Peeps – February 2009

February 25, 2009

Virtual voyeurs in the capital would be wise to steer clear of seedy online sites for the next few weeks. The State Council and the Ministry of Public Security are out for blood with Web sites found to be hawking flesh. Google, Baidu, Sina and Sohu are among the 19 sites blacklisted for providing pornographic or otherwise obscene content. These photos go against China’s social morals and have a negative influence on the public, especially on younger people, Cai Mingzhao, deputy director of the State Council Information Office, said at a teleconference announcing the campaign. The crackdown is certainly good news for Beijing screen siren Zhang Ziyi, who was recently photographed topless on a private beach while sharing an – ahem – intimate moment with her fiance. 


Many migrant laborers working in the capital were packed up and shipped back home ahead of the Spring Festival holiday as the global financial crisis began to reverberate through China, but the mass exodus did little to free up cash flow in the city. Seventy percent of Beijing residents said in a recent survey that they have been affected by the ongoing crisis, with freelancers and families earning less than 2,000 yuan per month reporting the most strain. The World Bank has forecast that in the new year, China’s heretofore breakneck economic growth will dip below 8 percent, to 7.5 percent, for the first time in two decades. 


Prices of inbound tour packages bottomed out during the 2009 Spring Festival, but holiday makers weren’t kicking it at home. Beijing’s three major railway stations handled* almost 10 million passengers during the holiday period, an 18 percent rise, year on year. To encourage air travel, the Chinese government cut fuel surcharges on domestic flights to 20 yuan on short distances and 40 yuan for longer trips, down from 80 yuan and 150 yuan, respectively. 


Millions of mobile subscribers ushered in the new year on the receiving end of a mass apology — via text message. Sanlu and the 21 other dairy companies implicated in last year’s melamine-contaminated milk scandal sent out the ** on New Year’s Day, saying “We are deeply sorry for the harm we have brought to children and to the society. We offer our sincere apology and plead for forgiveness.”  The apology was issued almost immediately after four executives from the companies pleaded guilty to selling sub-standard products at a trial in Hebei province. Now it’s only a matter of time before we express our personal condolences through SMS: “It sux that ur mom died. Paninoteca at one?” 


Would-be iPhone users in Beijing can stop holding their collective breath. The State Council agreed on Dec 31 to issue 3G network licenses to the three top Chinese telecom providers at the beginning of 2009. Li Yizhong, head of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said China plans to invest 280 billion yuan in 3G networks within the next two years. The networks will meet European and U.S. technological standards, in addition to domestic ones. 


Bird flu is back, and it’s in Beijing. Nineteen-year-old Huang Yanqing died in a Beijing hospital Jan 5 after a week-long battle with the H5N1 virus. A World Health Organization statement says she became infected while slaughtering and preparing ducks in a poultry market just outside Beijing. Inspectors are in the process of disinfecting or shutting down poultry markets in Hebei province, and China Daily reported that authorities have banned poultry from other parts of the country from entering the capital. Every person who came in contact with Huang just prior to her infection has been placed under medical surveillance, but no further cases have yet come to light. Avian flu has killed 248 people worldwide since 2003, but this is the first case in China in almost a year. Mao Qun’an, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, says despite the seemingly isolated nature of the case *(AS OF 1/06), officials are on the alert for additional infections. To play it safe in Beijing, don’t drink the water, and steer clear of the kaoya.


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