hijacked brand of wine I’ve ever seen,” said Mr. Paumard, who works with Chateau Hansen in the Chinese desert region of Inner Mongolia. “It doesn’t get better than that.”
Liquor stores, restaurants and supermarkets in China, the world’s most populous nation and one of the biggest wine consumers, wage a constant battle against fake wines. The number of knockoffs on the market may increase as Beijing investigates wine imports from the European Union, threatening anti-dumping tariffs or import curbs.
China announced the investigation last week after the Union slapped anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar panels.
“More expensive wine is O.K. I just don’t want any fakes,” said Helen Nie, a Beijing housewife sharing a bottle of the Italian house white wine at a restaurant with a friend. “If the cost goes up, I’d still buy wine, though some people wouldn’t — the price makes a difference. But the quality is important; it’s a health question.”
E.U. wine exports to China reached 257.3 million liters, or 67.9 million gallons, in 2012 for a value of nearly $1 billion, more than a tenfold increase since 2006 as rapidly increasing wealth has transformed lives and tastes in the world’s fastest-growing major economy. More than half of the 2012 total, about 139.5 million liters — came from France.
Nobody knows how much of the market is cornered by fakes and copycats, said Jim Boyce, who follows the Chinese wine industry on his blog, Grape Wall of China. “Things that are faked tend to be things that are very popular,” Mr. Boyce said.
And wine, especially expensive wine, is popular in China, sometimes more for bragging rights than taste.
“Those expensive wines are where you see more fakes,” said Maggie Wang, who was sharing the house wine from Sardinia at the Beijing restaurant with Ms. Nie. “But there’s lots of phony wine. Everything’s faked in China,” she said. “For a lot of Chinese consumers, the more expensive it is, the more they’ll buy it. Chinese like things like that — they’ll buy the most expensive house, drive the most expensive car. They don’t want the best, they want the most expensive.”
Given the high margins and the demand, the counterfeiters tend to focus on European fine wines.
The iconic Château Lafite has become the poster child for wine forgery. A bottle of Lafite from 1982, considered one of the greatest vintages of the 20th century, can cost upward of $10,000.
That has led to a thriving industry in Lafite knockoffs in China. Aficionados say there are more cases of wine marketed as 1982 Lafite in China than were actually produced by the chateau during that year.
However, Christophe Salin, president of Domaines Barons de Rothschild, which owns Lafite-Rothschild, says fake Lafite is not the major problem.
“I have never seen a bottle of fake ’82 Lafite,” said Mr. Salin, who has been traveling to China for 20 years.
“The problem we have is the creative attitude of some Chinese. They sometimes use our name in funny ways,” he said in a telephone interview from Paris.
Several wines on the market in China are branded with names close to Château Lafite, including Chatelet Lafite. Chatelet is the name of one of the busiest subway stations in Paris.
Lafite “is such a generic brand in China that it has widespread appeal as a name and as a status symbol,” Mr. Boyce said.
The mystique extends beyond the wine — in Beijing, there is a La Fite British Exotic Bar and the Beijing Lafitte Chateau Hotel.
The first step for anyone counterfeiting wine is to find or manufacture a bottle that is close to the original.
“People will also use real bottles with something else inside or make labels that are spelled differently,” said Cheng Qianrui, the wine editor for the Chinese lifestyle Web site Daily Vitamin. “If you know wines, you can tell, but not a lot of Chinese do.”
The 10 percent surge last year in wine imports over 2011 was led by Spain, which accounted for 36 percent of cheaper bulk wine imports to China in 2012, according to Chinese customs figures. Bulk wine accounted for just under half of all wine imports last year.
The copyright problems, however, tend to involve the better-known brands.
The importer Torres Wines includes Château Mouton-Rothschild, another top-ranked Bordeaux, in its portfolio. Sun Yu, sales director, said phony wine brands like Mouton & Sons or Edouard Mouton popped up in the Chinese market: “It happens in secondary or third-tier cities where they don’t have much wine knowledge.”
Elite winemakers are trying to fight back, sometimes by smashing bottles after tastings, to prevent them from being refilled with fakes for resale.
Anti-counterfeiting measures by major international spirit brands, which also fall victim to fakes in China, include bottle buyback programs, tamper-proof caps and the covert tagging of bottles. But such measures are less common with wine brands, according to an executive at an international beverage company in China.
Domaines Barons de Rothschild has been putting tamper-proof tags on bottles of Château Lafite and its second label, Les Carruades de Lafite, since the 2009 vintage.
But the producer has been protecting its elite bottles since 1996, Mr. Salin, the company president, said, with four other identification techniques that he would not reveal. “If you show me a bottle of Lafite, I can instantly tell you when it was bottled, a lot of things,” he said. “To counterfeit it is not easy.”
By Al Goodman, CNN
February 10, 2014 — Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
- Former President Jiang Zemin, former Prime Minister Li Peng are accused of genocide
- Warrants against them and three other officials are the latest in a suit by pro-Tibetan groups
- Tibet Support Committee chief: There’s a chance they’ll be arrested if they go abroad
- Warrants come just before Spain debates seeking justice for foreign human rights abuses
Madrid (CNN) — A Spanish judge issued international arrest warrants Monday for China’s former President Jiang Zemin and former Prime Minister Li Peng for alleged genocide against the people of Tibet, Spain’s National Court in Madrid said.
The warrants against them and three other senior Chinese officials are the latest chapter in a long-running lawsuit by pro-Tibetan groups and a dual Tibetan-Spanish citizen who seek international legal action against some Chinese officials.
Judge Ismael Moreno issued the arrest warrants for alleged “genocide, torture and crimes against humanity,” and ordered them to be sent to Interpol, the international police agency, according to a copy of the order viewed by CNN.
The former officials will surely not be arrested in China, but there’s a “medium chance” of them being arrested if they go abroad, “depending on the country and its ethics,” said Alan Cantos, president of the Barcelona-based Tibet Support Committee.
Cantos expressed satisfaction with the judge’s order, which his group has been pushing with its co-plaintiffs: the House of Tibet Foundation and Thubten Wangchen Sherpa Sherpa, a Tibetan who has lived in Spain for about 20 years and has Spanish citizenship.
“It shows that justice after all works, against all odds. If you let justice work, victims can have retribution,” Cantos said.
The arrest warrants came on the eve of a debate in Spanish parliament, on Tuesday, that reportedly could restrict the use of the universal justice principle in Spanish courts. It holds that if human rights abuses aren’t addressed in the country where they occurred, a separate country — in this case, Spain — has the right to seek legal action.
Spanish courts have applied the principle in trying to seek justice for abuses committed under some former Latin American military regimes, but some foreign governments have complained about Spanish courts meddling in their affairs.
Repeated phone calls to the Chinese Embassy in Madrid went unanswered, and it was not immediately possible to get comment on the arrest warrants.
By Lu Chen, Epoch Times | February 9, 2014
A large number of young, single Chinese complain that continuous blind dates arranged by parents have made the holiday season “more tiring than work days.”
5 Blind Dates in A Day
20-year-old Jin Juan is a migrant worker in southern China’s Guangdong Province. Like tens of millions of other young migrant workers in China, Jin traveled back to her hometown, a rural village in central China’s Henan Province, to spend the holiday with her family, and to carry out a huge mission—blind dates.
Jin’s parents arranged five blind dates for her in one day on Feb. 3, and she has more to meet on other days, according to the state media Xinhua.
“When I met the fifth boy, I could hardly remember the face of the first boy,” Jin said tiredly.
Early 20’s is still a young age for marriage in big Chinese cities, but for the most of the countryside in China, it’s already an age that have parents worrying their children are unmarried.
Engaged After Two Meets
21-year-old Wang Tao has also had two to three blind dates everyday since Feb. 1. Wang is now engaged with one of the girls he met after seeing her twice, the report says.
“I kind of like one of the girls I met on the blind dates. So we met again, and had a good talk. Now we are engaged,” Wang said, “My parents are now relieved. And I’ll go back to the city for work in a few days.”
Blind dates and a flash marriage like Wang’s is quite common in rural China nowadays. The Chinese press calls it “Chinese countryside-style love and marriage.”
For a large number of migrant workers in China, Chinese New Year is the only time they can go home to be with their families. Thus many of their parents want them to marry someone in the same town for the convenience of family get togethers.
“Finding my other half in my hometown is the most realistic choice,” Wang said.
Fighting Back Against ‘Torture’
Not only do parents in China’s countryside worry about children’s marriages, parents in big cities do too.
25-year-old Miss. Zhong just finished her graduate study last year. Always treating her as a schoolgirl in the past, her family suddenly changed its tone with her this New Year, according to Beijing Youth Daily.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” “What kind of boy do you like?” “Don’t be too picky!” Questions from parents, aunties, and grandparents flew at Miss Zhong, out of her expectation.
“Going home for the new year is just torture!” Miss Zhong said, “If they do this again next year, I’ll be afraid of going home.”
Some Chinese young people take extreme methods to escape from such “torture” on Chinese New year.
The whole front page of the Chinese-language Melbourne Daily on Jan. 14 is a letter from a Chinese mother to her son, who refused to go home due to too much pressure from his parents to marry.
The letter says, “Mom and dad will not force you to get married any more. Please come home for the new year.”
The mother indicated that her son in Australia doesn’t answer their phone calls because they pushed him too much.
According to Chinese reports, just before the New Year a 29-year-old woman holding a white collar job in central China’s Wuhan City begged in tears to doctors to let her be hospitalized, fearing the new year family gathering would give her too much pressure to get married.
An aging population and growing focus on health in the United States has fueled the growth of a $28 billion vitamin and nutritional supplementmarket, and it is expected to continue to grow at about 3 percent a year.
Over half of American adults are popping vitamins and supplements. They may not be aware they are eating products made in China, or made using raw materials from China.
China has captured over 90 percent of the Vitamin C market in the United States, according to the Seattle Times. Think about how many labels advertise added Vitamin C. Vitamin C goes into many food and drink products—almost all processed food for humans as well as pets contains Vitamin C.
The consumer has no way of knowing the added vitamin C comes from China, because there is no rule requiring labeling the country of origin for ingredients.
This may raise quite a few eyebrows as Chinese food safety scandals make headlines every day.
Here are five facts any consumer of vitamins should know.
1. Only 2 percent of all imported vitamins and other supplements are inspected. Why? Vitamins and supplements are classified as “food” by law and therefore not subject to the tough regulatory scrutiny of prescription drugs.
2. China’s top vitamin and supplement production areas are among the most polluted in the country (and thus in the world).
Vitamins and nutritional supplements usually use agricultural products as key raw materials. The top vitamin exporting province, Zhejiang, has an alarming level of soil pollution from heavy metal. As matter of fact, one-sixth of China’s farmlands are heavily polluted.
For example, rice planted in several key agricultural provinces was reported to contain excessive Cadmium, a metal commonly found in batteries, coloring, and the industrial waste from making plastic. It may cause serious kidney disease.
Irrigation water is a nightmare: Half of the country’s major water bodies are polluted, as are 86 percent of city water bodies. Pollution is largely caused by the country’s numerous factories, which rarely have equipment for treating pollution. Seventy to 80 percent of the country’s industrial waste is directly emitted into rivers.
3. Even those labeled as “organic” are not safe, since USDA organic standards place no limit on levels of heavy metal contamination for certified organic foods.
4. Approximately 6,300 Americans nationwide complained about adverse reactions to dietary supplements between 2008 and 2012, according to FDA statistics. But the actual number may be more than eight times higher, some experts say, because most people don’t believe health products can make them sick. While not all such problems would be caused by pollution in China, that pollution may have played a role.
5. Worst of all, China-made vitamins are everywhere, and even those who do not consume vitamins and supplements can hardly escape. Many vitamins end up as ingredients in items like soft drinks, food, animal feed, and even cosmetics.
By Madison Park, CNN
February 4, 2014 — Updated 1628 GMT (0028 HKT)
- Girls are sent to a camp where they learn about having sex
- Advocates say the practice is abusive and fueling child marriages, early pregnancies
- Girls are pressured to go to camps by villagers and peers
- Advocates say change to cultural practice is slow
Chiradzulu district, Malawi (CNN) — When Grace learned she’d be going to a camp with her friends, she was thrilled. Every girl around her age in her southern Malawi village would attend the rite of passage, known as an initiation camp. They counted down to what seemed like summer camp.
“We were happy, because we didn’t know what was there,” she said.
When she got there, the messages she heard stunned her.
“You should sleep with a man and get rid of child ‘dust.’ If you don’t do it, your body will get diseased.”
A demonstration involved one girl lying down, with one of the older women on top.
“You should be dancing and have a man on top of you, making him happy,” she was told.
At age 10, Grace was being taught how to have sex.
“Fueling child marriage”
Like the other girls in the village, Grace had been sent to camp with her family’s blessings. Neither trafficked nor forced to work in the sex trade, she was attending a time-honored ritual passed through generations.
“Everyone makes sure their child goes to initiation ceremony because you will not be accepted in the community,” said Jean Mweba, an education program specialist for reproductive health and adolescent health at the United Nations Population Fund. “It’s an issue of being accepted in the community.”
Boys and girls attend separate camps, serving as a forum where adults pass on their community-held attitudes and beliefs about sexuality and adulthood.
Not all initiation ceremonies in Malawi encourage girls to have sex, as programs and local cultures vary throughoutthe diverse country, which is home to several ethnic groups and languages.
Pockets exist throughout the country, especially in the south, that teach sexually explicit content to their youth. Initiations that encourage premarital sex are practiced among various ethnic groups, including the Yao and Lomwe, which are based in the south, according to Malawi Human Rights Commission, which is charged with investigating rights violations.
The commission also reported that girls as young as six have been sent to initiation camps, where they’re taught how to have sex. It condemned the sexual curriculum for young girls, saying it impinges “on a number of rights of the girl child such as the right to education, the right to health, and the right to personal liberty and dignity.”
Human rights groups and researchers have also found instances when a man, nicknamed a hyena or fisi, has sexual intercourse with newly initiated girls as part of the rite of passage. Men enter the girls’ room, one woman told a focus group which was held for teens and adults by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers to examine perspectives on initiation rites.
“They say they want to see whether the girls have really grown up by having sex with them,” she was quoted as saying, in the study published in the journal AIDS CARE in 2012.
“Not only that, the hyena doesn’t wear protection, which is why I know girls who contracted HIV because of hyenas,” said Joyce Mkandawire, the communications advisor at Girls Empowerment Network Malawi, a young women’s rights organization.
In Malawi, over 10% of the population between the ages of 15 and 49 have HIV/AIDS, according to national data.
“There’s no benefit to the sex education,” said Mkandawire. “This is harmful to the girls. This is one of the factors fueling child marriage in Malawi. Why teach girls this when they’re nine or 10 years old?”
Toll on girls
Malawi ranks 10th for the highest rate of child marriages in the world, with half of its children married before the age of 18,according to the World Health Organization. The country also suffers one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates, according to UNICEF. And 35% of all pregnancies in Malawi come from teenage mothers.
The younger the girls, the more they are at risk for pregnancy-related problems such as fistulas — a condition that results in leaking urine and feces — bleeding and other complications.
But none of this was mentioned at the camp, Grace said.
For the most part, discussions about what happens at initiation camps are scarce.
“You don’t talk to anyone — even your mother,” said Naomi Nkhonjera, a project officer with the group, Girls Empowerment Network Malawi. “You can’t talk about the secrets.”
The girl who said no
Grace, a diminutive girl in pink jelly sandals, is one of the few girls willing to talk about her experience at initiation camp. Now 15, she spoke with a group of journalists visiting Malawi with the United Nations Foundation.
Her initiation camp took place not far from her home. They stayed there for a week, Grace said. The women leading the camp taught her about respecting her elders and doing household chores, but also how to have sex.
The women demonstrated sexual positions. Then, they encouraged girls to do “sexual cleansing,” also called kusasa fumbi, which meant they should get rid of their inexperience with sex by practicing. They told her if she didn’t, she’d get a skin disease.
There was no discussion about the risks of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases or how to protect herself, Grace said.
“I was not happy,” she said. “From the time I came out from camp, they were saying I should go for sexual cleansing.”
When her friends urged her to practice, Grace stayed home. She didn’t want to participate.
Girls often say in private that they hated the sexually explicit lessons, said Harriet Chanza, a national professional officer for family health and population at the World Health Organization.
“They have no choice,” she said. “They are forced by their parents and guardians to go through those things. If anyone refuses, they would definitely be looked at as an outcast. There is a lot of peer pressure.”
Despite the peer pressure, Grace resisted and did not go through the so-called “sexual cleansing.” She learned the risks associated with unprotected sex from Girls Empowerment Network, a local girls’ group that works to prevent childhood marriages and pregnancies.
“You can get pregnant, you can get HIV, so it’s not good for us,” she said.
Grace has little interest in practicing what she learned at initiation, or marriage, for now.
“When I finish my education, I’ll get married,” she said.
Echoing many girls’ advocates, initiation camps aren’t inherently problematic, said Henry Chimbali, spokesman for Malawi’s Ministry of Health.
“We are aware that not all cultural practices require stopping but some need modification to accommodate modern and important health practices,” he said.
He said the ministry has issued a cultural practices manual to eliminate “harmful cultural practices,” collaborated with local leaders as well as established outreach programs to keep children in school as well as have access to health services.
In recent years, there have been improvements in indicators of early pregnancies, hospital delivery, reduced incidences of sexually transmitted infections, Chimbali said. “We cannot be sure to say that this is a direct contribution of the efforts on confronting harmful cultural practices, but we can confidently say that there is indeed a significant contribution towards this progress.”
In Malawi, traditional authorities and chiefs hold power in local government and are the perceived custodians of local culture.
Girls rights advocates have tried to persuade such local tribal leaders to change the way initiation camps incorporates sexual content. In Chiradzulu, the district where Grace resides, girls advocates convinced officials to review and remove the sexual content of initiation camps.
Grace now goes to initiation camps to talk to other girls about the risks involved in early sexual activity.
It’s progress, Mkandawire says. “But this is just one community we have reached.”
Madison Park was on a U.N. Foundation trip when she interviewed Grace in Malawi.
CNN VIDEO: “Sexual Cleansing”
“I wish they could come home during the Spring Festival”, says Xiaoli, 12, about her parents.”
By April Ma, for CNN
February 5, 2014 — Updated 0116 GMT (0916 HKT)
- One in five children grows up without one or both of their parents, figures show.
- Kids are left behind as parents leave poorer provinces in search of work in coastal cities
- Expert says these children are more vulnerable to sexual assault
- Separation affects parents and children; has wider impact on society
Hong Kong (CNN) — Like millions of China’s migrant workers, Chen and his wife left their only daughter behind when they went to seek work in the southern boomtown of Guangzhou three years ago.
But Chen, who once thought his home was a sleepy and safe place for his nine-year-old to grow up with her grandmother, had that belief shattered when he received pleas for help in November last year.
“She kept calling us, begging us to come home. She said she wasn’t feeling well, that she was always feeling down, and that it hurt,” Chen, who only gave his first name, told CNN by telephone from his hometown of Xiangxiang in central China’s Hunan province.
“She said it hurt ‘down there.’ We knew instantly that things were not right.”
With much coaxing and tears, his daughter finally told him what was wrong: She had been raped by her teacher.
Afterwards he gave her two new notebooks, Chen said.
She was one of the teacher’s five alleged victims – all of whom were under 14 and went to the same school, state media reported.
“Never did we imagine that harm would come at school. There is no safety to speak of if school isn’t safe,” said Chen.
The case has shone light on the plight of China’s estimated 61 million “left-behind” children — one in five nationally — that grow up without one or both of their parents, according to statistics from the All China Women’s Foundation.
Around 30 million children under 18 have no parent at home and two million fend for themselves with no adult guardian, the figures show.
It’s a heart-wrenching consequence of what has been described as the greatest human migration of all time — some 250 million have left China’s poorer inland provinces to forge a living in coastal factory towns and cities.
These families only reunite a few days each year—for the most part during Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, which began on January 31 this year.
Ye Jingzhong, the author of “A Different Childhood: Children Left Behind in Rural China,” says children like Chen’s daughter are easy targets for sexual predators.
He says they lack the attentive care and supervision of parents, and are often entrusted to relatives and less devoted guardians.
“Materialistic values are seeping into the countryside and — without parents to tell them right from wrong — they (children) easily fall prey to bait like candy and new cell phones,” Ye told CNN.
According to state news agency Xinhua, sexual assaults on left-behind girls in rural areas account for the majority of reported assaults. In some places, such as Huazhou in Guangdong province, 94% of cases involve left-behind children, the report added.
Xinhua said authorities in the town where Chen’s daughter attended class had ordered schools to hold “safety meetings” to improve educational supervision and strengthen teachers’ ethics. Schools should also investigate what factors leave students vulnerable to sexual abuse and how to guarantee the safety of all students, especially girls, it added.
China’s left-behind generation is not just vulnerable to serious crimes like sexual assault and harassment — long-term separation has emotional costs for both children and parents.
“I wish they could come home during the Spring Festival. I somehow feel like an unwanted burden in our family,” 12-year-old Xiaoli told the authors of a new report on China’s left behind children by the Centre for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility (CCRCSR).
The report found that 82% of the 877 migrant parents it surveyed regarded themselves as inadequate.
A-ying, the 33-year-old mother of two left-behind children, said her son is unwilling to take her calls.
“The reason he dislikes us is because he blames us for not taking care of him, because he did not get proper care. Living together would have helped make our relationship more affectionate,” A-ying was quoted by the report as saying.
Sanna Johnson, the Beijing-based executive director of the organization, says the effects are far-reaching.
“When you have 61 million children who cannot relate to their parents, it is very traumatizing for a society.”
Ye shares her concerns, imagining a society that has grown up emotionally detached, unable to reach out in times of need.
“It’s hard to say what the direct consequences will be when the left-behind generation comes of age, but I’m afraid it will not work toward a ‘harmonious society’,” he said.
CNN contacted China’s Ministry of Education and is awaiting a response to questions on what action authorities are taking to protect “left behind” children.
China has been recruiting more social workers to provide counseling in rural areas, and government spending on social services rose an average of 24% from 2008 to 2012, according to 2013 figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED).
Rural schools are providing more boarding facilities and the government has signaled it will relax restrictions that make it difficult for migrant workers to bring their children to smaller cities, although larger cities like Beijing are not included in the proposed changes.
However, Ye says things will only start looking up for China’s left-behind children when officials take their plight seriously.
“It’s time to start thinking about what rural China really needs with heartfelt concern.”
Back in his home village, Chen is trying to rebuild his relationship with his daughter. He says she has retreated into herself, flees from strangers and often sheds silent tears.
After the Lunar New Year, he plans to take her with him to Guangzhou, where he works as a decorator, and her mother will quit her job to look after her.
Chen refused to accept the 10,000 yuan ($1650) compensation fee he said he was offered by the school. He is furious that local authorities have not made an apology and says he wants to see his daughter’s rapist “rightfully sentenced.”
According to Xinhua, a man has been detained in connection with the case since December but no date has been set for a trial.
Chen fights a lonely war, and imagines the families of the other accusers are happy to take the money and do their best to forget.
He told CNN that he intends to “create a scene” at the school after the Chinese New Year vacation if the semester starts and the alleged perpetrator is not behind bars.
“There’s no saying — maybe we will have to use violence to make sure other children do not go through what our daughter did.”
CNN’s Katie Hunt in Hong Kong and CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed to this report
Shannon Van Sant , January 30, 2014
BEIJING — Shanghai resident Tony Jiang and his wife Cherry have three children – all born in the United States to an American surrogate mother. Their daughter and twins were born in California. “The elder girl is now three years old,” he told VOA. “The younger twins are now 13 months.”
The Jiangs are part of China’s booming business of families seeking American women to bear their children. Although surrogacy is illegal in China, agencies are now connecting Chinese couples with Americans who will bear their children for a fee.
The Jiangs had turned twice to domestic surrogates through military hospitals, which can legally perform the procedure. But the efforts were unsuccessful, so they contacted a surrogacy agency in the United States. There, they connected with Amanda, a California resident who prefers to only give her first name. She gave birth to all three of the Jiang children.
“Cherry was actually in the room with me when Nicole was born, and she actually got to witness the birth, and see Nicole come into this world,” she said. “And she was so ecstatic, and she was crying, and she was just so happy.”
Fertility options with benefits
China’s relaxation last year of its one child policy, which allows couples to have two children if one of the parents is an only child, has led families to seek fertility options. But a regulation under the Ministry of Health bans surrogacy procedures at most Chinese hospitals.
So increasing numbers of wealthy Chinese couples are seeking fertility options in the United States, a decision that comes with many benefits.
Under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, anyone born in the United States has a right to citizenship. U.S. citizens may also apply for green cards for their parents when they turn 21.
So-called “designer babies” draw interest from some Chinese couples who favor eggs from tall, American or European donors. Gender selection is also an option through in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures in the United States.
Tony Jiang started an agency in Shanghai that consults with Chinese couples on their fertility options. He said most people, like him and his wife, seek surrogate mothers abroad because of fertility problems. They choose the United States because of its superior health care system and opt for a gestational pregnancy.
“More and more patients are inquiring about services at clinics,” he said.
Surrogacy procedures can run upwards of $120,000. That’s a steep price. But Chinese couples are increasingly willing to pay it for the chance to have a child born in America.