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The country celebrates the New Year with the usual fireworks and mayhem. Four athletes take home gold medals from the Vancouver games. Artists protest in Beijing, claiming that the government is trying to get them to leave their colony. Oxfam is banned from school campuses. A factory worker is sentenced for joining the US-based China Democracy Party. A new program will support rural migrants to cities, offering free education. Drug abuse by the elderly increases. After threatening to exit, Google is hiring in China. Apple to open a store in Shanghi. And archeologists find an ancient 700 km of the Great Wall.
Top News: China rang in the Year of the Tiger and, as always, celebrated with massive amounts of fireworks. In Shanghai, the constant barrage of explosions lasted a whole week. Jason Dean at the Wall Street Journal has a good video of what it was like in Beijing, along with his own noisy display of celebration.
Luckily, this year’s festivities were abnormally low on casualties. Only isolated instances of injuries were reported. However, perhaps to mark the New Year, a Beijing court has confirmed that it will prosecute 23 people in connection to last year’s Chinese New Year blaze at the CCTV headquarters. An illegal fireworks display caused the fire, which gutted the building, killed a firefighter, and caused $24 million in damage.
Far from just celebrating the New Year, China has also been partying due to its newfound success at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Husband and wife team Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo captured China’s first ever gold medal in figure skating. Meanwhile, Wang Meng won the gold in the 500m women’s speed skating race and Zhou Yang won the gold and broke the world record in the women’s 1,500m event.
About 20 artists demonstrated in downtown Beijing after they claimed that thugs hired by the local government beat them up for not moving out of their artist community. The Zhengyang Creative Art Zone is slated to be demolished for "urbanization projects," but the artists dispute this, saying that their contract had not yet run out.
Chinese school administrators have been told to bar international charity Oxfam from their campuses. There were no specifics on why Oxfam needed to be banned, but an Education Ministry notice cryptically explained, "[Oxfam is a] non-governmental organization seeking to infiltrate our interior."
China is no happier about foreign-based political parties trying to infiltrate the interior. A 20 year-old factory worker was sentenced to 18 months in jail for joining the US-based China Democracy Party. Three of his associates have also been arrested and are being tried for subversion.
Chinese officials announced that they would begin supporting young rural residents migrating to cities. The program will focus on helping them purchase or rent apartments and receive basic social services in smaller cities near their homes. As of now, social services are linked to residency, so migrants in large cities receive no governmental benefits. However, Shanghai will make a big step to solving the difficulties of the floating population. The city will offer free education to the children of all migrant workers. This will make Shanghai the first city in China to take this step and will likely lead to similar reforms nationwide.
But maybe it’s not just watching after young people Shanghai should be worried about. The China Daily has reported a disturbing trend of drug abuse among middle-aged and elderly people in the city. Apparently, many old people are taking cocaine and other stimulants to stay up during all night Mahjong sessions.
China will begin cracking down on corruption by “naked officials,” government bureaucrats with immediate family members living abroad. There has been a trend of corruption among this group of administrators and they will now have to report to the Party all of their properties and investments, as well as the reason why their family members are living abroad.
Money: So much for Google pulling out of China. The Internet giant has not yet censored its search results and is actually hiring new engineers, managers, and sales staff. There was no explanation from the company about why they haven’t followed through on their threat, and they told Bloomberg, “It’s business as usual in Google’s China offices, including hiring.”
Apple’s chief operating officer, Tim Cook, said that the company would open its second store in China by this summer. The new flagship will be located in Shanghai, but details have not yet been released. Currently, Apple only has one store in China, located in the upscale Sanlitun Village in Beijing.
Elsewhere: In China’s third national survey of cultural relics, a new 700km portion of the Great Wall was discovered. Archeologist in Gansu and Shaanxi province in Northern China made the discovery.
Although Beijing is shutting down their studios, there is still an immense interest in contemporary Chinese artists. However, learning the names and styles of many of the country’s top artists can be a bit of a challenge. But a new Wiki website has some great articles for those wanting to delve into the subject. Check it out at www.artspeakchina.org.