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Texting and Internet are partially restored in Xinjiang, to those not sending "unhealthy" messages. Avatar is allegedly forced out of theaters to make room for Confucius. The former vice president of the Supreme People's Court is sentenced to life in prison for embezzlement. A Chinese teen becomes a hero for murdering a corrupt official. More melamine is found in milk. In 2009, for the first time, China bought more American assets than the U.S. bought Chinese. The property market surges. Workers strike at the factory that makes iPhones. Counterfeit iPads have been on sale for three months. Two female tennis stars make it to the semifinals of the Australian Open before they are defeated. And a chocolate theme park opens in Beijing.
Top News: Terrible winter weather hit the restive province of Xinjiang, damaging or flattening 100,000 homes. Temperatures dropped to minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit and over three feet of snow fell.
However, it wasn’t all bad news in the province. Some Internet access and text messaging services have been restored after being blocked for six months, due to security concerns involving the mass riots in July. Residents can now send a maximum of 20 text messages a day and websites, though available, are severely censored, even lacking advertisements.
It seems that text message freedom is not only going to be hampered in Xinjiang. According to the China Daily, authorities will force China Mobile and China Unicom to cut off texting services to customers sending "illegal or unhealthy" content. The system will detect this by using keywords and asking people to rat out suspected illegal texters.
After becoming a huge hit with Chinese moviegoers, the government has forced the removal of Avatar from theaters around the country in order to make way for the big budget and critically panned biopic, Confucius. Although officials deny that they forced Avatar off the screens, citizen anger is so great that there has been a move to boycott Confucius.
Despite wanting to block foreign films to raise profits for domestic productions, some Chinese officials are still interested in profiting from Avatar. Officials in Hunan have renamed a famous peak Hallelujah Mountain in honor of the film. They have also begun arranging Avatar-themed travel tours.
Huang Songyou, the former vice president of China’s supreme people’s court, the highest judicial panel in China, was sentenced to life imprisonment for embezzling Rmb 1.2 million and accepting bribes of Rmb 3.9 million. He is the highest judicial official in China to ever be convicted of corruption.
Chinese citizens are becoming more and more fed up with dishonest officials. The Washington Post had an excellent story about a Chinese teenager who has become a folk hero for murdering a corrupt local official.
In what seems like a never-ending scandal, more melamine was found in Chinese milk products. Officials in Guizhou province have ordered products from three dairies off shelves after testing positive for high levels of melamine. Officials believe that the goods might even be remaining stock from the original scandal in 2008.
Money: For the first time, this year Chinese have bought more American assets than Americans have bought Chinese assets. In 2009, Chinese investors and companies bought $3.9 billion in American assets, up around four times from 2008. While American buyers only bought $3 billion in Chinese assets last year, down 80 percent from 2008.
In addition, the property market in China surged to dangerous levels last year. Sales of residential developments increased 80 percent from 2008, while offices rose 67 percent and retail spaces increased 45 percent. In total, property sales increased 75 percent, reaching an astronomical Rmb 4.4 trillion. The government has begun putting harsh restrictions on bank lending in order to cool down the property market.
Over 2,000 employees at a Wintek factory in Suzhou, China, which manufactures Apple’s iPhone touchscreens, went on strike to protest unfair pay and hazardous working conditions. At least four workers have died at the plant due to exposure to Hexane, a chemical used to clean the touchscreens. In addition, the company canceled year-end bonuses. The protest became violent at times, with workers damaging equipment and vehicles.
While Steve Jobs announced the new iPad to much fanfare this week, in China a fake version of the product has been available for three months. Produced by Shenzhen Great Long Brother Industrial Company, the P88 looks nearly identical and has many similar features. Here’s a comparison.
Elsewhere: Chinese female tennis stars Li Na and Zheng Jie reached the semifinals of the Australian Open before being beaten by Serena Williams and Justine Henin, respectively. It was the first time two Chinese tennis players reached a grand slam semifinal.
After being exiled from the New York Knicks and playing few minutes with the Boston Celtics, troubled NBA star Stephon Marbury has given up his career in the U.S. and moved to China. Marbury will begin playing for the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons in the CBA. The move is in part an effort to promote his Starbury shoe brand in China.
For chocolate lovers out there, Beijing has built the World Chocolate Dream Park, a temporary theme park devoted to chocolate around the world. The Park will be open from Jan. 29 to April 10 on the Olympic Green. Check it out if you are up in Beijing.