Deadly earthquake and landslide in Sichuan
An earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter scale shook the scenic Jiuzhaigou National Park and surrounding areas in Sichuan Province at about 9:19 p.m. local time on August 8. Five people died and more than 70 were injured, according to (in Chinese) Xinhua News Agency. Rescue teams have been dispatched. Sichuan was the location of the massive quake of 2008 that killed around 70,000 people. Also in Sichuan and on the same day this week, 23 people died after a landslide triggered by heavy rains, according to Agence France-Presse.
The landslide occurred in Puge County in the far south of the province; Jiuzhaigou is in the far north.
In debt? Prepare to be kidnapped
In China, Foreign Policy reports, it is “utterly unremarkable” for a company to take hostages in response to financial disputes. I can attest to this, having spent a long day locked up in a printing factory in Beijing after my publisher withheld payment for a print run of a magazine I used to edit. I was released when the printer got his shekels.
The Foreign Policy article explains why kidnapping is such a common means of debt collection in China: If there is debt involved, “the law considers it a lesser offense than taking hostages for ransom, and it is classed as ‘unlawful detention’ instead,” while the police are often averse to getting involved.
If you’ve ever been cussed out by a granny from Henan Province, this story may have special significance: Fourteen women whom the People’s Daily calls (in Chinese) the “granny debt collection gang” (大妈讨债团 dàmā tǎozhài tuán) have been jailed on organized crime charges for sentences ranging from two to 11 years.
The South China Morning Post reports that the women were hired by a property developer in Sui County, Henan Province, to shout at and hit residents who refused to relocate, and were also “employed by small firms to help recover money from debtors.”
Depression: Huge research study seeks genetic link
The Global Times reports that Shanghai Jiaotong University, in cooperation with the University of California, Los Angeles, have launched a study which will “collect a record-breaking number of blood samples” from sufferers of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) who are part of the majority Han ethnicity. The researchers will compare the genetic profiles of “female patients who are above 30 years old and have been diagnosed with MDD at least twice” with those of women above 40 years old who have never suffered from depression.
The study and its coverage by state media such as Science Net (in Chinese) is noteworthy: as the Economist explained in January, although China is “waking up to the prevalence of mental illness,” sufferers are “routinely treated as a danger to society.”