Posts tagged ‘Hong Kong’


Chinese Searchers Are Rallied After Giant Yellow Duck Goes Missing – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Lost: one giant yellow rubber duck, last seen on a river in southwestern China.

A 54-foot tall inflated duck, the trademark creation of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, is on the run after disappearing from a river in China’s southwestern Guiyang city, where it was being displayed for locals.

On Wednesday evening, after floating peacefully for a couple weeks, the duck was lashed by a heavy storm. “The duck flopped over and was flushed away really quickly by the torrential flood. It disappeared right in front of me in several seconds,” Yan Jianxin, who helped coordinate the duck exhibition on behalf of a local company, told China Real Time.

In recent days, floods have hit cities in central and southwestern China, killing at least 32 and displacing tens of thousands. Still, given the size of the duck, some were surprised it too was susceptible.

“The duck itself weighed around one ton, together with its over 10-ton floating metal platform, and several steel wires fixing it to the bottom of the river,” said Mr. Yan. All those preparations, though, “didn’t stop it from being flushed away by the flood.”

So far, Mr. Yan’s duck hunt hasn’t achieved anything yet. But other locals have also joined in the search, with one local radio station urging people on Weibo to step up the hunt, saying, “If you live along the river and see an 18-meter tall big yellow duck, please call 5961027.”

“This never happened in the duck’s tour history,” said Yu-Mei Sung, marketing specialist from Blue Dragon, a Taipei-based art company which she said is responsible for facilitating the tour of Mr. Hofman’s duck throughout China.

“Mr. Hofman feels very sorry about what happened in Guiyang and he hopes people are safe and all the damage will be repaired very soon,” Blue Dragon added in a later statement.

A back-up duck order from an authorized Taiwan maker is on the way and is expected to arrive in two days, just in case the missing one is never found or is unrepairable when found, according to Ms. Sung.

This isn’t the first time Mr. Hofman’s duck has suffered hiccups in China. Last May, the giant duck deflated into a forlorn yellow puddle during its exhibition in Hong Kong, prompting an anguished outcry across social media around the world.

via Chinese Searchers Are Rallied After Giant Yellow Duck Goes Missing – China Real Time Report – WSJ.


A dramatic decline in suicides: Back from the edge | The Economist

IN THE 1990s China had one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Young rural women in particular were killing themselves at an alarming rate. In recent years, however, China’s suicides have declined to among the lowest rates in the world.

In 2002 the Lancet, a British medical journal, said there were 23.2 suicides per 100,000 people annually from 1995 to 1999. This year a report by a group of researchers from the University of Hong Kong found that had declined to an average annual rate of 9.8 per 100,000 for the years 2009-11, a 58% drop.

Paul Yip, director of the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong and a co-author of the recent study, says no country has ever achieved such a rapid decline in suicides. And yet, experts say, China has done it without a significant improvement in mental-health services—and without any national publicity effort to lower suicides.

The most dramatic shift has been in the figures for rural women under 35. Their suicide rate appears to have dropped by as much as 90%. The Lancet study in 2002 estimated 37.8 per 100,000 of this age group committed suicide annually in 1995-99. The new study says this declined to just over three per 100,000 in 2011. Another study of suicides, covering 20 years in one province, Shandong, found a decline of 95% among rural women under 35, to 2.6 suicides per 100,000 in 2010—and a 68% drop in suicides among all rural women.

Scholars suspect that the number of suicides is underreported in official figures (the official suicide rate nationally was 6.9 per 100,000 in 2012) and they make adjustments for that in their calculations. But in several studies, as well as in official data, the long-term decline in suicides has been marked across the spectrum, in rural and urban areas and among men and women from almost all age groups. The only notable exception is the suicide rate among the elderly, which declined overall but has crept back up in recent years, a worrying trend in a rapidly ageing society.

Two intertwined social forces are driving the reduction: migration and the rise of an urban middle class. Moving to the cities to work, even if to be treated as second-class citizens when they get there, has been the salvation of many rural young women, liberating them from parental pressures, bad marriages, overbearing mothers-in-law and other stresses of poor, rural life. Migrants have also distanced themselves from the easiest form of rural suicide, swallowing pesticides, the chosen method in nearly 60% of rural cases, and often done impulsively. The reduction in toxicity of pesticides has helped as well.

Jing Jun, a sociologist at Tsinghua University in Beijing, notes that the increase in migration to the cities fits with the decline in rural suicides (see chart). Since rural dwellers accounted for most suicides, so the national rate has fallen, too. In 20 years, as the population went from mostly rural to more than half urban, the official national suicide rate dropped by 63%.

Suicides among urban residents are also dropping, suggesting other causes, too. Chinese newspapers frequently carry dramatic photos of suicidal people being rescued from window ledges and rooftops (like the woman in our picture). But the University of Hong Kong researchers found that urban suicides had dropped to 5.3 per 100,000 between 2002 and 2011, a fall of 59%. The simplest explanation is that, in spite of concerns about pollution, food safety and property prices, living standards and general satisfaction with urban life have gone up. Mr Jing also believes that, as in the countryside, the atomisation of extended families has reduced the family conflicts that can lead to suicides.

via A dramatic decline in suicides: Back from the edge | The Economist.


China taps tech training to tackle labor market mismatch | Reuters

China is waking up to a potentially damaging mismatch in its labor market.

Job seekers attend a job fair at Tianjin University November 22, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

A record 7.27 million graduates – equivalent to the entire population of Hong Kong – will enter the job market this year; a market that has a shortage of skilled workers.

Yet many of these university and college students are ill-equipped to fill those jobs, prompting the government to look at how it can overhaul the higher education system to bridge the gap. The problem is part structural, part attitude.

While most liberal arts students are still looking for work after graduating this summer, 22-year-old Li Xidong is preparing to start a job as an electrician that he landed well before finishing three years of training at a small vocational school.

Li’s diploma may appear less impressive, but his coveted job in a tight labor market may hold the key to the employment conundrum in the world’s second largest economy. The machinery sector alone projects a gap of 600,000 computer-automated machine tool operators this year, media have reported.

“We’re trained as skilled workers, it’s quite easy for us to find jobs while still in school,” said Li, who is in the final stretch of a 3-year program at Hebei Energy College of Vocation and Technology in Tangshan, an industrial city 180 kms (112 miles) east of Beijing.

“Seventy percent of our class found work and some others are starting their own businesses,” Li noted, as he waited for a friend at a recruitment fair in the capital, where fewer than a third of this year’s university graduates had found work by end-April.

The government has said it plans to refocus more than 600 local academic colleges on vocational and technical education – replacing literature, history and philosophy with technology skills such as how to maintain lathes and build ventilation systems. Course curricula will be tailored to meet employers’ specific needs.

Pilot programs will be launched this year, and 150 local universities have signed up for the education ministry’s plan, the official Xinhua news agency has reported.

via China taps tech training to tackle labor market mismatch | Reuters.

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China frees three activists after Tiananmen anniversary | Reuters

China released on Thursday three activists who had been detained for a month for attending a meeting to commemorate the military suppression of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, their lawyers said.

A police car guards in front of a giant portrait of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing June 4, 2014. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

The activists were freed a day after the 25th anniversary of the bloody crackdown, marked by tens of thousands of people in Hong Kong, even as Chinese authorities sought to whitewash the event in the mainland.

Two of their peers remained in custody.

via China frees three activists after Tiananmen anniversary | Reuters.

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More than 1,000 Hongkongers cancel Vietnam trips in wake of rioting | South China Morning Post

More than 1,000 Hongkongers have cancelled their trips to Vietnam as the anti-Chinese riots show no sign of easing in the country.


The Hong Kong tourists had joined 45 tour groups that would have been departing between today and May 26.

Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of Hong Kong’s Travel Industry Council, said today that tour operators believed risks might grow, although sightseeing spots on their itineraries were currently safe.

Chinese nationals cross from Vietnam into Cambodia at a checkpoint in Binh Duong province. Photo: Reuters

He said 14 tour groups with 350 Hongkongers are now in Vietnam and they are asked to report to the council of their situation every day. There has been no report of any trouble so far, said Tung, and the tour groups are expected to return to the city by next Tuesday.

Violence against Chinese companies in Vietnam turned deadly yesterday, with the Hong Kong government upgrading its travel alert from amber to red.

Xinhua reported that at least two Chinese had been killed in riots over the establishment of an oil rig in the disputed Paracel Islands two weeks ago.

Another 10 Chinese were said by Xinhua to be missing and more than 100 hospitalised.

via More than 1,000 Hongkongers cancel Vietnam trips in wake of rioting | South China Morning Post.

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Hong Kong Retailers Say They’ll Stop Selling Ivory – China Real Time Report – WSJ

The window for buying ivory in Hong Kong is narrowing.

Three local sellers of everything from dinner wear to curios said on Wednesday that ivory was no longer welcome on their shelves. Wing On Department Store said it would stop selling ivory products in July, while Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium said it stopped selling ivory on May 7 and Chinese Arts & Crafts ( HK) Ltd. said it stopped in March.

The notices — given in letters from the three companies released on Wednesday by conservation groups — came just a day before Hong Kong plans to burn a 30-ton stockpile of seized elephant ivory.  Their moves “send a clear message that the consumption of ivory is rapidly becoming taboo in Hong Kong society,” said Alex Hofford, director of Hong Kong for Elephants, a local lobby group.

Representatives of the three companies attended a press conference on Wednesday to announce their new stance but left before taking questions. A call to Wing On wasn’t immediately returned. A Yue Hwa representative declined to comment further. A spokesman of Chinese Arts & Crafts said the ivory the company once sold was legal.

Nearly 100 elephants are killed every day for ivory trinkets — bracelets, statuettes and other decorative items sold illegally around the world, according to Hong Kong for Elephants. Wildlife experts estimate the African elephant population stand around 420,000 to 650,000 and could be wiped out in 10 to 15 years if nothing is done to ease the problem.

The groups argue that the slaughter of African elephants continues largely to meet the rising demand for tusks from newly affluent Chinese consumers.  The price of ivory in China was 15,000 yuan ($2,478) per kilogram in 2011, more than triple its price in 2006, according to data from the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Wildlife conservation groups Wednesday urged the Hong Kong government turn its post-burning attention to the city’s 117.1 metric ton legal stockpile of ivory still in circulation in Hong Kong. Hong Kong for Elephants also called upon the city’ s government to legislate a permanent ban on ivory sales.

The Hong Kong government’s burning plans followed China’s, which in January pulverized six tons of illegal tusks.

In a recent official visit in Africa, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also vowed to combat poaching and ivory smuggling.

“Changes are afoot for the better for elephants. This is an extraordinary encouraging moment for the global effort to reduce ivory demand in Asia,”  said Iris Ho of Humane Society International, an organization that works on animal protection.

via Hong Kong Retailers Say They’ll Stop Selling Ivory – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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China in numbers: building a trading empire, brick by imitation brick | The Times

5,137 . . . is the number of shops on Alibaba’s Taobao ecommerce platform that claim to sell Lego — a favourite toy of a pushy Chinese middle class convinced that the Danish bricks will make their children creative, inventive and generally more brilliant.

Chinese children play with Lego bricks

The prices offered at many of the Lego-selling online stores are often ridiculously and suspiciously cheap. The Taobao trading system, one of the shinier jewels in Alibaba’s crown as the internet titan seeks what could be the world’s biggest tech listing in America, allows customers to haggle directly with the vendor. An aggressive-enough negotiation can land you a substantial bag of Lego-esque bricks for the equivalent of a couple of quid.

Alarms bells rightly ring. Not all of these 5,137 Taobao-based Lego stores, needless to say, are selling genuine Lego. Lego itself does not publicly guess at the extent to which its product is ripped off: lawyers with the battle scars of Chinese infringement suits suspect the proportion of those 5,137 selling fake Lego may be as high as 80 per cent.

The notion that China is a seething, nest of counterfeiting, trademark infringement and fraudulence is not new; nor is the fact that the stratospheric growth of ecommerce in China has significantly enlarged the speed and volume at which fake goods change hands.

The big question, as lawyers and companies arrive in Hong Kong this week for the world’s biggest intellectual property convention, is whether anything much is changing. Jack Lew, the US Treasury Secretary, will arrive today in Beijing and demand greater protection of intellectual property. It is unclear whether that will change much either.

The signals are not great. Last week, the Chinese food and drug authority warned that 75 per cent of foreign-branded drugs sold online (though mostly not through Taobao stores) in China were fake. The extent of the problem was especially grisly for cancer sufferers, whose online pursuit of cheap generic oncology medicine will, eight times out of ten, land them with fake drugs.

The difficulty here is that Taobao’s greatest quality — its huge accessibility for vendors — is also the source of the problem. Even if a store selling counterfeited goods is closed down, there are no barriers to prevent its owner opening a new one, under a new name, hours later. As the operator of Taobao, Alibaba has undertaken a limited range of regulatory functions. But on one critical issue it does not step in: if a company such as Lego believes that fake bricks bearing its brand are being sold from a Taobao store, Lego bears the burden of proving that the product is fake. Crucially, Lego cannot use the laughably low prices of the fake Lego as evidence.

A recent experiment by Taobao to designate all versions of a particular product (not Lego) fake if they fell below a particular price resulted in 42,000 stores being immediately closed. Six months later, almost all had re-opened.

The problem for Beijing is that Alibaba and Taobao are arguably too big to fail. The public cannot live without ecommerce any more and the authorities have identified the encouragement of innovation and the release of entrepreneurial spirits (of the sort being vigorously nurtured on Taobao) as the keys to building a sustainable economy.

As a listed company and as a provider of the medium for immense, minute-by-minute infringement of intellectual property, Alibaba may soon find itself under greater pressure to play the policeman. It may be able to resist that as long as the the plaintiffs are foreigners: it may not find that so easy when the brands being ripped off are Chinese and the complaints are domestic.

via China in numbers: building a trading empire, brick by imitation brick | The Times.

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Zhuhai Bests Hong Kong as China’s Most Livable City – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Hong Kong is no longer China’s most livable city.

It’s been knocked out by Zhuhai, which lies on the southern coast of Guangdong province across the border from Macau, according to the latest rankings from the government-affiliated Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Factors such as a large proportion of college students, a variety of dining and shopping venues and ample green space gave the city its edge, says Ni Pengfei, the director of the academy’s Center for City and Competitiveness.

Hong Kong and Haikou on Hainan Island placed second and third, respectively, while Shanghai ranked 10th. Beijing came in at 41st out of 294 cities, with the report attributing its low ranking to air pollution and high housing prices.

via Zhuhai Bests Hong Kong as China’s Most Livable City – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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2 Million Boxes Sold: China Goes Coconuts for Premier-Approved Candy – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Thanks to one Chinese leader’s sweet tooth, one candy maker is feeling pretty happy.

Over the past month, the Hainan-based Wenchang Chunguang Foodstuff Co. has sold about two million boxes of candies, each respectively comprised of a box of “coconut chips” and a box of “coconut milk roll.” The reason? Chinese premier Li Keqiang recently made a similar purchase at a convenience store during a visit in Haikou, capital city of southern Hainan province.

“The demand has been incredibly intense. At the beginning, no matter how fast we produced them, we still couldn’t meet the consumer demand,” Hainan-based sales manager Wu Sisi told China Real Time.

For those of you who might not be familiar with the contents of the “premier set,” the so-called “coconut milk rolls” are comprised of rolled wafers stuffed with coconut cream, while the “coconut chips” are basically flakes of dried coconut. The Chungang products are made from local Hainan-grown coconut, and have long been seen as a popular souvenir for tourists.

For Mr. Li, the humble purchase (total cost: 19 yuan, or $3) might have been motivated by the desire to seem more in touch with the lives of ordinary Chinese, as gesture that echoes a visit by Xi Jinping to a humble bun shop in Beijing last year, where the Chiense president spent just 21 yuan on a meal of stuffed pork buns, stir-fried liver and greens.

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Either way, the candy manufacturer is celebrating. Total sales of the so-called “premier package” of candy, comprising two boxes of dried coconut and “coconut milk roll,” have added up to about 19 million yuan ($3 million) in revenue between April 11 and May 11. That’s nearly as much as the company sold of the product in all of 2013.

via 2 Million Boxes Sold: China Goes Coconuts for Premier-Approved Candy – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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From Hong Kong With Love: A Toilet Map for Mainland Tourists – China Real Time Report – WSJ

A nasty row over whether children should be allowed to urinate in public has dampened Chinese enthusiasm for travel to Hong Kong, according to a WSJ poll.

Last month, tempers in Hong Kong flared after locals reacted furiously to the sight of a young mainland Chinese child urinating on the street while traveling with his parents in the former British colony, which prides itself on its immaculate subway and high levels of public cleanliness. The incident sparked protests, as well as angry debate.

This week, a WSJ poll of 1,065 Chinese-language readers found 79% of respondents say such events have made them less likely to visit the former British colony. Another 17% said it hadn’t made a difference to them, while 4% said they weren’t sure.

Still, one microblogger is hoping that an illustrated guide to Hong Kong’s toilets can help give relations between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese tourists a boost.

The online guide, titled From Hong Kong with Love: A Complete Manual on Finding a Toilet in Hong Kong, specifically covers the Mongkok area, where the most recent incident involving public urination and a mainland Chinese tourist took place. The dense commercial neighborhood is especially popular with mainland Chinese tourists.

The author of the guide, who identifies himself as being from Hong Kong, said he spent half a day taking pictures and taking notes in Mong Kok. “Every mainland friend who come to Hong Kong for travel or business should find it useful,” he said. “It may be naïve, but a thousand miles’ travel begins with one step,” he wrote.

via From Hong Kong With Love: A Toilet Map for Mainland Tourists – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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