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Chinese Baby Girl’s Birth Defect Raises Discussion on Prenatal Screening Accuracy

The birth of an infant with physical abnormalities, despite recurrent prenatal screenings, has sparked discussions on Chinese social media. A running investigation will reveal whether the hospital can be held accountable.

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The birth of an infant with physical abnormalities, despite recurrent prenatal screenings, has sparked discussions on Chinese social media. A running investigation will reveal whether the hospital can be held accountable.

A Chinese baby girl has made the news after she was born with birth defects, despite 8 prenatal screenings allegedly showing no health problems in the unborn infant.

On August 26, the 26-year-old Youping Lin from Shenzhen gave birth to a baby girl. Although the woman told Chinese media the labor went well, she was shocked to learn her newborn had severe psychical abnormalities, with the right side of the face missing the nostril and ear. The baby’s right eye is also closed, Lin said.

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The baby girl, born in Shenzhen on August 26.

According to The Paper and Legal Evening News (November 8), the girl’s birth defects nearly made her mother “collapse” and has made her clinically depressed.

 

“In a total of 8 prenatal screenings and 5 ultrasounds, doctors repeatedly told Lin that the unborn baby was perfectly normal.”

 

In a total of 8 prenatal screenings and 5 ultrasounds, doctors told Lin that the unborn baby was perfectly normal.

A running investigation by a third party institution [not further defined in Chinese media reports] will reveal if the hospital can be held accountable for the baby’s birth defects.

Youping Lin got pregnant in late 2015 and went for her first prenatal testing in February of 2016 at the Futian Renmin Hospital in Shenzhen. The ultrasounds included one 3D ultrasound. At the time, the view on the right side of the unborn baby’s face was blocked by its own hand. Nevertheless, doctors told the mother the unborn baby was completely normal.

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According to The Paper, hospital representatives have stated that they have used all possible prenatal screenings to detect abnormalities. They also said that although it is extremely rare for birth defects such as these to go unnoticed in prenatal screenings, they cannot be completely ruled out.

A similar news story also came out earlier this year, when a woman gave birth to a baby that was missing one arm. The distressed mother told reporters that repeated ultrasounds also did not spot the fact that her unborn baby had a birth defect.

 

“In China, approximately 900,000 infants are born with a birth defect or disability every year.”

 

Worldwide, 6% of annual live births are affected by birth defects. China has a relatively high occurrence; approximately 900,000 infants are born with a birth defect or disability every year, which is around 5.6% of total newborns (Liu et al 2016, 3615). Pregnancy affected by serious anomalies is allowed to be terminated at any time of the pregnancy in the People’s Republic of China (Deng et al 2015, 312).

On the Sina Weibo social media platform, the case has led to a discussion on who is responsible for the child’s physical abnormalities.

Many commenters think that the hospital is responsible: “The fact that the doctor said the unborn child was normal, even while the right side of the face was blocked by its hand, shows that they had a low sense of responsibility; that was just wishful thinking,” one netizen comments.

“After 8 prenatal screenings, this did not come out?!”, another Weibo user comments.

As reported by The Paper, hospital representatives have admitted that doctors would normally do a second 3D ultrasound if the fetus is not fully visible in the first one, but that this was not done in the case of Youping Lin.

“Poor baby girl! Is there no way to do plastic surgery? The doctors should help,” one commenter says.

“This is up for the law to decide. Who ever is responsible should take responsibility,” another Weibo user comments.

“But how can this be compensated for?” another netizen wonders: “In the end, it is the child and its family that will suffer. What kind of compensation will lessen their suffering?” Others also agree, writing: “What does it matter who is responsible? What matters is what will happen to this girl.”

 

“Some families consider their disabled child a shameful secret to be hidden.”

 

Giving birth to a child with severe physical abnormalities and/or disability has a huge impact on Chinese parents and families. People with disabilities are often stigmatized in China. A large number of disabled young children have no access to education because schools refuse to accept them.

Due to the ubiquitous stigmatization and discrimination, some families even consider their disabled child a “shameful secret to be hidden” (Coonan 2016).

Another major burden to Chinese households living with a child with a birth defect or disability is that it greatly affects their living standard. Without access to public welfare, medical treatments can be very costly or even unaffordable to some families. In Disability Policy in China (2016), the director of a large State Child Welfare institution is quoted telling about a 4-year-old girl that was abandoned at the Tianjin Railway station; the institution’s staff found that the girl had already had two major surgeries and that she needed just one more operation in order to survive (Mendes & Srighantan 2009, 1).

With such heavy burdens, many expecting parents will choose to terminate pregnancies when the unborn baby is diagnosed with a birth defect. In the case of Down Syndrome, around 95% of Chinese women terminate their pregnancy after learning the syndrome is detected in the fetus.

China’s Ministry of Health has promoted nationwide prenatal screenings for birth defects since 2003 (Deng et al 2015, 312). As pointed out in recent Chinese research, there has since been a sharp increase in the percentage of prenatal diagnosis and consequential birth termination (ibid., 315).

 

“Poor baby, I hope the parents will not ignore her and take care of her.”

 

Many Chinese netizens reflect on this news story and think about their own family. Discussions about the ethical issue of possible abortion for fetal abnormality, that is more prevalent in western countries, seem practically absent on Chinese social media. One of the main issues under discussion is the cost of prenatal screenings and their trustworthiness – this story concerned many mothers-to-be: “As an expectant mother, this news really worries me,” one woman replies.

Another person writes: “I am so very happy my baby is healthy. I also feel bad for this family that will be so burdened from now on, poor girl.”

“Poor baby, I hope the parents will not ignore her and take care of her,” one commenter says. Other Weibo users are also concerned about the girl’s future: “What will her life look like? She will endure much pain, just as her parents.”

– By Manya Koetse
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References

Coonan, Clifford. 2016. “Paralympic success challenges China’s attitude to disability.” Irish Times (October 3) http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/asia-pacific/paralympic-success-challenges-china-s-attitude-to-disability-1.2813993 [8.11.16].

Deng, C., Yi, L., Mu, Y., Zhu, J., Qin, Y., Fan, X., Li, Q. & Dai, L. 2015. “Recent trends in the birth prevalence of Down syndrome in China: impact of prenatal diagnosis and subsequent terminations.” Prenatal Diagnosis, 35(4): 311–318.

Liu, Q.-G., Sun, J., Xiao, X., & Song, G.-R. 2016. “Birth Defects Data from Surveillance Hospitals in Dalian City, China, 2006-2010.” The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 7058 (November): 1–22.

Mendes, Errol, and Sakunthala Srighantan (ed). 2009. Confronting Discrimination and Inequality in China: Chinese and Canadian Perspectives. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.

NB: other references are linked to in-text.

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

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Health & Science

Viral Politics: Next-Stage Investigation Into Covid-19 Origins Discussed on Weibo

Many Weibo users agree with Chinese officials that the U.S. re-investigation of the Covid-19 origin is about “political manipulation” and “blame-shifting.”

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While President Biden ordered a closer review into the origins of the Covid-19 and more countries are calling for action on a next phase study, Chinese officials demand that the U.S. thoroughly investigates the source of the epidemic within America’s own borders and biological labs.

Fifteen months after the WHO declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a global pandemic, the origin of the virus is still unclear. After the Wuhan field visit of the international WHO research team earlier in 2021, all hypotheses on the origin of the virus remain on the table.

As the efforts to get more people vaccinated continue and the outlook on containing Covid-19 are more positive, the question of where the virus that causes Covid-19 came from is attracting attention again. The issue of the ‘origin investigation problem’ (“溯源问题”) is also generating discussions on Chinese social media.

 

The U.S. Side: “Looking for a Definitive Conclusion”

 

On May 26, the White House released President Joe Biden’s statement calling for further investigation into the origins of Covid-19.

The statement says that there is still no definitive conclusion on the origins of the virus, with two scenarios being most likely: human contact with an infected animal or a laboratory accident. Biden writes that he has asked the Intelligence Community to “redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion,” asking for a follow-up within 90 days, with a special focus on China.

Speculation that the coronavirus may have emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan was first raised in early 2020, before being refuted and sidelined as a “conspiracy theory” by many scientists.

A statement in The Lancet published in February of 2020 condemned any rumors on the virus origins, claiming that scientific research “overwhelmingly” concludes that the new coronavirus originated in wildlife. The WHO research team investigating the origins of Covid-19 also called it “extremely unlikely” that the virus leaked from a lab in China.

The American Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was among those scientists who originally refuted the ‘lab leak’ theory. But in May of 2021, Fauci said he was “no longer convinced” that the Covid-19 pandemic originated naturally.

In American media, reports on the ‘lab leak theory’ have also seen shifting narratives, going from a ‘conspiracy theory’ to a seemingly credible one. Last month, a Wall Street Journal published an opinion article titled ‘The Science Suggests a Wuhan Lab Leak,’ which claims that the pathogen of the novel coronavirus has a genetic footprint that has never been observed in a natural coronavirus.

The Wall Street Journal also reported on a study by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which concluded that the hypothesis of a virus leak from a Chinese lab in Wuhan is plausible and deserves further investigation. The report by Wall Street Journal included an alleged American State Department’s assertion that the U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick in autumn 2019, “with symptoms that were consistent with Covid-19 or a seasonal flu.”

 

The Chinese Side: “It’s All about Blame-Shifting”

 

Chinese officials have repeatedly denied a possible leak from a Chinese laboratory and have emphasized their cooperation with international efforts to find the origins of the pandemic.

On May 27 of this year, a day after Biden’s statement was released, Zhao Lijian (赵立坚), spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, responded to the reinvestigation of China regarding the origins of the novel coronavirus.

Zhao argued that the US is not actually interested in the scientific origin of the virus, but that its determination to reinvestigate China despite previous scientific conclusions is all about “political manipulation” and “blame-shifting.” He further said that the US – with over 33 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and 600,000 deaths from Covid-19 – should examine its own behavior, instead of “attempting to scapegoat China.”

Although China was the first country to report Covid-19 infections, the official stance has been that this does not necessarily mean that the new coronavirus “patient zero” was also in China.

Prior to the Wuhan lab leak theory, China had been questioning the US military base Fort Detrick in Fredrick, Maryland, about the leak of Covid-19 as an agent of biochemical warfare. In May of last year, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying asked for an international review of Fort Detrick and other bio-labs.

In light of recent developments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) also, again, suggested that the U.S. should invite an international team of scientists to conduct an independent investigation on Fort Detrick on its potential link to the origin of Covid-19.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian during the press conference.

This stance was again reiterated by Zhao Lijian in a June 17 press conference, where the MFA spokesperson asked the U.S. to explain why, being the most medically country in the world, their COVID19 death toll was so high and why nobody would take responsibility for this and give more transparency on Fort Detrick.

On June 22, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs turned the tables on the U.S. and demanded a thorough investigation of (1) the source of the epidemic in the United States, a (2) thorough investigation of the why’s and who’s of the American inadequate response in fighting the epidemic, and then also (3) an investigation into the safety concerns at Fort Detrick other biological labs (#赵立坚请美国赶紧回答3个问题#).

 

Weibo Discussions and Hashtags

 

On Chinese social media, various discussions and hashtags have come up in response to the recent developments regarding the research into the COVID19 origins. Most commenters agree on one thing, namely that the next stage of Covid-19 origin investigations is seemingly more about politics than about the virus itself.

A hashtag titled “Biden Ordered US Intelligence to Investigate the Origins of Covid-19” (#拜登令美情报部门调查新冠病毒起源) appeared on the same day as the White House statement was released and immediately attracted over 35 million views. Another relating hashtag on Weibo is “U.S. Specialists Have Changed Their Tune Regarding COVID19 Origin” (#美国专家在新冠病毒的来源上改口了#).

On Weibo, the most common reaction to Biden’s investigation and American media coverage of the origins of the virus is one of suspicion towards their true intentions, ranging from intense emotions to sarcastic humor. Weibo users suggest that Biden’s call to action is a politically charged move to further blame China for the pandemic amidst growing China-US tensions. Most netizens commenting under this hashtag feel that the U.S. is deliberately hyping the issue to discredit China, turning the COVID19 origins issue into a geopolitical issue, rather than a scientific one.

One popular comment (@乐隐灯清) said: “If I say you have it, then you have it – [this is] the second season of ‘Laundry Detergent’!” This sarcastic comment refers to the famous UN meeting where US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented a vial containing white powder, supposedly proving that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling anthrax, in order to justify the US’s invasion of Iraq. Putin fired back by calling this vial of powder “laundry detergent.”

There are also web users who are concerned with the 90-day limit of Biden’s announced investigation, questioning whether such a relatively short time would be enough for a thorough and fair study. One user, whose profile image is the Chinese national flag, wrote: “90 days? If you investigated Fort Detrick starting in the morning, you would already have the conclusion before lunchtime!”

One user questioned the US President’s move to trace Covid-19’s origin in China instead of in his own country: “Are they giving 90 days to investigate the origin or 90 days to fabricate a rumor?”

Another hashtag is “Where did the new coronavirus originate?” (#新冠肺炎病毒起源于哪里#). On this hashtag page, most discussions revolve around the fact that COVID19 was already found in various countries outside of China during or just before the early days of the Wuhan outbreak. Various studies suggest that the coronavirus might have been circulating in the US and France a month before it was officially confirmed.

“The fact that Chinese scientists were the first to discover the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus does not mean that Wuhan is the source of Covid-19, and it certainly cannot be used as a pretext to conclude that the virus was made by Chinese scientists,” one Weibo blogger (@侠骨一点情) wrote.

There are those who believe it is probable that the virus did come from the U.S., saying that the American investigation into China is an issue of “zéi hǎn zhuō zéi” (贼喊捉贼), an idiom that literally means ‘a thief crying “Stop Thief!”,’ conveying the idea that it is easy for someone to accuse another in order to cover up one’s own misdeeds.

‘Investigate Thoroughly! Except Here’ (‘彻查!除了这儿’) by 半桶老阿汤 / Half Can of Old Soup

In response to the investigation, the computer graphics artist @半桶老阿汤 / ‘Half Can of Old Soup’ also released a cartoon, showing President Biden blocking the entrance to Fort Detrick, with a WHO research team standing in front of the entrance.

Many web users support the Chinese official reaction that it is time for America to investigate the epidemic within its own borders. “First, discrediting and framing China regarding the virus origin has become a ‘national policy’ of the U.S. government to get rid of their [own] predicaments,” Chinese economist Tao Yongyi (@陶永谊) wrote on Weibo: “Now, the best defense is a good offense.”

By Susanna Sun & Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Health & Science

China’s COVID-19 Vaccine Freebies: Get One Vaccine, Get Milk & Eggs for Free!

“Do I get free transport and a freebie with that vaccine?”

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While American vaccine incentives – where some counties would offer a free beer and fries to encourage more Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine – made international headlines, Chinese vaccine incentives have also been attracting the attention on Weibo and beyond.

Forget about free beer and fries. How about getting free milk, eggs, toilet paper, laundry detergent, or sesame oil after getting your shot? In China, and especially in Shanghai, some local vaccine sites have been offering all kinds of noteworthy freebies to encourage citizens to come and get their shots.

Since March and April of this year, netizens are sharing photos of COVID-19 vaccine posters online, such as this one, where you get a carton of milk after getting vaccinated:

Or these, where you get free vegetable oil or sesame oil:

Or how about two boxes of eggs?

One local initiative even offered free toilet paper earlier this year:

Another place in Shanghai offered bags of rice for free with your shot:

And others offered free pick-up services to those getting vaccinated:

Here you see people leaving with their milk cartons (and vaccinated!):

The freebies were meant to encourage more people to get their shots. But because of recent new COVID-19 cases in places like Anhui and Liaoning, more people are now in a rush to get vaccinated. Viral videos and posts on social media showed long queues at vaccine sites.

Popular WeChat account Xinwenge (新闻哥) reported a rapid shift in attitudes among young people towards getting the vaccine, from “do I get free transport and a freebie with that vaccine?” to “I’ll stand in line and do anything as long as I can get vaccinated.”

“Confirmed local cases will motivate people more [to get the vaccine] than eggs and milk,” one blogger from Guangdong wrote on Weibo.

Despite the surge of people going out to get their vaccine, some places still offer vaccine freebies. On social media, people are sharing the photos of their ‘vaccine souvenirs’; plastic bags with milk and cookies.

One Weibo user writes: “I was never so enthusiastic about getting my shot, until I heard they offered free milk and laundry detergent.”

Another Weibo user also shows off their ‘vaccine present’, getting free milk, soap, and rice with their COVID-19 vaccine: “And I didn’t even have to stand in line!”

By Manya Koetse & Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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