Facebook-backed cryptocurrency Libra became the No. 2 trending topic on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo after the CEO of the company behind it testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.
During the hearing, David Marcus, CEO of Calibra, the Facebook subsidiary tasked with developing Libra, told the committee that Libra will compete with Alipay and WeChat Pay, China’s two ubiquitous mobile payment platforms, each boasting roughly 1 billion active users.
Some Chinese netizens reacted to Marcus’ remarks with skepticism. “Can it (Libra) compete? How will they push for competition when we can’t even use Facebook?” one Weibo user commented under a related media post, referring to the social platform being inaccessible on the Chinese mainland. Other netizens, meanwhile, saw Libra as a boon to the country’s mobile payment industry, which they reason would only be improved with greater competition.
Since the release of the Libra White Paper on June 18, a storm of debate has surrounded the idea of a Facebook-sponsored digital currency, in particular because it would allow for the flow of financial resources across international borders — an act the Chinese authorities would prefer to keep strictly regulated.
The People’s Bank of China has been researching cryptocurrencies since 2014, driving speculation that it may be aiming to develop its own digital coin. As of last December, the central bank’s software developers had registered over 70 cryptocurrency patents in the country. (Image: IC)
Two railway employees were killed after a high-speed train plowed into them following a communication lapse about ongoing track construction, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Sunday.
The accident occurred Friday morning while the two were working on the Tianjin segment of the Beijing-Tianjin rail network, according to the media report. The workers had reportedly missed an update relayed by their superior on social messaging app WeChat regarding the track’s operation time.
The deceased worked under the Beijing Railway Administration, the report said. The accident has been attributed to lax observation of operating procedures and safety systems.
The person in charge of the operation has been removed from his position amid an ongoing investigation, The Paper reported. The high-speed train involved in the accident was not carrying passengers. (Image: VCG)
Chinese authorities are planning to introduce stricter guidelines for the country’s “performance industry.”
In a statement Thursday, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism proposed regulations for more rigorous content review, as well as better oversight of ticket sales and site safety for performances, including rap and electronic music, talk shows, crosstalk events, and stage dramas. According to the notice, the move is aimed at “strengthening management of the performance industry to better meet the diverse and multilevel spiritual and cultural needs of the public.”
The guideline also proposed that all livestreams of commercial performances be delayed by at least three minutes and have a designated “special person” to review the content and online comments in real time. Video platforms must save all content for at least 60 days for inspection if needed, the statement added.
In recent years, authorities have increasingly cracked down on what they consider inappropriate acts in performances. In January of last year, the country’s top media regulator banned tattoos and depictions of hip-hop culture on television programs, citing profane language and problematic morals. And in June, a government bureau in the eastern city of Qingdao launched an investigation into a popular Chinese crosstalk comedian after a video of him making light of a national tragedy went viral online. (Image: VCG)
Authorities in the eastern Chinese city of Fuzhou are incentivizing local businesses to bring in additional talents, both new and old.
Companies recruiting staff from outside the city, or from a pool of individuals who are experiencing “difficulties finding work,” may be eligible to receive subsidies of 1,000 yuan ($142) per worker, provided they remain employed for at least six months, state news agency Xinhua reported Thursday.
The new policy — part of Fuzhou’s “Eight Measures to Further Improve the Protection of Human Resources in Business,” introduced last week — further states that companies hiring individuals who have lost their jobs “as a result of market factors” shall be eligible for subsidies of 500 yuan each, and that the total value of subsidies awarded to a single business in the calendar year may not exceed 200,000 yuan. (Image: VCG)
Following an amendment to China’s pharmaceutical administration law, a man from Hong Kong has been released on bail after spending over five years in police custody for selling “fake” cancer treatment drugs, financial news outlet Jiemian reported Thursday.
In 2014, Lin Yongxiang was criminally detained along with 14 others for smuggling and selling unapproved cancer drugs manufactured in India to Chinese hospitals and patients, according to the media report. Four years later, a local court in the eastern Jiangsu province sentenced Lin to more than six years in jail, not including the time he had already spent in police detention.
After the new amendment went into effect Dec. 1, however, the same court in Jiangsu on Thursday granted Lin bail after a retrial hearing, Jiemian reported. The amended law no longer classifies drugs approved outside of China as “fake,” and people who import “small amounts” of them may now face lighter sentences or none at all.
Several individuals across the country have been putting themselves at great personal risk by importing foreign medicines for desperate patients. Ke Ranhong, the founder of a company that helped patients purchase cheap generic drugs from overseas, is facing a potential 12-year prison sentence for selling “fake drugs” since his arrest in the eastern city of Hangzhou last year. (Image: Corbis/VCG)
A driver for the Chinese ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing refused to take a very pregnant passenger to the hospital because she feared being held responsible for any complications that might have arisen en route, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Thursday.
The incident happened Dec. 2 in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, according to the would-be passenger’s post on microblogging platform Weibo. The woman said she had begged the driver to take her to the hospital, a trip of around 30 minutes. But the driver allegedly refused because she didn’t want a pregnant woman giving birth in her car.
The expectant mother ended up driving herself to the hospital, where she gave birth to a healthy baby that afternoon, according to her post. She said Didi contacted her following the incident, vowing to “handle the driver’s attitude” and offering a coupon for 10 yuan ($1.40) off her next ride.
“What should I do with this 10 yuan coupon? Let one of your drivers refuse to take me again?” the woman wrote, adding that she hopes to receive an apology from the driver and a “reasonable explanation” from Didi. (Image: VCG)
China’s Ministry of Public Security has ordered 100 mobile apps offline until they resolve user privacy concerns, business news outlet Caixin reported Wednesday, citing a recent report from a domestic cybersecurity NGO.
The apps of several banks and e-commerce platforms, as well as the New York-listed real estate platform Fang.com, were among the lengthy list. Possible violations included vague user agreements and unnecessary collecting of user data, according to the report by the National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team/Coordination Center of China, the NGO.
Since 2017, Chinese apps have repeatedly come under fire from both the authorities and the public for over-collecting or mishandling user data, including photos, chat messages, location data, and personal information.
In May, the Cyberspace Administration of China introduced a draft regulation aimed at curbing the dubious practices of data-grubbing apps. That proposal was part of a wider internet cleanup campaign that resulted in dozens of websites being blocked and thousands of social media accounts being shut down. (Image: VCG)
At least seven people were killed and 13 others have received treatment for injuries after an explosion at a fireworks factory in central China’s Hunan province, local authorities said in a statement.
The explosion occurred at around 7:50 a.m. Wednesday at Bixi Fireworks Manufacturing Co. Ltd. in Liuyang, a city widely regarded as the birthplace of firecrackers in China. An unspecified number of the company’s representatives and investors are being held in police custody for the “illegal production” of fireworks, the statement added.
Local authorities have formed a team to investigate the incident and vowed to monitor all fireworks-producing companies in the province.
In recent years, China has strengthened supervision over explosives nationwide, citing safety concerns. Hundreds of Chinese cities have also restricted the sale and use of fireworks during Lunar New Year celebrations in a bid to curb air pollution. In February, five people in the southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region were killed in an explosion at a shop suspected of illegally storing and selling fireworks and firecrackers. (Image: @新浪新闻 from Weibo)
A couple diagnosed with pneumonic plague in November are believed to have become infected after the husband was exposed to the bacterium in the air while tilling the soil of his farm, according to a report Friday from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The two patients — a herdsman and his wife from the northern region of Inner Mongolia — were diagnosed with plague at a Beijing hospital on Nov. 12. According to the report, the husband experienced fever, vomiting, and chest pains, among other symptoms, after working on his farm. His wife became infected after being in close contact with him. The couple were treated with antibiotics at a local hospital before being transferred by ambulance to Beijing.
Two days after the confirmed cases in Beijing, a third individual in Inner Mongolia was diagnosed with the bubonic form of plague at a local hospital. This patient — whose case was not epidemiologically related to the other two — had become infected from skinning and eating a wild hare.
The Mongolian Plateau has seen several cases of rodent-borne diseases this year, the report said. As of Nov. 21, some 447 people in Beijing and 46 in Inner Mongolia had been quarantined over possibly coming into contact with the infected individuals, according to the report. All of them have since been discharged, though the couple who were first diagnosed remain in critical condition.
A fourth case of plague was diagnosed in Inner Mongolia on Nov. 27, though it’s not yet clear how the patient became infected. (Image: VCG)
From Dec. 1, mobile users hoping to purchase SIM cards in China will have to undergo a mandatory “facial registration” procedure, according to a recent policy from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
The new requirement, announced in September, aims to “utilize innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence” to improve the existing real-name registration system, as well as prevent identity theft and the resale of SIM cards, the ministry said. Previously, mobile users had to present their national ID cards or passports when buying a SIM card.
Face-scanning kiosks have actually been in use in Beijing since October, according to local media. Customers purchasing SIM cards now have their faces scanned along with their identity cards — a streamlined process that takes around 5 minutes, the report said. Users can also complete the registration steps on a telecom provider’s mobile app by taking a photo of their ID and uploading a six-second video of their face.
The expansion of facial recognition to virtually every industry in China has sparked broad discussions about security and ethics. In November, a professor in the eastern Zhejiang province filed the country’s first lawsuit against the compulsory collection of facial data by a local zoo. And on Wednesday, artificial intelligence firm SenseTime announced that it is heading a coalition of 27 Chinese companies to draft the country’s first national standard for applications of facial recognition. (Image: IC)
In response to online rumors of its supposed impending bankruptcy, online education platform VIPKid has offered a 100,000 yuan ($14,200) bounty for information about the identity of the internet user responsible for starting them.
In a post Friday on social app WeChat, VIPKid shared a screenshot of a user with the handle zHuanHuan telling a chat group of nearly 100 members that she had heard VIPKid is on the verge of bankruptcy. “As long as the user zHuanHuan is not acting in bad faith, we promise not to hold her legally responsible,” the post said.
Founded in Beijing in 2013, VIPKid describes itself as one China’s top online English-learning platforms, hosting more than 700,000 students and 90,000 teachers as of August. The platform connects students, most of whom live in China, with largely North American tutors for one-on-one conversation sessions.
VIPKid responded to the rumors of financial pressure by pointing to the 1 billion yuan in investment it received in October from tech giant Tencent. Weeks later, however, TechNode reported that the company was planning to lay off 30% of its staff in sales, operations, and research and development, citing a source familiar with the matter. VIPKid told the news outlet it was “actively growing” and would hire “thousands of new employees in the months and years ahead.” (Image: IC)