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2020-01-17 08:57:20

The People’s Republic of China has recorded its lowest birth rate since its founding over 70 years ago, according to data published Friday by the National Bureau of Statistics.

Last year saw 10.5 births per 1,000 people. Some 14.6 million babies were born in China in 2019, down from 15.2 million in 2018. At the same time, the country’s total population eclipsed 1.4 billion for the first time at the end of last year — though the national population growth rate of 0.33% was also a record low.

Low fertility rates and an aging population have worried demographers and officials alike because of the risk these factors pose to the country’s future. Hoping to boost birth rates, China abolished the one-child policy in 2016 and proposed longer maternity leave for couples considering a second child — but so far these and other measures have achieved limited success due to changing social mentalities and the rising cost of childrearing. Meanwhile, birth restrictions continue to hang over some families’ heads, as couples who have more than two children can face harsh punishments.

2 days

The stock price of Chinese Starbucks rival Luckin Coffee plummeted by over 70% Thursday, shaving $5 million off its market value, after the Nasdaq-listed company disclosed that its former chief operating officer had fabricated sales figures in 2019.

Following an internal investigation, the coffee chain found that its former COO Jian Liu and several employees who reported to him had engaged in misconduct, including fabricating sales in 2019 to the tune of around 2.2 billion yuan ($310 million). Luckin also announced that investors should not rely on financial statements and earnings reports from the first three quarters of last year.

Since it was founded two and a half years ago, Luckin Coffee has opened over 4,500 locations in China and expanded into tea and juice shops. The company grew quickly by offering steep discounts and building an extensive network of small order-to-go locations. In May, Luckin raised $561 million with its U.S. initial public offering. (Image: From @CGTN on Weibo)

2 days

On Saturday, China will observe a national day of mourning for the country’s victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the “martyrs who were sacrificed in the struggle to resist it.”

According to an announcement Friday from the State Council, China’s Cabinet, national flags will be flown at half-mast outside embassies and consulates across the country, as well as at Chinese missions abroad, and all public entertainment activities will be canceled. At 10 a.m., the country will observe three minutes of spoken silence during which air-raid sirens and the horns of ships, trains, and cars will sound.

Globally, the novel coronavirus has infected over 1 million people and killed over 53,000 since it was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December. On Thursday, 14 individuals — medical staff, police officers, and social workers — who lost their lives to COVID-19 were officially honored as martyrs by the government of Hubei province. (Image: Xinhua)

3 days

Authorities in Shanghai have arrested a kindergarten teacher on suspicion of child molestation, according to the city’s Qingpu District education bureau.

The head of the kindergarten has also been dismissed, according to the notice published Wednesday. Prior to the arrest, netizens had posted on social media about a male teacher at Qingpu Experimental Kindergarten who was allegedly molesting his young students.

In August 2017, another district of Shanghai announced that sex offenders would be subject to five-year bans from education or any other sector involving contact with minors — a policy touted as the first of its kind in China. In January, a teacher working at an after-school training center in the northeastern Jilin province was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and served with a five-year teaching ban after sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl.

In February 2019, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate announced a five-year plan to “establish and improve a database of sexual crimes against minors.” According to a June report by the Procuratorate’s official newspaper, many cities including Shanghai and Guangzhou have established their own local databases. (Image: VCG)

4 days

The Chinese Embassy in the U.K. has scheduled a chartered flight Thursday for less than 200 underage Chinese students who have yet to leave the country, according to financial outlet Caixin.

The flight was arranged parents from over 160 families — none of whom are permitted on board — petitioned the embassy in mid-March to help send their children home. Earlier the same month, the Chinese ambassador to the U.K. Liu Xiaoming said there were around 15,000 Chinese minors studying in the country.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Tuesday that another group of 200-plus overseas students who were stranded in Ethiopia during transit had returned to China after a special flight was arranged. Also this week, a top official from China’s Ministry of Education said that just 180,000 out of 1.6 million Chinese students abroad have returned home. (Image: Xinhua)

4 days

As of Tuesday, there were 1,367 asymptomatic carriers of the COVID-19 virus under medical observation in China, marking the first time data for this group has been publicly disclosed.

According to a notice from the National Health Commission, two previously asymptomatic carriers were designated “confirmed cases” on Tuesday, while another 302 finished their 14-day quarantine periods and were discharged from medical observation. The notice said Tuesday’s figure of 1,367 asymptomatic carriers was lower than the previous day’s total by 174 cases.

The Chinese public has become increasingly concerned about the risk of so-called silent carriers spreading the virus after several recently documented infections pointed to this group as a possible source of infection.

On March 29, the central Henan province reported a diagnosed case of COVID-19 after 30 days of no new infections. By tracking the movements of that patient, authorities were able to identify an asymptomatic carrier. A recent study from the eastern city of Ningbo suggested that asymptomatic carriers of the COVID-19 virus may be just as infectious as sick patients.

The National Health Commission said Tuesday that it will release daily updates on the number of new asymptomatic carriers from April 1. According to the commission, these carriers are mostly being identified through screenings of confirmed patients’ close contacts or investigations of COVID-19 clusters. (Image: Xinhua)

4 days

The highest court in central China’s Henan province on Wednesday declared a man innocent after he was handed a suspended death sentence in 2006 for poisoning two children.

In November 2004, two children in a Henan village were found poisoned with tetramine, a common rodenticide. One child recovered; the other died. Wu Chunhong, a villager who had been involved in trivial disputes with the children’s family, was arrested and charged with homicide.

Wu’s family pleaded his innocence for over a decade, filing appeal after appeal. In September 2018, the Supreme People’s Court ruled there had been insufficient evidence to convict Wu of homicide and ordered a retrial in the Henan High People’s Court.

In an earlier interview with Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper, Wu’s daughter said her father never confessed to his alleged crime, and even refused to accept a commuted sentence.

In 2018, China’s courts corrected the verdicts of 1,821 criminal cases, reversing guilty decisions in the cases of 819 convicted criminals. (Image: The Paper)

5 days

Commuters across China may need to change some of their eyebrow-raising behaviors thanks to a new set of subway etiquette rules.

From April 1, passengers on subways nationwide will be prohibited from consuming food or using speakers on their electronic devices, according to the country’s Ministry of Transport. The notice, initially published in October 2019, also forbids hawkers and performers, lying across multiple train seats, and live animals, with the exception of service and police dogs.

Whether violators will be subject to punishment is not yet clear.

On microblogging platform Weibo, the speaker ban has been particularly well-received, with many users complaining of being subjected to bad music or loud conversations. Some have suggested that the same rule should also be applied to long-distance trains and buses. (Image: VCG)

5 days

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 days

Luo Yonghao, the founder of debt-ridden Chinese smartphone brand Smartisan, said Thursday that he will start selling products on the widely used short video platform Douyin — the Chinese name for TikTok — via livestreams, just a week after announcing more general plans to move into e-commerce via livestreaming.

The first livestream will take place April 1, when some “affordable and fancy products” will go on sale, Luo said in a video published to his personal account on social app WeChat. Previously, the tech entrepreneur had said that his team would focus on selling digital gadgets, “cultural” and “creative” products, books, groceries, and snacks.

Livestreaming sales are Luo’s latest business venture after he met substantial setbacks in his previous businesses, including e-cigarettes and synthetic shark skins. His new venture also comes as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many of China’s brick-and-mortar retailers to turn to livestreaming to promote and sell their products to offset virus-linked losses.

ByteDance-owned Douyin is one of the major players in China’s commercial livestreaming market, along with Alibaba’s Taobao Live and Kuaishou. In January, it was the fifth most downloaded non-game app on Apple’s China app store, according to research firm App Annie. (Image: IC)

Republished with permission from Caixin Global.

2020-03-27 10:32:53

A biotech company in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen is under fire for allegedly producing and selling inaccurate COVID-19 test kits.

The city’s market regulator said Friday that the company, Shenzhen Bioeasy Biotechnology Co. Ltd., is under investigation after multiple media outlets reported that its test kits were far less accurate than anticipated.

A report Friday by the Spanish newspaper El País said test kits the Spanish government had purchased from Bioeasy were only 30% sensitive — far lower than the 80% sensitivity the company had promised. Bioeasy responded Friday, saying that if the accuracy was that low, it was because the tests were not being used correctly.

“The sampling, extraction, and operation of nasopharyngeal swab samples may not be strictly followed in accordance with our operating instructions, resulting in a decline in the accuracy of sample detection,” the notice said.

Bioeasy added that it would replace the allegedly unreliable batch of test kits and further evaluate its product’s accuracy in the coming days. (Image: Xinhua)

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