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2019-05-13 11:34:54

A South Korean violinist and a North Korean soprano shared a Shanghai stage on Sunday for an unlikely performance aimed at improving diplomatic relations on the Korean Peninsula, according to a report by The Associated Press.

At an annual charity event benefiting autistic children, the Shanghai City Symphony Orchestra backed the two musicians — singer Kim Song Mi and violinist Won Hyung Joon, who is known for his commitment to improving relations between the Koreas — in a rendition of “Songs My Mother Taught Me” by the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák.

Performances featuring members of the two rival countries are uncommon, AP notes, as “North and South Koreans can’t exchange phone calls, letter (sic) or emails without special government approval.” In discussing the intention of the event, Won told the outlet that “I can’t help but think maybe, just maybe, it’ll bring more opportunities like this in the future.”

In April 2018, a historic handshake between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in was heralded as a breakthrough in diplomatic relations between the two countries. But such progress has been punctuated by moments of renewed tension, including a missile test last week that left the South “very worried,” according to a government spokesperson. (Image: AP)

2 hours

More than 100 unexploded bombs, believed to be remnants of the Second Sino-Japanese War, were discovered under an elementary school in central China’s Henan province on Tuesday, according to local police.

In a notice issued Wednesday, authorities in Xinyang City said workers found the explosives while doing construction work at a school in the city’s Shihe District. A preliminary investigation identified the devices as undetonated Japanese bombs from China’s 1937–1945 conflict with that country.

According to the notice, bomb disposal personnel are currently in the process of removing the weapons, which are set to be destroyed once the area is fully cleared. Similar disposals of unexploded World War II-era bombs have been undertaken in northern China and Hong Kong in recent years, as well as undetonated land mines from a 1984 conflict with Vietnam that remained buried along China’s southern border. (Image: Xinyang police)

2 hours

Google has removed around 60 apps developed by the Shanghai-based, U.S.-listed software firm CooTek from its Google Play store and banned the company from its Google AdMob advertising platform for allegedly engaging in malicious ad practices.

CooTek, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and known for products like the popular TouchPal Keyboard, denies the allegations but confirmed in a press release Wednesday that some of its apps have been “temporarily disabled” on Google’s platforms.

The move will not affect current users of CooTek’s apps, versions of which will remain available on Chinese app markets, the company added. “CooTek remains committed to upholding the highest standards in the industry and complying with Google Play developer policies,” the company’s press release said. A spokesperson told financial news outlet Caixin that CooTek has been negotiating with Google but has not yet received any feedback.

This isn’t the first time Google has taken action against developers with ties to China. DO Global — which is partly owned by tech giant Baidu Inc. — and Cheetah Mobile were hit with similar bans in April and November, respectively. (Image: IC)

Republished with permission from Caixin Global.

1 day

A horticultural organization in China has launched an online poll on whether to designate the peony as the country’s national flower.

“Experts all agree that our country should (follow) ‘one country, one flower’ and endorse the peony,” reads the introductory text of the China Flower Association’s poll, which opened for public voting on Monday and closes Friday. According to the association, the peony is the best choice to represent China because of its domestic origins, ties to the Tang dynasty, and “auspicious” symbolism representing “national stability, prosperity, and political integrity,” among other justifications.

The association cites the upcoming 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China as the impetus for the initiative. The gesture coincides with another act of floral patriotism — a five-month flower festival currently underway in the nation’s capital — as well as other commemorations in the country, including a prisoner amnesty order and a smattering of party-friendly films(Image: VCG)

1 day

China’s State Council introduced an action plan Monday aimed at improving public health and health-related education by 2030.

Smoking, excessive drinking, and poor health knowledge were cited as preventable causes for chronic illnesses — including diabetes, cancer, heart conditions, and respiratory disorders — which together account for 88% of all deaths in the country. The guideline, dubbed Healthy China 2030, lays out specific targets that should be achieved over the next 10 years.

By 2030, the country hopes to reduce infant mortality and malnutrition rates to below 5%, while also strengthening supervision of diabetics and at-risk groups to over 70%. To prevent the spread of diseases, 9 out of 10 children living in rural areas should be vaccinated by 2030.

The Healthy China 2030 blueprint targeting the domestic health care sector was first announced in 2016. (Image: VCG)

2 days
A driver who unintentionally hit and killed five people in eastern China has been handed a six-year prison sentence, which many in the country are characterizing as too lenient.

The announcement Monday by the Xihu District People’s Court, located in Zhejiang’s provincial capital of Hangzhou, led to heated discussion online, with a trending hashtag about the case viewed 540 million times by Tuesday afternoon. The driver, surnamed Chen, had inadvertently barreled through an intersection in the city after confusing the gas pedal for the brakes in July 2018, killing five pedestrians.

Since the tragedy occurred, social media users have chastised the driver in vitriolic comments beneath news reports about the story. Many netizens have blamed the accident on Chen’s gender, claiming she was unable to safely operate her SUV because she is female. Others, meanwhile, have criticized Chen for wearing flip-flops at the time of the deadly incident, which is prohibited under Zhejiang’s traffic laws. (Image: VCG)

2 days

Chinese authorities have released a guideline to regulate extracurricular online classes for elementary and middle schoolers.

Jointly issued Monday by six national-level government bodies including the Ministry of Education, the guideline prohibits such courses from exceeding 40 minutes in length or teaching content beyond the grade level of the students enrolled, among other rules. It adds that a nationwide compliance inspection of online courses is set to be conducted by the end of this year.

Public concerns over unregulated online courses arose after a crackdown last year on offline supplementary classes — those offered by unapproved private training centers or so-called cram schools — prompted a boom in online education.

Earlier this month, a separate national guideline directed schools to refrain from overburdening students with extracurricular activities or excessive homework. (Image: VCG)

3 days

Chinese search engine Baidu has apologized after one of its news editors logged into the account of a man whose daughter died in a recent kidnapping to post a eulogy.

In a statement Saturday, Baidu said the editor from its news aggregation platform who posted a message earlier that day as a tribute to 9-year-old Zhang Zixin had been fired, adding that the company was “ashamed … for hurting the feelings of Zixin’s family members.” The editor had used the verified account of the girl’s father, Zhang Jun, on the platform’s news aggregation site to post the message without the family’s knowledge or consent.

Zixin had been missing since July 7, when her family lost contact with a couple that had asked to take the girl on a trip to Shanghai. On Sunday, authorities announced that the girl’s body had been found on Saturday afternoon off the coast of the eastern Zhejiang province, with a preliminary investigation suggesting she was forcibly drowned.

The couple — who were themselves found drowned in Zhejiang on July 8 in an apparent double suicide — have been identified as major suspects in the case, according to police. (Image: IC/The Paper)

3 days

An unlicensed clinic in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin was found to be offering a one-week “training course” in plastic surgery, according to a report published Monday by The Beijing News.

Priced at 6,800 yuan ($990), the course enrolled 12 students concurrently and claimed to teach the theory and practical skills necessary to perform over 10 varieties of cosmetic procedures including face-lifts, jawline contouring, and double-eyelid surgeries. Upon completing the course, the students were awarded certificates and provided with contact information for vendors of cheap but “unlicensed” drugs, which would allow them to perform cosmetic surgeries on their own customers at home or in private studios, the report said.

Rampant malpractice in China’s cosmetic surgery industry can deter would-be customers. According to a 2018 white paper jointly issued by the Chinese Association of Plastics and Aesthetics and several collaborating institutions, there are around 17,000 licensed medical personnel in the country’s cosmetic surgery industry — compared with over 150,000 unlicensed workers. In early July, a separate report from The Beijing News revealed that an unlicensed training center in Beijing had been providing hair transplant “certifications” to pupils after just two days’ instruction. (Image: VCG)

5 days

Several state-run media outlets in China have slammed social media users for glibly citing sensitive historical events to express their adoration for celebrities.

People’s Daily, Global Times, and China Youth Daily were among those that wrote sharply worded posts on their respective Weibo microblogs on Friday, discouraging people from “ridiculing” historical events regarded as national tragedies. A recent internet trend has seen netizens penning online love letters to superstars that include allusions to the Cultural Revolution and other touchy periods from the past.

China Youth Daily shared screenshots of social media posts in which one netizen purportedly wrote to a celebrity, “You are my Treaty of Nanjing, you are the beginning of my downfall” — a reference to the 19th-century agreement that saw Hong Kong ceded from China to Britain.

Global Times said that internet posts “making light of national humiliations” are “proof of stupidity” among netizens. On Thursday, Weibo announced that it is clamping down on such content, adding that posts using the phrase “Treaty of Nanjing” would be barred from the microblogging platform for the next three days. (Image: @中国历史研究院 on Weibo)

6 days

Eight people are dead and 17 were injured after a tour bus was struck by a falling boulder Thursday in southwestern China.

Authorities in Songpan County, Sichuan province, said four of the victims were found under the boulder and confirmed dead at the scene. The tour bus had been transporting 30 people from Songpan to Sichuan’s provincial capital, Chengdu, when the rockslide occurred, according to Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper.

Songpan County is home to the Jiuzhai Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its pristine natural beauty. The area also lies along the Longmenshan fault: In 2017, a magnitude 7 earthquake in the Jiuzhai Valley killed 25 people and injured a further 525. (Image: @人民日报 on Weibo)