I’m not usually in the habit of doing news roundups, but there were some really interesting stories in news from the past couple days – interesting not only for their content, but in the ways they were covered by both Western and Chinese media.
LITTLE SHOP OF EXPLODING MELONS: An epidemic of exploding watermelons has swept eastern China thanks to over-liberal use of forchlorfenuron, an additive that (according to my expert Wikiing) “is a plant growth regulator…that has been associated with exploding watermelons in China.” (Ok, maybe there were a couple words I cut out of there).
In an attempt to speed growth, farmers have apparently been soaking their melons with the additive, which (in the U.S.) has only been approved for smaller fruits, like grapes and kiwis. However, according to a 2004 study by the EPA, the additive is not toxic, and “not likely to be a human carcinogen,” though in a developmental study of rats, they did observe an “increased incidence of alopecia and decreases in maternal and fetal body weights at the highest dose tested (400 mg/kg/day).”While bald, underweight rats are at the bottom of my list of concerns, the burgeoning army of genetically altered, homicidal plants is at the top. I’m just sayin.
This has been, perhaps, the biggest China-related story of the past few days – by which I mean more major papers have covered it than any other story. Though I couldn’t find any articles about it in Global Times or China Daily, there was a discussion thread about it on the latter as well as news in the Chinese media. This is only the most recent (and the funniest) in a heap of food scandals, and, as the China Digital Times notes, it seems that the government is now encouraging people and media to root out these dangers, rather than just sweeping them under the rug.
BEIJING’S 同志们 STRIKE BACK AGAINST DOUBAN: I don’t know whether I was more disturbed to discover that my favorite Chinese music/social media website is homophobic, or that the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is acronymed “IDAHO,” one of the least gay-friendly states in the union. Anyway, in honor of yesterday’s IDAHO, 10 Beijing-based LGBTQ groups are boycotting Douban in a backlash against what they call the website’s discriminatory behavior. This, from the GT article on the boycott:
The decision was made after Douban’s behavior repeatedly contradicted its claimed purpose as a platform advocating sharing, openness and mutual aid, said Guo Ziyang from the Beijing Tongxing Working Group, which is among the boycott participants.
Activities initiated by related organizations have been continuously rejected and pictures deleted from the website since about two years ago, Guo told the Global Times.
“Even academic lectures couldn’t get approval,” Guo said.
SECRET BILLIONAIRES’ CLUB IN THE FORBIDDEN CITY UNMASKED: According to the Telegraph:
Management at the former palace of the Chinese emperors have been accused of hawking memberships to the club at for 1m yuan (almost £92,600) each, offering exclusive access to the palace for international and Chinese millionaires.
The article goes on to state that, while the organization managing the Forbidden City initially denied the allegations, by the beginning of this week, they had admitted that they“had indeed offered the memberships ‘wrongly and without consultation’ and that these were now being terminated pending a review.”
Note the stark difference from Global Times’ lede:
Jianfu Gong, aka the Palace of Established Happiness in the Forbidden City, has been transformed into “a private club exclusively for the 500 richest people in the world,” alleges a microblog entry by China Central Television anchor Rui Chenggang. The entry drew 7,580 views and 2,596 comments in one day.
Why the shift from hard news to “rumor based on a blog post”? We could chalk it up to shoddy reporting on the part of GT, but there’s another more likely reason – they’re trying to deflect the full impact of a piece of news that has already enraged thousands of Chinese netizens.
As the Telegraph notes: China’s rulers fret openly about threat of social unrest caused by rising wealth inequalities as ordinary working Chinese struggle to pay for food and housing while an elite few – often trading on political connections – reap massive rewards from China’s economic miracle.
Bitter Chinese say that the clique of rich and powerful “500 families” that rule China, with their networks of cronies and hangers-on, increasingly resemble the Imperial Court with its gate-keeping eunuchs that was swept away by a series of revolutions after 1911.
Still, the Global Times did present a rather damning case, though it might all be according to hearsay. Later on in their article, they write:
The Global Times made many calls to the FCCDC (the company that manages the Forbidden City), but no one was willing to discuss Jianfu Gong, with respondents alternately confirming and denying involvement…
AI WEI WEI MEETS WITH WIFE AND FAMILY: Widely covered by a number of international news outlets, the meeting was Ai Wei Wei’s first since he was detained 40 days ago. Al Jazeera provides an especially heart-wrenching description of the meeting here.
No news in any Chinese newspapers that I could find; a Chinese search turned up just a couple of hits, all of which were blocked by the firewall. However, China Daily did allow one user to post, in parts, an article about the meeting, before finishing with, “I’d like to thank the moderators & China Daily for lettin’ stuff get out of the filter. (Things have definitely improved since I joined the Forum).” It’s a touching moment… until the forum gets spammed with trash talk from China’s infamous “50 cent army,” in the form of a couple guys named “Yankeedawg” and “saltandpepper”:
– I read he is done for emasculating himself in hard porn, the dirty bugger. I hope I’ve used the write word. We Yanks are rather non-clued in English granmmer usage.
– Wei is a tax dodger too.
– The fake “artist” disguised as “activist, human rights etc etc ” which has an obsession to destroy China’s great grandchildren’s true Human Rights on behalf of its greedy hyena master, is a desease-ridden insect that must not be allowed to reap its reward.
-SALUTE TO THIS GREAT CPC FOR FULLFILLING THEIR SACRED DUTY BY CRUSHING THIS DESEASED INSECT !
– This great CPC again and again displaid their generousity and humanity, even toward the cockroach wife of this crushed deseased insect that use its pretext of human rights to destroy her great grandchildren’s true Human Rights. But make no mistake, that this great CPC is always vigilant !
– Its cockroach group and their greedy hyena masters can foam, drool and jump up and down as high as they want. This great CPC sacred duty must be fullfilled and deseased insect must not and will not be allowed to destroy her great grandchildren’s Human Rights. SALUTE TO THIS GREAT CPC FOR SAFEGUARDING HER GREAT GRANDCHILDREN’S TRUE HUMAN RIGHTS !