A Chinese scientist who pioneered the clinical use of CRISPR gene editing to create HIV-immune cells in humans has been named one of the “10 people who mattered in science in 2019” by the prestigious journal Nature.
Deng Hongkui, an immunologist at Peking University, used CRISPR — a kind of copy-and-paste function for genes — to edit blood-forming stem cells from a bone marrow donor, before transplanting a cocktail of edited and unedited cells into a 27-year-old man with HIV and leukemia. The treatment was an attempt to replicate the 2007 case of Timothy Ray Brown, who became the first adult to be cured of HIV after receiving a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a similar, naturally occurring genetic mutation.
Yet although Deng’s patient’s leukemia went into remission, the percentage of edited bone marrow cells was too low to cure his HIV, and some experts have criticized Deng’s methods.
“Their work will stand as an example of how not to do this,” Fyodor Urnov, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, told Nature. Deng says he is undeterred, however, and plans to try again using a higher proportion of edited cells.
Deng wasn’t the only scientist with a China connection on this year’s list. Transplant ethicist Wendy Rogers was also honored for exposing forced organ donations in Chinese research from 2001 to 2017. And Geng Meiyu was identified as a “researcher to watch in 2020” for her team’s controversial discovery of a compound that China has approved to treat Alzheimer’s disease. (Image: Peking University)
A tourist site in central China apologized Wednesday for misleading promotions of its “sky mirror” attraction.
According to videos widely circulated online, tourists who had expected to take epic photos of an ethereal blue sky reflected all around them — as they had seen in related ads — complained about being dismayed to find the mirror surfaces covered with dirty footprints.
The Dishuiyuan Scenic Spot in Linwu County, Hunan province, apologized via its public account on messaging app WeChat: “During preparations, our promotions team did not conduct a strict review of our over-rendered promotional photos, which consequently were totally different from the photos that tourists were able to take at the site.” Dishuiyuan added that the misleading promotions would be withdrawn, and the site would be temporarily closed for “rectification.”
Similar “sky mirror” attractions can also be found in other provinces. A tourism industry insider told Pear Video that such projects cost anywhere from 30,000 to 200,000 yuan ($4,200-$28,000) to build. “With this being a slack season for traveling, scenic spots are trying to attract traffic and make money,” he told the outlet.
Like many industries, tourism has been severely disrupted by the pandemic. In February, the China Tourism Academy, a Beijing-based research institute, estimated that the domestic tourism sector would see 1.2 trillion yuan in losses this year because of COVID-19. (Image: Weibo)
Family Mart, one of the most successful convenience store chains in China, apologized Thursday after internet users called out one of the company’s social media accounts over a sexually suggestive publicity stunt.
“We’re really sorry for making you uncomfortable,” Family Mart, which operates some 2,500 stores in China, wrote on its Weibo microblog. “We have undergone thorough introspection, and we will remember this painful experience as a warning.”
On Wednesday morning, a Shanghai-registered Family Mart affiliate had published an article on its public WeChat account to promote new ice cream products. The post’s title appeared as a .AVI file name that roughly translates to “Internet Celebs’ Steamy Scenes Leaked.” The post had soon reached 100,000-plus views — the maximum number displayed on the app — but it also prompted a slew of complaints.
Some net users revealed that this is not the first time a Family Mart WeChat account has indulged in inappropriate clickbait. In March, the company published a post titled “Baby, Open Your Mouth” to promote a new sandwich, while another post in December titled “Today, We Strip Santa Naked” was apparently supposed to introduce a new line of Christmas-themed products.
“This is a convenience store’s account, there must be lots of old people and young children following. Is such a headline suitable?” read a popular comment below a related media report. By Thursday afternoon, the WeChat post had been deleted. (Image: Sixth Tone)
A delegate of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body, has proposed granting protections to whistleblowers acting in good faith in order to preserve the public’s right to information, according to a report Wednesday from financial outlet Caixin.
Zhou Hongyu — chairman of the Hubei chapter of the China Association for Promoting Democracy, one of the eight legally recognized non-communist political parties in the country — proposed a revision to the country’s Emergency Response Law that would shield whistleblowers from reprisal, according to the media report.
The lawmaker, who is also a professor at Central China Normal University in Wuhan, said individuals who sound an alarm and harbor no ill intentions should be granted leniency even if the warning they disseminate turns out to be inaccurate. Zhou also suggested eliminating red tape and granting more authority to local governments to take decisive action during an emergency.
Zhou’s proposal comes two months after the Wuhan police apologized for punishing Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist who was reprimanded in early January for “spreading rumors” about a SARS-like coronavirus detected at his hospital. Li died after contracting the virus in February, and was later honored as one of over a dozen martyrs who lost their lives during China’s fight against COVID-19. (Image: People Visual)
American cosmetics company Estée Lauder is winning praise in China over its latest brand ambassador: one of the world’s biggest names in mixed martial arts.
Zhang Weili, a native of northern China’s Hebei province, has been named the new face of Estée Lauder makeup, breaking with a long-standing tradition of models and entertainment icons being tapped to endorse beauty products. A promotional video for the brand’s Chinese market shows the 30-year-old UFC strawweight champion applying a makeup product from Estée Lauder’s Double Wear collection before entering the ring to pound a hapless punching bag.
“You finally found a great ambassador!” one person wrote under the beauty company’s announcement on microblogging platform Weibo. “Finally, our (women’s) beauty is not just limited to celebrities or models, but also (includes) other cool women!” commented another.
This is not the first time international brands have aimed to become more inclusive by breaking with traditional beauty conventions. Last month, Victoria’s Secret smashed the stereotypical curvy image associated with its name by appointing Zhou Dongyu — a lanky, willowy actress — as its China brand ambassador. Some argued, however, that the move would hardly instill body positivity and eliminate gender discrimination overnight. (Image: From @雅诗兰黛 on Weibo)
Gao Fu, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is calling for greater decision-making autonomy and less obstruction from the national health administration system, China Youth Daily reported Wednesday.
Specifically, Gao suggested that the authorities should yield decision-making power to disease control institutions and reduce the degree of micromanagement of these institutions by local and provincial health departments.
“(We must) explore and establish a mechanism for reporting public health work and important issues directly to the responsible government leaders, and for releasing epidemic information directly, as soon as it’s authorized by the government,” he said.
Gao added that the COVID-19 outbreak had exposed deficiencies in China’s outbreak control and prevention system. As the nominal driving force behind such work, the China CDC had failed to fulfill its responsibility to provide early warning and monitoring, epidemiological investigation, relevant policy proposals, and effective outbreak control and prevention measures.
The China CDC has “unequal power and responsibility,” Gao said, “resulting in a disconnect between administrative decisions and technical strategies.” China CDC experts do not play a sufficiently prominent role in the decision-making process when it comes to dealing with public health emergencies like COVID-19, he suggested.
Gao’s proposal was put forward at the “two sessions” — high-profile annual meetings of China’s top legislative and political advisory bodies — which conclude Thursday in Beijing. (Image: People Visual)
Publishing a map of China that doesn’t entirely reflect the country’s claimed territories may result in criminal prosecution, multiple media outlets reported Tuesday.
Thirteen municipal-level departments in Beijing, including the city’s cyberspace administration, jointly launched the campaign last week, demanding “examination and rectification” of all “problematic maps” by the end of July. According to an official notice, judicial organs may pursue criminal prosecution if maps are deemed to “endanger national unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, or jeopardize national security and interests.”
“Correct” maps must properly depict China’s borders, including the islands of Hainan and Taiwan, the Diaoyu Islands, and the islands within the nine-dash line demarcating China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, among others. Together, the 13 departments are responsible for reviewing maps published in domestic media reports, films, museums, and textbooks.
All maps of China, in China, must be submitted to the relevant authorities for review before publication. Last year, 29 Fortune 500 companies were told to replace maps Beijing considered “problematic,” while the hit television drama “Go Go Squid!” was fined 100,000 yuan ($14,000) for airing an incomplete map of the country. (Image: People Visual)
A member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) has floated a proposal that would require parents to receive “proper training” and a license before having children, and as a prerequisite for access to public education, triggering mixed reactions online.
Xu Hongling, a CPPCC member from the northern city of Tianjin, said local residential communities should organize parenting classes, and only “qualified parents” should be allowed to send their children to public schools, local media reported Tuesday. She added that the idea had been inspired by a recent uptick in high-profile crimes involving minors, which “exposed a lack of family education.”
The traditional Chinese parenting style is frequently criticized as overbearing and controlling, with experts suggesting it’s a “misguided approach to raising children.” In response, so-called anti-parent forums have sprung up online, functioning as support groups where children can unburden themselves of any issues they face, such as abuse or mental illness. (Image: People Visual)
Researchers at Tsinghua University in Beijing have developed a COVID-19 test kit capable of producing a result within 30 minutes, the school announced Tuesday on social media.
The kit, which is around the size of a person’s palm, is technologically advanced: While existing tests require repeated heating and cooling cycles, Tsinghua’s test works at a constant temperature. As for accuracy, the team said its product is “similarly sensitive” to existing tests — which have at times been accused of being unreliable.
According to Tsinghua’s official release, the product could become a “sample in, result out” home test kit. Before entering the market, however, it must receive approval from the National Medical Products Administration. (Image: From 清华大学 on WeChat)
A delegate of the National People’s Congress has proposed ending English-language translation services during Chinese press conferences on foreign affairs, People’s Daily Online reported Tuesday. “After researching and considering public opinion, we suggest canceling English translations at China’s domestic press conferences on major foreign affairs topics,” Yang Weiguo told the outlet.
Yang, who is also the mayor of Zhuzhou in the central Hunan province, noted that Chinese is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, and said translations may cause press conferences to be less efficient. The adoption of Yang’s motion would “maintain the dignity of the Chinese language” and “demonstrate cultural confidence,” according to the report.
This is not the first time Chinese legislators have put forward motions related to English at the “two sessions” — high-profile meetings of China’s top legislative and political advisory bodies, held annually in Beijing. In 2017, another NPC delegate proposed canceling the English portion of China’s college entrance exam, the gaokao, as well as making the subject optional rather than compulsory at schools. The motion was not adopted. (Image: People Visual)
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)