Improper use of health codes sparks outrage, Beijing bar shut down after Covid outbreak, education company pivots to livestreaming, male student expelled for drugging female classmate—it’s Viral Week
Red health code for bank depositors trying to get their money back
Customers of several rural banks in Henan province, which have reported financial problems since April, found that their provincial QR “health codes” turned red when they arrived in the province to withdraw their savings and defend their rights. Part of China’s data-driven contact-tracing scheme, a red health code indicates a person has had high risk of contracting Covid-19 and makes it impossible for them to use public transportation or enter most buildings—or go to the bank to withdraw money—until they’ve met relevant testing and quarantine requirements. Soon after the news broke, other customers of these banks, who are located in other provinces and haven’t been to Henan, also found that their Henan health code had turned red, while family members who are not bank customers still had green codes that indicated they are at low risk. The scheme has raised concern for the protection of personal data and abuse of public trust, and authorities in the provincial capital, Zhengzhou, announced they are investigating the cause.
New Oriental pivots to livestreaming after tutoring crackdown
Livestreams by education company New Oriental have gone viral for combining English lessons with product promotion. One New Oriental host sold meat on Douyin, China’s version of Tiktok, while introducing vocabulary like “steak” and “seasoning” in English to viewers. By the end of the livestream session, he had sold over 15 million yuan of merchandise, and made it onto the platform’s top sales list of the day. New Oriental is one of China’s largest private tutoring firms, but laid off 60,000 employees and restructured its core business after a regulatory crackdown on the industry last year.
Chinese Harry Potter audiobooks announced
Harry Potter fans reacted were excited by the news that audio platform Ximalaya would release audiobook versions of the novels in Mandarin for the first time, with well-regarded dubbing agency Voicegem handling the voice acting. The Harry Potter franchise has a huge following in China, with over18 million translated copies of the books sold nationwide and the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” section a major draw at Beijing’s Universal Studios theme park, which opened last year.
Bar linked to Covid outbreak in Beijing shut down
A popular Beijing bar has become the focal point of a sudden resurgence in Covid-19 cases in the capital. Heaven Supermarket is known for its free entry, all-night parties, and easy pick-ups. One reveler was allowed in despite having not been tested in the past 14 days (Beijing’s rules require a negative Covid test within 72 hours to enter any venue). Netizens were impressed by one bar-goer’s partying, shuttling 70 kilometers between home and the city center, and seemingly going without sleep for two days while visiting all sorts of clubs in Beijing’s nightlife hub of Sanlitun. The government response was swift: 700 restaurants in the area were ordered to close as of last Monday. Heaven Supermarket had its business license revoked for lax enforcement of Covid-19 restrictions, and a criminal case has been filed against the owner.
County offers rewards for villages with no petitioners
The city of Luoyang in Henan province has ordered one of its district to halt a controversial policy offering extra points on the high school entrance exam (zhongkao) to students from communities with no petitioners—people who have gone to a larger city, the provincial capital, or Beijing to make official complaints about issues ignored by the local government. Similarly controversial regulations have previously cropped up in other cities and provinces: In 2020, Tanghe county, also in Henan, offered half-price admission to scenic areas, free bus rides, and preferential admission to high-performing elementary and middle schools to people from villages with no petitioners.
Male student expelled for drugging female student’s coffee
A male student at Shanghai Foreign Languages University has been expelled and could face criminal charges for drugging a female student’s coffee in the library with taurine, a drug sold online and openly advertised (without scientific basis) as an aphrodisiac that could make women “compliant.” Following shortly after the brutal assault of four women in Tangshan last week, one of whom refused sexual harassment from one of the assailants, the incident has raised more questions about insufficient education on sexual consent in China.
Explosions at chemical plants kill seven
On June 16, a fire broke out at the sewage plant of a pesticide company in Lanzhou, Gansu province, killing six people and injuring eight. According to local authorities, the explosion was 600 square meters wide, while the cause is still under investigation. On June 18, another fire erupted at a petrochemical plant in Shanghai killing one and injuring one other. The fire could be seen for miles across Shanghai’s skyline. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but analysts note the relative age of the processing plant, and the low production rates in recent months due to epidemic prevention, being likely contributing factors.
Man died too late for family to receive compensation for workplace injury
A ruling on a man’s death at work from 2021 recently went viral online after it emerged that the family received no workplace injury compensation because his death occurred more than 48 hours after the injury. The victim, a worker at a property company in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while at work and was declared brain dead by doctors soon after. The man’s wife waited for their daughter to arrive from out-of-town before ending the man’s life support, 61 hours after the incident occurred. Harbin’s Human Resources and Social Insurance Bureau ruled that the man did not suffer company did not have to pay for workplace injury compensation, citing a clause in China’s “Workplace Injury Insurance Regulations” which states that workplace death is defined by death occurring within 48 hours of the injury taking place.