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China Environment

Changzhou “Toxic School” Scandal: Hundreds of Students Fall Sick, Some With Leukemia

News of a contaminated school campus located near a chemical factory in Changzhou has become top trending topic on China’s social media on April 18. Due to the school’s severely polluted water and air, nearly 500 students have fallen ill – some with leukemia.

Manya Koetse

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News of a contaminated school campus located near a chemical factory in Changzhou has become top trending topic on China’s social media on April 18. Due to the school’s severely polluted water and air, nearly 500 students have fallen ill – some with leukemia.

News of a polluted school area in China’s Changzhou (常州), Jiangsu province, that has left hundreds of students seriously ill, has hit Chinese netizens hard. State broadcaster CCTV reported the news on Saturday, with more details coming out the following days.

Students of Changzhou Foreign Language School fell ill after the middle school had moved to a new area in September of 2015. Soon, students started developing unusual health problems, such as severe skin reactions. These problems started surfacing when pupils got sick at the end of 2015. CCTV launched an investigation after concerned parents suspected a connection between the new school campus and their children’s illnesses.

By now, of the 641 students that have had medical check-ups, 493 students are confirmed to suffer from dermatitis, bronchitis, blood abnormalities, and other illnesses. There are also cases of cancer and leukemia. After several tests, the school’s air and water were found to be polluted due to three chemical plants that were housed near the premises of school campus, Sina News reports.

6aJQ-fxriqri6656866Students started getting skin reactions after moving to their new school (CCTV).

The news has become the focus of discussion on WeChat. On Sina Weibo, netizens are also responding to the news in great numbers, making the topic “Polluted School” (#被污染的学校#) a top trending topic.

On April 17, CCTV reported on its official Weibo account that according to China’s Ministry of Education, the school’s site had an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment, 环评) before moving the students there. The report noted that the soil and groundwater on the north side of the school were contaminated, forming a risk to human health – strictly prohibiting the school from using the water.

In a CCTV13 news report filmed at the school’s premises, students report that the water at school tasted “funny” and “sour”.

Changzhou Daily has released a statement on its Weibo account that the local government is currently investigating the case and that they have “zero tolerance” for pollution.

Netizens have responded in anger over the scandal, and the contrasting facts that are surfacing: “Either Changzou Daily or CCTV is lying,” one netizen says.

“Now that the details are being exposed, I just have one question: is this still a human world? I first always thought I would stay in China and wait for things to get better and if possible help them to get better, but now this madness is overwhelming. I can’t be sure that I will stay, but I want to stay,” one netizen nicknamed Riffharrise writes.

Now that so many students have fallen ill, some netizens wonder what this means for the employees of the chemical plants near the school.

One netizen, who says he is a school teacher in Changzhou, has posted photos of armed police at the school’s premises, where people allegedly have been protesting – yet this has not been officially confirmed.

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One netizen named Xiao Zhuzi writes: “Why is it always the common people who suffer the consequences? Why is it always that these kind of problems are only handled after they are exposed by the media? No matter what happens next, the victims are still victimized. If you take the stinger out, the sting will still be there. I love my homeland, but there’s nothing sweet about it.”

– By Manya Koetse

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Fresh Off the Boat, Xiamen Fish Are Tested for Covid-19

Catch of the day! These fish in Xiamen can’t escape their daily Covid test.

Manya Koetse

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It does not matter if you’re old or young, shrimp or fish – you can’t escape China’s zero-covid policy.

In the Jimei district of the coastal city of Xiamen, some fish and shrimp also had to do a nucleic acid test this week, leading to some banter on Chinese social media.

In the area, fishermen returning from a day of work have to undergo nucleic acid tests together with some of the fish that they caught during the day.

After the fishermen themselves have done the Covid test, they reportedly have to grab a few fresh fish from their catch of the day for the anti-epidemic workers to test. They open the mouth of the fish so that the fish can be tested with the cotton swab.

Chinese media outlet Sohu (搜狐新闻) posted a video about the issue on its Weibo account on August 17th, receiving over 90,000 likes and more than 8000 shares.

“I thought fish didn’t any lungs?” a popular comment said, with other commenters suggesting that this news made it clear that Covid “doesn’t affect the lungs but the brain instead.”

Another commenter suggested that if this matter concerned authorities, they should also start testing mosquitos.

Some also felt bad for the fish: “They still have to undergo this before getting killed.”

“The fish should be grateful for receiving a Covid test for free,” others wrote, while there were also people who wondered if parts of the sea would go into lockdown mode if some fish would test positive for Covid.

There were also critical commenters wondering about any scientific reasoning behind testing fish, asking who was getting paid to test them – suggesting commercial benefits outweigh scientific basis in this case.

“You can’t get Covid if you don’t have lungs, let alone if you live in the sea,” one Weibo user wrote, another person asking: “Have we all gone mad?”

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China Animals

‘Welcome Home, Molly’ – Chinese Zoo Elephant Returns to Kunming after Online Protest

One small step for animal protection in China, one giant leap for Molly the elephant.

Manya Koetse

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Following online protest and the efforts of animal activists, Molly has returned to the Kunming Zoo where she was born and where mother elephant Mopo is.

The little elephant named Molly is a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media recently.

The popular Asian elephant, born in the Kunming Zoo in 2016, was separated from her mother at the age of two in April of 2018. Molly was then transferred from Kunming Zoo to Qinyang, Jiaozuo (Henan), in exchange for another elephant. Over the past few years, fans of Molly started voicing their concerns online as the elephant was trained to do tricks and performances and to carry around tourists on her back at the Qinyang Swan Lake Ecological Garden (沁阳天鹅湖生态园), the Qinyang Hesheng Forest Zoo (沁阳和生森林动物园), the Jiaozuo Forestry Zoo (焦作森林动物园), and the Zhoukou Safari Park (周口野生动物世界).

Since the summer of 2021, more people started speaking out for Molly’s welfare when they spotted the elephant chained up and seemingly unhappy, forced to do handstands or play harmonica, with Molly’s handlers using iron hooks to coerce her into performing.

Earlier this month, Molly became a big topic on Chinese social media again due to various big accounts on Xiaohongshu and Weibo posting about the ‘Save Molly’ campaign and calling for an elephant performance ban in China (read more).

Although zookeepers denied any animal abuse and previously stated that the elephant is kept in good living conditions and that animal performances are no longer taking place, Molly’s story saw an unexpected turn this week. Thanks to the efforts of online netizens, Molly fans, and animal welfare activists, Molly was removed from Qinyang.

A popular edited image of Molly that has been shared a lot online.

On May 15, the Henan Forestry Bureau – which regulates the holding of all exotic species, including those in city zoos – announced that Molly would return to Kunming in order to provide “better living circumstances” for the elephant. A day later, on Monday, Molly left Qinyang and returned to the Kunming Zoo where she was born. In Kunming, Molly will first receive a thorough health check during the observation period.

Official announcement regarding Molly by the Henan Forestry Administration.

Many online commenters were happy to see Molly returning home. “Finally! This is great news,” many wrote, with others saying: “Please be good to her” and “Finally, after four years of hardship, Molly will be reunited with her mother.”

Besides regular Weibo accounts celebrating Molly’s return to Kunming, various Chinese state media accounts and official accounts (e.g. the Liaocheng Communist Youth League) also posted about Molly’s case and wished her a warm welcome and good wishes. One Weibo post on the matter by China News received over 76,000 likes on Monday.

Although many view the effective online ‘Save Molly’ campaign as an important milestone for animal welfare in China, some animal activists remind others that there are still other elephants in Chinese zoos who need help and better wildlife protection laws. Among them are the elephant Kamuli (卡目里) and two others who are still left in Qinyang.

For years, animal welfare activists in China and in other countries have been calling for Chinese animal protection laws. China does have wildlife protection laws, but they are often conflicting and do not apply to pets and there is no clear anti-animal abuse law.

“I’ll continue to follow this. What are the next arrangements? What is the plan for Molly and the other elephants? How will you guarantee a safe and proper living environment?”

Another Weibo user writes: “This is just a first step, there is much more to be done.”

To follow more updates regarding Molly, check out Twitter user ‘Diving Paddler’ here. We thank them for their contributions to this article.

To read more about zoos and wildlife parks causing online commotion in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse

References (other sources linked to within text)

Arcus Foundation (Ed.). 2021. State of the Apes: Killing, Capture, Trade and Ape Conservation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

China Daily. 2012. “Animal Rights Groups Seek Performance Ban.” China Daily, April 16 http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2012-04/16/content_25152066.htm [Accessed May 1 2022].

Li, Peter J. 2021. Animal Welfare in China: Culture, Politics and Crisis. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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