Tag: China

Yes, That CCTV Gala Sketch Was Racist

Yes, That CCTV Gala Sketch Was Racist

Like most families in China, we always spend part of our Chinese New Year’s Eve watching the CCTV Gala, one of the most watched annual events in all of television with an annual viewership of about 400 million people. (By contrast, the Superbowl is watched by about 100 million people). This year, though, we had thankfully gone for a walk when this garbage showed up.

CCTV Racist Sketch

While the entire Gala show this year was centered around China’s influence on the various minority groups around the country and on other countries around the world as part of Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, the Gala directors thought that the best way to celebrate China’s relationship with Africa was to dress up a Chinese woman in blackface (complete with a sexualized Hottentot Venus bottom) and have her accompanied by a monkey, either played by a Black actor or another Chinese actor painted to appear Black. While the Chinese actress has been confirmed as Luo Naiming, no one has come forward to admit to being the monkey.

You can watch the skit in its entirety on Youtube, but the basic summary is that a young Black woman (played by an actual Black woman but I haven’t been able to find her name) asks the Gala’s host, Zheng Kai, to pretend to be her boyfriend to keep her mother from setting her up on a blind date, and he happily plays along. Which, honestly, was a pretty forward-thinking setup. When it comes to interracial relationships in China, Chinese people who date Black foreigners face a lot more pressure and discrimination themselves than if they choose to date white foreigners, who are often welcomed with open arms. But any goodwill or progressive thinking the directors hoped to engender with the skit completely bombed by casting a Chinese actress to play the mother and trotting out her monkey counterpart.

The skit ends after the host’s Chinese wife makes an appearance, ending the farce. But the “Black” mother is not angry for being deceived. She instead proclaims, “I love Chinese people! I love China,” because “China has done so much for Africa.” (I’ll come back to that particular point later.)

To get right to the main point, the skit was racist. Period. I say this because many people will try to defend the skit because blackface is an American phenomenon. While it is true that America has a specifically nasty history with blackface, that doesn’t make blackface acceptable in other countries. It’s wrong, and it’s offensive.

Some people also might say that China and Chinese people aren’t racist at all. After all, racism is a system of oppression, not simply a prejudice or dislike for people of another race, and China doesn’t have many Black people or a history of immigrants. In fact, if you ask any Chinese person if they are racist, they will vehemently tell you no. And China does have a particular fondness for many aspects of Black culture. Black sports stars and hip-hop music enjoy a popularity here you would be hard-pressed to find in any other country outside of America. But if you then ask them specifically their thoughts about Black people, most will respond with the typical derogatory words and statements that have been used to harm and insult Black people for centuries. An op-ed published last year gave voice to many of China’s irrational fears of Black people, Black men especially. And Black people do suffer from systemic oppression here. Many Black people – whether they are from Africa or a Western country – have difficulty getting jobs, work visas, or even crossing the border into China. They are often denied housing. And, as mentioned earlier, it is difficult for them to form relationships with locals.

I also want to add that China’s racism is not limited to Black persons. Many of the same derogatory words are often used to describe China’s minority ethnic groups. And the Chinese government is systematically attempting to wipe out the Tibetan and Uyghur peoples through oppressive policies.

Lion King CastWithin hours, the skit and reactions to it were all over Wechat and Twitter. Most people recognized the skit for the racist failure it was. So within hours, the Chinese government was trying to cover its tracks and explain why it wasn’t racist. An op-ed in the Global Times spends several paragraphs explaining how the skit wasn’t racist because “Chinese people love monkey.” The article also went on to talk about how reverential the other animals were as well. This is a bit of a sidetrack, but I just want to point out how stupid this guy’s attempt at an argument is. In the Broadway version of The Lion King – which I’ve seen, and is fantastic – almost all of the characters, including the baboon Rafiki, are played by Black actors. Rafiki has also always been voiced by a Black actor. It is the context that matters. And in the context of a monkey accompanying a Chinese woman in blackface, the monkey character was also racist.

Over the last few days, China has grown even more desperate in its attempt to buck blame for the embarrassing skit. China’s foreign minister said that the cries of racism were an attempt by Western media to undermine China’s relationship with Africa. I really don’t think my blog is that influential, but maybe I have more readers than I realized 🙂 But in all honesty, very, very few Western journalists care about China’s relationship with Africa – which is itself a problem, if an unrelated one.

This brings me back to the “China has done so much good for Africa” portion of the skit, which has been largely ignored due to the glaring and horrifying racism of the sketch, but it is probably the more insidious part of it. I don’t write or even talk about this topic very much because I am far from an expert on it, but it is something I have kept within my field of vision over the years because it is very concerning. For about two decades, China has been heavily investing in Africa. And while on the outside this appears to be a good thing, many people who are experts on the matter have accused China of “neo-colonialism” or “economic colonialism,” charges China vehemently rejects. The Gala skit, with the “Black” mother proclaiming that she “loves China” was China’s propaganda machine on full display and in full defense mode. I don’t know if what is happening in Africa constitutes colonialism, but I do know that China often uses economic “development” as an excuse for its oppressive treatment of Tibetans and Uyghurs. China also uses it’s money to prop up dangerous governments like North Korea. While it might be extreme to call China’s role in Africa “colonial,” it is not extreme to say that the world needs to be watching this development more closely.

There and Back Again – Going Full Circle

There and Back Again – Going Full Circle

I mentioned in a previous post that big changes were coming (as if bringing our daughter home only six months ago wasn’t a big enough change!). So today I can finally announce that…

We are moving to Yangshuo!

 

Our China journey began nearly seven years ago in Yangshuo in Guangxi province. We came to China with Buckland Education Group, which was headquartered in the tiny town. We loved Yangshuo and thought it was one of the most beautiful places in the world. Even though we have traveled extensively since then, our opinion on that front hasn’t changed much.

In April, my husband’s job at a game company came to an end, and instead of looking for another grinding office job, he decided to take a job working from home. It is a lot less money, but he is spending a lot more time with our daughter. In fact, he is transitioning to being her primary caregiver so I can focus more on my work.

Last year, I rage quit my job at the Shenzhen Daily (which I just now realized I haven’t written about on here, so I’ll share that story soon). I also decided to work from home instead of looking for another office job. I’ve been a full-time freelance editor since then, but I’m transitioning to full-time writer.

So since we both now work from home, it didn’t make financial sense to stay in Shenzhen, a city where just our rent is more than we were paying back in the US, not to mention the high cost of living for everything else.

This week we went back to Yangshuo and found an apartment. We found something that was twice the size of our current place with three (huge) bedrooms and all new decor and appliances for about a third of the price. It was so cheap, in fact, that we were able to prepay the rent for the whole year. Talk about eliminating stress!

My husband is so in love with the new apartment he couldn’t wait to share it with the world, so he took a video. Feel free to check it out if you want to know what you can rent in a small town in China for only US$365 a month, or about $4,400 a year.

 

But check out that view!

Of course, being Yangshuo, that was not the most beautiful view we saw all weekend. Check out this shot from a house in the countryside we looked at that our friend Cherith took.

It feels as though our life in China has come full-circle, and we are back to the beginning, but a lot has changed as well. Not every part of our China journey has been easy, but it has all been amazing, and our baby girl makes every hardship worth it. One of the things we are most excited about is raising our daughter(s) in the country, with good people, fresh air, and an easy life.

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Chinese Company Now Owns Rights to Iconic Tiananmen Square Photos

Chinese Company Now Owns Rights to Iconic Tiananmen Square Photos

When I read this, I thought it must have been an Onion article, but apparently not. Bill Gates recently sold the rights to countless images, including dozens of images from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre to a Chinese company, Visual China Group.

“The transaction strengthens our dominant position in China’s image industry, enhances our core competence in the global high-end image market, and marks a significant milestone on our journey of globalization,” said Amy Jun Liang, CEO of Visual China Group.

But what does this actually mean for the images and their use? Will the images become harder to access?

Inside China, the photos are already heavily censored, so I don’t see a reason why there would be any changes.

Outside of China, the images will not be hard to find. Thanks to the Internet, images like “Tank Man” are easy to find. However, they might become more difficult for use in comerical projects, such as films. Would that mean that China would be enforcing its oppressive censorship on the world?

What do you think?

Your Local Cousin Helps You Travel Like a Local

Your Local Cousin Helps You Travel Like a Local

Hi everyone, I came across this really cool company and wanted to let you know about it!

What Is Your Local Cousin?

cousin1Your Local Cousin www.yourlocalcousin.co, is disrupting travel and is part of the sharing economy. We have been in business since February 2015 and match travelers looking for customized advice with actual locals in over 80 countries and 200 cities. Travelers looking to get a local perspective on where to find the best beaches in Maui, shop in the Grand Bazar in Istanbul or where to find the best paella in Madrid can choose to text, e-mail or speak with a local. We typically charge between $15 for a 30 minute Skype call and also offer customized itineraries for $25 – $60 and travel maps for $10. We pay locals 70% of revenue and vet all of them over Skype.

How to Use Your Local Cousin

Travelers can find locals by the city or country that they plan to visit and then pick the one that they feel will be best able to plan their trip. Each local’s profile mentions their interests, in other words what they can advise you on and also includes the kind of traveler they can help i.e. families with kids, expats, business traveler, senior citizens and backpackers etc. Travelers can decide to speak with a local, connect with them over text message or whatsapp or ask them to prepare detailed itineraries depending on the duration of their trip. Once connected, the traveler can provide further detail about their trip and ask any questions from the local. The more detailed your questions the more useful are the recommendations! Once don with the interaction, travelers also rate locals on the quality of information provided and responsiveness.

How to Become a Local Cousin

Local experts, aka ‘local cousins,’ are individuals from various backgrounds who should be fluent in English (additional languages are always a big bonus), love to talk about their city and are passionate about helping others have a great experience when they’re visiting and of course don’t mind getting paid for giving advice :). Our local are individuals who live in a city, went to school there recently or own a business / home there, thus they possess in-depth information about a place and are not passers-by or outsourced agents. Locals get paid via Paypal and are also rated by travelers. Locals and travelers do not have to meet in person or provide any personal details to the traveler other than perhaps their Skype handle or email address. If you want to become a local, please register on www.yourlocalcousin.co by clicking on “Become a Local Cousin” on the top right of the home page and complete your profile.

About Your Local Cousin

I founded Your Local Cousin with my actual cousin, Aarti Kanodia (based in New York) and have a CTO also based in NY. I have traveled to more than 30 countries and decided to help travelers solve the problem of wading through information overload online, heavy and outdated guidebooks and sifting through biased reviews on review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor only to get stuck in tourist traps. We want travelers to get customized advice from real locals who share common interests at price points that are affordable. We allow travelers to get the “inside scoop” on where to find all the cool places locals love to visit and avoid the tourist traps. We want to bring the old-school back into travel planning which is seriously missing the ‘human element’ these days. We are YOUR next best thing to speaking with a friend who lives in the city you are visiting.

Press:

We have been featured in Travel and Leisure
http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/your-local-cousin-travel-startup
and USA Today
http://roadwarriorvoices.com/2015/08/21/these-startups-help-travelers-explore-the-local-side-of-the-city/
and Chicago Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/travel/sc-trav-1229-sharing-economy-20151216-story.html

Social Media:

China’s New Domestic Violence Law – The Good, The Bad, and the Vague

China’s New Domestic Violence Law – The Good, The Bad, and the Vague

On Sunday, China passed its first law prohibiting domestic violence and offering protection for victims of domestic abuse. It might be hard to believe, but before Sunday, there was no law prohibiting domestic violence in China.

"Love is no excuse for violence"
“Love is no excuse for violence”

As far as authorities were concerned, a husband beating his wife was not breaking the law. Women who did seek help were often told to go back home to their abusers. Thanks to several high-profile cases in recent years of horrific instances of spousal and child abuse and the work of women’s rights groups, a new law is now in effect. But what does this law mean exactly and what are its flaws?

The Good

China now has a domestic violence law! This is good. Any law on the books is better than none.

The new law will provide protection for abuse victims and allow abusers to be charged with abuse. The law covers men and women. While it is unlikely that man men will take advantage of the protections the law allows, I was impressed that the law took men in abusive relationships into account. This is very important considering that before last year, men could not legally be considered rape victims. The gender-neutral stance of the law is a big step forward.

A Chinese woman abusing her boyfriend on a busy street
A Chinese woman abusing her boyfriend on a busy street

The law also grants protection to victims who are not legally married. Cohabitation without marriage is on the rise in China, and barely a day goes by that I don’t read about a Chinese woman being murdered by her boyfriend. The fact that the law will allow unmarried women protection from abusive men who are not their husbands is a great addition to the law (one that wasn’t in the initial drafts).

The law also protects children, not only from abusive parents but from abusive guardians, even those the child may not be related to. In a country with millions of “left behind children,” this was also an important addition.

The law will also allow abuse to be a mitigating factor in divorce proceedings. Previously, a partner’s abuse was not taken into consideration when granting divorces or divorce settlements.

The Bad

The law doesn’t actually go into effect until March. So, I guess, beat your wife while you can?

Lu Zhong and Liu Wangqiang at their wedding in Fujian
Lu Zhong and Liu Wangqiang at their wedding in Fujian

The law doesn’t cover same-sex couples. It isn’t just that the law is vague and doesn’t mention them one way or another, the law explicitly doesn’t apply. Guo Linmao, a member of the Legislative Affairs Commission of parliament’s standing committee, said, “There are a lot of examples of domestic violence between family members, and also between people who cohabit. As for homosexuals in our country, we have not yet discovered this form of violence, so to give you a certain answer, it can be said that people who cohabit does not include homosexuals.”

So according to Guo, homosexual couples don’t experience violence so they don’t need protection.

This is, of course, wrong and blatant misdirection. Many rights groups in China have latched on to this issue, so maybe someday the law will be expanded to include them.

The Vague

The law does not explicitly protect people from sexual violence. The law defines domestic violence as “physical, psychological and other harm inflicted by family members with beatings, restraint or forcible limits on physical liberty.” While “physical” harm could include sexual violence, the fact that the law doesn’t specifically list sexual violence is worrisome. Even countries such as the United States that have made marital rape illegal continue to grapple with this issue. The is something that China’s leaders need to clarify sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, it is unlikely any changes will be made to the law anytime soon. We will have to wait and see how judges interpret the law to see if it covers sexual violence. Hopefully it will.  

Have you looked over China’s new domestic abuse law? What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget to enter this month’s drawing! Learn about this month’s prize, Beijing Monkeys, here!

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China Should Accept Syrian Refugees

China Should Accept Syrian Refugees

The following was originally published in the Shenzhen Daily.

Anne Frank
Anne Frank

In the 1930s and 40s, America turned its back on Jewish refugees. Otto Frank, the father of perhaps the most famous Jewish victim of the Holocaust Anne Frank, applied for American visas to get his family to safety, but the family, and thousands of others, were denied, left to be crushed under a wave of Nazi oppression.

Perhaps Mr. Frank should have applied for Chinese visas.

While European countries and America closed their doors to those asking for help, a few brave Chinese foreign ministers went out of their way to rescue as many refugees as they could and put them on boats to Shanghai.

Ho Feng-Shan was the consul general of China in Vienna during that tumultuous time. Sometimes called “China’s Schindler,” from 1938-1940 he saved thousands of Jewish lives by issuing them visas for Shanghai. Shanghai accepted over 20,000 Jewish refugees during the WWII era.

The similarities between the refugee crisis of WWII and the Syrian refugee crisis of today cannot be ignored. But while Europe and America openly debate why and how they should accept the refugees or not, China has remained shockingly silent on the matter.

europe-migrants-hungaryChina is a vast land with a growing economy but is facing several demographic issues. With an aging population and a dwindling workforce, accepting refugees would make good economic, if not moral, sense.

Even though China has already announced plans to amend the one-child policy into a two-child policy, it will take decades to see any improvement. Economists predict that China’s workforce will diminish sharply by 2030, a mere 14 years from now. Second-children born next year will not be able to enter the workforce in time.

Statistics show that immigrants increase gross domestic product. More people means more production.

In 2014, Germany was also facing a shortage of millions of skilled workers. After Germany agreed to accept 800,000 Syrian refugees, the head of the International Monetary Fund (the IMF) Christine Lagarde said, “If the influx [of refugees] is well-managed, yes, it is bound to be a positive in a society which is aging and which has the fiscal space to accommodate it.”

Economist Thomas Piketty, the author of “Capital in the 21st Century,” recently wrote, the crisis represents an “opportunity for Europeans to jump-start the continent’s economy.”

Why shouldn’t China take a bite of this economy-boosting pie?

01
Ho Feng-Shan, the “Chinese Schindler”

There are other ways immigrant populations can benefit China. More workers pay more taxes, which benefit everyone, but especially future generations. Public education in London, England has seen extraordinary improvement in recent years, much of which is credited with the city’s large migrant population.

Immigrants bring different skills and aptitudes and can transmit those to non-immigrant colleagues (and vice versa). They can increase competition in particular labor markets, increasing the incentive for natives to acquire certain skills. Workplace diversity can boost productivity, as a number of U.S. and U.K. studies have shown.

Over the last few years, China has been easing and tweaking its visa policies in order to lure overseas talent. Syria has thousands of willing and eager workers looking for a new place to settle down and raise their families – not just live for a few years and leave as many Western workers do. Immigrants are also often eager to assimilate into their new communities, learning the language and accepting local culture so they can quickly call their new location “home.”

China’s open door policy of the Reform and Opening Up Period was nothing new. China has a history of eagerly welcoming those in need. China should live up to its own reputation and build on the legacy of people like Ho Feng-Shan and welcome Syrian refugees with open arms.

Do you think China should accept Syrian refugees? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Don’t forget to enter this month’s drawing! Learn about this month’s prize, Beijing Monkeys, here!

beijing monkey 1
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Interview with Xinran, the Author of Buy Me The Sky

Interview with Xinran, the Author of Buy Me The Sky

Author Xinran
Author Xinran

Most readers of this blog know that I am a huge fan of the author Xinran. I reviewed her book “The Good Women of China” here and wrote about her book “Letters From an Unknown Chinese Mother” here. Her latest book “Buy Me The Sky: The remarkable truth of China’s one-child generations” talks about the children who have grown up under China’s one-child policy, something else I have written about quite a bit. 

I am so honored that Xinran agreed to talk with me about her new book! 

1)      Tell me about yourself.
 
I am…
A Chinese daughter, but doesn’t know very much about her parents’ life because of China’s political past which her parents never wanted to talk about it between 1950’s to 1970’s.
A Chinese mother, but doesn’t know much about her only child, because he grows up between Chinese culture and western culture, in his bilingual languages and screened knowledge.
A British husband’s wife, but doesn’t know much about her husband’s culture and adopted western society because her limited English and world knowledge.
A Chinese woman, but doesn’t know much about her roots country because China has changed so fast in last 30 years, there is no so such a historical record/lesson to learn from it.
A Chinese writer, but is still struggling to understand why the history is so unfair to women, and is trying hard to get Chinese hidden voices out.
 
2)      How did you become a writer?
 
Driven by a childhood dream, grow up with a passion and everyday hard trying of listening, observation, and thinking.
 
3)      How did you come to write Buy Me the Sky?
 
buy me the skyDuring over thirty years research on today’s China, I have shocked by some facts which have happened to the most families under One Child Policy, therefore I want to find the answers to these questions and to send an invitation out for people could listen to their answers:
 
— ‘Is the mother keeping her child as a pet, or is the child keeping her parents as slaves, to be at her beck and call with every wave of her hand?!
— Is One Child Policy much more powerful than any kind of the beliefs rooted in culture, religion, education, and living environments?
— They all belong to the first generation of the One Child Policy, they have completely different views on China, the world, and the concept of a quality life because of their family backgrounds, living conditions, and their pursuit of different ideals. But is there any point they could agree with their family elders after their long march under One Child Policy?
 
4)      At the end of each story, you ask the young people you talked to about the Yao Jiaxin incident. Why did you feel it was important to get their views on that?
 
Yes, it could help readers to understand there is no such a Chinese and single China there, young Chinese have very different knowledge and views on Yao’s case because the difference of their living condition and family backgrounds, also between rich and poor, city and countryside, and even between 5 years age!
 
5)      Why do you think only-children in China are so different from only-children born in other countries?
 
A child lives in an adult society must be completely different from a child lives in a society with many other children…
Or we say, English lives in Beijing, in a Chinese Hotong, must feel very different from she/he lives in a building which is full of English speakers…
Childhood society/family culture is the first education/brainwash in our life!
 
6)      What do you think of China’s new two-child policy? Do you think it will effect much change in the short or long term?
 
One Child Policy, as anything, likes a coin with two sides, (in fact it should be three sides):
In the last three decades, under the One Child Policy, China has prevented 400 million people from coming into this world, buying FOUR years for the world population to reach 6 billion. In this point, One Child Policy is a gift to the earth by its birth control, saving energy, giving more space to all of life being. AND China had got a chance to recover from nearly one hundred years civil war, from a very poor country to today’s big rich country.
 
But, China has paid high price for it.  This policy has led Chinese families jumped a history queue, BEFORE Chinese could have had a time to build up a ‘ready knowledge and support system’ for the one child society, as I have mentioned in my article sent to you:    
According to China’s sixth census in Oct 2014, by 2020 there will be 30 million more males than females among the age group of 20 to 45 year olds in China. More than 150,000 Western families have adopted Chinese orphans, mainly girls, since 1991. And also, the most important part of Chinese tradition is our family value which has rooted and shaped Chinese culture and society, but it has been damaged by single children society. Chinese become confused by its social disorders, its rule-less family structure, and polluted by some western celebrity culture, and even drugged sexual behaviours without enough education and any learning process.
 
I hope ‘two children policy’ is not too late.
I wish more and more hard working young parents could realise that their beloved only child won’t have a real sharing and quality life by lives by her/his own, because money can’t buy a happy family and peaceful sleep!
It might take more two generations for Chinese to realise how much Chinese tradition and society have been damaged by this policy.
 
7)      What are you working on next?
 
I am working on my new book ‘Talking Love’ a family dating history through its four generations.
 
8)      Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
 
Great thanks for this question with your cares!
 
2063-07_09_07-image_2_lg2I set up a charity called The Mothers’ Bridge of Love (MBL) (UK registration number 1105543) with a group of volunteers in 2004.  MBL’s aim is to provide Chinese cultural support to children in all corners of the world, by creating a bridge of understanding between China and the West, and between birth and adoptive cultures, and helping education in rural China. 
 
After ten years MBL’s achievements of assistance, advice and educational activities to adoptive families around the world, supporting a number of disaster relief and built 15 libraries for some migrant workers’ children, and children living in rural countryside in China, now MBL invites my readers and families from all over the world to support MBL for giving more children with reading possibility in rural China.
You can read all of my author interviews here. 
Don’t forget to enter our monthly giveaway! You can learn more about this month’s prize here. 
  beijing monkey 2

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Dozens of SZ Expats Swindled in United Airlines Flight Scam

Dozens of SZ Expats Swindled in United Airlines Flight Scam

The following was originally published in the Shenzhen Daily. I have added a little more information for clarity and an analysis to the end.

Cansu Uzcan, from her Facebook page.
Cansu Uzcan, from her Facebook page.

DOZENS of expats in Shenzhen have been swindled out of tens of thousands of yuan in a United Airlines fraud case allegedly perpetuated by a well-known Shenzhen international student, an investigation by the Shenzhen Daily has discovered.

“My mother was stranded in Rome,” said one victim named Rose. “We had to pay thousands of dollars to get her back home to the United States.”

People interviewed for this article asked not to be identified by their full names.

The person accused of the scam, Cansu Uzcan (also known as Jansu Uzcan), is attending Shenzhen University and allegedly used a stolen credit card to purchase flights while selling the flights to Shenzhen expats at discounted rates. Victims deposited cash into Chinese bank accounts under Uzcan’s name or the name of her boyfriend Sean Champion.

Some of the people Uzcan approached were cautious initially, but after booking the flights through Uzcan, United Airlines emailed the victims directly to confirm the flights. Some were even able to apply the flights to their United Airlines Mileage accounts. After several people successfully completed flights booked through Uzcan, the number of expats purchasing discounted flights through her grew quickly.

But on September 2 people noticed that their flights were being canceled by United Airlines.

Some who were halfway through their trips were told by United Airlines that they had to pay for the full cost of their flight – often double or triple the amount of money they paid Uzcan – in order to return home.

Some travelers arrived at the airport before finding out their flight had already been canceled. “I was told I would have to pay over US$3,000 to take my flight,” Seth said. “I only paid US$500 for it in the first place.”

At least two dozen people contacted Uzcan through WeChat and email to find out what happened. At first, she said that United’s system had been hacked and she returned some of the money, according to the victims.

Sean Champion, Uzcan's boyfriend and partner in crime, from his Facebook page.
Sean Champion, Uzcan’s boyfriend and partner in crime, from his Facebook page.

By the end of September, she began blocking the WeChat accounts of people who had booked flights through her.

United Airlines has since started contacting people who completed flights or attached their United Airline Mileage accounts to flights that weren’t taken. According to letters from United Airlines sent to the victims, the people who booked flights through Uzcan violated the airlines terms of service because Uzcan was using a stolen credit card to book the flights.

United Airlines said the victims are liable for flights they took because United was never paid for the flights by the credit card company. United Airlines has also nullified all the mileage accounts connected with the scam.

“I lost over 100,000 miles I had saved,” another victim named Ariyana said. “United Airlines is saying that I owe them thousands of dollars. The stress has been unimaginable. I had to hire a lawyer. I don’t know when I’ll be able to recover financially. I won’t be able to go home for Christmas this year.”

“United Airlines has been terrible to all of us,” Rose continued. “They are treating us like criminals.”

“United Airlines allowed this apparently fraudulent card to be used for months but are now blaming us for their lack of oversight and responsibility,” said a victim named Jayton.

Several of the fraud victims have reached out to law enforcement officers in China, the U.S. and Canada. While all three countries are investigating the case, they claim there is little they can do. “Most of the transactions were conducted through WeChat,” a Canadian police officer said. “Anyone could have been behind the screen.”

Investigations are ongoing.

~*~

Many people have asked how this could happen. How could so many expats be convinced to deposit their money into someone else’s bank account so easily?

The expat community is small. Even though there are thousands of expats in Shenzhen alone, we are all connected. Everyone knows everyone else through someone. We are all also very Internet savvy and keep in touch with each other. Many times, we feel we are “in this together.” Living overseas is not easy, so we are always trying to help each other. Giving each other tips and tricks to make life easier and save money is extremely common.

united-airlinesWhen Cansu said she could help fellow expats save money through booking flights, we believed her. She is also very well-known. Many expats vouched for her because they know her through Shenzhen University. I actually met her several months before when she organized an event as part of the International Cultural Industries Fair.

We didn’t have a reason not to trust her.

At least for me, I didn’t lose that much (about US$500). I chalk it up to a learning experience. But some of the people I quoted in the article and many others lost a lot more money and are facing legal issues with United Airlines.

At this point, even if nothing legal can happen to Cansu Uzcan, United Airlines needs to stop treating the victims of her scam as criminals. She took advantage of the trust and community expats in Shenzhen have built, but United is continuing to ruin lives by re-victimizing the people Cansu took advantage of.

United Airlines needs to reinstate the mileage accounts of the victims at least – at most they need to refund the people who were swindled by Cansu Uzcan.

What do you think? Have you ever fallen victim to a scam while living overseas? Let me know in the comments.

China’s Family Planning Policies Still Firmly in Place

China’s Family Planning Policies Still Firmly in Place

Don’t worry, everyone. China still has the most brutal and backward family planning policies in the world.

I work at a newspaper, but the biggest news in weeks broke while I was on my way home for the weekend Thursday night. In the 45-minutes it took to get from my office to my home, my Facebook, Twitter, and in-boxes were filled with two things – celebration over the end of China’s decades-old One-Child Policy and questions asking me what is really going on over here. So let me explain what China’s new Two-Child Policy actually means.

This is only a proposal.

The Two-Child Policy has not been approved by China’s government yet. Couples are not yet safe to have two children. It will still take several months for the policy to be accepted by the government and then it could take up to a year to be adopted nationwide. When the government eased restrictions two years ago, it took over a year for the policy to take effect here in Shenzhen. That means that if a woman was to get pregnant with an unapproved second child tomorrow, she would still be in violation of the law and have to pay a huge fine or risk her child being denied a hukou or be forced to terminate the pregnancy.

All Chinese couples can eventually have two children.


Two years ago, China already relaxed the One-Child Policy and announced that in families where one of the parents was an only child, the couple could have two children. The new policy will allow all couples to have two children.

But they have to apply for it.

You can’t just go out and get pregnant in China. You have to apply for permission, even for a first child. The same is now true of a second child – you have to ask the government if it is okay first.

You Can’t Undo Decades of Brainwashing Overnight

China’s insistence that families should only have one child pre-date the current One-Child Policy. Even though Mao initially encouraged families to have as many children as possible to spur the economy, by 1970 the government had serious concerns about the country’s population explosion and began “encouraging” people to marry later and have as few children as possible. The official One-Child Policy was enacted by 1980. Most people of child-bearing age today have only lived under the One-Child Policy.

0023ae606e661487576653The One-Child Policy isn’t simply a rule like “wear your seat belt” that most people begrudgingly accept. It has been pounded into their minds that having only one child is their moral and patriotic duty. To have more than one child would be to betray China. The punishments for violating the policy have been strict and brutal, creating a culture of fear of the government and authorities. Forced abortions are still commonplace today. Abortion under duress even more so. Families who violate the policy have to pay huge, life-crushing fines. Families who cannot pay the fines can be denied jobs and housing. Children born outside the policy are denied personhood, by which I mean they are denied a hukou or official registration. Hukou-less persons are denied schooling, healthcare, housing, jobs, bank accounts, train/bus/airplane tickets, and cannot marry. They don’t exist in their own country. They also can never leave because they cannot apply for a passport.

People in China also believe that having a second child is too expensive. When you only have one child, it is easy to think that that child has to have the best life – the best clothes, the best education, live in the best neighborhood, go to the best college, and so on. Because of this, many people believe their expenses for raising a second child will double. Instead of finding ways to cut costs by sending them to a less expensive school, many families who qualify for a second child opt out because of financial concerns.

After living your whole life in this kind of environment, it is difficult to suddenly change your way of thinking and have a second child.

Last year, when the restrictions were first eased, the government estimated that 90 million children could be born under the new policy. Only around 250,000 were. Here in Shenzhen, it was estimated that 25,000 couples qualified to have a second child. Only around 1,500 were born – in a city of 14 million people. The effect of a limited second-child policy was almost negligible. Some scholars estimate it will take 70-100 years for China’s birthrate to return to normal.

Current Second Children Born Outside the One-Child Policy Will Still Be Denied Personhood

There has been no indication that current second children who were born outside the One-Child Policy will be granted clemency. Their parents still broke the law and they and their children must suffer for that.

Any child born outside the Two-Child Policy Will Be Denied Personhood

Any child born outside the new two-child policy will still be denied a hukou.

Women Who Get Pregnant Outside China’s Family Planning Polices Are Punished

4070983756_5cb8c3d315China’s Family Planning Policies go beyond the One-Child Policy. In China, women who get pregnant out of wedlock can be legally fired from their job. Women who have a child out of wedlock can be denied housing. Women who have a child out of wedlock are subject to the same fines as couples who have children outside the One-Child Policy. Chinese women who are not married are not allowed to store their eggs for future fertility treatments.

And, of course, children born to women who are not married can also be denied personhood.

Just to be clear, men cannot be fired from their jobs nor are they fined for having a child out of wedlock.

Nothing Has Changed

Long story short – this isn’t good enough. China’s family planning policies are still in violation of basic human rights. Do not give China any kudos for this. Only when China ends all of its family planning policies and every person in China is recognized as a human being will it be good enough.

What do you think about the new Two-Child Policy? Do you think it will have much of an effect? Let me know what you think in the comments. 

It is Legal to Buy a Kidnapped Child in China

It is Legal to Buy a Kidnapped Child in China

I had only been in China for a few months the first time someone told me I could buy a baby in China. I had told one of my new friends at our school in rural, northern Hunan about my dream of adopting a child in China. 20111122-Wiki C Xinhua Missing-Kids-QQ-Page“Why bother with that?” she asked. “Just go to the countryside and buy one for 10,000 RMB.” This suggestion is one that I have heard repeatedly during the years I have lived here. I make no secret about our desire to grow our family through adoption, and most people I meet, while curious, are anxious to help. I have been told to “simply buy a baby” in every place I have lived, from rural Hunan to the metropolis of Shenzhen. I usually reply with “well, we have to adopt legally so that we can get our child American citizenship.” This is enough for them, but I can’t help but wonder about just how easy it is for Chinese people to “buy babies.”

A recent story in the Shenzhen Daily was a real eye-opener on this issue. An article entitled “Child Buyers May Face Punishment” explains that “a draft amendment to the Criminal Law being considered by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress advocates ‘light punishment’ for buyers who don’t harm abducted children or hinder their rescue.” The article goes on to say that “most buyers treat abducted children as their own, and won’t be punished, said Chen Shiqu, director of the Ministry of Public Security’s anti-trafficking office.” Currently, people who buy abducted children in China do not face legal consequences if caught. 

Child trafficking in China is a huge problem. China has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world, with numbers ranging from 20,000-200,000 each year. Too often, kidnapped children are not just sold domestically, but to international adoption agencies as well. The kidnapping problem even affects China’s Southeast Asian neighbors, with many girls and women in neighboring countries kidnapped and trafficked into China as “brides” for China’s growing bachelor population.

I know the pain of not having a child. My adoption journey has spanned over a decade and we are still waiting. Of course, if adoption was as simple as “buying a baby,” it would be tempting. I want a baby more than anything. But adoption laws and procedures exist for many reasons, chief among them the protection of the child. It is important to make sure that adopted children are not stolen and that they will be well taken care of. How could you sleep at night knowing that the only reason you are a parent is because you stole someone else’s child?

A woman holds a candle behind a board showing photos of missing children during a campaign to spread information to search for them in Wuhan, in central China's Hubei province.
A woman holds a candle behind a board showing photos of missing children during a campaign to spread information to search for them in Wuhan, in central China’s Hubei province.

The adoption system is flawed – and I mean every adoption system in every country and the international programs. The rules are too strict and the programs are much too expensive, but you don’t solve those problems by going outside the system – especially if going outside the system means kidnapping someone else’s child.

While I am completely sympathetic to the pain that would drive parents to buy a child to complete their families, I cannot condone their actions. People who buy children from child traffickers are child traffickers, and they should face legal consequences. Every link in the child trafficking chain must be smashed to stop this horrendous crime, and that includes the buyers who only want to be mommies and daddies.

I hope that the Standing Committee endorses the draft amendment that was presented to them that all buyers of stolen children be punished.

What about you? Do you think people who buy stolen children should be punished? Let me know in the comments.