Illegal-Land-Grabs.jpg

Two Held After Thousands Clash With Chinese Police Over Land Dispute

Radio Free Asia – 13 November 2014 Authorities in a southern Chinese province are holding two people following clashes earlier this week with thousands of villagers who tried to prevent their farmland from being taken over for development, local residents said on Thursday. Around 3,000 residents of three villages in Wushi township near the port […]

Continue reading
Hong-Kong-Student-Protest.jpg

Police, Protesters Clash as Hong Kong Demonstration Turns Violent

By Anjali Tsui, Euan McKirdy, Esther Pang and Vivian Kam, CNN September 28, 2014 — Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)   STORY HIGHLIGHTS Student organizers call for the resignations of four politicians Tear gas, batons used by police against protesters HK chief executive: Government ‘is resolute in opposing the unlawful occupation” Demonstrators say China is […]

Continue reading
Dolphin-Hunt.jpg

Dolphins Killed as Taiji’s Controversial Hunting Season Resumes in Japan

By Tim Hume and Junko Ogura, CNN September 25, 2014 — Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT) STORY HIGHLIGHTS Four pods of Risso’s dolphins have been killed in annual hunt in Taiji, Japan The hunting season runs from September to March every year It draws international conservationist activists to the village to document the killing Locals […]

Continue reading
Chinese-Torture-Tools.png

Amnesty: Chinese Trade in Torture Tools Fuels Human Rights Abuses

By Katie Hunt, CNN September 23, 2014 — Updated 0132 GMT (0932 HKT) STORY HIGHLIGHTS Trade in torture devices by Chinese companies flourishing, says Amnesty International Exports of police equipment are fueling human rights abuses in Asia and Africa, it says. Much of the equipment is “inherently cruel” and should be banned. Some equipment has […]

Continue reading
Hong-Kong-Activist.jpg

Echoing Tiananmen, 17-Year-Old Hong Kong Student Prepares for Democracy Battle

By Wilfred Chan and Yuli Yang, CNN September 22, 2014 — Updated 0204 GMT (1004 HKT) STORY HIGHLIGHTS 17-year-old Joshua Wong aims to incite youth civil disobedience in Hong Kong His goal is to pressure China into giving Hong Kong full universal suffrage Hu Jia, a Chinese dissident, says Wong could be arrested or jailed […]

Continue reading
Chinese-Hackers-1.jpg

Chinese Hackers Breach U.S. Military Contractors–Senate Probe

Reuters – WASHINGTON, Sept 17 Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:13pm EDT   (Reuters) – Hackers associated with the Chinese government have repeatedly breached the computer systems of U.S. companies, including airlines and technology firms, that are involved in the movement of U.S. troops and military equipment, a U.S. Senate panel has found. The Senate Armed […]

Continue reading
Terra-cotta-daughters.jpg

Terra-cotta Warriors Get “Sex Change”

By Flora Zhang, CNN September 10, 2014 — Updated 2122 GMT (0522 HKT)   STORY HIGHLIGHTS Artist Prune Nourry’s show, “Terracotta Daughters,” opens in New York on Wednesday Creating female terra-cotta warriors is a way to address the issue of gender imbalance Due to cultural preference for boys, China will have a big surplus of […]

Continue reading
Beijing-Says-No.jpg

Beijing Says No to Open Elections in Hong Kong

From Andrew Stevens, CNN September 1, 2014 — Updated 0324 GMT (1124 HKT)   STORY HIGHLIGHTS Beijing says only candidates approved by a nominating panel can run to lead Hong Kong The city’s current leader insists it’s a step in the right direction Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Occupy Central movement says it’s a move that stifles […]

Continue reading
Chicken-Feet.jpg

China Seizes 30,000 Tons of Chicken Feet Tainted by Hydrogen Peroxide

By Wilfred Chan, CNN

August 26, 2014 — Updated 0436 GMT (1236 HKT)

 

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Authorities have seized over 30,000 tons of contaminated chicken feet
  • Chicken feet are a popular snack in China
  • Hydrogen peroxide is used as a disinfectant and bleach, but is harmful to eat

 

Chicken FeetHong Kong (CNN) — In the latest stomach-churning food scandal to hit China, authorities have seized over 30,000 tons of chicken feet contaminated with hydrogen peroxide, according to state media.

Thirty eight people have been arrested on charges of producing the tainted items, while 11 suspects remain at large.

Images on Chinese news websites show large troughs filled with chicken feet soaking in what authorities say is hydrogen peroxide, a colorless chemical compound used for sterilization and bleaching.

The chemical, which causes vomiting and other stomach problems if consumed, may have been used to give the chicken feet a whiter, cleaner appearance.

A report by official news agency Xinhua said the tainted items were first discovered in Yongjia County in Zhejiang, eastern China. A subsequent investigation revealed hydrogen peroxide was being used in nine factories in Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan, and Guangdong, affecting several well-known brands of chicken feet sold in stores.

‘I want to throw up’

Chinese internet users are reacting with disdain and frustration.

READ: Food safety scandals explained

A top-rated comment on a microblog run by state television CCTV asks: “Are there any Chinese foods left that are safe?”

Another fumes: “From now on, don’t tell us what we can’t eat — please tell us what we can eat!”

One commenter says: “Yesterday I ate a lot of these, now I want to throw up.”

Chicken feet are popular in China, where they are often available as a packaged snack. However, this is not the first time the item has found itself at the center of a safety scare.

In July 2013, police confiscated 20 tons of badly expired chicken feet from a frozen meat warehouse — some of the feet were reportedly 46 years old.

Beijing-Wells.jpg

Water Starved Beijing Residents Dig Wells Outside Their Homes

By Dayu Zhang and Zoe Li, CNN

August 22, 2014 — Updated 0554 GMT (1354 HKT)

 

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Residents in Beijing sick of water shortages, start digging wells
  • Water authorities: Fixing the shortages is complicated
  • Freshwater supply increasingly a problem in China

 

Beijing WellsBeijing (CNN) — At first glance, it seems like a lot of roadside construction is taking place in this residential neighborhood west of Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

But a closer look reveals out-of-place pipes, mysterious pools of water and long hoses that run along the walls of nearby homes.

The “construction workers” aren’t paid laborers either — they’re local residents who have simply walked out of their homes and started hacking into the road.

Why?

For water. They lift tiles off the pavements and dig until they hit ground water.

“Who would dig up wells if there’s enough water? There’s just no water,” said one resident who would only give his surname, Yin. His family had been suffering from water shortages on and off for months until they decided to take matters into their own hands.

Growing demand

The Shuimo Community in Haidian district has grown rapidly and authorities have been unable to cope with the growing demand for water.

“We started receiving complaints from residents about water shortages since the end of July,” said Liu Zhongmin, head of the Water Resources Office in the Department of Water Affairs of Haidian District. “We’re aware of local residents digging wells to get water. These are illegal constructions and should be demolished.”

But any plans to fix the water supply problem have been delayed. “We don’t plan to do anything at this point as it’ll spark tensions between us and residents,” said Liu.

He explained that any work on the pipelines in the neighborhood would not be straightforward.

The community has grown from 1,000 residents to more than 8,000 in recent years, and new residents have occupied roads where pipelines are buried under their houses, according to Liu.

For the near future, residents see only one way out of the situation.

“Everybody knows we’re not allowed to dig wells here but what else can we do? Who can solve the problem?” asks Yin. He adds that a well costs as much as RMB 40,000 (about $6,500) to complete.

Freshwater supplies in China have been increasingly strained in recent years. A growing population, industrial development and widespread pollution pushes the lack of freshwater to crisis levels, according to China Water Risk.

 

CNN VIDEO: Pollution an economic concern in China

 

 

Blood-Donors.jpg

Chinese School Children “Forced to Give Blood”

BBC NEWS

16 August 2014 Last updated at 15:41

 

Blood DonorsPolice in China have arrested seven people thought to be behind a scheme that forced schoolchildren to give blood, state media says.

According to police, at least eight children aged between 10 and 16 were made to donate blood to a company in Gansu province in north-west China.

Reports said the children had been beaten by the gang to make them comply.

Among those arrested was a blood centre official, who told police he had been under pressure to find more donors.

The schoolchildren were reportedly forced to donate once a month for seven months and the amount taken was three times the average amount for voluntary donors.

The gang, who netted 6,250 yuan ($1,000; £600) in the process, presented false identity cards at the blood centre to pretend the children were adults. Under Chinese law, blood donors must be over 18.

The scheme came to light when one of the youngsters sought help from his parents.

The deputy chief of the blood centre and six other men were arrested, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The company, Lanzhou Institute of Biological Products in the city of Wuwei, is one of the country’s biggest producers of blood products, Xinhua said.

 

 

 

Tesla.jpg

Tesla Settles Dispute With Trademark Troll in China

By Sophia Yan @sophia_yan August 8, 2014: 12:21 AM ET

 

HONG KONG (CNNMoney)

TeslaTesla has resolved a long-running trademark dispute that compromised the automaker’s operations in China.

Chinese businessman Zhan Baosheng — who registered the “Tesla” trademark years before the automaker entered the country — had sued the company for infringement.

Tesla (TSLA) said that Zhan has agreed to allow the Chinese government to cancel his trademarks, at no cost to the company. In exchange, the California firm has withdrawn claims for compensation from Zhan.

Both parties have “completely and amicably” resolved the dispute, the automaker said in a statement.

Tesla started deliveries of its Model S luxury electric car in China earlier this year, and CEO Elon Musk sees great opportunity for growth in the country. Major global automakers such as General Motors (GM) and Ford (F) are also fighting for market share in China, now the world’s biggest market for automobiles.

The electric carmaker’s headache underscores an issue that many other foreign companies have faced, including Apple (AAPL, Tech30) and Pfizer (PFE).

China’s trademark laws follow a “first to file” principle that rewards squatters. Savvy operators — called trademark trolls — have targeted valuable foreign brands and registered them as their own.

Firms entering China then have to rebrand their products, fight in China’s murky courts or pay big money to buy back the trademark.

China-Headlights.jpg

Chinese Police Take a Shine to Dazzling Traffic Offenders

By Euan McKirdy, CNN

August 7, 2014 — Updated 0854 GMT (1654 HKT)

 

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Blindingly simple idea sees Chinese police using headlights to punish traffic offenders
  • Use of high-beam lights punished in Shenzhen with eye-for-an-eye punishment
  • China’s netizens split on the subject with some complaining of police overreaching their authority

 

China - HeadlightsHong Kong (CNN) — How’s this for a bright idea? Police in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen are responding to headlight infractions with an eye-for-an-eye punishment.

If you’re caught using your brights in the city, which shares a border with Hong Kong, police will sit you down in the full glare, not of an interrogation room lamp, but of their own full-beams.

A post on the Shenzhen traffic police’s Weibo account spells it out.

“Do you dare to use full-beam headlights anymore?” the post asks. “From now on, ‘uncle cop’ will have you stare at the lights for five minutes if they catch you abusing them.”

The stern warning is offset by an animated laughing emoticon. There is also the addition of a more traditional fine of 300 yuan ($49).

Mixed response

Responses on Chinese social media ranged from the amused and the approving, to those doubting the safety — and legality — of the biblical-style punishment.

User @chas125 said: “I wholeheartedly support this. Shanghai traffic police should adopt the measure, too,” while another user, whose weibo handle suggests a connecttion with the city, was even more enthusiastic.

“I’m hitting ‘likes’ with my hands and feet,” @shenzhenlaocui posted. “Full-beam headlights are evil. I suggest they extend the stare time to 30 minutes, splitting it into three time periods, and let people take a 60-second break in between.”

@Zhengxunlaoshi, however, was a little more phlegmatic. “People hate others who use full-beam headlights too much. I experience that unpleasantness as you do, and it is not safe,” the user said.

“But the police ‘educate’ the violators beyond laws — remember laws don’t authorize them to do so — illegally enforcing the law is more dangerous than using full-beam headlights.”

Indiscriminately using brights can be hazardous and can dazzle oncoming traffic. Given the rapid increase of cars and motor scooters on China’s roads as the country’s economy expands almost unabated, road awareness is an increasing concern.

CNN’s Shen Lu in Beijing contributed to this report

 

140806100535-guo-meimei-split-story-top.png

Chinese Socialite’s Fall From Grace Capped With Salacious Televised Confession

By Zhang Dayu and Katie Hunt, CNN

August 6, 2014 — Updated 0427 GMT (1227 HKT)

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Guo Meimei is one of China’s most high-profile social media celebrities
  • Socialite made a startling televised confession this week after her arrest last month
  • She detailed a life of illicit sex and gambling

 

140806100535-guo-meimei-split-story-top(CNN) — A televised confession this week detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall from grace of one of China’s most high-profile social media celebrities and socialites.

Guo Meimei, 23, best known for showing off her wealth, looks and extravagant lifestyle on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, appeared on state television without make up and in orange prison garb after being detained by police last month for operating an illegal gambling den.

Guo said that she also made money by working as a call girl. She told police she would charge no less than 100,000 yuan ($17,400) for every encounter.

“I’m really not short of those who want to keep me as mistress,” she said.

“There are many who would spend money to sleep with me for a night, no matter the price.”

Guo’s Weibo account, which has almost two million followers, shows pictures of her posing by a jet ski in a bikini, and by a Lamborghini.

She was also starring in a film about her life called “I am Guo Meimei.” Guo invested in the project herself and production began last year.

It was careless posts to her followers that tipped off police about her illicit activities. Last month, she was arrested for breaching China’s strict gambling laws after boasting about her winnings from betting on World Cup matches.

She also admitted operating an illegal gambling venue at a one-room apartment in Beijing with her ex-boyfriend.

Guo’s startling confession has been splashed over front pages and gossip magazines but critics have warned that her trial by media may be premature, given that she has not yet appeared in court.

Some social media users said her case was being used to draw attention away from bad news stories such as an earthquake in southwestern China and a deadly factory explosion.

She first gained notoriety in 2011 after she posted photos of herself posing with luxury sports cars and designer bags on a Weibo account that identified her as a commercial general manager for the Chinese Red Cross.

Her ostentatious photos sparked widespread outrage about how a charity worker could sustain such a lavish lifestyle, leading to a big drop off in donations the following year, even though the Red Cross denied any connection with Guo.

READ: Red Cross in credibility crisis

In her confession, Guo apologized to the Red Cross and the public for fabricating her affiliation with the charity.

“Because of my vanity, I’ve made a very big mistake”, she said.

“I’d like to sincerely apologize to Red Cross, also to the people and especially to those who need to receive help but haven’t.”

On Monday, the charity called on donors to “please forget Guo Meimei” and provide help to people affected by the earthquake in Yunnan that has killed almost 600 people.

READ: China’s netizens not always on side of justice

Zhang Dayu reported from Beijing, Katie Hunt wrote from Hong Kong

 

Seoul-Sink-Hole.jpg

Record-Breaking Skyscraper Threatened by Sinkholes

By Euan McKirdy, CNN

August 5, 2014 — Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)

 

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Appearance of mystery sinkholes around Seoul have authorities baffled
  • Holes near construction of the Lotte World Tower, the world’s 6th tallest building, have led to a review
  • Following April’s Sewol ferry tragedy, safety has become a focus in South Korea

 

Seoul Sink Hole(CNN) — The construction of what would be Seoul’s tallest building has hit a snag following the appearance of a number of mysterious sinkholes in and around the neighborhood where it is being built.

Residents of South Korea’s capital are alarmed by the increasing incidence of sinkholes — depressions, measuring up to several feet in depth and diameter, which have suddenly appeared around Seoul.

The first one was discovered in June, and since then several others have appeared, local media have reported. Now, in a climate marked by increased safety concerns, the construction of a huge skyscraper in the city has come under scrutiny.

Last month, two holes within a couple of meters of each other were discovered near the National Assembly in the Yeouido district of the capital.

Several examples of this unexplained phenomenon have occurred near the site of the Lotte World Tower, a half-constructed commercial and office development by Korean conglomerate Lotte which, when completed, will be the sixth tallest tower in the world.

Holes have appeared in at least two streets in the Songpa district, where the new tower is being built, including a 50 centimeter (20 inch) wide hole only half a kilometer (a third of a mile) from the Lotte World Tower construction site.

So far, authorities are baffled. “We do not know the cause yet,” a police officer told the Korea Times. “In cooperation with Seoul Metro and Seoul Metropolitan Government, we investigated the problem and only found that the holes have nothing to do with sewerage.”

A lake near the site, which appears to be shrinking, is also cause for concern. Water levels have fallen about 70 centimeters (27 inches), although Seulki Lee, a spokesperson for Lotte Group, told CNN that it would be “nearly impossible” for the water to drain into the tower’s foundations due to a slurry wall between the lake and the construction.

The spokesperson also said that the company was looking into the mysterious sinkholes.

“We are working on an investigation of sinkholes but it will take some time to figure out what’s going on,” she said.

She said that academics and engineers from Lotte have told the construction company that the sinkholes are not related to the site but it is “necessary to figure out what is going on” to provide assurance for the public.

Plans for the 555-meter (1,821-foot), 123-story tower were first put forward almost two decades ago, but planning permission was slow in coming, due to security concerns from a nearby military base.

Construction of the tower, designed by American firm KPF, is underway and more than half of the tower’s floors have been completed. The architecture firm was, at the time of press, unavailable for comment.

Professor Hong Gun Park of Seoul National University’s Department of Architecture and Architectural Engineering was a consultant on the project, completing an “outsider’s evaluation.”

He told CNN that the foundations of the building were solid, and that Seoul had no history of subsidence.

“People found sinkholes near the building site, (and) since there is a small lake, they are worried about the robustness of the foundation of the building.

“However, recently many sinkholes were found here and there in Seoul. Furthermore the foundation of the building is deep and is sitting on the deep hard rock. Thus in my opinion there is no problem (with) the structural safety of the building.”

He said that it was unlikely that the Seoul municipal government would halt construction without reasonable cause.

The safety concerns over the building come months after the country was shocked by the sinking in April of the Sewol ferry, which lead to widespread criticism throughout South Korea that safety was not a priority. Almost 300 people, mostly teenagers on a school trip, died when the ferry capsized. orv

 

China-Meat-Scandal.jpg

Meat Scandal Takes a Bite out of McDonald’s Sales in Japan

By Sophia Yan @sophia_yan July 30, 2014: 1:51 AM ET

 

HONG KONG (CNNMoney)

China Meat ScandalA tainted meat scandal that originated in China is now starting to stink up McDonald’s sales.

The fast food chain’s Japanese unit said Tuesday that it will fall short of profit and sales targets for the year, after a longtime meat supplier was shut down last week by authorities for unsanitary practices.

As meat from the supplier has been pulled out of circulation, McDonald’s outlets in China, Hong Kong and Japan have stopped selling items such as Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets.

The scandal has led to “negative impact on sales and consumer confidence,” the company’s Japanese unit said in a statement. “Our sales and profit expectations have been reduced.”

The meat scandal began when Chinese television showed workers at a Shanghai food plant handling expired and tainted meat with their bare hands. Workers at the Chinese subsidiary of Illinois-based OSI Group said that the meat smelled bad, and they could be seen processing meat that had fallen on the floor.

McDonald’s (MCD) Japan had previously forecast sales of 250 billion yen ($2.5 billion) and net income of 6 billion yen ($59 million) for the year. The company said it isn’t able to provide new targets as the scandal’s full impact is still unfolding.

McDonald’s shares traded in Japan fell 2.8% Wednesday morning , and have shed nearly 4% since the food safety issue began unfolding last week.

Related: Big Mac shortage in China as scandal-ridden supplier issues recall

McDonald’s has had a “challenging” year thus far in Japan, even before news hit over the bad meat scandal. The Japanese unit saw net income tumble 60% to 1.9 billion yen ($19 million) in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year. Sales at its directly owned stores and franchises dropped 4% after planned store closures.

Oher food chains have been caught up in the scandal, including Yum Brands (YUM), which operates KFC and Pizza Hut in China, Burger King (BKW), Papa John’s (PZZA) and Starbucks (SBUX).

Many companies have cut their ties with the supplier, but McDonald’s has largely stood by OSI Group.

 

CNN / REUTERS VIDEO: China Meat Scandal

Petitioners.jpg

Twelve Chinese Petitioners in Pesticide Suicide Bid

RFA ( Radio Free Asia) 2014-07-16

PetitionersTwelve people are in hospital in Beijing after two mass suicide attempts apparently triggered by failure by the authorities to look into their grievances, including forced evictions, witnesses said.

Five petitioners from the southwestern province of Guizhou on Wednesday attempted suicide in a Beijing police station by drinking pesticide simultaneously, an eyewitness said.

The five, who had pursued complaints against local government officials to no avail and were in the process of being detained at a Beijing police station, downed the pesticide within a few feet of an Anhui petitioner surnamed Zhu.

“There was an iron railing between us, and they were outside the security checkpoint and we had already passed through it,” Zhu said.

“Then they drank the pesticide and fell to the floor.”

She said one of the women had remained conscious briefly.

“We asked her where she was from, so we could send out a tweet on their behalf,” Zhu said. “She said a couple of things, and then white foam started coming out of her mouth and she fainted away.”

Photos blocked
Zhu said police at the scene had stopped people from taking photos of the petitioners.

“When they fell to the floor, all the petitioners gathered round and started shouting, but the police corralled us and wouldn’t let us see,” Zhu said.

“One policeman saw me taking photos and dragged me into an office where he snatched my cell phone and deleted the photos,” she added.

An officer who answered the phone at the Fuyou Street police station on Wednesday declined to comment on Zhu’s account.

“I don’t know about this,” the officer said, before hanging up the phone.

Earlier, seven petitioners from the eastern province of Jiangsu had staged a similar collective suicide bid outside the offices of the China Youth Daily newspaper group.

“They have all been taken to hospital,” an employee who answered the phone at the newspaper offices said on Wednesday.
But she declined to comment further. “I don’t know about this,” she said.

Media reports said the five men and two women from Qingyang township in Jiangsu’s Sihong county had been taken to a nearby emergency room after swallowing liquid pesticide.

Black jails

Complaints documents found on the petitioners indicated they were pursuing a complaint about forced eviction from their homes last year, and had been locked up in an unofficial detention center, or “black jail,” by local officials in retaliation.

China’s army of petitioners frequently report being held in “black jails,” beaten, or otherwise harassed,if they persist in a complaint beyond its initial rejection at a local level.

“They probably had reached the end of the road and the end of all hope,” a petitioner from the northeastern province of Liaoning surnamed Zhao told RFA.

“There are a lot of journalists outside a newspaper office, so it’s pretty sensitive, and there is a chance it will get reported,” he said.

“If they did it outside a government building, the authorities would lock down any information about it, and it would have all been for nothing.”

Attempted suicides are growing increasingly common among disgruntled petitioners, many of whom are forced evictees, and most of whom pursue complaints against local officials for years or even decades with no result.

Growing numbers
Tianwang rights website founder Huang Qi said his group now hears a growing number of reports of such protests across China.

“There were two cases of petitioners attempting mass suicide in Beijing today,” Huang said. “The escalation in this sort of extreme incident shows that China’s petitioners have nowhere to have their complaints heard.”

“It also shows that the nationwide anti-corruption campaign isn’t helping the interests of ordinary people at the grass-roots level,” he said.

“The highest levels of leadership need to launch a high-level campaign immediately against corruption at the village and township levels, and to pay out compensation to disadvantaged groups, who are mostly farmers who have lost their land,” Huang said.

‘Disappeared’
On June 24, five petitioners who drank pesticide in a suicide pact in Beijing to protest their forced eviction “disappeared” after being taken to hospital, relatives said at the time.

And last December, 13 protesters staged a mass suicide attempt in Beijing after a failed bid to win compensation over forced eviction from their homes.

Petitioners file nearly 20,000 grievances in person every day to complaints offices across the country, according to official figures released last November.

The government’s complaints website currently receives around 1,200 complaints on any working day online, many of them linked to forced evictions.

Violent forced evictions, often resulting in deaths and injuries, are continuing to rise in China, as cash-strapped local governments team up with development companies to grab property in a bid to boost revenue, rights groups say.

Amnesty International collected reports of 41 cases of attempted or completed suicide by self-immolation from 2009 to 2011 linked to forced evictions, compared with less than 10 cases reported in the entire previous decade.

Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Penfolds.jpg

Brand Wars: Battling China’s Trademark Squatters

By Sophie Brown, CNN

July 18, 2014 — Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Many register trademarks of well-known foreign brands in China to sell them for large sums
  • Top Australian winemaker at center of legal dispute after failing to register Chinese name for its brand
  • China’s trademark laws tend to favor so-called “trademark squatters” over foreign companies
  • New amendments to laws and greater understanding of China’s system likely to make things easier for companies

 

PenfoldsHong Kong (CNN) — They’re known as trademark “squatters” and they’ve long caused headaches for foreign companies entering the Chinese market.

Savvy to China’s complex trademark laws, these individuals target valuable foreign brands and register them as trademarks in China.

When international companies want to launch their products on the Chinese market, they’re often left with little choice but to cough up huge sums to buy back the trademark, rebrand their product or fight for the right to use the brand through lengthy legal battles.

One of Australia’s most popular wine brands, Penfolds, is currently at the center of a legal dispute over the use of its own name in China. Treasury Wine Estates, the owner of the wine, said this week that someone in China has claimed ownership of the Chinese name for Penfolds — Ben Fu — a transliteration that means “chasing prosperity.”

The company is engaged in legal action with the individual to “ensure the integrity of the brand is protected,” a spokesperson for Treasury told CNN in an emailed statement.

Notorious squatter

That individual, according to the Australian Financial Review, which first broke the story, is a “notorious trademark squatter” named Li Daozhi. A Spanish-Chinese wine distributor, Li won a similar case against a French winemaker last year.

Treasury is confident it is the lawful owner of the trademark, the company’s spokesperson said, and the Australian winemaker did initially win a court case allowing it to use the Chinese name for its wine in China.

But Li is now appealing the decision, according to the AFR.

“It will take some time for the Chinese legal system to process this matter,” Treasury said.

Treasury’s case and the many others that have made headlines in recent years should be a warning to foreign companies of the risks they can be exposed to if they fail to familiarize themselves with trademark laws in one of the world’s largest consumer markets, legal experts say.

‘First to file’ wins

Many foreign businesses have come unstuck because China’s trademark laws follow a “first to file” principle. That means whoever has a trademark registration approved first in China, owns the rights to that trademark. This differs from countries like the United States and many Commonwealth countries that follow a common law system, where a person registering a trademark also has to show they’ve used, or plan to use the mark in business.

But companies do have opportunities to challenge trademarks already registered in China. One option is to prove the individual deliberately claimed ownership of the brand with the intention of blackmailing a foreign brand entering the market. Another is to show that the brand was already well-known when the trademark was registered.

In practice, convincing a court on these points has proved difficult for many companies, but legal experts believe recent amendments to China’s trademark laws, among other factors, could improve trademark protection for foreign brands.

Here are some of the most recent, prominent cases.

Tesla

Earlier this month, Chinese businessman Zhan Baosheng reportedly sued U.S. electric car manufacturer Tesla for illegally using its own name, and demanded that the company stop all car sales and marketing activities in China.

Zhan, who has a history of filing trademarks for names used by foreign brands, is seeking 23.9 million yuan (US$3.84 million) from Tesla. He says he filed for the right to use the English name Telsa in 2006, and planned to manufacture an electric car named after the inventor Nikola Tesla. He later applied to register related trademarks, including a Chinese transliteration of the name and the U.S. auto manufacturer’s logo.

Tesla, which launched its Model S luxury electric car in China last year, says its claim to the name has already been upheld by other Chinese authorities and the lawsuit is without merit. A Beijing court is due to hold an appeal hearing on August 5.

Pfizer

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer fought an 11-year trademark, patent and 3-D trademark battle over the Viagra brand after it failed to register the Chinese name for the erectile dysfunction drug before it introduced the product on the Chinese market in 2000.

It won the patent and 3-D trademark litigation but lost the trademark case because it couldn’t provide sufficient evidence to show it had become well-known among Chinese consumers under the name Weige (meaning “mighty brother”). For similar reasons, luxury retailer Hèrmes and whisky brand Chivas Regal have lost bids to stop clothing manufacturers from selling products under their names.

Singers and sports stars

Celebrities aren’t immune either. A man in Guangzhou owns the right to use the name of Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber, while the names of World Cup stars like Germany’s Philipp Lahm and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo are used to promote products ranging from shoes to pesticide, according to China Daily.

Two years ago, U.S. basketball legend Michael Jordan filed a lawsuit against a sportswear company called Qiaodan Sports (a transliteration of Jordan’s name). The multi-million dollar company even registered trademarks for the names of his two sons, Jeffrey and Markus (Jiefuli Qiaodan and Makusi Qiaodan).

And it’s not only foreign stars who have been affected. In 2006, Chinese NBA star Yao Ming managed to block the trademarking of his name on a line of women’s sanitary products.

Castel Frères

In the largest trademark litigation case in China’s wine industry to date, French winemaker, Castel Frères had to completely rebrand its wines in China after losing a four-year legal battle to Li Daozhi, the defendant in the Penfolds case.

Li’s company reportedly registered “Kasite” to import Spanish wines, and later French wines, into China about 15 years ago. Around the same time, Castel began bottling wine in China and became known to Chinese consumers by the same Chinese name. (In a market where many consumers don’t read Latin letters, Chinese characters hold much more sway when it comes to brand recognition.)

Li reportedly offered to sell the trademark to Castel for 1 million euros ($1.3 million). Castel refused the offer and chose to sue Li in 2005, arguing that his company had not used the Kasite name in three years. Li subsequently sued Castel for trademark infringement and was awarded 33.73 million yuan (US$5 million) by a Zhejiang court last year. But China’s supreme court overturned the verdict and has ordered a retrial, which is still pending. In the meantime, Castel has registered a new Chinese trademark, “Kasidaile.”

Will thingsimprove?

New amendments to China’s trademark laws that came into effect in May this year could make things easier for foreign companies. “The extent of which we’re not sure,” said Deanna Wong, a partner at law firm Hogan Lovells, because there haven’t been any major decisions handed down subsequent to the changes.

Stan Abrams, Asia legal counsel at Bentley Systems in Beijing, said the laws will make things easier, but the number one reason these kind of disputes are likely to decrease is that companies are better informed about navigating the Chinese market these days.

“A lot of (these disputes) originated years and years ago. It’s been a multi-year process of litigation,” Abrams said.

“In some cases, when you’re talking about companies from common law countries, they came over here and were really unfamiliar with the legal system. They didn’t realize it was a file-first system.”

“A lot of them didn’t do their homework and were making crazy mistakes when using their foreign names in the local market.”

Overseas companies better understand what evidence they need to make a good case these days, added Wong.

What can foreign companies do?

For many companies it’s probably already too late to assert their rights over their brands, according to Abrams.

“For a lot of them, unfortunately the answer is invest in time travel technology because if you have a problem the chances are the roots of it are years old.”

Those companies should take steps to find out immediately where they stand right now, he added. It’s easy to do a free, informal search of China’s online trademark database.

If the trademark has already been registered by someone else, companies will have to go through “painful” legal proceedings that could take several years. If the company loses, it faces the choice of shelling out a lot of money to buy the trademark or rebranding.

Companies should make sure they have the right advice on the ground, that takes into consideration their long-term business strategy, such as any new markets the brand may enter in the future, said Wong.

Even for companies that don’t have global or local help there’s a wealth of information that they can access on the internet these days, in ways that most businesses 15 or even 10 years ago couldn’t, said Abrams.

While the cost of registering a trademark is miniscule compared to the amount a company could end up paying in legal fees, Abrams points out that not all companies, especially start-ups, have the financial flexibility to ensure all their brands have comprehensive trademark coverage.

For those companies, he suggested getting minimal coverage for core brands and expanding from there. “You just have to be smart about it,” he said.

 

WAR-Confessions.jpg

Wartime Confessions Reignite China and Japan’s “War of Words”

By David McKenzie and Zoe Li, CNN

July 16, 2014 — Updated 0522 GMT (1322 HKT)

 

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Sino-Japanese relations fast deteriorating amid tensions over disputed islands in the East China Sea
  • Analysts say China and Japan are engaged in a war of propaganda and rhetoric
  • Jeff Kingston: “These battles over history undermine trust and limit the room for diplomacy”

 

WAR ConfessionsBeijing (CNN) — Chinese state media frequently treats Japan’s atrocities of the past like breaking news of today. But lately, the steady flow of war history-related news has become a flood.

Amid fast-deteriorating Sino-Japanese relations, China’s State Archives Administration recently re-opened case files from a Chinese military tribunal in 1956 and launched a dedicated website to publish summaries of confessions by 45 convicted Japanese war criminals.

Among the horrifying accounts posted online by Chinese authorities are confessions of raping countless women, burying people alive and performing human vivisections in China — all handwritten by captured Japanese army officers after World War II and long sealed in the state archives in Beijing.

The Chinese government’s target is clear.

“Since the Abe cabinet came into power in Japan,” begins the online introduction to the confessions, referring to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “It has openly confused right and wrong to mislead the public, in an attempt to whitewash the history of external aggression and colonialism.”

Tense seas

China and Japan have a dark history of conflict, including the nine-year Second Sino-Japanese War during which the contentious Nanjing Massacre took place from December 13, 1937 to March 1, 1938. Japanese soldiers committed mass murders and forced Chinese and Korean women into sexual slavery during the occupation of Nanjing.

But it was a more recent flare-up, say analysts, which brought the historic grievances back out into the open.

Relations between China and Japan became strained in 2012 when Japan claimed islands in the East China Sea.

China then declared in November 2013 an Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea, imposing air traffic restrictions over the disputed area.

China’s moves have made Japan and other nations in South East Asia nervous over it’s expanding military and more assertive foreign policy, accusing China of trying to change the status quo.

A right turn

In December, Abe further stoked tensions by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine where Japanese soldiers are honored — including wartime leaders convicted as class-A war criminals. Abe became the first sitting prime minister to make the provocative visit since Junichiro Koizumi went in 2006.

Six months later, Abe declared a more liberal interpretation of Japan’s post-war pacifist constitution, essentially lifting a decades-long ban that prevented its military from fighting abroad.

The following month, China released the Japanese wartime confessions online. Beijing also marked the anniversary of the Second Sino-Japanese War with an elaborate commemoration ceremony at Lugou Bridge, the site of the first showdown.

“China is responding to Prime Minister Abe’s attempts to rehabilitate the discredited wartime past. It’s trying to underscore the fact that Japan suffers from selective amnesia,” says Jeff Kingston, an expert in Asian regional tensions and a professor at Temple University, Japan Campus.

Global strategy

For long-time China watchers, this back-and-forth may be escalating at an alarming rate, but it is nothing new.

“Since the early 1990s, the communist party has been trying to stoke anti-Japanese patriotism among the Chinese people mostly because they wanted to regain some of the legitimacy they lost in the Tiananmen Square massacre,” says Kingston, referring to the bloody military crackdown on Chinese student demonstrators in 1989.

For China’s president, the nationalism stoked by anti-Japanese sentiment, could become a powerful tool.

“Nationalism is a very potent force in China right now. Xi is strengthening nationalistic sentiment to unify the country behind him and reinforce his own position as leader,” says Frank Ching, a political commentator.

Beyond fomenting patriotism at home, China is also reminding its international partners that Japan hasn’t come clean about its past.

Kingston explains that Japan’s imperialist history “is Abe’s Achilles’ heel.” By highlighting Abe’s right-wing inclinations, China can drive a wedge between the U.S. and Japan, while pulling South Korea — another nation that suffers wartime scars inflicted by Japan — closer.

China appears to be using it’s propaganda push to isolate Japan from its allies.

Resolution

But China’s heavy-handed propaganda may backfire in the end because foreign governments may see it in a more cynical light.

“If they press their case more quietly, it would be more effective,” says Kingston.

It may also lead the nations further away from resolution.

“These battles over history undermine trust and limit the room for diplomacy. It’s very difficult for both sides to find a face-saving way to climb down,” says Kingston.

Abe has repeatedly called for face-to-face talks with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping. “The door for dialogue is always open on my side, and I hope China has the same attitude,” the Japanese leader said.

But analysts are not hopeful for talks, as both nations wait for the other to make the first move.

“The Chinese side has made it clear that they will not talk to Abe unless he takes action to show that his attitude has changed, but I don’t see Abe doing that in the absence of any commitment from China for a meeting first,” says Ching.

All eyes are now on the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit coming up in November during which Abe has invited Xi to a meeting on the sidelines. The two leaders have never met since both came to power in 2012.

 

CNN VIDEO: Wartime Confessions

iPhone.jpg

Apple iPhone a Danger to China National Security: State Media

BEIJING Sat Jul 12, 2014 10:19am EDT

 

iPhone(Reuters) – Chinese state media branded Apple Inc’s iPhone a threat to national security because of the smartphone’s ability to track and time-stamp user locations.

A report by broadcaster CCTV on Friday criticized the iPhone’s “Frequent Locations” function for allowing users to be tracked and information about them revealed.

“This is extremely sensitive data,” said a researcher interviewed by the broadcaster. If the data were accessed, it could reveal an entire country’s economic situation and “even state secrets,” the researcher said.

Apple said in a statement sent to Reuters on Saturday that it was committed to protecting the privacy of its users, and that no unique information related to the user or the device was transmitted when using the location functions.

(Reuters) – Chinese state media branded Apple Inc’s iPhone a threat to national security because of the smartphone’s ability to track and time-stamp user locations.

A report by broadcaster CCTV on Friday criticized the iPhone’s “Frequent Locations” function for allowing users to be tracked and information about them revealed.

“This is extremely sensitive data,” said a researcher interviewed by the broadcaster. If the data were accessed, it could reveal an entire country’s economic situation and “even state secrets,” the researcher said.

Apple said in a statement sent to Reuters on Saturday that it was committed to protecting the privacy of its users, and that no unique information related to the user or the device was transmitted when using the location functions.

Google Inc services have been disrupted in China for over a month, while the central government procurement office has banned new government computers from using Microsoft Corp’s Windows 8 operating system.

Other U.S. hardware firms such as Cisco Systems Inc and IBM Corp have experienced a backlash in China from what analysts and companies have termed the ‘Snowden Effect’, after U.S. spying revelations released last year by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

(Reporting by Paul Carsten in BEIJING and Adam Jourdan in SHANGHAI; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Sophie Walker)