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2019-03-21 10:06:49

This is a developing story; it will be updated as more information becomes available.

An explosion occurred at a chemical plant in eastern China’s Jiangsu province at around 2 p.m. on Thursday, according to Beijing Youth Daily.

The outlet reported that people injured during the incident in the city of Yancheng have been sent to a local hospital for medical treatment. Local firefighters and additional rescue personnel from nearby cities have arrived at the scene, with 12 people rescued so far. Video footage shared by domestic news media shows a fiery blast and a building with the windows blown out.

Meanwhile, the China Earthquake Administration announced on its official Weibo account that two earthquakes had been detected in the area at 2:48 p.m. this afternoon: one in Yancheng and a second in the nearby city of Lianyungang. In February of last year, a safety check at the Yancheng chemical plant identified 13 security risks. (Image: @中国长安网 on Weibo)

13 hours

Police in China and the United Arab Emirates have detained dozens of suspects for their alleged involvement in an international criminal gang that made and sold an enormous volume of counterfeit luxury goods in the Middle East, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Sunday.

In a joint operation, police in Dubai, Shanghai, and Guangdong province detained 57 suspects in July, seizing more than 28,000 counterfeit handbags and items of clothing, according to the report, which cited a notice from China’s Ministry of Public Security. The seized goods were worth an estimated 1.8 billion yuan ($256 million) and included fake products resembling luxury brands such as Chanel, Hermès, and Louis Vuitton.

The main suspects were based in Dubai and operated two companies that contracted Chinese factories to make the products and then sold them to distributors in several Middle Eastern countries, according to the report.

Chinese authorities last year vowed to strengthen protections on intellectual property in a bid to rectify the country’s reputation for counterfeit goods. The Ministry of Public Security launched a special operation against such products in July, leading to the arrest of 6,197 suspects in just three months. Also last year, police in the eastern Anhui province destroyed 500,000 pairs of fake Converse and Vans sneakers worth 600 million yuan that were slated to be sold in the Middle East. (Image: Shanghai police)

17 hours

A gas explosion in northern China has claimed the lives of 15 coal miners and injured nine more, state broadcaster CCTV reported Tuesday.

Thirty-four people were working in the coal mine in Pingyao, Shanxi province on Monday afternoon when the gas explosion occurred. Though 18 workers managed to escape, 16 were still trapped in the mine on Monday evening, according to CCTV.

Over 100 people reportedly died in 67 coal mining accidents nationwide in the first half of 2019. Around one-fifth of those deaths occurred in a single incident in the northwestern Shaanxi province in January. (Image: IC)

1 day

A court in Shanghai has given a man a suspended prison sentence of three years and a 30,000 yuan ($4,300) fine for selling unapproved cancer drugs to patients in China, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Monday.

Zhai Yiping was charged with operating an illegal business that sold unauthorized drugs worth over 4.7 million yuan between February and July of last year, according to the verdict from the Shanghai Railway Transport Court dated Oct. 17. The 47-year-old was detained in July 2018 on suspicion of selling the cancer medications, including one called Opdivo, which was not approved until June of that year — meaning Zhai had sold it illicitly for several months. He had teamed up with another man, surnamed Guo, who bought the drugs from Germany, with Zhai then reselling them to patients in China at a 5% markup.

Following Zhai’s detention, more than 100 cancer patients begged authorities to release the man who had helped provide them with medicine. He was formally arrested in August of last year and released on bail three months later.

Shortages of critical drugs have led many patients in China to seek middlemen who help secure cheaper alternatives from abroad, though such medications typically aren’t approved by the country’s health authorities and are often considered “fake.” In August, Chinese policymakers enacted a revised version of the country’s Pharmaceutical Administration Law, which stopped defining drugs widely available in overseas markets as “fake” and stipulated lighter or even no punishments for the import and sale of such drugs. (Image: @检查日报 on Weibo)

1 day

China’s space program plans to complete construction of a new space station and send it into orbit by 2022, Zhou Jianping, the program’s chief designer, said at an engineering forum Sunday in the southern Guangdong province.

The station will weigh 100 tons and be able to accommodate three astronauts, with the possibility to be expanded if needed, Zhou said according to Xinhua. The space station’s core cabin module, Tianhe, will be launched in the next two or three years, after which add-ons like the Wentian and Mengtian laboratory cabin modules can be separately launched and connected.

Since its inception in 1992, the Tiangong space station program, has aimed to create a permanent space base capable of operating independently, without relying on support from other countries. Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 — temporary precursors to the expected 2022 space station — served as test beds for key technologies but deorbited in April 2018 and July 2019, respectively.

China is going all-in on becoming a space superpower. In January, the country sent a domestically made spacecraft, the Chang’E-4, to land on the far side of the moon. And on Friday, the country’s space program successfully completed a Mars lander test as part of its plans to put a rover on the Red Planet next year.

The upcoming space station will serve as China’s main platform for space science research, according to Zhou. (Image: Xinhua)

4 days

The chemical factory explosion in eastern China’s Jiangsu province that killed 78 people earlier this year was due to the self-ignition of hazardous chemical waste illegally stocked in its waste warehouse, Xinhua News Agency reported Friday, citing the result of an official investigation.

The investigative team from the State Council, China’s Cabinet, found that the plant owned by Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Co. Ltd. had “ignored” the national environment protection and safety laws and that its management of safety-related issues was “in chaos.”

The safety and environmental assessment agencies have also severely violated regulations, giving false assessment reports for the factory, the investigative team added. The inspectors also blamed several local government departments in Jiangsu for failing to supervise effectively and ignoring Jiangsu Tianjiayi’s high risks.

A total of 61 public servants were held accountable for the incident, while 44 others, including staff from companies and intermediary agencies, were placed under “criminal coercive measures,” Xinhua reported. (Image: IC)

4 days

China will debut its first nationwide vaccine-tracking app next March, Beijing Daily reported Thursday.

The app, part of a broader vaccine-tracking platform developed by the National Medical Products Administration, will allow consumers to scan a vaccine’s associated QR code to access information, including batch numbers and expiration dates. It will also contain information on China’s 46 licensed vaccine manufacturers and allow regulators to monitor product inventories and shipping details.

The platform’s launch comes as China seeks to restore confidence in its scandal-plagued pharmaceutical industry. Last July, parents panicked after regulators reprimanded Changchun Changsheng Life Sciences Ltd. for distributing up to 500,000 vaccines that failed to meet national standards. The faulty doses have since been linked to disabilities and deaths. And earlier this year, a clinic on the southern island of Hainan was closed after police accused it of issuing unapproved HPV vaccines.

In addition to verification and transparency schemes, authorities are also deliberating upping penalties for the manufacture and sale of faulty vaccines. (Image: VCG)

4 days

People who deliberately throw objects from high-rises that cause injury or death will now face harsh punishments and may be charged with murder, according to a guideline published Thursday by the Supreme People’s Court.

Individuals who intentionally throw objects from buildings that result in deaths or severe injuries may be sentenced to over 10 years in prison, according to the guideline. Meanwhile, those accidentally causing deaths involving such objects will be subject to 3 to 7 years of imprisonment. People who conceal or destroy evidence in such cases will also be punished.

The new guideline comes after several cases of injuries and deaths resulting from falling objects this year. On Wednesday, a man in eastern Jiangxi province was detained after he accidentally dropped a metallic valve from the 22nd floor, injuring a 3-year-old boy. And in June, a 5-year-old in southern Guangdong province died when a new window being installed at a building landed on the child, prompting concerns over lax maintenance standards in high-rise buildings. (Image: IC)

5 days

A Chinese producer of lithium batteries for electric vehicles apologized Tuesday for late payments to its chemical suppliers because of the mounting debts of its business partners at various stages of the supply chain.

BAK Battery, a private company based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, said it is “sincerely sorry” for the delayed payments after debt risks revealed in its suppliers’ financial disclosures rattled investors. BAK alleged that two domestic automakers — Zotye and Hawtai — owed a total sum of nearly 1 billion yuan ($142 million).

BAK Battery, which claims to be one of China’s largest producers of electric vehicle batteries, has sued the two automakers to recover the funds. A court in the eastern Zhejiang province has frozen trading for Zotye’s controlling shareholder until the debt is repaid, and Hawtai’s case is currently in its second trial at the Supreme People’s Court, according to BAK’s apology statement.

China’s electric vehicle battery sales have been hit hard since the government reduced subsidies for many green vehicles, straining an already-saturated market. Earlier this year, over 300 listed firms in China said they are expecting to report full-year losses of over 100 million yuan each, largely due to trade frictions and a slowing domestic economy. (Image: VCG)

5 days

A local government in central China’s Henan province has vowed to investigate a school bullying case involving three boys who allegedly forcibly inserted dozens of pieces of paper into their 7-year-old classmate’s eyes, according to an announcement Wednesday.

Following the incident Sept. 28 at Dajian Primary School in the city of Yuzhou, the school’s principal, surnamed Wang, told domestic media Monday that the boys were “just playing around” and “meant no harm.” He added that because no teachers had been present to witness the incident, the school was unable to provide further details.

The girl has visited multiple hospitals multiple times since the incident and had at least 47 pieces of paper removed from her eyes, her mother told The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication. Local education authorities said that the families of the children involved have signed a “compensation agreement,” without elaborating on the terms.

Incidents of school bullying frequently makes headlines in China, despite authorities ramping up efforts to prevent such cases. In December 2017, the Ministry of Education published its most comprehensive guideline to date for preventing school bullying, stipulating that serious cases should be handled by law enforcement. (Image: @广州日报 on Weibo)

5 days

China revealed its Mars exploration plans Thursday with the successful test of a lander in the northern Hebei province, edging toward the goal of putting a rover on the neighboring planet next year.

The China National Space Administration on Thursday invited some 70 international observers, including diplomats and reporters, to its space landing test site in Huailai County to witness a simulated Mars landing, according to state broadcaster China Central Television. The test marks the first time China has demonstrated part of its plan to explore the Red Planet.

In recent years, China has ramped up its extraterrestrial projects with an aim to becoming a space superpower. In 2003, China became just the third country after the U.S. and the Soviet Union to send astronauts into orbit. In January, the domestically made Chang’E-4 became the first spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon. (Image: @央视新闻 on Weibo)

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