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2019-02-02 01:45:32

Suspected gang members have been prosecuted in the northwestern Shaanxi province after allegedly defrauding more than 380,000 people out of millions of yuan in an “anti-poverty fund” scam, The Paper reported Friday.

Starting in September 2017, gang members posing as representatives from poverty alleviation organizations promised a future payout of between 80,000 and 800,000 yuan ($12,000 and $120,000) to anyone who paid a “registration fee” of 16 yuan. The group collected more than 6 million yuan before the racket was uncovered that November, according to local police.

Amid a campaign by the central government to eliminate rural poverty by 2020, numerous cases of fraud and misappropriation have surfaced. A billion-yuan road project to reduce poverty was deemed “corrupt” in April, while two local governments were criticized for extravagant spending last week. (Image: VCG)

13 hours

A forest fire that consumed parts of a tourist site in northeastern China was caused by crop stubble burned in a nearby village, local media reports cited a preliminary government investigation as saying Thursday.

More than 16,000 residents living near Qipan Mountain Scenic Area in Liaoning province were evacuated after the wildfire started at around 1:50 p.m. Wednesday, according to the reports. Over 7,000 emergency workers, including firefighters and police officers, were sent to the scene of the blaze, which was fully extinguished by around 6 p.m. the same day.

No deaths or injuries have been reported so far, and the extent of the destruction is unknown.

Stubble — the short stumps left standing in fields after crops are harvested — is commonly burned on Chinese farms. The practice is often blamed for causing air pollution and wildfires, which destroyed an estimated 16,309 hectares of forest nationwide last year, according to official figures. (Image: Xinhua)

13 hours

Footage of another dissatisfied Mercedes-Benz customer denouncing a dealership while sitting on the hood of a car has gained attention in China, just days after a similar video of a different critic went viral and sparked a public outcry.

Posted to microblogging platform Weibo on Wednesday, the new video shows the woman berating a dealership representative in the northwestern Chinese city of Lanzhou. Speaking to The Beijing News, the woman said that she enacted the protest after a salesperson refused to provide a third-party assessment of her new car’s air bags, which she claimed are defective. A salesperson told the media outlet that the dealership had offered to perform its own inspection of the vehicle and that the woman had not agreed.

The same day, an authorized reseller of Mercedes-Benz cars in the northwestern Chinese city of Xi’an reached a compensation agreement with a dissatisfied customer whose own video of grievances relayed from atop a showroom vehicle had gone viral days before. That woman had complained that Xi’an Lizhixing Automobile Co. Ltd. sold her a faulty car and charged her a “financial services fee” of 15,000 yuan ($2,200). (Image: @红星新闻 on Weibo)

13 hours

New “auspicious” collectible coins bearing traditional Chinese motifs are set to be released Thursday by the country’s central bank, according to an announcement Tuesday.

Numbering 105,000 in total, the limited-edition coins come in seven designs — including two that are heart-shaped — which feature depictions of cats, magpies, and plum blossoms, among other images, to represent themes like longevity and prosperity. Authorized dealers will be selling the coins individually and in complete sets of seven: China Gold Coin Inc., for example, has the seven-coin sets priced at 9,090 yuan ($1,360) each.

On Chinese social media, users have expressed particular excitement for the two coin designs portraying cats — the first of their kind from the People's Bank of China. “Looks like the central bank is a cat lover,” one netizen commented below a media post about the coins on microblogging platform Weibo. “I’m just here for the cat coins, I can’t resist anything with cats,” wrote another. (Image: China Gold Coin Inc.)

14 hours

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese city of Suining have disciplined nearly three dozen environment bureau employees for corruption, local media reported Wednesday.

The local discipline watchdog said its investigation found that 32 current and former staff members at the city’s environmental protection bureau, including high-ranking officials, had been involved in various illicit activities, according to the report. While a former administrator, Wang Jie, and a chief engineer, Fu Xiaobin, had amassed over 1 million yuan ($150,000) in bribes, other cadres had used off-book accounts to embezzle government funds.

The discipline watchdog said it had seized illicit income worth 6.32 million yuan from the individuals involved, according to the report. They now face punishments ranging from self-criticism and moral education to work suspension and Communist Party expulsion to criminal prosecution. (Image: VCG)

14 hours

Amazon will shut down some of its e-commerce operations in China, according to a statement the company sent to Sixth Tone on Thursday.

Specifically, the company will bar third-party vendors from July 18, the statement said, meaning domestic merchants will no longer be able to sell their products on Amazon.cn, the American e-commerce giant’s Chinese website. The company added, however, that it has no plans to withdraw from China entirely, explaining that customers will still be able to use its cross-border shopping service as well as its Kindle e-reader and cloud storage products.

Amazon called the shift part of a “strategic transformation” and said it is working closely with all vendors on its platform to complete “the coming transition.”

Citing anonymous sources, Chinese media broke the news of Amazon’s partial China shutdown on Wednesday. According to a Reuters report that followed, analysts say stiff competition from domestic e-commerce marketplaces such as JD.com and Alibaba’s Tmall — which together accounted for 82% of China’s online retail market in 2018 — may have contributed to Amazon’s decision. (Image: IC)

22 hours

A university student who accused Chinese business tycoon Richard Liu of raping her last year has filed a civil lawsuit against him in a United States court, Reuters reported Wednesday.

The suit, filed in a court in Minnesota, claims that the chief executive of JD.com, one of China’s biggest e-commerce platforms, “used his superior size and strength to subdue and rape” Liu Jingyao, a Chinese national studying in the U.S. who is not related to the businessman, Reuters quoted the court document as saying. The amount sought in damages was not disclosed.

In August of last year, the woman accused the CEO of raping her after a dinner party. The tycoon was arrested but released the following day. Then in December, U.S. prosecutors said that, due to a lack of evidence, the billionaire would not be charged.

In September, three American law firms announced separately that they were organizing lawsuits on behalf of the Nasdaq-listed company’s shareholders, who suffered losses after the rape allegation caused JD.com’s stock price to fall. Contributing to the company’s woes, Richard Liu on Monday said that JD.com’s logistics arm had suffered its 12th consecutive year of losses. (Image: IC)

1 day

The popular short-video app TikTok has disappeared from Apple’s and Google’s app stores in India after a court earlier this month requested that the platform be banned over inappropriate content, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The Indian government had ordered Apple and Google to prevent users from downloading TikTok — the international version of Chinese app Douyin — from their app stores after the court in the southern Tamil Nadu state asked for the ban on April 3, arguing that the platform encouraged pornography and enabled pedophiles, according to the report. India is one of TikTok’s largest markets outside China, with over 120 million active monthly users.

Last week, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, asked the Supreme Court of India to suspend the lower court’s ban order but was unsuccessful. TikTok told media outlets Tuesday that it has “faith in the Indian judicial system” and is “optimistic about an outcome that would be well-received” by its users in India. The state court has scheduled the next hearing in the case for April 24. (Image: IC)

1 day

A car dealership in the northwestern Chinese city of Xi’an has reached a compensation agreement with a dissatisfied customer whose complaints about a Mercedes-Benz purchase sparked public outcry, according to multiple media reports.

On Tuesday night, Xi’an Lizhixing Automobile Co. Ltd. announced the deal made with Wang Qian, a pseudonym given to the customer by domestic media, after video and audio recordings circulated widely online in which Wang claimed that the dealership had sold her a faulty Mercedes-Benz and charged her a “financial services fee” of 15,000 yuan ($2,200). The dealership said it has agreed to provide Wang with VIP services for the next 10 years, a replacement car, and a full refund of the fee as compensation.

The same day, Mercedes-Benz reportedly issued a statement apologizing for the ordeal, saying that operations at the dealership — an authorized reseller of the German brand’s cars — had been suspended while the automaker conducts an investigation.

Multiple government agencies have also taken action amid the scandal: Official investigations have been launched in Beijing and Xi’an, while crackdowns in the industry have been announced by the China Consumers’ Association and the market regulators of Xi’an and Shaanxi province. (Image: IC)

2 days

A university in Jilin province, northeast China, has implemented a controversial dress code that prohibits students from dyeing their hair, painting their nails, and wearing short skirts or sleeveless tops, Beijing Time reported Monday.

According to the article, the School of International Business Administration at Jilin International Studies University had introduced a “moral education assessment” policy for the entire student body in late March. Students who do not follow the policy are at risk of having “morality points” deducted from their academic performance, the article said, and repeat offenders could fail their studies or delay their graduation.

On microblogging platform Weibo, Chinese netizens have expressed outrage over the new restrictions, calling them sexist. “All the new rules seem to target women,” commented one Weibo user under a media post. “Is this one of those ‘feminine virtues’ schools?” commented another, referring to private training institutions often criticized for espousing outmoded gender norms.

Jilin International Studies University, however, stands by the dress code. “The university campus is a civilized and cultured place,” the school told Beijing Time. “As such, students should dress and behave in a proper manner.” (Image: IC)

2 days

China’s Ministry of Emergency Management has demanded an investigation into an industrial accident at a pharmaceutical plant in eastern China that killed 10 people Monday, Xinhua News Agency reports.

All of the deceased were workers on a pipeline project in the basement of Qilu Tianhe Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. in the city of Jinan, Shandong province, according to media reports citing a statement from the local government. Eight suffocated to death after welding sparks ignited a “heat-transferring substance” that then generated smoke, and two others died while receiving medical treatment. Twelve rescue workers are being treated for smoke inhalation at a local hospital.

Local authorities told state broadcaster China Central Television that they had inspected the disaster site and found no risk to surrounding areas.

Last month, a chemical plant explosion in eastern China’s Jiangsu province killed 78 people and injured over 600 others. So far, authorities have put 26 people under criminal coercive measures in connection with the blast. (Image: Xinhua)

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