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2019-03-26 06:24:32

A southwestern Chinese city has a message for urban planners and real estate developers: no more “big,” “foreign,” “strange,” or “repetitive” place names.

Instead, authorities in Kunming have ordered builders to stick to more traditional names that reflect local culture and history, Beijing-based newspaper Workers’ Daily reported Saturday. Using names that include the Chinese words for “center,” “international,” and “peninsula” — all of which are increasingly common in the city — will no longer be permitted. According to authorities, the move will apply retroactively to existing place names and is aimed at protecting historical and cultural names.

Last year, the China’s Ministry of Education similarly said that more than 75,000 place names had been changed nationwide because they sounded too exotic or strange. (Image: VCG)

4 hours

A growing number of infants and toddlers aren’t getting the nutrition they need due to improper feeding habits, according to a new white paper from the Chinese Nutrition Society, a domestic nonprofit.

Nutrition experts said that China’s low breastfeeding rate and the rising use of “inappropriate food items” have contributed to the problem, The Beijing News reported Sunday, citing the white paper. The paper added that the rate of breastfeeding in the country for infants under 6 months is less than 30% — compared with a national target of 50% — and an increasing number of new parents are relying on readily available food items that may not fulfill their children’s nutritional needs.

China’s industry for infant food items reached 20 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) last year, and 36% of Chinese families purchased solid infant food from supermarkets in 2017, according to the white paper. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively from one hour after birth until the baby is 6 months old in order to best provide infants with the nutrients they need. The WHO also suggests adding nutritional food supplements alongside breastfeeding for children aged 2 and older. (Image: VCG)

5 hours

At a press conference Friday, a top Chinese official said foreign and domestic companies would not be affected by regulations restricting access to VPNs — tools used to visit websites that are otherwise blocked in China.

Wen Ku, a spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, had been asked by a reporter about whether the ministry has been restricting VPN use amid mounting complaints of several leading VPN services no longer working, or working poorly.

“These regulations (pertaining to VPNs) will not affect foreign or domestic companies, or individual users accessing cross-border sites, nor will they affect the lawful development of various businesses,” Wen said, without addressing whether VPN access has been further restricted in recent days.

Wen explained that companies hoping to engage in “cross-border networking” may apply for official approval to do so, and may purchase VPN services through approved telecom operators. Such “legal use” is protected by law, he said.

Providers of unlicensed VPNs, however, are routinely fined and jailed in China. In January, a man in the southern Guangdong province was fined 1,000 yuan simply for using an illegal VPN. (Image: Sixth Tone)

3 days

Chinese cities that reported high levels of PM 2.5 — tiny air particles hazardous to human health — during last fall and winter will face “correspondingly high” emissions reduction targets in this year’s anti-pollution campaign, domestic media reported.

Liu Youbin, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said during a press conference Friday that the air quality standards will be set to “consolidate the achievements” made in combating air pollution. Cities that met pollution standards last year will be exempt from stricter targets this season, though the ministry did not specify the precise standards.

Winters in China often bring thick smog, as coal-fired heaters warm homes and power factories. In 2017, the ministry announced plans for 28 northern cities, including Beijing, to switch from coal to natural gas in a bid to improve air quality, though the initiative was fraught with obstacles.

Liu also said that a draft detailing emissions targets for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area — a key smog-control zone — has been submitted to relevant departments for approval. According to the document, while Beijing has been given an emissions growth target of zero, the remaining 27 cities have been ordered to lower their PM 2.5 concentrations by 1.0% to 11.0% compared with last year. (Image: VCG)

3 days

From trains and planes to buses and ferries, there are a number of ways to travel among Hong Kong, Macao, and the Chinese mainland — and soon rentable helicopter taxis may be added to the list.

At a Beijing aviation expo Wednesday, Airbus China unveiled its plan for an online platform for helicopter-booking services within the Greater Bay Area — the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao plus the neighboring Guangdong province — by the end of this year, The Beijing News reported. Passengers will be able to request and pay for flights using a mobile app — as they would for ride-hailing platforms like Didi or Uber — which connects them with licensed helicopter and helipad operators.

Xu Gang, the CEO of Airbus China, said that the helicopter-hiring service will “pave the way” for urban air traffic in the area, which was chosen for its population density and big-spending residents.

Airbus currently operates a similar service in Mexico, where a 16-minute flight from the capital city’s international airport to the affluent Interlomas area costs around $290. While the aviation company hasn’t announced prices for its China service, a 15-minute helicopter test flight from the Shenzhen airport to Hong Kong earlier this year cost over $7,000, while a regular air shuttle service between Macao and Shenzhen is priced at 4,700 yuan ($660). (Image: VCG)

3 days

A Beijing court has sentenced a man to nine months in prison for assaulting a doctor who refused to perform a caesarian section on his pregnant wife, Beijing Daily reported Thursday.

According to the verdict, published Tuesday, the Xicheng District People’s Court said the defendant, surnamed Zheng, had “severely disrupted medical procedures” at Peking University First Hospital last September. The prosecutor said Zheng insulted several medical staff and beat a doctor after the hospital refused the delivery procedure on the grounds that the woman “didn’t meet the criteria.”

Zheng was formally arrested in November, and the local procuratorate filed a case against him in May, charging him with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to the verdict.

Violence against health care professionals is relatively common in China. According to a 2017 report from the Chinese Medical Doctor Association, 66% of 146,200 medical professionals the group surveyed said they had experienced physical or verbal confrontations with their patients. In June, the National Health Commission and 27 other government departments issued a joint notice blacklisting 177 people with a history of such offences. (Image: Beijing Daily)

3 days

Two village officials in central China have been expelled from the Communist Party and put on one year’s probation, respectively, after they embezzled or misused tens of thousands of yuan in government funding that was supposed to go toward new toilets, a provincial discipline watchdog said Wednesday.

In 2014, Xie Baiqing and Xie Wenbing — the report did not say whether they were related — misappropriated 87,000 yuan (then $14,000) after over-reporting the number of toilets that needed replacing in Laoxiejia Village, in Hunan province’s Jiahe County.

The county government had agreed to allocate 500 yuan for each new toilet, so the Xies — two of the village’s highest-ranking officials — claimed they needed to replace 285 toilets. However, only 111 latrines were renovated, leaving the Xies with over twice as much funding as they needed — some of which went toward another village nearby that had asked for help in applying for its own toilet funds, and 10,000 yuan of which went directly into the Xies’ pockets.

Hunan’s discipline inspection commission discovered the cadres’ caper in June 2018 and recovered the embezzled 10,000 yuan. The officials’ actions “seriously damaged the relationship between cadres and the public, and affected the images of both the party and the government,” according to the notice.

With a well-earned reputation for grim conditions, China’s squat toilets have been targeted for large-scale renovations since 2015, when President Xi Jinping explicitly called for a “toilet revolution,” especially in rural areas and tourist sites. (Image: VCG)

4 days

Ahead of next week’s United Nations Climate Action Summit, China’s top environmental authority has reiterated the country’s commitment to fulfilling its Paris Agreement pledge, according to an official announcement.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment said Tuesday that China will adopt “nature-based solutions” to tackle climate change, with greater efforts to improve biodiversity, forestation, and water resources, among other priorities. From 2005 to 2018, China’s carbon emission intensity — or emissions volume per unit of GPD — decreased by 45.8%, the statement said, adding that the government will continue to promote climate adaptation, as well as carbon trading, to reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

According to a study published in July in the scientific journal Nature, China’s carbon emissions are likely to peak between 2021 and 2025 — several years ahead of 2030, the target China set for itself as part of the Paris Agreement. Signed during a 2015 climate conference in the French capital, the agreement was aimed at keeping global temperatures from increasing by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This year’s Climate Action Summit is scheduled to kick off Monday in New York. The UN’s secretary-general, António Guterres, has said he hopes to “hear about how we are going to stop the increase in emissions by 2020, and dramatically reduce emissions to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century.” (Image: VCG)

4 days

Police in a central Chinese city have added a new task force to their crime patrol unit: citizen volunteers.

More than 19,000 residents in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, signed up Tuesday to patrol arm-in-arm with local police as part of the program’s most recent recruitment drive, Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper, reported. Locals must first register on the Xingcheng Yuanding — or “Star City Gardener” — app to volunteer, after which they are assigned to specific patrol duties.

Over 55,000 residents of Changsha have volunteered for the role since the city’s public security bureau launched the program in March. Police said they have received “tips and clues” leading to the arrest of several suspects, according to the report.

This isn’t the first time law enforcement agencies have collaborated with the public to expand their crime-busting measures. In 2016, Beijing’s public security bureau launched an app called The Chaoyang Masses, which allowed individuals to send police tips about suspicious activities. The app’s name has now become synonymous with an army of over 130,000 volunteers who go on security patrols to keep their neighborhoods safe. (Image: Courtesy of Changsha police)

5 days

All of China’s 500,000-plus villages now have direct access to the country’s postal services, allowing courier companies to effectively deliver a growing number of parcels to remote regions, according to a top government official.

Ma Junsheng, head of the State Post Bureau, said during a press conference Tuesday that every township is now served by a designated post office, making it easier for the country’s villages to access postal services. Previously, residents without a post office in their area had to travel to a neighboring township — which administers a village — for their postal needs.

Online sales in rural areas have grown rapidly in recent years, with 2019’s midyear revenues totaling 777.1 billion yuan ($109 billion), an annual increase of 21%, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Ma said that domestic couriers are expected to handle over 60 billion parcels this year, with one-fourth of these originating or being delivered in rural areas.

However, courier companies have repeatedly complained about logistical challenges when it comes to making far-flung deliveries, with some even charging rural customers extra fees. According to a Xinhua report in May, about 74.9% of villages nationwide didn’t have local delivery stations. (Image: VCG)

5 days

A Shanghai-based cybersecurity expert has warned that flashing the “scissor hand” gesture — similar to the peace sign — for the camera may be giving criminals all the information they need to copy fingerprints, Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper, reported Sunday.

During an event promoting China’s annual cybersecurity week, Zhang Wei, the deputy director of the Shanghai Information Security Trade Association, said that magnification features and AI-enhanced technologies make it possible to extract 100% of a person’s fingerprints from a photo taken 1.5 meters away, while around 50% of fingerprints can be extracted from photos taken 3 meters away. Zhang advised people against uploading photos incorporating the popular hand gesture, as criminals could use them to make fingerprint molds and register fingerprint-activated smart locks or mobile payment accounts.

In recent years, fingerprint authentication has become widespread in China, especially since Alipay and WeChat — multifunctional apps that have become all but indispensable in China — introduced fingerprint-based mobile payment systems in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

But the uptick in fingerprint authentication has come with privacy concerns. Last November, a report by the China Consumers Association revealed that over 90% of 100 popular apps it assessed were “over-collecting” data, including users’ fingerprints. And in March, a Shenzhen elementary school sparked backlash by collecting students’ fingerprints without their parents’ consent, supposedly as part of an “intelligence test.” (Image: VCG)