Voices from China

Weibo Watch: Issue 9

(November 21, 2011) In this instalment of Weibo Watch: the media investigates cadmium-contaminated rice, technological bird kills, and rivers polluted with heavy metals or choked with weeds; netizens catch online vendors selling protected species; and professors kneel in protest against steel factories, setting off a heated debate.

September 22: Caixin magazine has been hot on the trail of the contaminated rice issue. On September 22, Caixin journalist Gong Jing reported that 10% of rice sold in Chinese markets is contaminated with cadmium. The rice is grown on farmland polluted by factories. This latest report shows that little has changed over the past 10 years when earlier investigations by the Rice and Rice-Products Quality Monitor and Test Center of Agriculture Ministry in 2002 and the Agricultural Resources and Ecological Environment Research Institute of Nanjing Agriculture University in 2007 showed the same results. An earlier Caixin report that appeared this February described how the absence of regulations against planting on polluted land has permitted the problem to exist. According to its latest report, the Chinese Center for Disease Control has launched a survey about polluted rice.


On September 22nd, Shangdong-based environmentalist @任增颖 reported: “Pay attention to birds being killed with high technology. The migrating bird paradise, Shangdong Jiaolai Riverbank, is the scene of a deliberate bird kill. An electronic bird twitter is used to attract birds into a net. Tens of birds are killed every day by each person. This happens especially on the riverbanks of the Jiaolai River between the cities of Jiaozhou and Pingdu. Villagers from the area are joining in the kill. Trapped birds are sent straight to restaurants, 50 -60 RMB each.” 关注#“高科技”捕鸟—胶莱河畔电子鸟鸣引诱鸟撞网事件#候鸟天堂胶莱河畔“杀机四伏”,电子鸟鸣引诱鸟撞网,一人一天猎杀数十只。莱州与平度市交界的胶莱河床上,“高科技”捕鸟,电子鸟鸣引诱鸟撞网,直接送到饭店,每只的价格在五十到六十元,不少周围的村民加入到这个行列中,捕鸟赚钱。

On October 8th, Green Earth Volunteers’ river information project @绿家园江河信息 posted this news item: “The ecological deterioration of Guangdong’s coastal areas has led to heavy metal levels in sea products that exceed standards. http://t.cn/akmyEu The report also revealed that, according to the official Guangdong Sea Bulletin 2010, about 40% of sewage drain outlets along the Guangdong coast are dumping sewage that exceeds standards, and about 16% of Guangdong’s coastal waters are polluted. In 2010, the estuary of the Pearl River Delta, including the estuaries of the Rong, Shenzhen, and East Rivers, carried a total of 1.05 million tons of petroleum hydrocarbons, arsenic, heavy metal and other pollutants. 70% of the pollutants were carried by the Pearl River. 广东近海生态破坏严重 http://t.cn/akmyEu 多种海产品重金属超标:2010 年广东海洋公报显示,广东近海四成入海排污口排放污水超标,16%的近海海域正在遭受污染。2010年珠江八大入海口和榕江、深圳河、东江等主要入海河流携带入海的石油烃、砷、重金属等污染物108 万吨。其中珠江排入海的污染物占总量七成。

A Nanjing vendor is selling the crested goshawk, a protected species.

On October 29th, Netizen @鸟哨在行动 reported on Weibo: “On Ganjiwang, the biggest website for trading secondhand goods and advertising household management services, there are still lots of vendors who sell Class II protected species. [According to Article 9, the state shall give special protection to the species of wildlife which are rare or near extinction. The wildlife under special state protection shall consist of two classes: wildlife under first class protection and wildlife under second class protection. Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Wildlife.] As the photos below show, a Nanjing vendor is selling the crested goshawk. A volunteer investigation found that several kinds of Class II protected animals are on sale, such as the common kestrel, the Japanese sparrowhawk and the golden pheasant. Please forward this message and stop illegal trading of wild animals!” @赶集网上依然存在大量贩卖国家二级保护动物的卖家,如图所示,有一位南京的卖家公然贩卖凤头鹰!志愿者在调查过程中,还发现了卖红隼、日本松雀鹰、红腹锦鸡等各类国家二级保护动物 @国际爱护动物基金会 @随手拍野生动物贸易 @奚志农 希望大家能够多多转发,制止非法野生动物贸易!!!

The Xiang River.

In a movement that has become known as Xiang River Watcher, Green Hunan’s volunteers @绿色潇湘  have been working with the media and doing a wonderful job to monitor the Xiang River. Though their work is noble, they usually find sad situations. More and more photos and videos taken by Green Hunan’s volunteers are alerting people to the Xiang River’s abnormal conditions. Here are two photos that they posted in October and early November of 2011. Many segments of the Xiang River and its tributaries are covered by trash, water hyacinth, and duckweed.

Photos from the Xiang River.

On November 2nd, Wang Quanjie @忧国忧民王全杰, a professor at Yantai University, posted this story: “Shockingly, Professors kneel down before officials. Jinzhou (Hubei province) municipality and district government recruited investments to increase the local GDP. Factories producing fake and poor quality steel products were built near the Yangtze University. These factories are polluting the environment and are harmful to students’ and teachers’ health. Professors at the Yangzte University had been petitioning the central government, the Hubei provincial government, the Jinzhou municipal government and the district government, but have received no response from any of the authorities. Helplessly, on November 1st, the professors knelt down in front of the district government gate in protest. The district vice-director said to the professors: “There is no pollution in Africa, you should all move to Africa.”


This message has been circulated 26,130 times on Weibo in just fifteen days, with 7630 comments responding to it.

Professors kneeling in protest.

A delegate of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, Guo Jinlong @深圳政协委员郭晋龙criticized the professors: “One of my undergraduate students is now a professor of the Yangzte University. I told him: You are wasting what you learnt from me. How could you kneel down without any dignity? You should use your professional knowledge and ability, and try to make the Jinzhou municipal officials kneel down before you!” 我的一位本科学生也是该校的教授,我对其讲:“你白做我的学生了,怎么能毫无尊严地下跪呢?你们应当利用教授的专业知识和专业能力,想办法让荆州市政府官员向你们下跪啊!!”

A netizen @hyder_han replied to @政府破产不是戏言: “According to the original message, all legal procedures have been in vain. Obviously, it is impossible to hold a rally or rebellion. Kneeling is the only way to protest. Legal procedures make no difference, which means the government’s credibility is gone. News reports on similar cases reveal that the government is no longer trustworthy.” 原文中说所有合法渠道已经走不通,解决不了问题,显然暴动或游行没有条件,只有下跪了。合法途径走不通说明什么?类似新闻让人们明白一个道理:政府信用破产了,不再值得信任。

Netizen Lixing compared the professors’ strategy of protest to that of the migrant workers @李兴lixing: “If professors and migrant worker buddies have to kneel down before officials as the only way to solve their problems, our society is in a sad state.”如果教授和农民工兄弟都只有这一招来解决问题!社会太可悲了!

Another netizen @小帥男2010 commented: “Making reasonable arguments to the government won’t work. Kneeling is even more useless.” 和官府讲道理不行、下跪更没有用。@琼琳围脖 expressed similar views: “The professors kneeling is a kind of self-censorship of democracy. The Chinese people have knelt for thousands of years. No authority will lower his head for a person who kneels before him.” 教授集体向威权下跪,是一种民主自宫!中国人已经下跪了几千年了,从来没有一个威权者,会因此向下跪者低头。

Netizen @dadizhiziV commented ironically: “This is the outcome of decades of propaganda-filled education. The Chinese people have stood up and knelt down again and again. During the Kuomintang regime, intellectual Wen Yiduo protested fiercely against the authorities. Now they are keeping pace with the times, kneeling instead.” 这是几十年宣传教育的效果!站起来的中国人又跪下去了!当年闻一多教授拍案而起,现在与时俱进,改下跪了!厉害哦

Netizen @水清浅R argued with netizen @梦中草色新: “Power only belongs to citizens on paper. In practice, power always belongs to the leaders whose power comes from their higher authorities, and not from us, the people. The professors have been petitioning for four years. They have written letters nine times to various governments, from central to local. Don’t the professors know how to protect their rights with dignity? We are still so far from being a democracy and a republic.” 权力属于国民只是书本上的话而已,现实就是权力永远只属于领导,他们的权力来自于上级,与普通的你我他无关。四年时间,九次上书,上至国务院下至区政府,难道那些教授就不知道如何用你所谓的“有尊严”的维权么?我们离民主共和还远着呢

Netizen @夕阳在线81 has some last hopes for the party: “That professors are kneeling is not only sorrowful for intellectuals; it is sorrowful for all Chinese people. How can our Communist Party leaders not feel sad? That the vice-director of a district government could be so cold to professors. Where is the intellectuals’ status and dignity? Is respecting professionals a big joke? Intellectuals are broken-hearted.” 教授下跪,不单单是知识分子的悲哀,是中国文化的悲哀,是中国人民的悲哀,我们党中央领导难道会不感到悲哀?一个副区长也可以对教授们如此冷酷,知识分子还有什么地位、还有什么尊严?尊重知识、尊重人才岂非大大空话?知识分子的心冷了,心碎了!

Netizen @CarlMama wondered: “The government does extremely bad things. Why do we pay so many taxes to feed it? 政府的不作为已经发展到极致,真TMD不明白交了那么多税养这帮太爷是为啥!

Later on, Wang Quanjie @忧国忧民王全杰 added the local authority’s response: “On November 4th, Mr. Chen, director of the Jinzhou district Propaganda Department, said that in the government’s drive to recruit investments, these small scale steel factories had met all the required rules. Moving the steel factories would not solve the problem. It is better to move the university out of this district. He promised to enhance environmental monitoring of big steel factories.” 【面对教授之跪】4日荆州区委宣传部陈主任称,小钢厂是招商项目手续齐全,搬迁钢厂解决不了问题,最好能将大学搬走。并承诺“政府将加大钢厂环境监管力

Some netizens, @风凌隐 for instance, praised the professors’ kneeling: “The professors are bravely kneeling down. They will not lose their dignity. The public can see them taking on their duties (to protect students and themselves).” 教授们有勇气的一跪,丢掉的不会是他们的尊严!让公众看到的反而是勇于担当的坚强!赞一个!

Of course, there are always some netizens speaking for the factories, such as @心_无境: “You guys should think about this: if the factories are prohibited from opening, how many people will lose their jobs? Do you understand?” 你们倒是想想,如果这个工厂被禁止了,那么有多少人就失业了?你们懂吗?

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