Monthly Archives: December 2019

Pastor Wang Yi

As reported earlier on this blog we have been prayerfully following the tragic story of Pastor Wang Yi and his Early Rain Covenant Church as it unfolded during the last year.

On December 9, 2018, the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan Province, was raided by authorities, forcibly shut down, and nearly 100 members of the congregation were arrested. Dozens of members of his “underground church” disappeared.

The church leader, pastor Wang Yi, was detained and accused of “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal business operation” by a court in southwest China’s Chengdu. According to an announcement on an official court website this week Wang had been “convicted” in an open trial by a court in the city, where Early Rain Covenant Church had been based.

The charge of “inciting subversion” is often used against dissidents as a way to silence criticism of the government and the Communist Party. China’s officially atheist government is wary of any organized movements outside its own control, including religious ones.

Shortly before being detained, Wang wrote a post on his church’s Facebook page criticizing the Chinese government for repressing Christians in the country, saying “the Party can flourish for a while, but it cannot last forever. The Party can kill my body, but it cannot kill my soul.”

Apparently, Wang Yi’s influence in China’s house churches “scared” the CCP. He was among the initiators of the joint statement by pastors denouncing the “persecution” of house churches in China.

Arrested members of the Early Rain Covenant Church were “tortured” to extract information from them and make them falsely “testify” against pastor Wang Yi, providing “evidence” that he “colluded with foreigners to incite subversion of state power.”

Some were reportedly “drugged” with unknown substances. While they were in a state of “mental” confusion, the police extracted false testimony from them and recorded “videos” to use as evidence.

The fabricated evidence has now been used. Pastor Wang Yi was tried on December 26 before the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court and the decision was announced on December 30. The Court was surrounded by armed police and both “relatives” of the Pastor and Early Rain Church members were “prevented” from entering.

Pastor Wang Yi has been sentenced to a term of “nine” years in jail, suspension of political rights for “three” years, and confiscation of his “personal” assets, for both “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal trade.” The second accusation refers to the fact that Early Rain Covenant Church “printed and sold” religious books.

The decision confirms that, after the New Regulation on Religious Affairs came into force in 2018, there is a systematic program aimed at “cracking” down on house churches. They are no longer tolerated as part of a Gray Market in the system of Chinese religion. Either they join the government-controlled “Three-Self Church”, or they are suppressed.

This is Xi Jinping’s China. As Pastor Wang Yi said himself, the persecution of Christians under Xi Jinping is “the most horrendous evil in Chinese society.”

Christians in the country are split between “unofficial house” or “underground” churches like the Early Rain Covenant Church, and state-sanctioned churches where Communist Party songs also feature in the order of service. Catholics are similarly divided between unofficial churches led by bishops recognized by the Vatican and those who follow official CCP prelates.

Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher with “Amnesty International”, said Wang’s sentence will “have a chilling effect on other house churches in China. The message is very clear, you will be the next Wang Yi if you don’t register and follow the Communist Party’s line on religion.”

Wang’s church was among a number of prominent “underground” churches shut down by the Chinese government in 2018 as part of a crackdown on religion, especially on followers of Islam and Christianity.

Beijing-based Zion Church, one of China’s largest “underground” Protestant churches, was banned by city authorities in September 2018 for operating without a license after dozens of officials stormed its premises. Earlier that year, unauthorized versions of the Bible were pulled from Chinese online retailers.

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Reading the Bible in China

Beginning April 2018, the Chinese government banned the sale of Bibles and other religious materials that are not sanctioned by the regime and started closing down stores that sell them. Since then, people of faith can purchase religious texts only from state-run organizations, while censorship measures are tightened on religious texts as part of the nationwide campaign to eradicate pornography and illegal publications.”

Religious books from abroad, magazines and hymn books published by printing houses that are not approved by the state, even gospel leaflets have been included on the list of materials to be confiscated, people banned from having them under the threat of punishment.

In October, a “house church” preacher was investigated by the police for having purchased online a Christian book published by a US publishing house three years ago. He was treated as a criminal: “police officers took photos of him and collected his fingerprints.” Not only his book was confiscated, but data on his cell phone was inspected as well. The preacher was warned not to buy religious materials that are not approved by the state.

“The police tracked him down by investigating his activities online. Such monitoring of citizens’ purchases on the internet is widespread in China,” a government source explained.

A couple from the prefecture-level city of Taizhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang were arrested by the local police in September, accused of selling religious literature imported from Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United States, and other countries.

Sharing a Gospel tract on the train.

According to a government insider, after the arrest, public security officers tracked down each buyer throughout the country the couple had sold religious materials to. They confiscated all books and talked to every buyer to collect information for further investigations. Even people who live in other provinces, like Henan, and purchased books from the couple two years ago were brought in for interrogation.

“These were regular books on religion, published by publishing houses or organizations abroad, for example, A Kernel of Wheat Christian Ministries in the United States. But they are the cause of investigations and are confiscated. Since last year, the regime has been intensifying its control over people’s faith, banning non-government-approved publications of various religions, including Christianity, Islam, and others. They are even revising the Bible. No books will soon be able to reach mainland China,” a house church preacher said worriedly.

Under the CCP’s high-pressure policy, religious periodicals are also struggling to survive. An editor of a religious magazine who required anonymity said that launching a religious publication is now considered a serious crime in China. “Only those censored by the government are allowed. Even then, many issues are banned from their pages, like cases of removal of crosses from churches. Since Xi Jinping took power, the government’s control over this field has intensified colossally,” the editor added.

Pressured by the government, many publications have been discontinued. The Spring Rain News, a newspaper founded by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in October 2014, was targeted during a nationwide campaign last year that resulted in its closure and arrests of subscribers.

The Catholic newspaper “Breeze”, published by the Ningjin Diocese in the northern province of Hebei, was forced to cease publication in October 2018. Primarily distributed among members of congregations in the diocese, each issue had a circulation of around 10,000 copies.

Catholic newspaper Breeze was forced to be discontinued in 2018.

“The Ark” was founded in 1994 by a Three-Self church in Nanping, a city in the southeastern province of Fujian. Initially, the newspaper was distributed in the Yanping district of Nanping, with a circulation of about 1,000 copies. Later on, the readership increased to over 100,000 copies, and it was disseminated in over 20 provinces and cities.

The discontinued Protestant newspaper The Ark.

The newspaper was issued all necessary government permits. Regardless, in 2015, the authorities ordered the newspaper to be discontinued, claiming that it was “an illegal publication” and “its circulation too high.” Officials even threatened to arrest the pastoral staff if their orders were ignored.

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Catholic China Deal

Cardinal Joseph Zen, former bishop of Hong Kong, has renewed his criticism of the “Sino-Vatican Deal” warning that he thinks Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin is exercising “undue influence” in advising Pope Francis.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, former bishop of Hong Kong.

“Now I’m sorry to say that I think you can agree that Pope Francis has low respect for his predecessors. He is shutting down everything done by John Paul II and by Pope Benedict,” Zen said, adding that Vatican officials always describe these actions as being “in continuity” with previous popes, but he considers this description to be “an insult” and obviously false.

“I have a clear impression that Parolin is manipulating the Holy Father,” Zen told New Bloom Magazine in a recent interview.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Zen said Parolin’s motives are unclear, but suggested that he may be acting out of “vainglory” and a desire for “diplomatic success.”

“It’s a real mystery how a man of the Church, given all his knowledge of China, of the Communists, could do such a thing as he’s doing now,” he said.

For decades, the Church in China had been split between the “underground” Church, in full communion with Rome, and the state-run “Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association” (CPCA), which was not. The communist government appointed bishops for the CPCA.

In September 2018, news was released of a “provisional” agreement between Beijing and Vatican officials, intended to “unify” the underground Church and the CPCA.

While the terms of the agreement have been kept “confidential” it reportedly allows the CPCA to choose a “slate of nominees” for bishop, from which the pope would then select in making his appointment.

Zen has been an outspoken critic of the agreement, calling it an act of “shameless surrender” to the communist government.

The cardinal has criticized the deal’s “secrecy”, noting that as one of two Chinese cardinals, he has been unable to “see the contents” of the agreement, and that documents released from the Holy See have been “vague” without any name or department attached to them, in a departure from the usual protocol.

Zen has also warned that the deal will put those who have remained loyal to Rome in the underground Church in danger, as pressure mounts to accept the authority of the CPCA.

Guidance from the Vatican recognizes the choice of those who feel that they cannot in good conscience register with the government and accept the communist policy of “sinicization,” to bring the Catholic Church more in-line with the communist understanding of Chinese culture, society, and politics.

However, reports indicate that those who decline to register are facing “harassment and persecution.”

Last month, Bishop Vincenzo Guo Xijin, a leader in the Chinese underground Church, “refused” to register with the government. He promptly was placed under the supervision of two “state security officials” and visited daily in an attempt to force him to sign an “act of registration” with the state. He escaped a few days later and is reportedly in hiding.

Underground Church refusing to register with state.

Speaking with New Bloom, Cardinal Zen outlined his experience of a shift in the Vatican’s approach to China over recent decades.

In the 1980s, Cardinal Jozef Tomko, then-prefect of the “Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples” invited Zen to take part in a series of quiet “Vatican” meetings about China.

These meetings, Zen said, allowed experts and bishops from different parts of China to offer a “report” on their situation to the Vatican Secretary of State and Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Zen praised Tomko, saying that both his vast experience in the Vatican and his knowledge of life under “communism” in his home country of Czechoslovakia gave him a good perspective on the situation of China.

Informed by Tomko, he said, the Holy See legitimized several “illegitimate” bishops who asked for pardon, recognizing that they were “good people” who had been timid and were pressured by the government into “accepting illegitimate ordination.”

But when Tomko retired, Zen said, his successors moved the discussion around China in a different direction. He accused Vatican officials of “manipulating” the Chinese translation of a text written by Pope Benedict XVI to the Church in China, and rendering a commission established by Pope Benedict ineffective.

In particular, he named Ivan Dias, who served as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and Cardinal Parolin, then-Undersecretary of State, as driving figures in the new approach.

Zen said he no longer had a “voice” in the Vatican discussions, and felt that the Pope was no longer “hearing” from those on the ground about their situation. In 2010, he said, rumors began to arise that an agreement between the “Vatican and China” was in the works. But several years later, no agreement had surfaced.

“I have no evidence, but I believe that it was Pope Benedict who said no,” Zen said. “He could not sign that agreement. And I think the one agreement signed now by Pope Francis must be exactly that one, which Pope Benedict refused to sign.”

Then, in 2013, Pope Francis was elected. While Zen said his personal relationship with Pope Francis is “amicable” he added that the pope has not addressed the “concerns” he has repeatedly raised regarding the “China Deal” that was struck in 2018.

Earlier this year, Zen traveled to Rome, where he “requested” a meeting with Pope Francis. He said his first request went “unanswered”, and he sent a second request, which was met with the “instruction” to speak with Cardinal Parolin. Zen declined, and was subsequently “invited” to have dinner with both Parolin and Pope Francis.

“I went there to the supper. Very simple, the three of us. I thought supper is not a time to quarrel, so I had to be kind during supper,” Zen said. “So I talked all about Hong Kong, and Parolin didn’t say a word. So at the end, I said, ‘Holy Father, what about my objections to that document?’ He said, ‘Oh, oh, I’m going to look into the matter.’ He saw me off at the door.”

Zen said he was left with the distinct “impression” that Parolin is “manipulating” Pope Francis. He is concerned that the Pope is “legitimizing the schismatic church in China” and that those who have faced years of “persecution” as members of the underground Church are now left “confused and unsure” about what to do.

“Priests are being asked to sign a document supporting the government-run church in order to minister openly”, he warned. The Communist Party will not “tolerate” the Catholic Church unless it feels that it can “control” the Church, Zen said.

“They need to control everything. Since they know that they cannot destroy, they want to control. Obviously. All the churches. They want to destroy from within.” 

Cardinal Zen continues criticism of possible Vatican-China deal
Cardinal Zen: Vatican-China deal weakens the Church
Vatican Bishop: ‘China Trusts Pope Francis’

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Beijing’s Bizarre War on Dogs

Beijing is banning medium and large dog breeds, sparking animal groups to plead for volunteers to save the dogs’ lives. Credit: The Smart Canine.

Beijing’s international reputation, has taken another needless hit … perceived globally as a “heartless” move, authorities there have launched a Draconian campaign against pet owners, who own dogs larger than 35 centimeters.

Beijing is following in the footsteps of Chinese cities Wuhan and Hangzhou by banning medium- and large-dog breeds, sparking animal groups to plead for volunteers to save the dogs lives by flying them out of China, Taiwan News reported.

Taiwan’s Green Party revealed the new rule implemented by Beijing’s southeast Tongzhou District by citing a legal notice. It says residents are banned from raising dogs taller than 35 centimeters.

Pet owners are given a “three-day grace period” after receiving the notice. Medium and large dog breeds have to leave the city or they will be impounded by police officers.

Beijing’s police department justified the new rule by saying they have received complaints since November about misbehaving dogs. Grievances included walking the dogs without a leash and dog fouling.

But rather than look for a logical solution, or soliciting suggestions from Beijing residents — increased surveillance and harsher fines might have worked — officials arbitrarily issued a death sentence.

On the verge of an Olympic Games, no less.

Many locals feel the move was a “knee-jerk over-reaction” typical of cold and unfeeling Chinese officials, a reputation that has been fostered worldwide, unfortunately.

Pet owners in the city have understandably become distraught by the surprise move.

Media reported that in order to save their dogs, owners have tearfully made the decision to get their pets put down at animal hospitals, rather than see their dogs dragged away by bureau enforcers.

Chinese singer-songwriter Pu Shu (朴樹), who was brought up in Beijing, used his Weibo account to beg for the dogs’ lives and appeal for more humane laws, according to UDN.

Beijing animal rescue group CaliPaw  is looking for volunteers planning to visit Los Angeles or San Francisco to rescue the dogs.

According to China Daily, Beijing’s “war on dogs” began this summer when authorities banned the walking of dogs in city parks.

The “Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau” published a blacklist of so-called “uncivilized behaviors” in public parks, adding activities such as “walking pets, making loud noises, digging wild vegetables or fishing.”

Owners’ refusal to “leash” their dogs or “clean up” their dog’s droppings annoyed many park goers. As a result, the bureau listed “dog walking” on its blacklist.

To ensure the effectiveness of the “blacklist”, the authority posted the rules in all parks, adding about 1,000 “volunteers” to watch for violations.

The regulation “triggered” discussion among the public, especially pet owners.

“I feel like I have become inferior to others since I started raising my dog because there are too many restrictions and limits for dog owners,” said Liu Zhe, who lives near Yuyuantan Park in Haidian district.

Liu, 30, said his residential community has also banned dog walking to prevent them from biting people.

“I cannot walk my dog on roads, nor the residential areas. I usually walked my dog in the park near my home. Sometimes, I run with it, which makes me feel good. Now, I cannot take it to the park. I don’t know where I can be with my dog except at home,” he said.

“In countries such as the United States and many in Europe, dogs play with people in parks, on roads and pretty much everywhere. I envy them so much. Dogs are real friends there,” Liu added.

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Chinese Church Crackdowns

Priests and parishioners have “barricaded” themselves in a Catholic church in the Chinese province of Hebei.

According to reports, the Catholics are attempting to “prevent” the Chinese government from “tearing” down the Church.

The protest began at 6am morning at the church in “Wu Gao Zhang”, part of the Guantao district of Hebei, on the coast of northern China. Officials have ordered that the church be “destroyed” even though it is fully recognized and approved by the government. Local authorities said the building lacks “appropriate” permits.

In September 2017, China enacted strict new regulations concerning religion. Since then, authorities have been vigilant in enforcing “permit” requirements. Churches that are not found to be in compliance are destroyed.

Many Chinese Catholics say that last September’s “Sino-Vatican” Agreement has served to embolden the government to take “punitive” action against Catholics who did not belong to “state-approved” churches.

Officials have reportedly claimed that the “Vatican supports us” and have ordered an additional “40 churches” be destroyed.

For decades, the Church in China was split between the “Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association,” a state-run Church under the control of Chinese Communist Party, and the “Underground Church” that was in full communion with the Holy See.

The 2018 agreement, the details of which have not been “released” was intended to unify the two ecclesiastical communities, although multiple reports out of China have indicated that priests and laity who “refuse” to worship at government-run churches are have faced increased “persecution.”

In the provinces of Jiangxi and Fujian in eastern China, priests who refused to sign agreements binding them to regulations government have been forced out of their homes, and their churches have been closed. The Chinese government has forbidden non-compliant priests from traveling, and many have been forced to go into hiding.

In July and August, at least five Catholic churches in the Yujiang diocese were forcibly “shut down” by the government, due to their refusal to join the CPCA. In mid-August, government officials threatened to arrest an underground priest and revoke basic government subsidies to all Catholics in the city of Yingtan after their parish refused to join the state-sponsored Church.

“The government places spies in CPCA churches to specially monitor what priests say in their sermons and what activities they hold,” a priest from Yujiang reported. The Chinese government monitors the everyday activity of CPCA priests and their travel. “Basically, the state knows everything about the priests,” he added.

In September, reports emerged that churches belonging to the Chinese state-run “Three-Self Patriotic Movement” Protestant denomination have been ordered to “replace” displays of the Ten Commandments with sayings of Chinese president Xi Jinping.

The directive reportedly came after “Three-Self Churches” were initially told to remove the First Commandment, “You shall have no gods before me,” as Jinping disagreed with it.

Reports indicate that those who have refused to remove any or all of the “Ten Commandments” have been imprisoned, with leaders and worshippers “harassed” even in churches that complied with the instruction.

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Clock is ticking on TikTok

For TikTok, the clock is ticking. Like Huawei, the trendy Chinese-owned “Gen X” app has been caught in the crossfire of the ongoing trade war between Beijing and Washington.

Earlier this week, media reports revealed that Zhang Yiming, the chief executive of parent company “Bytedance” had sent an internal memo calling for a “diversifying of growth.” Beefing up user data protection and honing its global image were other key priorities.

Yet, his comments came hours after Washington had zeroed in on “TikTok” which is famed for its zany multi-second videos and loved by Gen Z teenagers and quite a few Millennial’s.

“If your child uses TikTok, there’s a chance the Chinese Communist Party knows where they are, what they look like, what their voices sound like, and what they’re watching,” Josh Hawley, a Republican senator, said after he introduced a bill, entitled the National Security and Personal Data Protection Act, to limit the flow of sensitive information from US online users to China.

“That is a feature TikTok doesn’t advertise,” he added.

Calls for a US government study into “TikTok” and “Bytedance” have grown amid concerns that they could share “personal data” with the ruling Communist Party administration and intelligence agencies. Both allegations have been denied.

“Our data centers are located entirely outside of China, and none of our data is subject to Chinese law. We have also never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked. Period.” TikTok officials wrote in a statement.

Zhang Yiming, the founder of tech company Bytedance, which owns TikTok, has denied that the group is a national security threat. Photo: AFP

Still, the specter of “censorship and fears” about data privacy have become contentious issues as the trade conflict drags on into a second year.

In the past 18 months, Washington has accused China’s high-tech giant Huawei of spying and breaking US sanctions imposed on North Korea and Iran. The telecom and smartphone juggernaut has denied the accusations.

But as a “permafrost” descends on Sino-American relations, technology companies with direct links to the world’s second-largest economy appear to be on thin ice.

Last month, a letter to the director of national intelligence from Democrat Senate Minority Leader Charles E Schumer and Republican Tom Cotton captured the “chill wind” sweeping across Capitol Hill.

“With over 110 million downloads in the US alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore,” they wrote.

“Given these concerns, we ask that the Intelligence Community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by it and other China-based content platforms operating in the US and brief the US Congress on these findings.”

With 500 million global users, the “TikTok” app has become an overnight sensation among teenagers around the world and, in particular, the US. Known as “Douyin” in China, the crazy video app is part of “Bytedance”, an entertainment and social media group, valued at up to US$75 billion.

A TikTok post by a young woman, pretending to give “eyelash” curling advice while actually condemning China’s “crackdown” on Muslims in Xinjiang, has gone viral on the Chinese-owned app, which has been accused of “censoring” anti-Beijing content.

The clip by US teen Feroza Aziz, who describes herself as “17 Just a Muslim,” had millions of views across several social media platforms.

But Aziz said she has been “blocked” for one month from posting on TikTok, a hugely popular video platform, after uploading Sunday’s clip slamming China. The claim was “disputed” by the app.

Since being launched in 2012, Zang’s brainchild has gradually muscled into the territory occupied by Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, or the BAT grouping as they are fondly known.

“The US should carefully study the TikTok phenomenon and learn from it. TikTok has its own algorithm, but it pays close attention to abiding by laws and customs of the countries where it is carrying out business activities,” an editorial in state-run Global  Times stated.

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do – this is a universal rule for business activities. All US social media giants have the opportunity to enter the Chinese market if they follow the rules,” the tabloid, owned by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, added.

True, but within strict “censorship” constraints that make up the “Great China Firewall” it hems the in-country’s “online” community.

Tick tock, tick tock, TikToc.

Lawsuit: TikTok Sent User Data of Americans to China 
TikTok says sorry for removing viral Xinjiang clip
U.S. Teen Hides China Concentration Camp Message in TikTok
U.S. Army cadets told not to use TikTok in uniform
US teen’s TikTok video on Xinjiang goes viral

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China’s Pet Detective

Pet detective Sun Jinrong shows a photo of a missing cat he was searching for in Beijing. Photo: Noel Celis / AFP

Private “sleuth” Sun Jinrong brings “heat detectors, tiny surveillance cameras, and a blow dart loaded with a tranquilizer” to his search for one desperate client’s missing loved one: “A cat named Duoduo.”

Unlike Jim Carrey’s goofy “Ace Ventura” character, the man dubbed by China’s media as the nation’s first “Pet Detective” is a stony-faced “animal lover” who solves cases with the help of “high-tech gear” worth thousands of dollars.

With “dogged” determination, Sun has reunited around 1,000 missing pets with their owners since he launched his business seven years ago.

Clients pay 8,000 yuan (US$1,130) for the service provided by his company, which has 10 employees and is based in the eastern city of Shanghai.

Sun often gets calls from “anguished” pet owners in the middle of the night and rushes to “cities and towns” across the nation to help.

Dog ownership was banned as bourgeois vanity under Chairman Mao Zedong, but Chinese society’s views of pets have changed and there are now 91.5 million cats and dogs in the country, according to “Pet Fair Asia” and pet website “”

Sun says pets are sometimes “stolen” rather than lost, and dogs are occasionally “sold” for their meat.

“Most pet owners get very flustered. They don’t even own a flashlight. They can only look for cats in the dark by the weak light of their phones. We have advanced equipment and accumulated cases over the years to analyze the data. We can think of 10 things to do while the owner can think of one or two” Sun said.

Pet detective Sun Jinrong displays his high-tech pet-locating gear as he prepares to search for a missing cat in a residential compound in Beijing. (Including a can of cat food). Photo: Noel Celis / AFP

“Around 10 other pet detectives have appeared in the past two years,” Sun adds.

Sun boasts a success rate of around 60-70%. But could he find “Duoduo?”

The owner, Li Hongtao, hired Sun to come to Beijing and find his much-loved cat. The British short-hair had last been seen in an underground garage two days before the search, reducing the chances of finding him.

“He’s family to me,” Li explains.

Sun set right to work, unpacking a 50-kilo black suitcase containing three “thermal imaging cameras, an endoscope, and a hand-held machine used to detect life under the rubble after earthquakes.”

He walks around pointing a “heat detector” around the garage. He inspects some “excrement” on the floor but determines it is not from the animal he’s looking for.

“Cats have hair in their feces. The color here is not right,” Sun concludes.

The eagle-eyed detective then finds a big clue: “Paw prints on dusty pipes” leading him to determine Duoduo fled into a nearby grassy area outside.

To “lure” the cat, a speaker hanging from Sun’s suitcase blares the “recorded voice” of his owner.

Sun and his assistant, Huang Yan, also place Duoduo’s favorite “cat food” inside a grass-colored cage with a trap door.

When Sun spots an opening in a rock, he pushes the small lens of the “endoscope” – a small camera at the top of a long chord – inside the gap. Duoduo isn’t there.

Sun attaches a “camera sensor” on a tree and waits for nightfall.

“We have no predecessors in this industry. We are all crossing the river by feeling the stones,” he explains, using a famous Chinese saying. He adapted techniques he learned from hunters.

“You have to be extremely careful when capturing pets. You can’t catch small dogs like Pomeranian’s with a net. Their hearts are very small. It could kill them,” warns Sun.

Sun mainly works late at night, when it’s less noisy, raising the chance that a lost animal will emerge from hiding. He stays up, sometimes in a tent, waiting for any sign of the pet.

At around midnight, as he waits for any sign of Duoduo, a figure flashes across the monitor. Huang and Sun scan the area and see the cat in the bushes.

He opts not to use the blow dart, instead, he phones the cat’s owner, Li, who can barely contain his excitement when he arrives and sees Duoduo. Li calls to him but the stressed pet wouldn’t budge.

After 10 agonizing minutes, Li approaches Duoduo and grabs his cat. “Let’s go home!” Li told Duoduo, stroking the prodigal cat’s fur.

Those are some of Sun’s favorite words.

“When our case is solved, it’s basically a reunion,” he muses, adding: “It’s a happy moment.”

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New Alzheimer’s Drug

A homegrown drug for treating Alzheimer’s disease has been approved by China’s National Medical Products Administration and will hit the market soon, according to a report in SHINE online.

The first new Alzheimer’s disease treatment to be approved for 17 years could benefit 500,000 patients a year at beginning, according to a press conference.

GV-971, developed in China, is a seaweed-based drug, which can improve cognitive ability in people suffering from mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s by regulating bacteria in the gut, the report said.

The National Medical Products Administration has approved sale of the drug, but further research of its pharmacological mechanism and monitoring of long-term safety and effectiveness is required.

The drug was developed by the Ocean University of China, Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceutical Company and Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica under Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Lu Songtao, chairman of the company, said production of the first batch of capsules will begin on November 7. Construction of a factory in the Zhangjiang High-tech Park  is set to start by the end of the year and be completed within three years, the report said.

“We believe we can produce enough drugs for 2 million patients to use in a year,” Lu said. The company hopes to begin clinical trials in the US soon, as part of its ambition to promote the drug globally.

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory, thinking skills, and the ability to carry out simple tasks. There is no cure for the condition.

Currently, there are about 50 million Alzheimer’s sufferers globally. It is the third biggest health risks for the elderly, following cardiovascular disease and cancer.

In China, 10 million people are living with Alzheimer’s, nearly 20% of the world total, and the number is expected to rise to 40 million by 2050, the report said.

“Before GV-971, there were only five medications, without obvious positive effects. They are just symptomatic treatments, and they can’t delay or prevent progress of the disease,” said Xiao Shifu of the Shanghai Mental Health Center.

Over last two decades, pharmaceutical companies across the world have spent hundreds of billions in search of breakthroughs, with more than 300 drugs failing clinical trials.

“The drug can work quickly, and can continue to work for a long time, with almost no side effects,” medical researcher Geng Meiyu said. Credit: Xinhua.

In Alzheimer’s patients, excessive amyloid proteins clump together to form amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles which impair brain functions. Scientists have been dedicated to finding ways to eliminate the toxic proteins and invent drugs targeting the brain.

Geng Meiyu from the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica took an unconventional approach.

“You can’t simply think it’s the problem with the head if you have headache. Likewise, Alzheimer’s is not just a brain problem. Instead, it’s a complicated disease,” Geng said. “You can’t confine yourself to just one aspect.”

She led the research on GV-971 from 1997, based on the findings that poor gut health has close connection with Alzheimer’s.

Her team obtained a mixture of oligosaccharide, the unique nutrition source of probiotics from brown algae. The compound can regulate bacteria in the gut and restore the gut health.

Between 2006 and 2018, 1,200 patients participated in clinical trials.

The third-phase clinical trials provided solid evidence to the efficacy and safety of the drug.

“The drug can work quickly, and can continue to work for a long time, with almost no side effects,” Geng said. “It remains unknown whether it can reverse Alzheimer’s, but there is hope.”

Approval took less than a year, under the medicine marketing authorization holders (MAHs) regime, which expands those eligible to acquire drug manufacturing licenses, from pharmaceutical companies to drug researchers and institutions.

“Any company that can develop a drug to slow the progression of AD would be a huge blow to its global competitors,” Wu Shenghu, Lilly’s medical director of neuroscience told China Business Network.

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Drug and Trade War

China’s shipments of illegal fentanyl into the United States are a factor in the two sides’ ongoing trade war.

US accusations that China is flooding American communities with illegally produced “fentanyl” have poisoned bilateral ties.

When China harshly sentenced nine drug traffickers for selling the fentanyl to American buyers, the convictions were viewed by some as an “olive branch” offered by Beijing to Washington amid their “trade war” talks.

Fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic Opioid that can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin, caused more than 32,000 drug overdose deaths in the US in 2018, according to official statistics.

China has been singled out by the US as a major supplier of the “illicit drug” and its chemical precursors, a bilateral sore point that has featured in the background of the two sides’ “bitter trade dispute.”

“Washington has strongly urged Beijing to clamp down on the illegal trade, one which China has largely denied significant involvement. In an August 23 tweet, US President Donald Trump accused his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping of not doing enough to stop the flow of synthetic Opioid into the US. Those drug deals, reports show, are often conducted over the Internet. The China connection was unearthed by US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officials in 2015, when a Chinese salesperson who went by the name Li Li was found to be selling the drug through online ads and over social media.”

According to a New York Times investigation China has between 160,000 and 400,000 chemical companies “operating legally, illegally or somewhere in between — an expansive estimate that reflects both the vastness of the industry and the scarcity of information.”

 Those factories produce not only fentanyl but also a variety of legal chemicals and pharmaceuticals. That means they cannot readily be compared to underground heroin laboratories or cocaine processing plants, which are often hidden in remote areas and guarded by heavily armed private militiamen.

Seized illegal fentanyl packages on display in New York.

The drugs can then be shipped as “pharmaceuticals” or hidden in “chemical” shipments. Reports show they are also frequently sent by standard mail courier services, making the US Postal Service perhaps the largest “drug transportation network” in the world through its delivery of Chinese-made fentanyl straight to American homes.

Given the size and complexity of China’s chemical and pharmaceutical industries, and with annual profits estimated to be at least US$100 billion, it is not easy task for authorities to monitor and prevent the “illicit” drug trade.

Whether or not the recent sentences of fentanyl dealing drug traffickers will give new impetus or build new trust to ongoing trade war negotiations remains to be seen.

But the fact that the arrests came after Chinese authorities acted on a 2017 tip from the US Homeland Security Department shows a certain degree of improved cooperation between the two sides.

On the other hand, a senior official with “China’s Narcotics Control Commission” said that the sentences were not in any way related to the trade war.

Chinese officials have frequently denied that their country is the main source of fentanyl sold on US black markets, which also enters the US from Mexico.

Illegal fentanyl flows from China into the US along various routes. Photo: US Government Accountability Office/Screenshot.

Fentanyl was first made in the 1960s and approved for medical use in the US in 1968. It is often used as an “anesthetic” during surgery in hospital emergency rooms, or to alleviate “pain” for cancer patients.

Taken recreationally, often mixed with heroin, it has a massive sedative effect, often causing hallucinations. Because fentanyl is purely synthetic, it is easier to make than heroin, which requires opium poppies that must be harvested and the sap refined into white powder.

It is also considerably cheaper than pure heroin, which has made it a drug of choice in poor US communities, where most of the overdoses are taking place.

Likely acting on US pressure, on May 1, China placed fentanyl and related substances on its list of controlled drugs and pledged to tighten controls. At the same time, China has publicly insisted it is not a major fentanyl supplier to US black markets.

Liu Yuejin, deputy director of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, at a press conference on June 17, 2019.

Liu Yuejin, vice commissioner of the Ministry of Public Security’s drug control agency, recently cited US government statistics showing only six kilograms of a total of 537 kilograms of fentanyl related substances seized by US authorities between October 2018 and this March originated from China.

Most of the drugs seized came from Mexico, the same statistics showed. Liu also dismissed reports claiming that Chinese companies had shipped fentanyl to Mexico as a way to obscure the drugs’ actual origin.

In late August, China’s foreign ministry urged the US to improve its domestic regulations to tackle the roots of the Opioid crisis at home, and not blame China for the lethal scourge. China is also a victim of the legal and illicit sale of Opioids, where synthetic drugs are becoming more widely available than opium and its derivative heroin.

US drug officials, meanwhile, insist that apart from direct online sales to American consumers, fentanyl is also being shipped from China to Mexico, where it is reportedly sold to drug cartels for around $3,000 per kilogram.

According to the New York Times investigation, 100 kilograms of fentanyl pressed into pills would have a street value of millions or even billions of dollars.

Other press reports citing US narcotics control officers say Chinese fentanyl can be bought on black markets for $6,000 per kilogram. Once mixed with heroin and pressed into tablets, it can be sold for as much as $1.6 million on US streets.

Either way, it is clearly an extremely lucrative business for Chinese manufacturers as well as middlemen and the distributors.

Skeptics argue that the claims of Chinese complicity in the trade echo similar stretched allegations made by the US in the late 1960s, when American drug enforcement officials claimed that opium was grown in China, made into heroin there, and then smuggled to the US.

The first US official to gainsay the claim was then-US Assistant Secretary of State Marshall Green, who in a July 1971 interview with the now defunct Hong Kong weekly “Far Eastern Economic Review” said that opium poppies were instead cultivated in a “golden triangle” stretching from northeastern Myanmar to northern Thailand and northwestern Laos.

Image of pharmaceutical fentanyl.

At the time, Washington was trying to curry favor with Beijing and, in the same month as the article appeared, it was later announced that then-US president Richard Nixon would visit China the following February, resulting in a historic thaw in relations.

The term “golden triangle” captured the public imagination and within a few years the Golden Triangle — later stylized with a capital “G” and “T”—came to symbolize the lawlessness of opium and its trade, then often conducted literally on the backs of mules.

Fast forward to the present, drugs are moved by other means and sold over the internet, but narcotics remains a bane in the area. And this time it is undeniable that China is part and parcel of the problem.

As previously, drug-dealing allegations are still a tool in high-stakes international diplomacy, as seen in Trump’s connecting America’s fentanyl epidemic with his wider trade war with China.

US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 2018 G20 summit in Buenos Aires. Photo: AFP/Yomiuri Shimbun

According to a November 7 report by the US news network CNBC, “Trump cares passionately about overdoses and passionately about drug use…he didn’t want to sit down until this of the ‘seven deadly sins’ was agreed to” with the Chinese.

Trump’s supposed “passion” for curbing the illicit trade may be explained by the fact that the worst-affected US communities, including in the so-called Rust Belt in the country’s Midwestern region, are situated in important swing states ahead of 2020 elections.

The November 7 sentencing of nine Chinese fentanyl traffickers could yet represent a step forward in bilateral trade war talks. But clearly much more must be done on both sides of the Pacific to tackle drug scourge that is taking annually thousands of American lives.

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Dalai Lama breaks the chains of Reincarnation

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama prays during a long-life prayer offering dedicated to him at Tsuglagkhang Temple in McLeod Ganj, India, on September 13, 2019. Photo: AFP/Lobsang Wangyal

In a surprise spiritual “reversal” the Dalai Lama said his Tibetan Buddhist tradition of reincarnated dalai lamas “should end now” because the hierarchy created “a feudal system,” a description echoing decades of communist China’s “condemnation.”

The Dalai Lama’s public statement comes amid attempts by Beijing to “control” who can be legally recognized as a “reincarnated” lama in Tibet and what “laws” they must obey.

“Institutions need to be owned by the people, not by an individual,” the self-exiled 14th Dalai Lama said in a speech at his residence in McLeod Ganj, a small town on the outskirts of Dharamsala, India.

“Like my own institution, the Dalai Lama’s office, I feel it is linked to a feudal system. In 1969, in one of my official statements, I had mentioned that it should continue…but now I feel, not necessarily. It should go. I feel it should not be concentrated in a few people only. The tradition should end now, as reincarnation has some connection with the feudal system. There have been cases of individual lamas who use reincarnation for personal gains but never pay attention to study and wisdom,” he told college students from Bhutan and India on October 25.

Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso, born in 1935), the traditional religious and temporal head of Tibet’s Buddhist clergy, seats under a canopy in 1959 in his residence of Birla House in the mountain resort of Mussoori, India after fleeing into exile in a 1959 file photo. Photo: AFP

In March 1959, there was an unsuccessful armed uprising by Tibetans against Chinese rule. As a result, the Dalai Lama, fled with some 100,000 supporters to northern India, where a government-in-exile was established. The Chinese ended the the former dominance of the lamas (Buddhist monks) and destroyed many monasteries.

Tibet (Xizang), occupied in 1950 by Chinese Communist forces, became an “Autonomous Region” of China in September 1965, but the majority of Tibetans have continued to regard the Dalai Lama as their “god-king” and to resent the Chinese presence, leading to intermittent unrest.

The Dalai Lama, however, did not express doubt about the “concept” of reincarnation. Buddhism claims all people are reincarnated even if they are not Buddhists.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador for Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback and his delegation met the Dalai Lama in McLeod Ganj.

“The US government supports the Dalai Lama and supports for the succession of the Dalai Lama to be done by the Tibetan Buddhist leadership. The role of picking a successor to the Dalai Lama belongs to the Tibetan Buddhist system, the Dalai Lama, and other Tibetan leaders. It does not belong to anybody else, not any government or any entity,” Brownback said, criticizing China’s interference in the procedure.

Beijing swiftly responded to the US ambassador’s remarks and visit.

“We strongly urge the US side to stop any form of contact with the Dalai clique, stop making irresponsible remarks, stop using Tibet-related issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs, and do more to advance China-US mutual trust and cooperation,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told reporters.

China eyes warily “exiled” Tibetan populations, including large groups in neighboring India and Nepal, numbering over 150,000 and 20,000 respectively.

Tibetan prayer flags blow in the wind in India in a file photo. Photo: Twitter

During a visit to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, Chinese President Xi Jinping issued an ominous warning, saying “Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones.”

According to Indian and Nepalese media reports, Xi sought to sign an “extradition treaty” that aimed to deport all Tibetan “refugees” in Nepal back to China. Kathmandu, however, declined to sign.

The current 14th Dalai Lama “fled” his majestic Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet in 1959 along with 80,000 Tibetan refugees to “escape” invading communist Chinese troops. They secured sanctuary in India’s Himalayas.

Since the 1950s, China has repeatedly said “Tibetan Buddhism” and the institutional power of “Dalai lamas” and other senior clergy was one of the main reasons Tibetans lived in “feudal” poverty, often treated as “serfs” by Tibetan officials, nobles and lamas.

Tibetan historians said the centuries-old system of “reincarnated” Dalai lamas, Panchen lamas and other clergy contributed to “repression” in Tibet, but Tibetans should have been allowed to “fix their homeland” instead of submitting to anti-Buddhist Chinese.

“For centuries, Tibet was ruled by feudal serfdom under theocracy,” China’s State Council Information Office reiterated in March.

“Millions of serfs were subjected to cruel exploitation and oppression until China’s democratic reform in 1959,” it said in a report entitled “Democratic Reform in Tibet, 60 Years On.”

Chinese paramilitary police raise a Chinese flag in front of the Potala Palace, once the residence of the Dalai Lama, in the Tibetan capital Lhasa. Photo: China News Service

“Even as they were aware that feudal serfdom under theocracy was coming to an end, the 14th Dalai Lama and the reactionaries in Tibet’s upper class had no wish to conduct reform. Instead, they tried to maintain the system for fear that reform would deprive them of their political and religious privileges, together with their huge economic benefits,” the report said, according to Beijing’s official Xinhua news agency.

Also beginning in the 1950s, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) trained and financed Tibetan guerrillas to conduct scattered “assaults” against China’s powerful People’s Liberation Army.

The CIA secretly “trained” ethnic Khampas and other Tibetans in Colorado state’s Rocky Mountains before giving them “supplies and parachuting” them into Tibet.

The CIA manipulated that small, bloody “insurgency” until 1972 when President Richard Nixon “abruptly” ended US armed support and traveled to Beijing to improve ties with Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong.

China’s communists “destroyed” most of Tibet’s monasteries and shrines during the 1960s and 70s. Thousands of Tibetans reportedly “perished” from persecution, economic disruption and other policies.

The Dalai Lama repeatedly said he is a “Marxist” and would accept autonomy for Tibet under China’s domination. But Beijing suspects he is a “splittist” conspiring to achieve independence.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, center, arrives for a long-life prayer offering dedicated to him at Tsuglagkhang Temple in McLeod Ganj on Sept 13, 2019. Photo: Lobsang Wangyal / AFP

Buddhism arrived in Tibet from India during the seventh century. “Dalai Lama” is a Mongolian title meaning “Ocean of Wisdom.” Followers also refer to him as, “His Holiness” or “Wish-Fulfilling Gem.”

Dalai lamas and others senior lamas are “revered” even though they have not achieved the spiritual “enlightenment and nirvana” of a Buddha.

Instead they are described as incarnations of “Avalokitesvara the Bodhisattva of Compassion”, who delays achieving nirvana to altruistically help others.

The first Dalai lama was born in 1390. Tibetan Buddhists believe this same person has been reincarnated 14 times.

The current Dalai Lama was born on July 6, 1935 shortly after the 13th died. Two years later, a delegation of high lamas searched Tibet for the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation and conducted traditional tests with several children born amid “prophetic signs.” 

An undated photo of the future Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism, born Lhamo Dhondrub on July 6, 1935. AP Photo

Clergymen selected an infant named “Lhamo Dhondrup.” He was picked out, from among various items, things which belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama and performed other feats which they interpreted as evidence of reincarnation.

Today, the 84-year-old Dalai Lama appears “jovial and spontaneous”, frequently traveling abroad.

The Dalai Lama speaks at a news conference prior to a speech to thousands at the UC San Diego campus in California, in June 2017. Photo: Reuters/ Mike Blake

The fight to select the next Dalai Lama

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