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2020-03-31 05:14:47

A dam leak at a molybdenum mine in northeastern China’s Heilongjiang province is at risk of contaminating the water supply of nearby residents, local authorities said at a press conference Monday.

The leak occurred Saturday at a tailings pond of the Yichun Luming Mining Co. Ltd., located more than 200 kilometers from the provincial capital of Harbin. Tailings are usually a liquid slurry consisting of unwanted ground minerals separated by ore extraction.

Authorities said that about 2.5 million cubic meters of wastewater had leaked into the province’s Yijimi River, a surface water source for some 300,000 people in Tieli City. The city suspended its surface water intake on Sunday and switched to extracting groundwater.

Molybdenum is a metal used in making steel and other alloys. It is unclear if excessive exposure to molybdenum could present health risks for humans. (Image: From @新华视点 on Weibo)

6 hours

A delegate from China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress, is pushing for relaxed controls on street vendors that would grant them basic legal status, as well as standardization of the often-unregulated sector, according to an affiliated platform of the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

The motion, put forward by delegate Yang Baoling at the ongoing annual meetings of China’s top legislative and political advisory bodies, calls for cities to improve vendors’ livelihoods by legalizing and standardizing the informal industry, thereby “unleashing (its) maximum potential.”

While the State Council, China’s Cabinet, has authorized unlicensed street vendors to operate in designated areas since 2017, there have been growing calls online for the current restrictions to be relaxed — especially if street vendors might help invigorate local economies battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some cities have already taken strides in this direction. In March, the southwestern metropolis of Chengdu became one of the first cities in China to openly encourage street vendors after the pandemic by essentially promising to turn a blind eye to businesses operating without permits. Authorities said the relaxed enforcement created more than 80,000 jobs. (Image: IC)

7 hours

Small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in Hubei province — the center of the coronavirus outbreak in China — may be eligible for one-time payments of at least 1,000 yuan ($140) per new college graduate they hire, according to a senior official.

Liu Hong, deputy head of the provincial human resources and social security bureau, announced the plan during a press conference Monday.

Over the past few months, authorities in Hubei have introduced various measures aimed at reviving businesses hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, college graduates willing to start local businesses can receive stipends of 5,000 yuan. (Image: People Visual)

7 hours

Members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) have proposed using facial-recognition technology to combat gaming addiction in children, financial outlet Caixin reported Monday.

Zhu Yongxin, a CPPCC member, said that despite regulations to control children’s gaming habits, many developers still flout the rules in search of profit. To deter minors from spending an unhealthy amount of time online, authorities in recent years have introduced a raft of measures including capping play time, imposing curfews, and requiring real-name registration.

Another CPPCC member, Guan Tiangang, said spending too much time in the virtual world may distort kids’ perceptions of reality, and could make them more likely to commit crimes. She suggested using biometric technologies such as facial and voice recognition to supervise children’s time online.

The proposal was put forward at the ongoing “two sessions” — high-profile annual meetings of the country’s top legislative and political advisory bodies. (Image: People Visual)

4 days

The top tech executive at Baidu, China’s most widely used search engine, is calling for greater protection of citizens’ personal data collected as part of disease control measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Thursday.

Robin Li, the CEO and founder of Baidu and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, specifically requested that people in China be given the chance to opt out of having their personal information stored in a central database. His proposal, submitted Thursday at the CPPCC’s annual meeting in Beijing, would not be legally binding if adopted.

In recent months, China has seen several incidents of personal information breaches, despite experts’ calls for better privacy regulations. In a bid to control the coronavirus, the central government has pushed for the collection of large amounts of personal information through policies such as real-name registration at pharmacies and “color codes” for tracing close contacts of COVID-19 patients. (Image: People Visual)

4 days

China will not set an economic growth target for 2020, according to a government work report presented at the National People’s Congress, which convened Friday in Beijing.

“We will not set a specific economic growth target mainly because of the global pandemic, and huge economic and trade uncertainties. The country’s development is facing unpredictable influencing factors,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said, according to Xinhua. Last year, the same work report set a GDP growth target of 6% to 6.5%.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that Beijing was considering not setting a GDP growth target for this year.

This year’s “two sessions” — high-profile meetings of the country’s top legislative and political advisory bodies — were postponed two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress finally convening on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Prior to the pandemic, which has presented unprecedented challenges for small businesses and virtually every domestic industry, China had hoped to achieve its goal of “moderate prosperity” by 2020. (Image: People Visual)

4 days

Residents of Wuhan will be able to go online to check their COVID-19 test results from Friday. The move comes amid a 10-day campaign to test millions of people in the central Chinese city where the novel coronavirus was first detected.

In a statement Thursday, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said that the nucleic acid test results would “officially” be available online from Friday — some were accessible on a trial basis Thursday — as a “convenience for citizens (hoping to) resume work and travel.”

Residents can access the information through applets on messaging platform WeChat. In most cases, test results will be accessible after three working days, the commission said.

The city of Wuhan launched a comprehensive testing campaign on May 14, aiming to provide free COVID-19 screenings for all residents and track down asymptomatic cases. Residents were notified that the tests would be administered in their housing communities. (Image: People Visual)

5 days

China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs issued a new guideline Wednesday aimed at curbing antiquated and vulgar marriage customs including sky-high bride prices and depraved hazing rituals.

In some countries, a woman’s family is expected to present a dowry to her betrothed in the form of money, goods, or property. However, it’s just the opposite in China, where men outnumber women: The man must often prove his worth by supplying a home, a car, and a cash gift of tens, even hundreds of thousands of yuan.

These “bride prices” are so common, in fact, that a city government in the northern Hebei province once lavished praise on a woman who declined to charge her fiancé a bride price. Unfortunately, the blurred line between high bride prices and human trafficking has prompted some Chinese cities to set caps on how much a groom should have to fork over to tie the knot.

In parts of China, it’s still common for groomsmen to haze the wedding party. The groom might be tied to a tree or subjected to a barrage of slaps, while the bride and her bridesmaids might be forced to consume alcohol, targeted with lewd jokes, thrown in swimming pools, or worse. These customs have been widely criticized in recent years as excuses for obscenity, and an official from the Ministry of Civil Affairs had previously urged local governments to stamp out such practices in 2018.

Wednesday’s guideline said certain pilot areas — which were not identified by name — would be encouraged to police the undesirable wedding customs, thereby “creating a better social climate.” (Image: Sixth Tone)

6 days

Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus apologized Tuesday after netizens raised privacy concerns over one of the company’s camera filters, which was shown to see through some clothes and plastics.

The filter, called Photochrom, appears to use the phone’s infrared sensing capability to capture a type of light that’s normally invisible to the naked eye. With the filter enabled, pointing the phone’s camera at certain black objects — such as a TV remote or video game controller — reveals the circuitry and hardware underneath. Meanwhile, if a person hides a piece of paper with a message written on it under a black shirt, that message becomes visible with the filter switched on.

OnePlus said its next system update will remove the filter until the company can “resolve this concerning issue.” (Image: From Weibo)

6 days

Luckin Coffee, once touted as the heir apparent to Starbucks in China, has received a notice of delisting from the Nasdaq Stock Market. The Chinese beverage chain announced Tuesday that it has appealed the decision, meaning it can continue trading pending the outcome of a hearing.

The notice came around a year after Luckin filed its initial public offering in the United States. Nasdaq’s decision was based on “past failure to publicly disclose material information” as well as “public interest concerns” over fabricated sales data by the company’s former chief operating officer amounting to 2.2 billion yuan ($310 million). The company disclosed the fraudulent figures in early April.

In the aftermath of the scandal, Luckin last week fired its chief executive officer and chief operating officer. The company’s founder and chairman, Lu Zhengyao, remains untouched for now. (Image: People Visual)

6 days

China’s small businesses are lagging behind larger firms as they strive to return to normal operations, raising concerns about their survival in the current post-pandemic period, a survey on the health of domestic businesses revealed.

According to the survey conducted by China Merchants Bank, the country’s small businesses — defined as those employing fewer than 50 people — had resumed only 40% of their operations by late April. Meanwhile, larger companies — those with more than 100 employees — said they were operating at at least 70% of their output capacity.

The data collected from 23,524 companies — over 90% of which had fewer than 100 employees — found that tight cash flow and financing pressures remain common headaches for Chinese businesses struggling to reach previous productivity levels. Firms in first-tier cities including Beijing and Shanghai were especially pessimistic about their financial outlooks, with the hospitality, restaurant, education, and entertainment sectors reporting the most economic pressure.

Over 90% of the surveyed businesses said they had slashed staff or salaries, with only 10% of respondents saying they planned to increase investment in the first half of the year. Earlier this month, China’s Cabinet pledged to allocate 1 trillion yuan ($140 billion) in government bonds to support small businesses struggling to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Image: People Visual)

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