Showing posts with label China. Show all posts
Showing posts with label China. Show all posts

May 10, 2020

What Did China Know and When Did They Know It? (Covid-19)

            Wuhan at night.

The US and other countries have raised questions about whether China was fully transparent when the virus first emerged there.

So what do we know about what happened in China, and what did it say and do about the outbreak?
Here's our timeline:

1 December - The first onset of symptoms are observed, according to the Lancet medical journal.
However, it's believed the virus first appeared some time in November.

27 December - Chinese authorities are told about a Sars-like disease by a doctor in a provincial hospital in Hubei province.

By this point, cases are multiplying.

30 December - The health commission in Wuhan notifies local hospitals of a "pneumonia of unclear cause", and asks them to report any related information of suspicious cases in the past week.

Ai Fen, a leading doctor at Wuhan Central hospital, receives medical results from a patient with a suspected coronavirus.

Dr Ai takes a photo of the results and sends it to another doctor in the area. It circulates among the medical community in Wuhan.

Another doctor at Wuhan Central hospital, Dr Li Wenliang, sends a message to fellow doctors in a chat group warning them about the outbreak and advising they wear protective clothing to avoid infection. Dr Li is later summoned to the Public Security Bureau and accused of "making false comments" that had "severely disturbed the social order". 
Reports spread on Chinese social media Weibo of a "mysterious pneumonia", raising fears of a deadly virus.

31 December - Chinese officials confirm they are investigating 27 cases of viral pneumonia and dispatch a team of health experts to the region.
Authorities say seven are in a critical condition yet no human-to-human transmission has been identified.

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The authorities alert the World Health Organization (WHO).

1 January - A hospital in Wuhan posts on the Chinese social media platform WeChat that they are "fighting a mysterious pneumonia".

Dr Ai Fen says she is reprimanded by a hospital disciplinary committee for "spreading rumours".
The Wuhan Public Security Bureau detains eight people for spreading rumours about the virus, reporting it on a Chinese news programme, Xinwen Lianbo, a show watched by millions.
The WHO puts itself on an emergency footing to deal with a potential outbreak.

Chinese authorities shut down Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, the location of a number of cases and a potential source of the virus. 

Media captionChina let it spread, says Trump

3 January - Various allegations gain traction on Chinese social media, such as local health authorities silencing hospital staff from speaking out about the virus.
(We are unable to independently verify these posts and many were removed by Chinese authorities which heavily censor the internet.)

Wuhan health authorities say it is investigating the cause of the outbreak. Its statement says there has been no human-to-human transmission.

7 January - Chinese top leaders, including President Xi Jinping, discuss the outbreak at a meeting of the standing committee of the politburo, indicating they knew about the virus from an early date.

8 January - A second team of experts is sent to investigate the outbreak.

9 January - China makes public the genome of the coronavirus, proving its link to Sars and Mers viruses. Scientists are now able to develop tests for the virus.
11-17 January - The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) conducts its important annual political meetings for Hubei province. There are no reports of increases in cases during this period.

13 January - The first case outside China is confirmed. The WHO says a traveller from Wuhan was identified by officials in Thailand on 8 January and taken to hospital the same day.

14 January - The WHO posts on Twitter that "preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission."
However, there are reports that local hospitals suspect otherwise due to the number of patients.

15 January - A patient returns to the US from Wuhan and becomes the first known US case of Covid-19.

20 January - A group of health experts at China's National Health Commission confirm human-to-human transmission of the virus, as cases are identified elsewhere in the country.
The first case in South Korea is announced.

20 - 21 January - The WHO sends a delegation to conduct field research in Wuhan. They say evidence suggests human-to-human transmission is taking place but more analysis is needed.
21 January - China's flagship state-run newspaper, People's Daily, refers to coronavirus for the first time and what President Xi is doing to tackle it.
Up until then, state media is either ignoring or underplaying the outbreak, choosing to concentrate on plans for the Lunar New Year.

Chinese state media confirms 291 cases of coronavirus.
Responding to international pressure about a potential cover-up, Beijing's top political body responsible for law and order says: "Anyone who deliberately delays and hides the reporting of [virus] cases out of his or her own self-interest will be nailed on the pillar of shame for eternity."

The WHO discuss if they should announce that the outbreak is an international health emergency.

23 January - Wuhan (and nearby cities) are put under lockdown.
The WHO decides not to declare an international health emergency.

23-25 January - Construction workers in China start building two new hospitals from scratch.

24 January - The Chinese government bans the trade of wildlife throughout the country.

24-30 January - China celebrates the Lunar New Year holiday, when millions of people travel across the country.

25 January - Chinese officials request all travellers leaving the country to declare their health status.
28 January - Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, meets President Xi to discuss the outbreak, highlighting it as the institution's top priority.
30 January - The WHO declares Covid-19 a Public Health Emergency of Global Concern - this follows 82 confirmed cases outside China.

March 9, 2020

China Says They Are in Control of The Corona Virus, If True, At What Cost?

Coronavirus, at a Painful Cost

 Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Beijing says its heavy-handed measures are working. Can other countries battling the outbreak learn from its efforts — or is the cure worse than the disease?
BEIJING — As the new coronavirus races around the world, tanking markets, cutting off global travel and suspending school for hundreds of millions of children, governments are desperate for ways to contain it.

China, the place where it first appeared, says it has the answers.

To the surprise of some, the country that concealed and mismanaged the initial outbreak appears to be bringing it under control, at least by its own official figures. The number of new cases reported has fallen dramatically in recent days even as infections are surging in other countries. The World Health Organization has praised Beijing’s response.

Officials reported only 99 new cases on Saturday, down from around 2,000 a day just weeks ago, and for the second day in a row, none were detected in Hubei Province outside of its capital, Wuhan, the center of the outbreak.

China says the trend proves that its containment measures — which include a lockdown on nearly 60 million people in Hubei and strict quarantine and travel restrictions for hundreds of millions of citizens and foreigners — are working. And it has begun trying to promote its efforts as successful in propaganda at home and abroad.

The rest of the world, much of it fearfully confronting its first cases, has taken note. But there is also concern that China’s numbers may be flawed and incomplete. The real test will be whether the virus flares again when children return to classrooms and workers to factories, and commuters start taking buses and subways.

China’s blunt force strategy poses deeper questions for other countries. Its campaign has come at great cost to people’s livelihoods and personal liberties. Even countries that could copy China still have to ask whether the cure is worse than the disease.

“I think they did an amazing job of knocking the virus down,” said Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “But I don’t know if it’s sustainable. What have the Chinese really accomplished? Have they really contained the virus? Or have they just suppressed it?”

Elsewhere, Italy, South Korea and Iran are struggling to control the spread of the virus. In the United States, where there are now more than 400 confirmed cases, the government has been criticized for fumbling its rollout of test kits and allowing the virus to spread in vulnerable communities like a nursing home in Seattle. The outbreak now threatens global growth and is intensifying a backlash against immigration and globalization.

The economy has ground to a near standstill, and many small businesses say they may soon run out of cash. Patients with critical illnesses are struggling to find timely care, and some have died. Hundreds of millions of people have been placed in some form of isolation. As of Friday, about 827,000 people remained under quarantine in Beijing, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper.

“I have been worried about all the focus on just controlling the virus,” said Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. She recommended a more measured response, such as that taken by the governments in Hong Kong and Singapore. Officials there enacted targeted quarantines but did not shut down workplaces altogether, allowing their respective economies to continue operating while so far successfully containing the virus.

“We have to take a broad view of the impact on society,” Dr. Nuzzo said, “and do a better accounting for the social tolls of these measures that is not just focused on the numbers.”

For China, the numbers are key.
 Credit...Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The number of cases reported on Saturday was a substantial decline from two and a half weeks ago, when China was recording around 2,000 new infections and as many as 100 deaths a day. Twenty-eight new deaths were reported on Saturday, all in Hubei.

In Beijing, traffic was light on Friday afternoon during what would usually have been rush hour.
In Beijing, traffic was light on Friday afternoon during what would usually have been rush hour.Credit...Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
By comparison, Italy reported 49 deaths from the virus on Friday.

Outside of Wuhan, the spread has effectively stopped, according to the official figures. All but one of the 99 new cases reported on Saturday were in Wuhan or were people who had traveled to China from abroad.

The World Health Organization says China’s containment measures may have saved hundreds of thousands of people from infection. Its efforts show that uncontrolled spread of the virus “is not a one-way street,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the group’s director general, said on Thursday.

“This epidemic can be pushed back,” Dr. Tedros said, “but only with a collective, coordinated and comprehensive approach that engages the entire machinery of government.”

W.H.O. experts sent to China have also highlighted clinics that could diagnose hundreds of cases a day with CT scans and laboratory tests, and the mass isolation centers in stadiums in Wuhan that separated people who had mild infections from their families.

“There’s no question that China’s bold approach to the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of what was a rapidly escalating and continues to be a deadly epidemic,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, the leader of the W.H.O. team that visited China, told reporters in Beijing late last month.

The numbers suggest that aggressive quarantine measures, when fully enforced, could choke the spread of the virus, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.

“This is the largest public health experiment in the history of humankind,” Dr. Schaffner said. “They can’t turn it off, but they did turn it down. And it did provide the rest of the world with some extra time.”

Still, the total number of infections in China, at more than 80,000, is staggering. And there are reasons to doubt the official figures.

In the early days of the outbreak, a shortage of test kits and hospital beds meant that many were not able to get tested. Many mild infections are likely going undetected. The government has changed how it counts cases several times in recent weeks, prompting large fluctuations in the reported figures, though experts say such adjustments are not unusual.

Medical experts say that there have been few signs that the government has aggressively tested for the coronavirus outside of medical facilities in Hubei. Until they broaden the scope of testing, experts say, it will be impossible to determine the true extent of the epidemic because those who have mild infections might not see a doctor.

“At the moment we are focused on the tip of the iceberg,” said David Hui, the director of the Stanley Ho Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The ruling Communist Party hails the slowdown of the outbreak as a sign of the superiority of its authoritarian, top-down political system that gives officials nearly unchecked power. But its heavy-handed measures are testing the patience of its citizens, many of whom think such a clampdown could have been avoided if officials had not first hid the scale of the outbreak and silenced whistle-blowers.

The impact of the restrictions has been felt most acutely in Hubei, where 56 million people have been effectively penned in since January. For more than five weeks, the typically bustling hub of universities, commerce and transportation has been transformed into a collection of ghost towns as the virus has ravaged communities, ensnared entire families and infected thousands of medical workers.

China’s experience combating the virus has also highlighted the risk of family transmission if hospitals run out of beds and testing kits, as they did in Wuhan, where for weeks, many who were sick were sent home and infected their relatives.

Supermarket workers prepared to deliver bags of vegetables to residents in Wuhan.
Roadblocks have sealed off cities, public transportation has been shut down and private cars have been mostly banned from the roads. In Wuhan, restrictions on individual movement have been stepped up in recent weeks, with residents now mostly barred from leaving their homes.

Among residents in Hubei, there are signs that anger and frustration are mounting. Chinese social media sites are flooded with posts from residents saying they have lost their jobs because of the extended lockdown, making it difficult to make payments on mortgages and loans. Others have described food shortages in their communities.

On Thursday, in a rare public rebuke of the government, disgruntled people in a residential community in Wuhan heckled high-level officials as they walked through the neighborhood on an inspection.

“Fake! Everything is fake!” shouted one resident at the delegation, which included Sun Chunlan, a vice premier leading the central government’s response to the outbreak.

The state-run People’s Daily newspaper later said that the accusations were aimed at local neighborhood officials who had “faked” delivery of vegetables and meat to residents. Ms. Sun ordered an immediate investigation into the issue.

Wang Zhonglin, the party secretary of Wuhan, announced plans on Friday to teach the city’s residents to be grateful to the party, a move that was quickly met with derision and anger on Chinese social media.

Relationships are also fraying as families are forced to live for extended periods in confined spaces. Guo Jing, a feminist activist in Wuhan, said she and other volunteers had fielded a number of requests for help from residents reporting physical abuse by their family members at home.

“Under these circumstances, it’s really difficult for them to find help during the epidemic,” said Ms. Guo. “It’s so difficult to leave the house.”
 Credit...Getty Images

Erecting a makeshift barricade at residential compound in Wuhan.Credit...Getty Images
Fang Fang, a writer who has been keeping a widely read — and often-censored — online journal of life in Wuhan, said that the lockdown was exacting a psychological toll on residents.

“Ordinary people have no source of income and lack a sense of certainty even about when they’ll be able to go out,” she wrote in a recent entry. “When you can’t feel the ground or you lose control over a situation, it’s easy to lose the most basic sense of security.”

Outside of Hubei, China wants to fire up its economy, but local officials are also under immense pressure to take no risks in order to reduce the number of infections. Even as provinces have lowered their alert levels for the virus, many companies are choosing to err on the side of caution. Some have even faked electricity consumption rates in order to hit stringent back-to-work targets, according to a recent report by Caixin, an influential Chinese magazine.

Credit...Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

March 6, 2020

A Dating App Helped A Generation of Chinese Gays Come Out


ike many gay Chinese growing up at the turn of the millennium, Duan Shuai began his long, deliberate process of coming out online. After school, he would visit the newly opened internet cafe in his hometown, Xinzhou, a small city in Shanxi Province bounded by a veil of mountains. He would pick a desktop facing away from the wall so that nobody could look over his shoulder. Then he’d go to QQ, the new instant-messaging service and online forum, and type in the Chinese word for “homosexual” — tongzhi, or comrade.

Offline, Duan had known for a long time that he was different — and he knew no one else like him. Even in grade school, while his male classmates talked about girls, he nursed a secret crush on a boy, a gregarious, basketball-playing class monitor. Online, he stumbled into a world where he finally felt he belonged, a place where gay people like himself sought kinship and connection. When he was 17, he watched “Lan Yu,” a 2001 Chinese film about a love affair between a male college student from northern China and a businessman in Beijing, based on a novel published online by an author known only as Beijing Comrade. Duan was moved by one scene in particular, in which the businessman brings his lover home for the Chinese New Year to share a customary hotpot meal with his family. He caught a glimpse into a future he never knew existed — a future that was perhaps within his reach too.

A diligent student, Duan aced his gaokao — China’s national entrance exam — and moved from his secluded hometown to the city of Tianjin, studying literature at a top university. To familiarize himself with China’s burgeoning gay culture, he listened to the talks by the gender-studies scholar Li Yinhe on the popular television channel Hunan TV; read “Crystal Boys,” a novel about gay youth in Taipei by the Taiwanese writer Bai Xinyong; and frequented online chat rooms for gay men like Boy Air, BF99, Don’t Cry My Friends and the local Tianjin Cool, where he met his first boyfriend, a graduate student five years his senior.

As Duan came of age, so did the Chinese internet. In 2000, when he was still in grade school, there were about 23 million Chinese internet users; the nation’s first internet cafes had only recently opened in Shanghai. Today that number has swelled to more than 900 million, and a vast majority of them are using mobile devices. Whereas Duan once sought out gay communities in small groups and quiet bars, today, as a 33-year-old working in publishing in Beijing, he can join gay meet-ups on WeChat; follow blogs and coming-out stories on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform; and, perhaps most crucial, he can connect and find partners on Blued, a gay social networking app. There are other options — Grindr operates in China — but Blued is the most popular by far. When Duan opens up the app anywhere in the country, be it in Beijing’s bustling commercial district Sanlitun or back in Xinzhou, he’ll find an endless scroll of users: cosmopolitan yuppies dressed in drag, rural blue-collar workers with faceless profiles. The company’s slogan, “He’s Right Next Door,” embodies its ethos: to bring together gay men from all segments of Chinese society into one digital ecosystem. 

China is home to an L.G.B.T.Q. population larger than all of France, around 70 million people (based on the assumption that about 5 percent of any given population identifies as queer). But according to a United Nations estimate, less than 5 percent of gay Chinese choose to come out. Blued (pronounced “blue-duh” or “blue-dee”) has a reported in-country user base of some 24 million, suggesting many Chinese have opted for some middle ground. It is easily among the most popular gay dating apps in the world. Like WeChat, Blued aspires to be a Swiss Army knife for its users, absorbing features from other apps, like newsfeeds and livestreaming functions — as well as real-world resources like H.I.V. testing and a surrogacy service called Blue Baby — and integrating them as quickly as possible. It’s like “Grindr crossed with Facebook, and more,” one former employee told me.

Blued is in a peculiar position: It might be the biggest app of its kind, yet it is also the most precarious. It is a tech company in a society that has been transformed by free-market reforms, but also a gay tech company operating under a one-party government with an ambiguous stance toward L.G.B.T.Q. issues that has been tightening its grip in recent years on civil-society and minority groups all across China. Internationally, China has publicly vocalized its support for gay rights at the United Nations, stating that it opposes all forms of “discrimination, violence and intolerance based on sexual orientation.” But domestically, gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples are not allowed, and there are no known openly gay public figures in the government or explicit forms of legal protection against L.G.B.T.Q. discrimination in the workplace. Shanghai’s annual Pride Festival has run openly and unhindered for the last 11 years, and yet the government routinely censors gay content in the media. In Beijing, the popular gay club Destination hosts regular drag performances while the movie theater down the street screens the Freddie Mercury biopic, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” with its gay content cut out.

“The rule is not that you’re not allowed to be gay,” says Ben Mason, Blued’s former international marketing manager. “It just means that you have to play by the rules.” Gay communities must navigate the same confusing terrain that all civil-society groups in China do, learning to read the unpredictable and shifting tides of relaxation and control, a cyclical process that scholars of Chinese politics call fang/shou (“opening up and tightening”).

On one hand, the rise of the Chinese internet, facilitated by the last three decades of market reforms, has allowed for unprecedented connection and visibility for gay communities in China. It’s no problem at all for a Chinese tech company to run L.G.B.T.Q.-specific marketing campaigns, and indeed, many of them do. But since 2016, as part of a cultural crackdown on “vulgar, immoral and unhealthy content” — which includes everything from hip-hop music to tattoos — China’s state regulators have banned portrayals of “abnormal sexual relations” in television, including same-sex relationships. Popular Chinese shows with gay story lines were removed from screening sites. One gay-dating app, Zank, was shut down by the government, and a lesbian-dating app, Rela, disappeared shortly after. Following one of these bans, Blued scrubbed homosexuality-related words like “gay” and “tongzhi” from its Chinese website, changing the official company description to “The World’s Leading Interest-Based Social & Health Education Network.” (The company declined to comment for this article, which draws on interviews with several investors and former employees and published sources.)

No L.G.B.T.Q. group has performed this dance with the authorities as successfully and carefully as Blued — a for-profit entity. By staying within the commercial and public-health sectors and framing the fight for gay recognition in terms of business, the company, under the leadership of its founder and chief executive, Geng Le, has cultivated a minority community free of political activism. The company has cultivated strategic relationships within the government and raised L.G.B.T.Q. visibility, all while avoiding any kind of explicit agitation for gay rights. Geng has put his faith in the power of the so-called pink yuan to nudge China’s closet doors open — not just because money talks, but also because in today’s China, talking in terms of money is the safest option. 

Blued and its related services operate under the aegis of Blue City, which is also the name of its two-story headquarters in central Beijing. Inside, it looks like “any other tech-start-up,” says Sifan Lu, Geng’s former personal assistant, “but just slightly gayer.” On the first floor, there is a lounge and recreation area; on the second, employees work in an airy open-floor office space with murals, gender-neutral bathrooms and oil paintings of hunky, shirtless men. Employees have enjoyed classic start-up benefits like free lunch and company beach retreats, some with a queer twist, like a drag performance at the Lunar New Year; company swag has included plush toys of a unicorn with a rainbow horn. The conference rooms are named after queer films like “Brokeback Mountain” and, of course, “Lan Yu.” At the entrance, on a wall next to a table of glass bottles of sand imported from Geng’s hometown, the Chinese words: “Qinhuangdao’s sea and sand, that is the home of Danlan.”

Danlan was the bare-bones, browser-based website that Geng created nearly two decades ago. Back then, Geng went by his birth name, Ma Baoli, and he began his career as a police officer in Qinhuangdao, a small seaside city in China’s northern Hebei Province. His rise from closeted cop to out tech mogul has been widely documented in the media: He grew up in the early ’90s, when homosexuality was still prosecuted as “hooliganism,” punishable by detention or even time at a labor camp. In his darker moments, he would sit by the beach and look out into the waves to calm himself down. He, too, came to terms with his sexuality in an internet cafe, after feverishly reading the novel that inspired “Lan Yu,” the film that Duan Shuai would watch several years later. He broke down in tears while reading it because he realized he was not alone. In 2000, under the pseudonym Geng Le and with the help of a coding book he bought called “The Oriental King of Web-Making,” he created a website for gay men to connect, exchange personal stories and share information on everything from safe sex to gay literature, naming it Danlan: “light blue,” after the color of the water off the Qinhuangdao coast. Like the sea — faraway, yet full of possibility — Danlan would be a sanctuary for gay men to express their hopes and fears.

Historically, Chinese society has neither recognized nor shunned its queer communities. Chinese religious traditions like Buddhism and Confucianism do not overtly condemn homosexuality, which means that cultural attitudes are more malleable there than in other Asian countries like Indonesia or the Philippines. Nor was homosexuality considered by authorities to be a decadent Western import; on the contrary, it is widespread and recognized in Chinese history and culture. One of China’s literary masterpieces, “Dream of the Red Chamber,” an 18th-century novel, is filled with same-sex relationships. A term still used today to refer to gay relationships — duan xiu, or “cut sleeve” — comes from a story in “The Book of Han,” an official history of the Han dynasty that was completed in the second century, in which the emperor wakes from a nap to find his male lover still asleep on his robe, and tenderly cuts off his sleeve to avoid waking him.

When China began to turn toward the West in the late 19th century, it also absorbed a pathologizing view of homosexuality as an illness — an attitude that would not soften again until a century later, with the introduction of Deng Xiaoping’s open-door policy in the late ’70s, which opened up markets and encouraged the liberalization of Chinese society. Still, homosexuality was formally considered a mental illness until 2001. But in recent years, the government has neither expressed explicit support for the L.G.B.T.Q. community nor sought to crush it. Whereas Russia has adopted a position “that L.G.B.T. rights is a Western conspiracy designed to weaken the nation,” says Darius Longarino, a fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center, “in China, it’s not like that at all.” In fact, state media has even attempted to distinguish the L.G.B.T.Q. movement from its Western counterparts and portray its progress as one with “Chinese characteristics.” Recently, The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, published an article titled “China’s L.G.B.T. activists break away from Western agenda,” arguing that because of China’s unique climate, the path to progress should be less driven by political activism than in the West.

But longstanding Confucian traditions and values — an emphasis on having a respectable marriage, giving birth to sons, saving face and filial piety — remain deeply embedded in the fabric of Chinese society. This dynamic also means that family is the place where rejection and discrimination occur most frequently, particularly among the older generation. These paradoxes are clearly visible in the figure of Jin Xing, the nationally beloved talk-show host sometimes called China’s Oprah: She is a transgender woman, and the reluctant face of trans China, but she also often espouses conservative gender norms, like the importance of a woman’s domestic role in childbearing and good housekeeping.

China’s one-child policy further increased pressure on some gay Chinese to stay in the closet and enter heterosexual relationships, because parents pinned all their hopes on one child to provide genetic, legally recognized grandchildren to continue the family line. This emphasis on upholding traditional family and marital institutions has driven many Chinese to participate in xinghun — “cooperative marriages,” often between a gay man and a lesbian, to keep up the appearance of heterosexual life. The internet has facilitated these arrangements, with websites like claiming to have arranged hundreds of thousands of marriages over the last decade.

By 2008, the number of internet users in China had grown a hundredfold since Geng founded Danlan. To meet rapidly growing demand, he recruited five other team members, running the website out of a rented apartment and working through the night. Eventually, he expanded to Beijing, keeping up this double life — shuttling between roles as straight Qinhuangdao cop, happily married and respected by his colleagues, and gay Beijing entrepreneur — until 2012. A friend of Geng’s asked if he could shoot a documentary about Danlan for Sohu, a Chinese social media site. Geng agreed, assuming the video would have a relatively small audience. It didn’t. Shortly after its release, Geng received a call from his police bureau, demanding he return to his post. His bosses gave him an ultimatum: Shut down the website or quit his job and leave. He handed in his resignation that day, along with the uniform that he had worn since he was 16. He was disgraced — spurned by his colleagues, disapproved of by his parents — and his marriage dissolved. But he had finally come out.

Private enterprises in China must navigate government officialdom without being directly confrontational, operating by a set of rules that are as opaque as they are capriciously applied. Crucial to Blued’s success was its ability to align its agenda with the interests of authority. When Geng arrived in Beijing, he saw that government interventions were failing in China’s growing H.I.V. epidemic. (An estimated 780,000 Chinese would contract H.I.V. by the end of 2011, with homosexual transmission accounting for almost a fifth of infections.) Geng contacted the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to offer Danlan’s services in public-health outreach, securing the company’s first government partnership in 2009.

Today Blued runs H.I.V.-testing offices with the C.D.C. in Beijing and an online databank that connects users with other testing centers nationwide. This alliance with the government gave the company legitimacy in the eyes of the public and prospective investors. In November 2012, the C.D.C. invited Danlan to take part in a conference on World AIDS Day led by a high-ranking official, Li Keqiang, now second in command to President Xi Jinping. “Greetings, Premier, I run a gay website,” Geng Le said to Li as he shook his hand. The handshake — captured as a photograph, shared widely in the media and later hung at the entrance of Blue City headquarters — changed the company’s fate. It was the party’s stamp of approval, and that seemed to lay the foundations for the company’s rapid growth.

Danlan introduced the Blued app in 2012, a few years before the government introduced a nationwide policy to boost its tech economy. The company, once kept alive by 50-to-500-yuan donations, received its first angel investment of roughly $480,000 in 2013. It then raised a Series A round investment of $1.6 million led by the venture-capital firm Crystal Stream and in 2014 raised an additional $30 million from another venture-capital firm, DCM. “We knew that social networking sites were going to be verticalized, and there were going to be niches,” David Chao, a DCM founder and general partner, says. “In China, even niches would be massive.” In the last few years, having monopolized the gay-dating app market in China, Blued has expanded to Mexico, Brazil and India. Bloomberg News has cited insiders’ predictions that should the company go public, which in 2019 it was reported to be considering, it could be valued at as much as $1 billion.

There is a saying in China that “serving the renmin” (the people) has taken a back seat to “serving the renminbi” (the yuan). Geng’s business model is apparently founded on the belief that to serve the renminbi is to serve the people. Proving gay China’s worth in the marketplace first, the argument goes, will shift public perception and pave the way for greater acceptance and freedoms. But according to Wang Shuaishuai, a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam researching digital gay-dating communities in China, this strategy might prove limited. Although social networking apps like Blued have allowed communities to form, they are closed, not public forums where Chinese people can build movements for their political rights. “The problem with being gay in China is that as long as you keep your sexual orientation private, you are fine,” Wang says. “But you cannot receive public respect and recognition.” If there were an L.G.B.T.Q. website whose major purpose was to discuss L.G.B.T.Q. activism, it would be gone within a week, according to Dan Zhou, an openly gay Chinese lawyer who specializes in gay rights. “Every day, somebody could shut down your website without prior notice,” Zhou says.

Blued has a content-moderation team that works around the clock, making sure all content is by the book. “On the Chinese app, the rules are very simple. If you show a bit of skin, you’re gone,” says Charles Fournier, a past product manager for Blued. The company’s censorship guidelines, updated constantly, recently banned images depicting shorts cropped above the knees.

Duan Shuai came out to his parents two years ago, at 30. It was Chinese New Year, and his mother was asking, once again, when he would bring a wife home. When he told her the truth, she cried, asking him to leave and never come back. He felt both sad and free — devastated to have disappointed his family but relieved to have finally spoken the words. “For many Chinese, coming out is long and drawn out,” Duan says. “Most people don’t just stride out of the closet like in American movies and announce that they are gay in this sudden, dramatic way. They’ll often agonize over it for years, gather a lot of information and place it by their parents’ bedside table, hoping that one day they’ll begin to understand.” 

Last May, in the bustling center of Beijing, Duan was standing by the keg station, wearing a rainbow-printed T-shirt, at the “Gaymazing Race,” a party co-hosted by the Beijing L.G.B.T. Center and the local craft-beer brewery Great Leap Brewing. “Right now, we’re going through a bit of a winter,” Duan explained to me. New laws governing NGOs have limited the ability for L.G.B.T.Q. groups to register and raise funds. In the past, organizers of events like the center’s annual L.G.B.T.Q. gala have frequently been asked to remove their posts or change locations last minute. In 2019, Duan, who volunteers for the organization, erred on the side of caution, keeping the event size small and promoting it only through word of mouth.

But Duan and essentially everyone I have spoken to involved in China’s L.G.B.T.Q. life — straight and gay, closeted and out, NGO volunteers and venture capitalists — seem to echo the same sentiment, that the freeze will pass. In contrast to other minority groups, the L.G.B.T.Q. community poses no explicit threat to party rule and is too low-priority to be on the government’s radar. When Weibo users filled the site with the protest hashtag #IAmGayNotAPervert in 2018, prompting the company to reverse an earlier policy to “clean up” gay content, the government kept quiet. In May, when Taiwan legalized gay marriage, my social newsfeeds lit up with celebratory rainbows, including a post from the state-owned People’s Daily. “There is restraint, bounding and cutting down, but censorship in practice is never an outright ban,” Darius Longarino says. “Authori­ties are not trying to fight but manage a wave, which they know is ultimately unstoppable.” After all, China’s gay population cuts across all sectors of society — from Shanxi to Shanghai, from the political margins to within the party itself.

In December, in response to a groundswell of suggestions for the updated draft of China’s civil code, China’s Legislature publicly acknowledged that when the government solicited public opinions last fall, it received a wave of requests for the legalization of same-sex marriage. The National Party Congress announced that it would review the code this month (although the meeting has been postponed because of the coronavirus). While same-sex marriage in China remains a distant reality, this was a clear indication that the government was acknowledging the status of an increasingly visible community. “Blued and other L.G.B.T. social media have connected the community in ways not possible before, laying the groundwork for a broad social movement,” Longarino says. But, he added, to push for greater change, they need a critical mass of Chinese to come to their side.

In January, Duan went home to celebrate Chinese New Year in Shanxi. Like hundreds of thousands of young Chinese who traveled back for the holidays, he has been cooped up at home since, waiting out the coronavirus. Duan has been able to spend more time with his family. A lot has changed since he came out to his mother two years ago. She’s not totally comfortable with his sexuality, he says, but can now talk openly with him about his work at the L.G.B.T. Center and even his new boyfriend.

Duan told me that young people ask him, in his work at the center, whether they should come out. He warns them that the challenges they face will be immense, but he remains optimistic about the internet’s power to change minds. “I was accepted,” he tells them, “more quickly than I could’ve imagined.” 

March 5, 2020

China Commits Crime Against Humanity By Censoring and Hiding COVID-19(Corona)Report

Image result for chinese newspapers and corona
 Then, Corona Virus explodes in China and nothing can be hidden anymore

Chinese media outlets have been accused of echoing the Chinese Communist Party’s political propaganda in understating the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak. It was only on 20 January 2020 when Beijing finally admitted the existence of human-to-human transmission.
But the surge in the number of confirmed infected cases and the sudden shutdown of Wuhan on 23 January probably encouraged several mainland Chinese journalists to overcome their fear of reprisal by reporting the real situation on the ground.
Caixin is one of the most well-known economic and finance news sites which had resisted the pressure from China's propaganda department with its in-depth investigative reports.
A few days after prominent Chinese pulmonologist Dr. Zhong Nanshan’s confirmation about human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus was aired on China Central Television on 20 January, Caixin interviewed Hong Kong microbiologist Guan Yi who estimated that the scale of the COVID-19 outbreak could be 10 times bigger than the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003. But the warning was neglected as a majority of media outlets followed the propaganda authority's instruction to avoid creating social panic in China.

China withholds COVID-19’s genome sequence for 14 days

Caixin’s latest investigation published on 26 February found out that at least 9 samples collected from patients with unexplained viral pneumonia had been sent to multiple labs for testing as early as December 2019. Upon interviewing a number of medical doctors who were in charge of treating patients at the very initial stage of the outbreak, Caixin journalists obtained a list of labs which had helped the hospitals to run an analysis of the new virus. Upon testing, a lab in Guangzhou found out that the genome sequence of the new virus was 87 percent similar to Bat SARS-like coronavirus. The lab shared the results with the China Institute of Pathogen Biology and Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention on 27 of December. However, the National Health Commission issued a new regulation banning all the labs from sharing and releasing their test results in early January.
China only allowed the release of the genome sequence of COVID-19 to the World Health Authority (WHO) on 11 January, two weeks after they got hold of the result. Caixin’s report is explosive since it showed how Beijing had withheld a very significant public health information for 14 days. The genome sequence is essential not only in the production of a diagnostic test but also in tracking the origin of the virus and prevent an outbreak in the future.
The investigative report was quickly removed online but netizens have archived the report here.

Hubei authorities covered up the outbreak

This is not the first time Caixin’s investigation was erased by the propaganda authority. In early February, an investigation that questioned the data of the confirmed infection and death toll was also censored. A doctor from the fever branch of a Wuhan hospital told Caixin that out of 120 fever patients they received on a single day, about 80 of them had pneumonia but only 5 were admitted while the rest had to quarantine themselves at home. Caixin’s reporters also interviewed a dozen families who shared that many of their relatives had died of unexplained pneumonia before testing for COVID-19 became a standard procedure.
Another censored investigation was an interview with one of the experts from National Health Authority who visited Wuhan on 8 January and reported two days after that the outbreak was under control while refuting any trace of human to human transmission. The expert added that they had visited the fever branch of seven major hospitals but received no reports of medical workers getting infected with COVID-19. Even though the team suspected that there was already human to human transmission of the virus, they had not collected any evidence from their visit which they attribute to the unreliable testimonies given by local health authorities and hospital administrators.
On 10 February, two top leaders of Health Commission in Hubei were dismissed from their positions since they were held responsible for the outbreak in Wuhan.
In an interview with Li Wenliang, the whistleblower who died of COVID-19 on 6 February, Li said that local authorities were aware of human to human transmission as early as 8 January.
Apart from being subjected to censorship, Caixin’s investigations are often labeled by authorities as a rumor. On 20 February, Caixin reported on the COVID-19 outbreak in an elderly center in Wuhan which reportedly claimed 11 lives. Yet, the majority of the cases were not counted in the death toll since the fatalities were not tested for COVID-19. Wuhan authorities flagged the report as a rumor the following day on popular Chinese social media site Weibo and claimed that the Wuhan Civic Affair Bureau had tested all the elderly in the center which identified 12 confirmed cases and one COVID-19 death. In response, Caixin published a list of 19 deaths between 23 December to 15 February. The list showed that at least 7 of them had died of pneumonia, 3 from unknown viral infections, 2 sudden deaths, and 7 from heart failure.
As of 1 March, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in China is 79,971 and the death toll is 2,873. While the figure is still big, the number of new confirmed cases has been declining for over a week and the Chinese propaganda agency has already published a book titled “China combatting COVID-19 in 2020″ (大國戰疫 2020)to glorify the state achievement in the handling of COVID-19. It is an indicator that control of the media sector might be tightened again to manipulate the flow of information about the COVID-19.
First Published in Global Voices

February 16, 2020

In a 5 Year Journey to Document Gay Love in China

Raul Ariano photographer on all photos

Although China officially decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, activists say the stigma around being LGBTQ — and discussing it publicly — remains today.
In the past few years, Chinese Web censors have made headlines for repeatedly targeting depictions of homosexuality. In a 2018 survey by the U.N. and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, only 5% of LGBTQ people in China felt comfortable being out at work.
Italian-born photographer Raul Ariano is currently based between Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He says he traveled from Italy because he was fascinated by "Chinese people and their way of adapting themselves in the fast-paced change of their society."
Over dinner during Ariano's first weekend in mainland China, he says he was talking with a friend who called LGBTQ people "sick and dangerous."
"I was shocked to hear that," Ariano says.
So, over the course of five years, Ariano set out to photograph more than 30 LGBTQ participants across mainland China — eventually turning the project into a portrait series.
He says his goal was to "share stories of love, dignity, and hope in a segment of society that tends to be hidden in China."

Because many people avoid coming out to their parents and relatives for fear of being rejected, Ariano says he constantly faced difficulties finding willing participants. He almost gave up on the project several times.
But between commercial and editorial assignments, he reached out to the local community with the help of PFLAG China, an organization based in Guangzhou City.
Ariano photographed participants in their apartments, with natural lighting and different colors to show the intimacy between couples.
He says he was inspired by Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai's 1997 movie Happy Together. The movie is famous for his masterful explorations of colors and blurs and its distinctive style.

Ariano says getting access to such private spaces in people's lives was the most challenging part of the project.
But the concept of home was compelling for him. He says it's "space where the couples share their time, their intimacy, and is a sort of shelter where they are protected and can be their real selves."
Throughout the series, Ariano met LGBTQ people across mainland China. Some had the support of their families. Others had been forced to endure conversion therapy.
"But the most incredible thing I have felt was the strength and the determination of those people to live the life they want," he says. "Whatever it takes."
Raul Ariano is an Italian photographer based in Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Shuran Huang is NPR's photo intern.

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