No gay marriage but China gets serious about sexual harassment

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

Our word of the day is “sexual harassment”: 性骚扰 xìng sāorǎo.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

1. No gay marriage, but sexual harassment law is strengthened 

“Asked at a news briefing whether China would legalize same-sex marriage, [a spokesperson] for the legal affairs commission of the National People’s Congress ‘said Chinese law only allowed for marriage between one man and one woman,’” according to Reuters

“This rule suits our country’s national condition and historical and cultural traditions…As far as I know, the vast majority of countries in the world do not recognize the legalization of same-sex marriage.”

According to the Beijing News (in Chinese), the spokesperson also said that the third draft of China’s Civil Code is being updated after public review. One of the major changes is that sexual harassment was previously defined as only happening in the workplace. The provisions covering sexual harassment are no longer limited to places of employment. 

It seems the government is taking this seriously: the topic was the subject of the top opinion piece (in Chinese) on the People’s Daily website today. 

2. Indians call for boycotts and tariffs on Chinese goods  

The South China Morning Post reports

Days after China backed Pakistan and prodded the United Nations Security Council into an informal discussion on New Delhi’s decision to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomy, anger is brewing in India against the Asian dragon.

The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu nationalist ideological fountainhead of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has launched a campaign across the country asking Indians to shun Chinese products.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), a nationwide group with over 70 million affiliated businesspeople, has joined in. The group wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi to raise import duties to 500 percent. All this has been backed by a vicious social media campaign.

To see a range of Indian reporting and commentary on this issue, search for Swadeshi Jagran Manch and China

3. Fear and uncertainty in the biomedical community

About 150 prominent biomedical scientists and pharmaceutical industry leaders in the U.S. have signed an open letter opposing recent government actions that have created “a climate of fear and uncertainty” amongst Chinese and Chinese-Americans in the biomedical research community.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports (porous paywall) that Franklin Tao (陶丰 Táo Fēng), a “University of Kansas researcher was indicted for allegedly hiding that he was working full-time for a Chinese university at the same time he was doing U.S-funded industrial research.” But as Bloomberg points out, “a web search shows that…his dual Kansas and China ties are disclosed in at least two U.S.-funded research papers published last year, as well as in several Chinese-language websites easily translatable online.”

See also The new Yellow Peril?, and our Sinophobia Tracker on SupChina. 

4. Beijing claims British consul employee arrested for soliciting prostitutes

Yesterday the South China Morning Post reported that Simon Cheng Man-kit (郑文杰 Zhèng Wénjié), an employee of the British consulate in Hong Kong, was detained in China “for breaking the law.” Today comes this news, not from the police but from the Twitter feed of the editor of the Global Times:

According to police, Simon Cheng, an employee of the British consulate in HK, was detained in Shenzhen for visiting prostitute. Police didn’t contact his family requested by Cheng. Police are willing to help reduce damage to his reputation, UK diplomats and media ruined him.

The story is quite clearly made up: for one thing, the above tweet is actually the source of “damage to his reputation.” Additionally, per this tweet from Michael Mo: 

Getting caught because of prostitution at West Kowloon XRL Station? Either “mile fast club” service available on the train or a lame lie we are used to target political figures.

BTW, how can be it done in a 17-min ride? You must be joking, Peking!

Accusing political enemies of sexual improprieties, particularly visiting prostitutes, is an old Party tactic. See also Family of detained British consulate staffer refutes Chinese state media’s prostitution claim from Hong Kong Free Press, and this Twitter thread from scholar Mike Gow.

Cheng’s arrest will not reassure Hong Kongers about Beijing’s intentions. According to CNN:

Cheng’s detention is even more symbolic for where it may have taken place: Not at the primary border crossings of Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu, across from the Chinese city of Shenzhen, but in the heart of Hong Kong.

The high-speed train between Shenzhen and Hong Kong only passes through one immigration checkpoint: West Kowloon station, shared by both China and Hong Kong on the tip of the territory’s northern peninsula. At a demonstration outside the British consulate Wednesday, protesters said Cheng’s apparent arrest was likely one of many, and linked his detention to longstanding fears about the station’s immigration arrangement.

Other news from Hong Kong: 

“HSBC and Standard Chartered have taken out newspaper adverts in Hong Kong condemning the violence in the Asian financial hub. In the adverts, the banks also called for a peaceful resolution after more than two months of political unrest,” reports the BBC

Alibaba “has postponed plans to list its shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, according to two people briefed on the matter, as protests continue to rock the Asian financial capital” says the New York Times (porous paywall).

Big Four accounting firms KPMG and PwC have sent messages to their Hong Kong staff warning them against speaking in public or on social media about the protests, reports Bloomberg (porous paywall). 

“Cathay Pacific has warned staff their social media content will be heavily scrutinised, and said posts expressing support for anti-government protests in Hong Kong could fall foul of a strict new policy being forced on the airline by the Chinese aviation authority,” reports the South China Morning Post.

“Two men have been charged with rioting for alleged participation in the mob attack in Yuen Long, a month after the incident on July 21,” reports Hong Kong Free Press. 28 people were arrested for attacking protesters, all were granted bail. The two men are the first to be charged.

“Hong Kong student leaders on Thursday August 22 announced a two-week boycott of lectures from the upcoming start of term, as they seek to keep protesters on the streets and pressure on the government,” according to Agence France-Presse

Finally, “experts” from Nepal, Bosnia, the Shanghainese Association of Australia, “have urged an end to the blatant violence perpetrated by radical demonstrators in Hong Kong and denounced external forces behind the protests,” says Xinhua News Agency

—Jeremy Goldkorn

5. Youtube disables channels on Hong Kong, following Twitter’s lead

Today, Google announced:

Earlier this week, as part of our ongoing efforts to combat coordinated influence operations, we disabled 210 channels on YouTube when we discovered channels in this network behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. This discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter.

Earlier this week we noted how Twitter and Facebook banned Beijing bots. Twitter is the leading platform when it comes to cracking down on misinformation about Hong Kong: Facebook said it was tipped off on a coordinated state-backed campaign by Twitter, and no other company has yet followed Twitter’s lead in banning state-owned media companies from buying ads.

Other reports on propaganda on Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter:

—Lucas Niewenhuis

6. Action on fentanyl 

“The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions on three Chinese nationals accused of trafficking synthetic opioids, stepping up efforts to curb the flow of fentanyl from China into the United States,” according to the New York Times.

—Jeremy Goldkorn


  • Computer games
    Gaming platform Steam to launch China-specific version / Caixin Live
    A localized, slightly censored version of Steam, a desktop gaming platform produced by Valve, is coming to China. Called zhēngqì píngtái 蒸汽平台, literally “Steam Platform,” popular games like Dota will be included in its initial release but not the full rangfe available on the international version. An article by PC Gamer about the announcement, referencing an interview between Eurogamer and Valve’s DJ Powers, reports that the move will still benefit Chinese gamers.

“We want Chinese customers to have really high-quality access to Steam games, and that means getting a set of games approved through the appropriate channels, and a service that is local. The servers that are right there, they can have fast download times, features make their quality of life better obviously.”

Xin said that the global trade environment, fears of a downtown in the world economy, and the poor performance of China’s automakers — which use many of the country’s industrial robots — had led to predictions of lower growth and further industry reshuffles.

China’s largest EV maker — Warren Buffett-backed BYD — reported wednesday an 87 percent jump in net profit for the quarter through June, compared with the year-earlier period, while forecasting a 70 to 90 percent year-over-year drop for the current quarter. Its Hong Kong-listed stock fell 6.6 percent Thursday. 

The country will launch pilot programs to test phasing out vehicles that run on the polluting fuel, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said [in Chinese] publicly Tuesday.

The ministry will help municipalities replace gas-powered public transport vehicles and establish zones in cities where gas-fueled vehicles are not permitted to go. If the programs are successful, the MIIT and another government body, the National Development and Reform Commission, will together draw up a timeline for an eventual nationwide phase-out.

A growing number of universities are now extending their use of facial recognition to the enrollment and registration process, after its initial adoption in applications such as security and recording student attendance.

China’s free trade zones are failing to gain traction, despite encouragement by the central government. While special economic zones were extremely successful back in the 80s, especially in places like Shenzhen and Shanghai’s Pudong district, investment in free trade zones in cities like Dalian are falling, in part owing to reduced local autonomy and increased central control. 

Chinese tech giant Baidu has been held legally accountable for disparaging language appearing on a deceased writer’s page on its Wikipedia-like reference site Baike, according to a Beijing court’s ruling Wednesday.

The lawsuit — filed by the son of the late playwright, screenwriter, and composer Zhào Zhōng 赵忠 — claimed that Baidu had been negligent in supervising the content on its platform, resulting in the infringement of Zhao’s right to reputation.


At least 201 people have been killed and 63 are missing following flooding across China in July and August, government rescue services say.

The most recent deaths came in mountainous western Sichuan province, where eight were killed and 23 remain missing as of Wednesday morning.

Since its announcement in October 2015, the universal two child policy has been associated with a rise in births in China and with changes in health related birth characteristics: women giving birth have been more likely to be multiparous, and more likely to be aged 35 and over. No evidence of concurrent worsening outcomes (that is, premature births) was seen.


Qatar has withdrawn its support for China detaining Uyghur Muslims despite initially being among 37 mainly Muslim majority countries which supported the crackdown as a necessary counter-terror measure…

“We Uyghurs heartily welcome the Qatar government’s right decision about withdrawing support for the Chinese ethnic genocide policy against Uyghurs and other Turkic groups in occupied East Turkistan,” [said] Uyghur activist Abdugheni Sabit. 


“How can one put this with finesse?” said Geremie Barmé, who writes about Chinese culture and who often visited Beidaihe in the post-Mao era. “The Chinese communists don’t really do ‘beach culture.’ They model their habits on the Soviet leaders, and the Black Sea resorts and sanitariums of the Soviet heyday. The result is rather perfunctory, dismal and, in particular, in the age of post-poverty socialism, incredibly kitschy.”


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Peking University slammed for giving scholarship to non-Chinese-speaking Filipino

Once again, an established Chinese university is in hot water for giving what is perceived as preferential treatment to foreign students. Last week, Peking University, one of China’s top institutions, offered a full scholarship to a Filipino student to enroll in its prestigious medical school. The generous scholarship sparked intense criticism after internet users discovered the foreign student couldn’t speak any Chinese and would need to spend an extra year taking language classes before officially starting her study.


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Sinica Podcast: Matt Sheehan on California’s role in U.S.-China relations

Matt Sheehan, former China correspondent for the Huffington Post and current fellow at the MacroPolo think tank, discusses his new book, The Transpacific Experiment: How China and California Collaborate and Compete for Our Future. In this episode, Matt talks through a few select chapters of his book with Jeremy and Kaiser, such as the fracturing linkages between Silicon Valley and the Chinese tech industry, the story of Dalian Wanda entering the United States, and his outlook on the future of the U.S.-China relationship.

ChinaEconTalk: The view from Chengdu: freelance reporting outside first-tier cities

On this episode of ChinaEconTalk, Jordan interviews Lauren Teixeira, a freelance reporter based in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.


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BE京jing No. 24: Work

This photo from Andingmen in October 2018 is part of BE京jing, a 30-part photo essay project by Gregorio Soravito