March 24, 2010

China's Supreme Court Second-Level Justice: I Hope Citizens Do Not File Lawsuits

The original title is "Zhang Jun (张军): I Hope Citizens Do Not Sue and Do Not Have the Courage to Sue"

The conversation below is part of a longer Q&A session. It took place during the NPC and CPPCC annual meetings.

Translation: 张军:希望老百姓尽量不要打官司 更不要敢于打官司

At 8PM on the evening of March 11, 2010, during the third session of the Eleventh National People's Congress, two NPC representatives and one director of China Supreme People's Court conducted an online exchange with Netizens. Armed with work summary reports from Supreme People's Court, the three officials answered questions concerning how judicial system may help to protect the livelihood of ordinary Chinese citizens.

[CNR.CN reporter] A CNR.CN reader would like to ask Judge Zhang Jun the following question: I inadvertently heard that the courts have a series of policies, such as fee waivers and installment plans, which aim to make filing cases easier for vulnerable groups like persons with disabilities and those enjoying five guarantees (五保户, in China, village minors, childless elders and the infirmed are guaranteed food, clothing, medical care, housing and burial expenses). However, in everyday life, we rarely see relevant information about these policies. In the future, could the courts make a greater effort to disseminate said information, so that ordinary people and vulnerable groups have more courage to file lawsuits?

[Zhang Jun] This reader is quite interesting. He "inadvertently heard." That means we are definitely doing a better job at spreading the knowledge than before. I agree with him in that the people's courts have implemented many concrete changes to make themselves more accessible to the public. Just this afternoon Court President Wang Shengjun (王胜俊) mentioned in his report the large amount of work that has been done in the area. Last year, the reduced, waived, or delayed litigation fees due to difficult life circumstances amounted to 0.76 billion, and this number increases every year. The growing financial aid reflects the concern and care Party and government have for the masses. In the future we shall enlist the help of internet and the websites here today to advertise these policies to Netizens. I hope Netizens will jump in as well and let more people "inadvertently" hear about the policies.

Separate from the topic, I have another issue to bring up. Conflicts between ordinary people and neighbors are common. If you can avoid lawsuits, do. Don't be "daring" to sue. In other words, try to eliminate trials by asking people to mediate and letting respected elders to speak on your behalf. Litigations are money consuming. They also damage relationships. As one old Chinese saying advises us, "harmony is the most precious." Going to court will certainly disrupt that harmony. If we can resolve family and neighbor problems through mediation, we will do our best to take that route. Our goal is to create a more peaceful, harmonious work, living, and study environment for the parties involved. If we order the defense to do something when he is still angry, then he won't voluntarily make reparations. At this point, the court stepping in to enforce the ruling can further intensify the conflict.

Therefore, as a judge, I sincerely wish that our people could avoid trials when problems can be settled out of courts. Less lawsuits implies a more harmonious society. Thank you.


laoxia from Yichang, Hubei
This is ridiculous. Is our society progressing or regressing?

julongshi from Hefei, Anhui
5 ingredients to a winning case: 1. reason is on your side; 2. connections (best if they are connections in the court); 3. a honest good lawyer; 4. the opposing side does not have a political background (belonging to the governing body); 5. get a good honest judge.

洞视者 from Changsha, Hunan
If someone has power and connections, then even when reason is not on his side, judge is biased and lawyer awful, he will still win!

淡定需要忍耐 from Shijiazhuang, Hebei
Actually, the judges are the most powerful. One judge once bragged, who cares what your lawyer says. I will issue the verdict however I like!

shanchunyeren from Anhui, Hefei
Do Chinese people even like lawsuits? We would not dare enter the court gate given any other choice.

Mobile Phone User
Can't believe such an unprofessional person is our representative

霊橒 from Shantou, Shandong
If this came from a philosopher, then okay, I agree that courtroom is not the best place to address problems. But as a jurist, he has stepped out of line. His job is not to discourage lawsuits but to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice.

开心果果4 from Tianjin, Hebei
Yes, you guys ideally just need to hold your teacups, read newspapers, have nice chats during your work time, and still get paid.

墨剑 from Jiangsu
His attitude is a little strange. Does he want everyone to follow the footsteps of Buddha, whose head is covered with bumps? (Note: the Netizen is implying that Buddha was beat up many times) We must endure everything!

Chines people never like courtrooms. Naturally, they don't like lawsuits either.

The usage of "dare to" is interesting. He obviously agrees that such a action requires courage. What, the courts dare not to resolve even the minor cases between common people? Why do I get the feeling his answer has some deeper meaning?

云鹄展 from Nanning, Guangxi
I don't think "harmony is the most precious" applies to all situations. Traditionally we value peace, but focusing solely on harmony will cover up the real problems [, leaving them to fester]. I believe that to the contrary, we should strive to be inharmonious. We have to be better at uncovering and addressing issues. We need to quickly correct those which can not be condoned.

吴玉楼 from Qingdao, Shandong
Comrade Zhang Jun:
1. Grassroot political structures, such as residential committees, have been weak for many years. And since most believe in "the less troubles, the better," many conflicts between neighbors could not be nipped in the bud. This is one major reason leading to lawsuits.

2. In some cases, one must be firm when enforcing the law. How else can you administer justice when you are worried about too many things? Effective enforcement has long been an issue, and it has not improved much.

太湖雄马 from Wuxi, Jiangsu
The fundamental problem is the lack of justice!

Double2 from Ningbo Zhejiang
This leader is definitely out of touch with common people's pain.

cenming69 from Zhuhai, Guangdong
The report made me furious the first time I read it. After some re-thinking, however, I realized that our legal environment is quite realistic. Our society is not governed by legalism. Thus, it is unsurprising to see this comment: 5 ingredients to a winning case: 1. Reason is on your side; 2. Connections (best they are connections in the court); 3. Get a honest good lawyer; 4. The opposing side does not have a political background (belonging to the governing body); 5. Get a good honest judge.

But that friend failed to mention one more thing: even when you win, our legal system does not act to protect your rights. My personal experiences confirm this.

First experience. The company I worked for lost 6 million yuan in the non-ferrous metal business due to fraud. We filed for lawsuit. With the help from police in XX province, we recovered a jeep and some real estate property. Together they valued at 1 million. Then the police kept the jeep and asked for more money to compensate for their expenses. In the end, we received 0 reparation. We never filed another lawsuit after that. The ruling cannot be enforced. Each time it is enforced, we end up losing more money. I write this to show that common people have no ability to carry out the verdicts.

Second experience. I used to work in an amusement park. We lost tons of cases, but the prosecution could never get their money back. We conducted business as usual even when the bank froze our accounts. They just had to swallow the losses.

Third experience. One of my friends lived in Dongguan. She was married with kids, but because of physical abuse, she filed for divorce and custody of her child. Although she had sufficient evidence to prove abuse, Dongguan court said men will care more for their offspring, so her ex-husband was granted guardianship (he was unemployed at the time). My friend appealed the decision (she hired a lawyer from beginning to end) at Dongguan intermediate court and finally received a favorable ruling.

The problem was not ever. The man took their child back to hometown Jiangan in Sichuan (四川老家江安). Dongguan court couldn't do anything after that. My friend took the legal papers to Jiangan. But because the man had connections in Jiangan judiciary system, Jiangan lower court forcibly overturned the Dongguan ruling. (Isn't it preposterous) My friend appealed the decision in Yibin intermediate level court, and was again granted custody. Yibin also requested that Jiangan enforce the ruling. Jiangan court said it didn't have the power.

In the end, my friend spent several hundred thousand of dollars she saved up over the years, won the case, but had no way to ensure that the verdict was carried out. She even thought about hiring gangs. It has been 3 years now. She has not seen her child for three years.

These are my own experiences. Do you think it is practical to go to the courts? It is hard to win and harder to benefit when you win.

ddgaycd from Dandong, Liaoning (probably the only comment in Judge Zhang's favor)
Why can't people speak truthfully now? Truth was what the judge said. I can't comprehend the comments on this website. Do family and neighbor disputes have to be solved in court? Lawsuits waste our own resources. They also drain society's resources. Even if you win, relationships are destroyed.
Finally, to satisfy my own curiosity, I searched for statistics on court performance.

According to this 1999 book on Google Books (I am assuming that the numbers at least stayed the same if not increased with time), the number of resolved cases per judge during 1995-1996 time frame is 168 in Germany, 178 in Hungary, 1,203 in Singapore, 1,408 for Peru, 1,233 in U.S. and a whopping 4,809 in Chile.

I then looked for data on China but was only able to find the following 2009 article: for her huge population, China's national average caseload is 45 per judge per year.

March 23, 2010

Bride Dumped on Wedding Night Because She Isn't a Virgin

The post racked up 102 pages of replies. I only translated a small portion.

Translation: 新婚之夜新郎出走了,原因太雷人了,新娘现在还在崩溃中

My best girlfriend was supposed to marry today. More accurately, yesterday. She got the marriage certificate but the wedding ceremony hasn't been held yet, so the couple just invited a few people to celebrate. The bride and the groom dated for about two years. Of course they knew each other long before that because the two families live in the same neighborhood. The groom came from a good background--he works as an accountant on one of the Big Four firms. The bride is a civil servant (Note: In China government jobs are some of the better positions because they are always more stable and less taxing. Some people also say there are more opportunities for "gray" earnings). The two met at a reunion party after the groom returned from studies abroad, and the two quickly fell in love. Then they bought an apartment last year, decorated it, and waited until any lingering bad smell went away. Finally, yesterday they registered as a couple. We all felt glad. Both had good personalities, so it was a perfect match. Even yesterday at dinner, the two were talking about how happy it is to marry their first love.

Yet, two hours after the newly weds returned home, the groom said: "I am leaving. Let's discuss details when we divorce," and off he went. By the time another girlfriend and I got there, the bride was breaking down major time. We had to coax the story from her. And when we heard about what happened, we didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Right before the marriage was consummated, the bride told the groom that she was no longer a virgin. The groom was dumbfounded, and he asked: didn't you say I was your first love? My best friend: Yes, you are the first person I truly love, blablabla.....The groom did not let her finish. He just said what I already wrote earlier and marched off. The other girlfriend and I were furious. We started cussing him. Fuck him, is he a virgin? Why does he require you to be one? The girlfriend replied he is. So we said, the bastard, you really believe him? The girlfriend replied, probably yes. During the two years they dated, no matter how heated things became, he never "touched" her. He insisted that liberal thinking should be separated from morality, so that they can be responsible to themselves and to others. He even participated in the Silver Ring Thing to actively promote abstinence before marriage. We were speechless.

While we were still telling her that it is not a big deal, he will come around, the girlfriend's parents came. The groom had called them and announced he wanted a divorce. He was adamant. Her parents told her to take it easy. They tried to take her home. She was sobbing her heart out. She attached herself to the bed and refused to let go. Her mom started crying too and told her, this is your fault, you should have told him earlier. Now that it came to this, our families will be enemies. My girlfriend cried so hard, saying I didn't have the courage, I refuse to take this. Since we couldn't help, we left, leaving the three of them alone.

What kind of thing is this? I felt that neither side was at fault. But why did a happy event turn out so sad? Should my girlfriend have told the guy earlier? What does everyone think?

I see nothing lei here. You just have to take responsibility for your own actions. The guy's request was not unreasonable.


Your girlfriend is surely "lucky" to meet such a JP...
If she knew he was a virgin, then she should have told him earlier.

We have to be honest with each other before marriage. Otherwise, the ending can be tragic. Sigh....

She knew how the guy felt
she should have let the truth out earlier
and she shouldn't say things like "first love" to mislead him

But, she mentioned he was the first person she truly loved
which means she gave her first time to someone she didn't love

Divorce, not such a bad idea.
It isn't worth it to cry to such a person
Go find a better man.

The woman is too casual. Who dares to marry such a casual woman...

The man's attitude was so obvious, yet she still lied. I don't think the guy is at fault. He has the right to choose. Marriage based on withholding information is not fair.

Your girlfriend really screwed it up. First love...normal people would interpret that to be first person she dated.

Actually, these things do matter for guys.

The fact that he refrained from "touching" your girlfriend all that time they dated meant he truly thinks virginity is important.

You shouldn't blame the groom. The girlfriend should have mentioned this a lot earlier. His reaction is understandable.

What were they doing those two years? Some things should be kept secret forever.

Do not think marriage should honest. That's a big fat lie.

Marriage needs well-meaning fabrications.

Some people value this [virginity]. I hate people like that. But you can't say he was wrong.

Your girlfriend should have brought up the topic earlier.

Why did she tell him?

This man sucks, what a bastard.

The Silver Ring Thing
liberal thinking should be separated from morality

If they didn't marry, then yes these are good enough reasons.

But they married. He needs to do the responsible thing.

Marriage is sacred.
How can he abandon his love for such a sanctimonious reason?
This man, I don't know what to say

I think if she mentioned at the beginning she wasn't a virgin, then at least the guy would have a chance to choose.

As it is, she intentionally deceived him.
I don't think his reason is lei at all

The bride deserves what she got

A boy like this will definitely care whether his girlfriend is or not, let alone the lying part

If the man made his attitude toward sex that clear from the beginning, and he did not act inappropriately towards her prior to marriage, but the girl still misled him by talking about "first love", then I don't think he is at fault.

How should I put it? For things like this, some people care and some don't. Just because you don't care, you can't call those who care mentally ill. And vice versa. Everybody has the right to choose how he/she lives.

The Silver Ring Thing is good. Even men can participate. But how many women dare to do it? This world has turned upside down.

I attended Sunday worship once when I was in Australia. This was exactly what they were promoting, abstinence before marriage, and all the church-going members had to obey. It depends on individuals. We can't say they are all wrong. Just because we don't understand them doesn't mean we are right.

So, it is better to find someone with similar values and outlook on life and build mutual understanding. Your girlfriend should have told him before marriage, but I guess she was leaving things to chance, thinking maybe his love will make him accept everything about her. Not every man is like this.

Farewell shouldn't be painful. They belong to two worlds.

I can only say this is a tragedy. If the guy was not virgin, then he is psychotic. If he is, well, then that's that. He made his choice. I respect him.

What makes me wonder is why someone nurtured by U.S. imperialism can be so conservative, when our women are already high on sex.

We can all blame it on the sex liberation movement in the 1970s.

As far as sex goes, the west is more conservative than us. The sexual openness in China even make foreigners tongue-tied.

Tell your girlfriend to get a surgery and fix her hymen. Then tell her to call him, say that it was all a test, that she really was a virgin.

The groom has a morbid fear of uncleanliness. Even if they married, it probably would not be happy. What age is this [as in we are not living in the Victorian Era anymore]...

The bride didn't have a good feel for the kind person he was? They should have known each other pretty well by then.

Sigh, you walked the path, now you gotta take the consequences

Especially that first man she loved part...she was willing to sleep with those she didn't love? Sweat...

She should stick to the lie till the end. Tell him she was raped. Maybe she will gain sympathy.

She deserved it. He was well within reason

They should have laid it all out in the early stages. Not every man can accept a significant other who has already had sexual experience.

If she intends to withhold that information, then she needs to go to the hospital and have it fixed.

Waiting till they got the certificate...she thought the marriage could not be undone? Her fault.

This man...Nowadays guys like him [goody goodies] will only be attacked. Look at all the replies, so many self-righteous aunties.

Bad boys get all the girls

Poor girl. Bless

Such men are rare. And using that type of excuse for divorce, I think he doesn't love your girlfriend much anyways. Might as well say goodbye

Many men do not care whether their bed partners are virgins or not. But they do care whether their wives have slept with other men.

Speaking of this groom, I don't think he did anything wrong. On the surface we see the virginity issue, but in reality is probably because of the lie. The woman he loved for 2 years lied to him on the issue that matters to him the most--and on the wedding night too.

He seriously went to U.S.? Why do I get the feeling he was in some isolated monastery.

Virgins, the streets are littered with ads about hymen-fixing surgeries. You can even fix up a prostitute.

I don't understand why guys all claim they are modern and liberal. Yet a [small] thing like this make them fall out of love.

Was it really love?


What about the Big Four. So stuck up.

My own two cents: China has certainly changed from the one I knew, where pre-marital sex was definitely frowned upon (the same needs not apply to males...). A couple of years ago I even saw a wedding with the bride heavily pregnant.

Of course it hasn't changed to the extent that topics about virginity and chastity are not longer controversial. But perhaps, China is heading toward this direction.

March 22, 2010

Nearly Hundred Shanxi Children Die or Are Gravely Ill, Cause Might Be Vaccines, Cont'd

Reports 1-3

Investigative Report 4: Behind the Problematic Vaccines (Parts abridged).

Reporter is again Wang Keqin (王克勤)

How were the vaccines handled before? Why did Shanxi suddenly see an influx of vaccines illegally exposed to high temperatures?

Previously, China exerted tight control over the production and distribution of vaccines. They must be manufactured in factories certified by the central government; ordering, dissemination, and storage are then taken care of by government-funded CDCs. Furthermore, the law requires the vaccines to be used under the "supervision and guidance of sanitation and epidemic prevention agencies." Therefore, one of the main duties of Shanxi CDC and similar departments, built from 100% government money, is to ensure proper management and delivery of vaccine to the 35 million people living in Shanxi.

Prior to October 2005, Shanxi was like any other province by making one of its internal divisions responsible for allocation and delivery.

There are two kinds of vaccines. Government provides Type 1 vaccine free of charge to the public, and inoculation is mandatory. The packages are correspondingly marked "free" and "immunization planning." The second kind is not free. Citizens who wish to be vaccinated must pay for the shots themselves. However, in the past, Shanxi CDC managed both types. The revenues generated by the second type are given back to the national treasury.

On June 1, 2005, when Vaccine Ordinance (疫苗条例) went into effect, the manner under which the second type is sold changed.

People saw business opportunities

The Vaccine Ordinance announced: "Vaccine manufacturers may supply Type 2 vaccine to CDCs, immunization centers, and wholesale business units. Wholesale business units may supply Type 2 vaccines to CDCs, immunization centers, and other wholesale business units."

The new rule broke traditional monopolies. The goals were to encourage fair competition and lower costs so that common citizens can benefit.

Chen Taoan told the reporter: some people saw in this change an enormous opportunity to make money.

First, Communicable Disease Prevention Act and Vaccine Ordinance granted control to health administrative departments and CDCs, while at the same time, it enlarged the pool of potential vaccine suppliers. Second, there is a large gap between production cost of Type 2 vaccine and its unit sale price. Vaccines produced at 10 yuan per piece are sold for 30-50 yuan per piece. Third, as people grow more knowledgeable about disease prevention, the demand for vaccines continually increase. On top of all this, health administrative departments can make "suggestions" to citizens concerning Type 2 vaccines.

Sudden emergence of "The Ministry of Health Enterprise"

In July 2005, Information Chief at Shanxi CDC Chen Taoan was removed from his post.

In October, both director Chen Hongsheng (陈宏生) and deputy director Zhang Junshu (张俊书) of the division responsible for vaccine allocation and delivery were removed from their respective posts.

In December, Treasurer Du Bijie (杜碧杰) was removed from his post.

Chen Taoan said: "Our head Li Wenyuan (栗文元) was very serious when he told me, after discussions within the organization, we decided to move you to Logistics Property Management Division. It means long term rest for you, but salary and bonuses will stay the same. You have done well on your job. Transferring you is a decision made by the Party."

Just when many officials were being removed from crucial posts, Tian Jianguo was appointed Director of Biological Product Distribution Center. The old department headed by Chen Hongsheng and Zhang Junshu was disbanded.

The reporter saw the following paragraph in the December 12, 2005 "Meeting Minutes":

After careful consideration, study and screening, Beijing Huawei Era Pharmaceutical Biotechnology Co. Ltd. (北京华卫时代医药生物技术有限公司) is named Ministry of Health Enterprise. The company has been long been in the business of making biological projects and is familiar with Shanxi market. We establish the new Biological Product Distribution Center, which will be operated by Huawei. Huawei will hand over 3.80 million yuan per year with a payment in each quarter. Huawei will also pay 500,000 yuan as risk deposit.

16 days later, Shanxi CDC announced the opening of the new Biological Product Distribution Center, whose new director is Huawei's CEO Tian Jianguo. The CDC announcement also ordered immunization agencies at all levels along with biotechnology companies to support and cooperate with Huawei.

Health Department promote specially labeled vaccines

Beginning January 1, 2006, vaccine supply and management rights went to Huawei. The delivery itself is not very lucrative, so Tian Jianguo came up with the idea "labeled vaccines."

Chen Taoan mentioned that, starting March 2006, Tian Jianguo called in hotel waiters and temporary workers to affix "To be used only by Shanxi CDC" to all Type 2 vaccines packages.

Families of those who have been vaccinated showed the packages to the reporter. Each label is a little smaller than a Chinese one cent coin. The top half shows a "CDPC Great Wall," the unified trademark for all government CDCs. The lower half is occupied by "HW", pinyin abbreviation of Huawei. Finally at the bottom are the words "To be used only by Shanxi CDC".

According to national rules and regulations, medicine labels should only be explanatory in nature. It can describe the drug uses but not imply efficacy. In other words, affixing "To be used only by Shanxi CDC" and "HW" to vaccines is not legally sound. Furthermore, before use, all tags are required to be approved by the State Food and Drug Administration.

Under "Regarding a unified symbol for CDC institutions" from Shanxi Ministry of Health, the said label will be limited to "CDC buildings, objects and equipment." It serves as a sign indicative of disease control institutions. As long as it is in use, the label shall not be altered in anyway.

"With this label, Tian Jianguo could dominate Shanxi market for Type 2 vaccine, eliminate competition, and generate huge profits."

"Tian Jianguo not only invented the first tagged vaccines, he also made Shanxi Ministry of Health market his products."

In several 2006, 2007 documents, the province's Ministry of Health promoted "To be used only by Shanxi CDC" labels as the sole method of identifying good vaccines that are dispensed by Shanxi CDC.

"Huawei became the government-sponsored business to monopolize the vaccine network"

"Since the special labels did not give Tian enough control, he set up additional distribution centers in several Shanxi areas. A giant marketing and sales network formed." Recounted Chen Taoan.

Starting from April 2006, Huawei CEO Tian Jianguo acted in proxy for Shanxi CDC (authorized by Director Li Wenyuan) to sign various cooperation agreements with Changzhi, Chengcheng, Lyu Liang, Xinzhou, Shuozhou (长治、晋城、临汾、吕梁、忻州、朔州), and other local CDCs.

The province CDC promised not to sell Type 2 vaccines to any outside parties. In return, local CDCs would only purchase Type 2 vaccines from the province.

Shanxi Ministry of Health and CDC further required all vaccines within Shanxi to be purchased from Disease Control and Prevention Centers, and these vaccines must have the special labels. Violators will be held responsible for any unsafe and ineffective products. Any employers or individuals who do not obtain their shots through approved channels will be punished when discovered.

Huawei thus achieved its double identity both as the market regulator and as the sole salesman for vaccines.

March 20, 2010

Nearly Hundred Shanxi Children Die or Are Gravely Ill, Cause Might Be Vaccines

This is fast becoming another Sanlu scandal.
Wang Mingliang Outside Shanxi Children's Hospital, where his baby son once received medical care
Liu Yi's grandfather
2 year old Yan Yan

Source: 近百孩子不明病因致死致残,

In Shanxi, "undetermined" causes led to death, disability, or serious sickness among nearly one hundred children. Grief-stricken parents desperately sought medical attention for their sons or daughters, whose illnesses quickly became heavy burdens to the families. "Why did my kid get infected with meningococcal meningitis when he already received the vaccine?" "Was not my child's acute disseminated encephalomyelitis caused by vaccination?" So far, all signs point to vaccines as the reason behind these tragedies, when, ironically, vaccines are intended to protect people's lives from sicknesses.

Investigative Report 1: Nearly One Hundred Children Dead or Handicapped

"Bye bye, my baby!"

31 year old farmer Wang Mingliang (王明亮) from Liu County Shanxi (山西省柳林县) look one last look at his 9 month old infant son before dragging his drenched body away from Beijing Xiangshan Botanical Garden. Around 3 A.M. on August 22, 2008, despite of six months of medical care, his son died in the Being Guest House for Patients Seeking Treatment. Wang Mingliang took the body to nearby Xiangshan Botanic Garden. He left a letter that asked passer-bys to help arrange for the baby's funeral and took his crying wife back to Shanxi home village.

Four children dead from unknown causes

The baby whose name is Wang Xiaoer (王小儿) was Wang Mingliang's only son. On November 24, 2007, an ecstatic Wang Mingliang welcomed the extension of his lifeblood. The newborn received BCG and Hepatitis B vaccine shots on the same day of his birth. Wang's wife underwent C-section as well as sterilization.

A month after the baby was born, Doctor Yang Guilan (杨桂兰) from local village clinic came to administer the second shot of Hepatitis B vaccine. A week later, "the baby began convulsing frequently, but we thought he was just cold." A month later, "on the third evening of Chinese New Year, he started vomiting. His eyeballs were turned up. Both face and body turned a bluish color." The infant was taken to People's Hospital at Lyu Liang City (吕梁市人民医院) on February 10, 2008. According hospital medical records, he had "slow, weak breathing; face gray; frequent convulsions accompanied by twitching facial muscles..." The hospital issued the Notice of Critically Ill. Because the doctors could not control the convulsions, and the child continuously struggled to breathe, the Deputy Director of Pediatrics Gao Lanfang (高兰芳) transferred Wang Xiaoer to Shanxi Children's Hospital.

Diagnosis: aspiration pneumonia accompanied by toxic encephalopathy

Wang Xiaoer was in Shanxi Children's Hospital for 36 days. The doctors were clueless: they had done everything in their power but still could not find the cause. chief physician Han Hong (韩红) in the Neurology Department together with a nurse took the baby to Beijing University First Hospital, which was China's most authoritative medical establishment in neurology. Six days after their arrival, chief doctor Xiong Hui (熊晖) met with Wang Mingliang: "We cannot identify the cause either. We don't know what else to do. You should go home." The discharge diagnosis stated: epilepsy, frequent movement-induced seizures, prolonged continuous seizures, genetic metabolic diseases?

"Western medicine doesn't work. Why not try Chinese medicine?" A relative recommended Niu Zhigang (牛志刚) in Beijing Xiangshan Hospital, but a bed spot in the hospital building could not be arranged. In the end, Wang Mingliang took his son back to Shanxi and settled for long-distance medical treatment. Unfortunately, on August 15, 2008, the baby's condition worsened. Wang Mingliang and his wife traveled with Wang Xiaoer to Beijing Xiangshan Hospital, which became the last stop that the infant was to make in his short life.

In Shanxi, the reporter found three other similar cases. Their experiences were eerily similar "vaccination--seizures, fever, etc--medical treatment--inability to diagnose--death." They are: 8-month-old Liu Ziyang (刘紫阳) in Shan village, Changzi County (长子县南陈乡善村), diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein purpura; Wang Shichao (王仕超) from Pingding County, Yangquan City (阳泉市平定县县城南苑人家9号楼二单元); and Liu Yi (刘一) from Poli village, Yangquan City (阳泉市郊区义井镇泊里村). In particular, the last two children were three and half years old when they died, though the time of death was separated by one year. Before their deaths, the two boys were bitten by dogs and had to receive rabies vaccines. In each case, they exhibited symptoms of fever, seizures, and vomiting after the fourth shot. The diagnoses given by the hospitals were "viral encephalitis."

A partial list of patients (these people all used pseudonyms):

Yanyan, female, 2 year old, living in Gujiawan Village, under Nanhebao Town, Tianzhen County of Datong City (大同市天镇县南河堡乡顾家湾村). Medical condition: vegetative state

Qiangqiang, male, 8 year old, living in Long Village, under Long Town, Jiaokou County of Lyu Liang City (吕梁市交口县回龙乡回龙村). Condition: sporadic seizures

Junjun, male, 5 year old, living in Liulin County (柳林县县城). Condition: brain atrophy

Chenchen, male, 4 year old, living in Taiyuan City (太原市寇庄西路). Condition: epilepsy

Lili, female, 10 year old, living in Dongwenzhuang Village, under Dongwenzhuang Town, Taiyuan City (太原市小店区西温庄乡东温庄村). Condition: difficulty speaking, strange movements, hands, feet, and head often unconsciously twitching

Niuniu, female, 3 year old, living in Dashannan Village, Huguan County (壶关县龙泉镇大山南村). Condition: uncontrollable limbs, motor difficulties

Huihui, female, 12 year old, living in Donggou Village, Yechuan Town of Gaoping City (山西省高平市野川镇东沟村蒲沟). Condition: purpura, chronic nephritis

Jin Zhongyi, male, 17 year old, living in Dichi village, Sanjia Town of Gaoping City (高平市三甲镇底池村). Condition: headaches, sensitivity to strong smells

Lingling, female, 16 year old, living in Wanan County, Linfen City (临汾市洪洞县万安镇). Condition: epilepsy

Haohao, male, 8 year old, living in Yuanqu County, Yuncheng City (运城市垣曲县广场路7号). Condition: epilepsy

Ruirui, female, 2 year old, living in Jiezhou Town, Yuncheng City (运城市盐湖区解州镇). Condition: paralysis

Investigative Report 2: Cause

After Wang Xiaoer died, father Wang Mingliang tried to single out the reason through process of elimination.

Wang Xiaoer received treatment from local medical institutions as well as hospitals in Tianyuan and Beijing. Numerous tests found no brain problems or genetic conditions that could have led to the death. "My child was perfectly healthy in the first two months." "The convulsions started one week after he was vaccinated. None of the hospitals could figure out the reason. Western and Chinese medicines all failed to save him." Naturally, Wang directed his suspicions toward the Hepatitis B vaccine shots.

Wang Xiaoer's primary doctor Niu Zhigang at Beijing Xiangshan Hospital said during a February 2, 2010 interview: "Potential causes are many. Vaccination is one of them."

Questions from more families

In Shanxi, parents of other sick or dead children likewise are searching for answers.

  • Question 1: "Why did my kid get infected with meningococcal meningitis when he was already vaccinated?"
Several children interviewed by the reporter, from 8 year olds Qiangqianng and Haohao, to 17 year old Jin Zhongyi, all contracted meningitis in spite of previous vaccinations.

Qiangqiang's father Gao Changhong (高长宏) was angry: "We let our kids get the meningitis vaccination so that they wouldn't be sick. In the end, they still came down with meningitis. This is preposterous!"
  • Question 2: "Why can't acute disseminated encephalomyelitis be caused by vaccination?"
2 year old Ruirui and 13 year old Lingling displayed adverse reactions soon after vaccination. The two girls were diagnosed with "acute disseminated encephalomyelitis." Even today, they are still suffering from the after effects.

Their respective parents Zhang Haixia (张海霞) and Yi Wenlong (易文龙) believe that since ADEM has been known to occur following vaccination and their children contracted the illness right after the shots, a cause-and-effect relationship is not impossible. They applied for the children to be examined for abnormal reactions due to vaccination.

A Shanxi health group responsible for making such determinations concluded that neither case was due to vaccination.

However, Yuncheng City's Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted relevant investigations into Ruirui's case. On February 24, 2008, an expert panel got together and came to the conclusion: "Vaccination is a possible cause."
  • Question 3: "Did Vaccine shots have nothing to do with Henoch-Schonlein purpura?"
Seven month old Liu Ziyang received vaccine for Hepatitis B on January 19, 2007. On March 1, pediatricians diagnosed him with Henoch-Schonlein purpura. His father Liu Yunbin (刘云斌) suspected the vaccine shot.

3 year old Niuniu received Hepatitis B vaccine on August 8, 2008. On September 22, 2008, she was diagnosed with thrombocytopenia, allergic purpura, and encephalitis. Specific cause could not be determined. Her father Jia Haibo (贾海波) suspected the vaccine shot.

12 year old Huihui received the MMR vaccine on May 14, 2006. 15 days later, she was diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein purpura. Her father Wei Huimin (韦惠民) suspected the vaccine.
  • Question 4: "All symptoms are consistent with documented abnormal reactions. Why can't they be related to the vaccines?"
4 year old Chenchen received the DPT vaccine. She was diagnosed with West Syndrome. Her mom Tian Xia (田霞) suspects the vaccine shot.

5 year old Junjun received the DPT vaccine. She was diagnosed with brain atrophy. Medical experts cannot determine the cause. Her father Li Changqin (李常勤) suspects the vaccine shot.

10 year old Lili received flu and meningitis vaccines. Now she cannot speak clearly, often makes strange movements, and her hands, feet, head unconsciously twitch. Her dad Gao Jing (高径) suspects the vaccine shots.

2 year old Yanyan received Hepatitis B. She was later diagnosed with viral encephalitis. Her grandmother Zhang Jianyun (张建云) suspects the vaccine shots.

Seeking Expert Opinions

Father of village girl Lili repeatedly visited Shanxi Ministry of Health. On November 7, 2008, a session attended by 7 medical experts convened to discuss case. Among the group was Zhao Zaoyun (赵早鱼), Shanxi's leading expert in the field and Director of Neurology Department at Shanxi Children's Hospital. Their conclusion was: unrelated to vaccination.

On December 28, 2009, Lili and her father took all medical records to Zhao Zaoyu. This time, the reporter also went along. Zhao and other doctors could not make a diagnosis.

Soon after, they visited Doctor Li Chaoyang (李朝阳) in the same department. After careful examination, Li told the reporter that he knew exactly what was going on, but he cannot say anything, nor does he dare to say anything. In fact, nowhere in Shanxi will they receive an honest answer. They might get truthful response if they go to a big hospital in Beijing.

Consequently, the reporter visited Beijing University First Hospital, Beijing Children's Hospital and interviewed many neurology experts. He obtained no answers.

Court Verdict: "Abnormal reactions due to vaccination"

12 year old Huihui is a victim of the vaccine shots.

On December 10, 2009, Huihui's grandfather Wei Leisheng (韦雷生) accepted an interview in his home. He told the reporter that Huihui was born on April 19, 1998. On May 14, 2006, she was given a MMR shot. On May 26, 2006, family members observed blood in her stool, and her thighs were covered with rashes. Three days later, she was taken to Gaoping City People's Hospital. After June 2, she was transferred to Changzhi City Heping Hospital (长治市和平医院) and later Beijing Children's Hospital. There she was diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein purpura that caused nephritis. Her condition worsened despite of treatment. Now she has chronic nephritis (紫癜性慢性肾炎).

Beijing Children's Hospital conducted numerous tests to identify the allergens. But results for allergen detection in food, inhaled substances, and C13 urea breath test all came back negative.

In the end, Wei Leisheng could only think of the vaccines as the cause for allergic purpura. "I will get justice for my granddaughter if even it costs me life!" Wei Leisheng sold off his 50 some pigs to pay for the medical care, and he persistently filed complaints to relevant departments.

On March 28, 2009, Pucheng City's CDC wrote in the diagnostic report: "The close association in time between the administration of MMR and allergic purpura nephritis, as well as existing records documenting the symptoms as abnormal reactions to the vaccine shots, indicate that there is a correlation."

Wei Leisheng sued vaccine manufacturer Beijing Tiantan Biological Products Co. Ltd (北京天坛生物制品股份有限公司) and the branch of Pucheng CDC in charge of immunization. Gaoping City People's Court ruled in Wei's favor. It ordered that Huihui be paid 156,178.52 yuan as compensation.

"Adverse reactions to vaccine shots occur with very low probability"

Director Liang Xiaofeng (梁晓峰) at China's CDC once stated openly: "Adverse reactions to vaccine shots are very rare. According to foreign studies, the probability is 1 in every 2 or 3 million." Furthermore, many of these adverse effects are light. Serious reactions such as the ones described above are even rarer.

Well, then, is this string of death and debilitating illnesses due to vaccine shots or not?

"Vaccines that have passed safety inspections rarely lead to detrimental conditions. However, ever since 2006, Shanxi has encountered many problematic vaccines. These are the ones that were exposed to high temperature [and improper handling]. Such vaccines have been used for a long time in Shanxi, and they are bound to dramatically increase the number of serious side effects," said Chen Taoan (陈涛安), former Disease Information Chief at Shanxi CDC.

Investigative Report 3: Large Quantities of Vaccine Exposed to High Temperatures

Because of their protein content, vaccines are sensitive to light and temperature.

China's regulations

In Vaccine Ordinance, Number 64 stated: "Any CDC, immunization centers, vaccine manufacturers, and vaccine wholesalers who did not store or transport vaccines according to proper procedures will be reprimanded by appropriate supervisory medical departments. The said vaccines must be also destroyed."

Specifically, Standards for Immunization and Vaccination dictated the following for storage and transportation of vaccines:
3. Temperature requirements for storage and transportation of vaccines:

(1) Hepatitis B, BCG, DTP, diphtheria, inactivated JE, group A meningococcal, and group A+C meningococcal vaccines must be stored between 2 to 8 degree Celsius and away from light.

(2) Polio, measles, live attenuated Japanese encephalitis, and rubella vaccines must be stored in dark places between -20 to 8 degree Celsius.

(3) Storage and transportation of other vaccines must follow medical documents and manuals.

4. Use refrigerated vehicles to transport vaccines under mandated temperatures. Places that do not possess refrigerated vehicles should use refrigerated containers.

Any violation of the regulations above will result in low quality vaccines.
Exposure to high temperatures

Chen Taoan (陈涛安), former Disease Information Chief at Shanxi CDC, told the reporter about a 35 year old Shanxi man named Tian Jianguo (田建国). Tian came to Shanxi CDC from Beijing. On December 28, 2005, he was appointed director of the department responsible for distribution of biological products across Shanxi. In other words, from that day on, he was in charge of the distribution and management of vaccines to be used by more than 35 million people.

Shanxi CDC is located in Tianyuan City. It has two compounds, North and South, that are separated by more than 70 meters.

According to Deputy Director of Property Management Wei Junli (卫军利), "In 2006 and 2007, when Tian was in charge of the vaccines, I often saw his employees taking the vaccine out of refrigeration located in the North Compound, and putting them in an unfinished building in the South Compound." "The vaccines are on the floor like small hills, so that the workers can put "To be used only by Shanxi CDC" labels on the them. In the summers, everyone would be dressed in shorts and working in the sweltering heat."

The reporter confirmed the story with many other employees at Shanxi CDC.

According to China's regulations, any staff engaged in the inspection, maintenance, measurement and storage of vaccines should have sufficient level of education. They can only work after completing relevant training and obtaining appropriate certifications. Furthermore, employers must provide regular educational sessions so that employees can learn about drug regulations, professional and technical aspects of their jobs, medical knowledge, and ethics. Profiles must also be established for each employee.

"But Tian Jianguo hired hotel waiters and temporary workers." Liu Meili (pseudonym) at Shanxi CDC recalled.

Truck driver Yuan Jiang (原江) told the reporter, "During those two years, in addition to working in the unfinished building, they used trucks with broken refrigeration to transport vaccines. In the summer, the trucks became ovens."

"The deliberate violation of storage and transportation regulations altered the drug properties, and the vaccines should have been destroyed. Otherwise, it is manslaughter." Chen Taoan said after analyzing the situation.

"However, they were not recalled and destroyed. As late as end of 2008, Shanxi residents were still receiving these vaccines."

Chen Taoan also mentioned: "According to published statistics, annually there are more than 10 million administrations of shots in Shanxi. Those vaccine that were handled improperly, who knew for certain how many residents received the ones that were bad. Especially the kids!"

--Follow-up reports coming later--

Which Regions of China Use Internet?

From one of my websites.
Visitors from Xinjiang, Tibet, Yunnan regions are sparse

March 15, 2010

Animation: Feelings of Mountains and Waters

To some, "Feelings of Mountains and Waters" (Chinese: 山水情) is the last work that can rightly be called Chinese animation. As the person who uploaded this video on Youtube wrote: " 'Feelings of Mountains and Waters' was the final sound Chinese animation made before it disappeared completely from view. Starting from the 1990s, animations were considered to be commercial products rather than works of art. Techniques improved while good contents were rare...The productions today, though made in China, merely hybridize American and Japanese styles. The glaring absence of pure Chinese elements bespeaks a Chinese tragedy..."

All the editorializing aside, "Feelings of Mountains and Waters" is an excellent piece that showcases traditional Chinese art and music. Its title is rather appropriate, as the animation aims to invoke feelings instead of providing a heart-pounding story.

First Half

Second Half

Tudou Link

More information in Chinese

March 13, 2010

5 College Students Beat Out 395 Others to Become Feces Diggers

The question now becomes: is the job worth it?

Translation: Netease 大学生当掏粪工 值不值, pictures from Sohu

College student Zhao Ting (张婷) meticulously performs her job

Meng Jia (孟佳) learns the job requirements from her mentor

5 young college graduates in Jinan, Shandong officially kicked off their career as feces diggers after they were matched up with mentors. Last October, this group of graduates passed a series of examination to become the only 5 out of 400 applicants to get the jobs. Once they were selected, the five had to complete 6 months of training. Two of the new feces diggers are CCP members, and the youngest is only 23. Their undergraduate majors ranged from computer science to law.

Many people were shocked by the discovery that to become feces diggers, college graduates must beat out numerous competitors, pass strict assessments, and undergo half year of probationary period. One Netizen sighed: "When we were young, our parents used to scare us with 'if you do not study, then you will dig feces for a living.' Sadly, now that I have finally graduated from university, I am no longer even qualified to dig feces."

Too many candidates and too few opportunities leave people with few choices, but we still must pose the question: Is it worth it for college graduates to dig feces? Is this elevated thinking or another compromise?

Those In Favor

Better than the "boomerang children"

There is nothing shameful about college graduates becoming feces diggers. As an old Chinese adage tells us, "There are 360 trades, and every trade has its master." Digging feces is more than a trade. It is also a career and a profession. No job is superior to another, and we should stop thinking that feces diggers belong to lower caste, education is useless, or that the work is undignified. We should applaud these young people for voluntarily taking up the profession. We need to respect their choices and be touched by their spirit.

Digging poop with one's own hand is merely another form of legitimate labor. While it might be ordinary and even humble, these young people were able to adjust their attitude, lower their expectations, and conquer worldly prejudices. Because they at least earn a living legally with their own labor, the five are much better than the "boomerang kids," who would rather live off parental support. These students have also demonstrated maturity and a willingness to face reality head-on. They correctly understood the division of labor in the society.

The writer believes that only people like them qualify as college graduates. Only they are the "God's favored ones." (by Liu Hong, 刘洪)

Why not feces digging since they are not competitive enough?

Becoming manure diggers is of course a personal choice, but the news still drew strange looks to the applicants. College graduates want decent jobs, and given any other choice, the five probably would not taken up the manure buckets. The fact that they ultimately made the said choice reflect only their sadness. The society has nothing to do with it.

Regardless of how little known or popular a field of study is, opportunities always abound, because the society has needs, although fierce competition is causing workplaces to impose ever higher standards on employees. If these five were experts in their fields, then manure digging would not be a typical choice for them. They dig manure because the unqualified individuals faced an impasse: they neither wanted to seek higher education, nor did they currently possess enough knowledge to qualify for a better position.

After universities increased enrollment in 1999, the number of incoming freshmen drastically increased. In addition, numerous community colleges and private colleges opened for operation (Note: In China, private institutions rank much lower than public universities). The numbers as well as the categories of students multiplied. In good or even famous universities, many graduate every year though they are far from meeting the requirements. Such students essentially wasted away undergraduate years, acquiring no technical skills or knowledge. Their worth is the same as that of high school students. The only difference lies in the four more years they threw away. (by Xiong Weiqiang, 熊伟强)

A Breakthrough in the employment deadlock

College students becoming feces diggers is a breakthrough in the employment problem. On one hand we see a dearth of manual labor; on the other hand, there are many jobless college graduates. If the young people possessed willingness to start from the bottom, a grass-root awareness, and a desire to accumulate experience first, they too can become useful. Forced to choose between face and survival, or between unemployment and room for growth, they will see that the latter is more important. Look at those gloriously successful elites, how many of them did not start from society's bottom? It is laudable that the young Shandong students climbed out of the bandwagon psychology. Their courage to become feces diggers, whether for future development or to resolve a employment problem, is a win-win choice. They are our "employment role models."

College students have continuously redefined the concept of employment, by taking jobs as blue-collared workers, janitors, and today's feces diggers. They are increasingly pragmatic and willing to settle for humble work. By actively developing themselves, they raised "step-by-step improvement" to the next level. This is praiseworthy. Unfortunately, some are still cannot make such a choice. Whenever the topic of manure digging comes up, fear of embarrassment trumps all other thoughts, so they would rather stay as boomerang kids. This type of thinking is "social infantilism." Of course, the author is not advocating that all college students dig manure, but viewing these jobs as a starting point and a kind of life experience does offer some positive value. (by Lei Hongpei 雷泓霈)

Those Against

College students losing social status

After countless discussions about whether graduates should prostitute themselves, work as babysitters, or dig feces, the once much esteemed title "college students," a term that carried many dreams and expectations, lost most of its former shine. College students as a group is fast sinking. More and more cannot contribute to their fields of study, taking up instead jobs that require little expertise or skills. Not only is this a waste of talents, it also negatively impacts self-perception, making college graduates feel "marginalized." The change that these young people went through from "pillars of the nation" to a much lower status is at once tragic and frightening. It exposes the inadequacies of higher education and an industrial structure that is not quite rational.

The "employment problem" is the focus of every NPC and CPPCC annual meeting. Two factors have made digging feces attractive: the scarcity of opportunities, and the feces digging as a very stable, good benefits paying job under government contract. 630 million more students will graduate this year, but the job market remains pessimistic. Hopefully both problems will be get the attention of people's representatives and that "protecting the career dignity of college graduates" be put on their meeting agenda as soon as possible. (by Wang Yanchun, 王艳春)

Reality and Compromise

We know labor is glorious. We know no job is superior to another. Since the only thing to differentiate you and me is the division of labor, jobs of ordinary people are fair game for college students too. It is unreasonable and an over-generalization to cry "waste of talent" based on only the starting point and the level of employment. As long as these incidents are few, we should not lightly call them a "waste."

However, when hundreds fight to become feces diggers, we need to reflect more deeply. Such a phenomenon not only implies helplessness against a tough job market but also is a soundless protest against the long-standing problems of higher education.

College students becoming feces diggers to a certain extent indicate a changing attitude, but for the most part, it is also a compromise that reveals the inadequacy of education. The teachings do not match the market's needs and in some cases are completely out of touch. Students find themselves in low-level jobs that require nothing of what they learnt in school. From this perspective, college students themselves are not the only reason in the "feces digging" phenomenon.

Massive Waste of Human Resources

We should not encourage college students to dig manure, polish shoes, or peddle on the street. That is not to say these jobs are inferior. In actuality all jobs are equal. It is not to say these positions pay less or add less value either. Some pay quite well and provide services indispensable to the society. However, it is not appropriate for college students to do these jobs, because the required skills do not match college training. The consequence of graduates doing what they have not been trained to do is grave. At the very least it is squandering away the learnings. At worst, the mentality of "education is useless" will once again gain traction.

If one must praise these college students, it is only to approve their courage. The spirit is praiseworthy but not the behavior. The phenomenon essentially results from a bad employment situation, and the students are making a suboptimal career choice. If the majority of students that the nation paid a high price to train became feces diggers and shoe polishers, then China's higher education has failed. China has failed. (by He Yong, 何勇)

We should look at "college students digging feces" with good nature

First, today's college students aren't "God's favored sons" anymore. Now possessing a bachelor degree is common phenomenon. Second, we have to rectify an old way of thinking. There is nothing wrong with college students starting out with an ordinary job. We need to abandon our colored glasses and accept it with a tolerant attitude. Take "feces diggers" for example. With the introduction of machinery, the job will not be as dirty, smelly, and labor intensive as people imagine. Much of the human work becomes supervisory in nature. There are no lowly jobs, only lowly discrimination. It is another life's challenge for college students to establish a correct concept of career. (by employee Peng Aizhen, 彭爱珍)

March 10, 2010

"Unsubstantiated" Yoga Injuries, Cont'd

Continued from previous post

The culprit is not yoga

In the past three years, more than 13,000 people in the United States had to seek medical attention due to yoga injuries. But Dr. Gary Dorshimer, Director of Internal Medicine/Sports Medicine Fellowship in Pennsylvania Hospital, does not think the situation is as grave as it sounds.

Southern Metropolis Weekly: What sort of cases have you observed in the past? Where were the injuries located and what caused them? Was there any pattern?

Dr. Dorshimer: The yoga patients I have treated in the past all had foot injuries, and most were muscle strains. Severe muscle damages and tendon ruptures are very rare.

Every sport carries some kind of risk, but I have not seen related statistics for yoga. I believe these injuries only occur occasionally, because yoga is not an intense sport. It doesn't require jumping up and down and so rarely causes serious damages like spinal cord injuries. However, old people will get hurt more easily. Past studies show that compared to other age groups, old people will be more likely to receive injuries when practicing the same moves. This is like people who sit on a boat. When the boat suddenly shakes, some older folks can suffer spinal fractures.

Another reason is that yoga is classified into advanced and beginner levels. For a newbie, practicing demanding asanas make them more prone to injury.

Southern Metropolis Weekly: A 2001 issue of Time magazine talked about the yoga fever in the States. Did the U.S. reach any conclusions regarding the injury rate? In the recent years, had any of the overseeing departments or medical experts given out warnings about the associated risks?

Dr. Dorshimer: In the U.S., be it about caffeine intake or gun usage, we warn everyone of the risks at every opportunity. Risk reports are typically given out during sports lessons, but I have not heard of any such thing for yoga, which in my opinion means that yoga injuries are low in occurrence.

Southern Metropolis Weekly: Some Chinese experts say that the asanas violate the human physiological structure. For instance the plow. Not everyone can practice yoga, which can potentially damage his/her spinal cords. These injuries are hard to heal. Therefore, before taking up the yoga, everyone should all arrange for a back examination to rule out any existing spinal problems. But even a prior checkup can not gaurantee that people won't get hurt. What thoughts do you have on this?

Dr. Dorshimer: In the U.S., these difficult poses are practiced by very few. Common people can't do them. All they need are some postures that will improve their balance and flexibility. Asanas like the plow require athletes or someone with good flexibility. I can't do it either. It is just risky and difficult for an ordinary trainer or a 60 year old man.

Southern Metropolis Weekly: From a sports/physiological perspective, will yoga ever be as universal as jogging?

Dr. Dorshimer: The answer depends on individual exercisers. Avoid overly demanding postures, warm up properly beforehand, stay away from asanas that overstretch the body, and be patient. Then I think yoga can become as universal as jogging.

Southern Metropolis Weekly: Some medical professionals believe that middle aged people should not practice yoga because of their aging spinal cords. What do you suggest?

Dr. Dorshimer: Many people believe that middle aged people can become good at yoga regardless of their profession. The fault does not lie with yoga but with the intensity with which you practice yoga. If you attempt asanas that are beyond your capability, you will get hurt. The standards for different bodies in different age groups will vary too. Even when a 20 year old college student and a 30 year old young man practice the same pose, they should follow appropriate criteria. For people in their middle age or older, yoga is safe if well-controlled. And the benefits outweigh the dangers.

Southern Metropolis Weekly: Given your expertise in sports medicine, can you give exercisers some suggestions?

Dr. Dorshimer: Nothing in particular. Again this mostly depends on the individuals. For example, soccer players need strength training to become stronger and to have better balance, but they are not good candidates for yoga, because they lack the flexibility. It is the opposite for young gymnasts and hockey players. So it all comes down to the exercisers' physiological conditions and the particular asanas.

The problem is that many young people are excited by new things, and they always want to try the postures they have never done before just to exercise all of their muscles. I think this is the major reason why people get hurt. No matter what their age is, I would recommend that people stay away from difficult poses, such as this kind of rotation (stands up to demonstrate the move), because it poses a risk. Don't attempt asanas that exceed the body's limit, then the probability of receiving injuries will be less.

March 05, 2010

"Unsubstantiated" Yoga Injuries

Translation: article 没有证据的瑜伽伤痛, originally from Southern Metropolis Weekly. Some of the later parts abridged

The cobra pose--Chinese medical experts believe many yoga asanas are harmful to joints

Zheng Xinyuan had to undergo a surgery that placed 4 nails inside her body

What does yoga, which spread from India to every corner of the world, mean for modern day urbanites?

According to Shanghai woman Zheng Xinyuan (郑欣媛), yoga might just be the root of her illness.

One of the basic postures that used to cause her difficulty required extending legs straight, grabbing feet with two hands, and touching forehead to the knees. However, even after practicing for more than 6 months, she still could not master it.

Once when she was attempting the asana, the dark skinny Indian teacher walked towards her to press her back downwards. The man considered the force he used to be negligible--after all, he occasionally even sat on students' back to correct their wrong postures.

"In reality, I felt discomfort." Zheng recalled half a year after the incident, "Since then I tried to avoid any sessions he led."

Today, one year into her yoga journey, spinal disc herniation is forcing 36 year-old Zheng to stay completely away from the asanas. Furthermore, 4 alloy nails have been insert next to the L4 and L5 segments of her vertebrae to replace the lost movement there. She can no longer bend down like she did before in yoga gyms.

Zheng Xinyuan is one of the many Chinese who practice yoga. The "fever" that started in the 80s of last century has made huge inroads in China. An April 2008 China Youth Daily report claims that globally, the number of people who take up yoga increases yearly by 50%. In U.S, 700,000 join the ranks every year, and in China, 80% of the fitness gyms offer yoga programs.

Though exercisers may be many, only 10% of yoga practitioners know that improper techniques can lead to bodily injuries. China's orthopedists can attest to this ignorance, as they treat more and more patients who receive injuries while practicing. Among those who seek treatment are yoga students as well as teachers.

Unexpected Paralysis

In October 2007, a new yoga studio opened business in Zheng Da Home (证大家园), a large Shanghai Pudong residential area where Zheng Xinyuan lives.

This studio had an attractive decor. Indian wall hangings combined with soft lighting created an atmosphere that was simultaneously mysterious and warm. Even though Zheng Xinyuan had never been a fan of exercise, she decided to sign up for formal membership after taking one trial class. Unlike members who have clear goals, she just wanted to sweat a little and exercise her body.

She never advanced beyond the beginner's level, limiting herself to basic asanas such as the "Sun Salutation," which is the most suitable routine for beginners, according to China's Yoga Bible Light On Yoga. "I just wanted to sweat. I never had any great aspirations. The asanas that the intermediate classes practiced scared me." Said Zheng.

Zheng Xinyu quickly fell in love with yoga and even got membership cards for her husband Ji Ping (季平) and daughter. The family practiced 2 to 3 times per week. "The teacher talks softly, while music plays. It makes me relaxed, and I really enjoy it."

More than once, Zheng and husband recommended yoga to friends. The unwitting couple never thought any harm would come out of this sport.

In January 2009, Zheng began to feel pain in the waist region. She paused her yoga sessions but thought nothing more. Two weeks later, her left calf felt numb. Then finally one morning she found herself "paralyzed" in bed.

On January 16, 2009, husband Ji Ping took Zheng to Shanghai Zhangzheng Hospital (长征医院), a reputable medical establishment in China. Ji told the reporter that as soon as the doctor saw Zheng's MRI results, he questioned the couple: "What sports were you practicing to incur these injuries? They make sense for athletes, but why would a 30-something housewife receive them?"

The couple replied that Zheng practiced yoga for a year. "The doctor immediately told us yoga must be practiced with care." It was the first time that they heard about "sports injuries."

On January 21, Zheng Xinyuan underwent the surgery ("posterior lumbar spine decompression and pedicle fixation") that placed 4 nails inside of her body. They will accompany her for the rest of her life. The entire process cost them almost 100,000 yuan.

Ji was puzzled, "She is a housewife. Hasn't worked for many years. Never did hard labor, sat for prolong periods of time, or had any accidents. Why would this happen to her?" Zheng said that she never had any previous related illness and a physical check-up few years ago did not reveal any spinal abnormality.

The yoga studio owner who had become friends with Zheng dropped out of touch when she learned about Zheng's problems. After that, Zheng and husband were more inclined to believe their doctor. "We live in the same neighborhood. As a friend, wouldn't it be normal for her to at least drop by after Zheng's big surgery?" said Ji.

Without mentioning the studio name, Ji posted their experience on the neighborhood forum as a precaution to others who practice yoga. Two residents immediately replied that they too had spinal problems that surfaced while they were taking yoga classes, but they could not be sure that yoga was the cause.

After Googling online, Ji Ping was surprised to find out that keywords "yoga injuries" generated 560,000 posts. Media coverage from Chengdu, Shenzhen and Taiwan mention people who sustained similar spinal injuries, and some have become paralyzed. In all cases, "yoga" was the one common factor linking them together.

Insufficient Evidence

A similar tragedy befell 30 year old Li Li (李丽), whose yoga experience started in Shenzhen 2003. With previous background in dance, she quickly learnt the basic asanas. The teacher encouraged her to try out more advanced postures. In 2006, she felt sharp pains in the waist after coughing and was later diagnosed with lumbar spine injury.

"The doctor asked me straight if I was practicing yoga, because no long ago he treated a trainer who had the same symptoms. I was dumbfounded when he mentioned her name. The lady had published yoga books and DVDs. She also instructed us when we were doing yoga performance rehearsals."

Si Chuan girl Wang Yi (王依) taught herself yoga in order to cure insomnia. "The instruction materials only warned high blood pressure patients and those with heart troubles need stay away. It never said anything about joint injuries." After two months of yoga, Wang Yi developed lumbar disc herniation and also went to the hospital. "I cannot prove that yoga caused this. All the information I found do not talk about this either. I hope medical authorities can come up with definitive research results and offer some explanations."

The reporter met 8 people who have come to harm when doing yoga, most of whom female. The youngest is 21 year old, and her yoga experience lasted 8 days. They found one another after reading posts written by Netizen "Ban Lu" (半路). The posts pointed to yoga as the cause of injuries. In blogs, Ban Lu propounded his theory: "The cleansing process makes me think of butchers and chefs, because no other person will treat bodies like this: using all types of method to purge the human digestive system--dealing with living bodies as though they are corpses."

Ban Lu, whose real name is Cheng Songfeng (程松峰), is a 39-year-old man in the aquaculture business of Nanyang, Henan. He was a member of the "Tibetan Yoga Research Society" as early as 1990. At that time, yoga was thought to be a type of qigong and did not exert as much influence as it does now. Nobody thought it could be so heavily commercialized and lucrative.

"What they teach nowadays in gyms is very different from the yoga back then. Tibetan yoga did not put as much emphasis on asanas as Indian types."

In 2006, Cheng Songfeng was living in Shenzhen. One day he came upon a training studio that was hiring instructors. He applied for the position and was easily admitted, even though he did not have any certification. Working as the trainer for a few weeks made him realize that many asanas contradicted both the traditional Chinese health regimens and sports principles. He also noticed that some instructors sported injuries on their bodies.

He wrote about the dangers of yoga on forums and blogs, from its unscientific beginning to the malpractices in its current commercialization. These theories, however, met strong doubts and opposition. Soon, both his Tianya and Sina blogs were shut down. "Yoga has developed into an industry that generates huge revenues. Their public relation policies are formidable," Cheng Songfeng explained.

Ji Ping and Li Li contacted Ban Lu, who gained the reputation as "The First to Question Yoga on Internet." Ban Lu established a QQ group for these people. The chat group is typically quiet. Whenever the IDs speak up, it is either to console one another, or to share tips on recuperation. Strangely, suing trainers and studios has never come up in group discussions.

"It is difficult for these people to receive any reparations, because they do not have much power. Also, linking yoga to their injuries is hard due to the lack of evidence." Cheng Songfeng only knows of one case where the patient successful.

Misinterpreted Yoga

"Yoga" means to "unite" and has the connotation of being one with nature. It balances the body through asanas and breathing techniques, ultimately achieving the control of mind through control of body so that the practitioners feel tranquil and joyous. When yoga was exported from India, however, its face became altered. Because promoters must demonstrate quantifiable, perceivable results, such as weight, sleep time, and physical wellness, they only focus on a small aspect of yoga. As a result, many people think of yoga as simply a fitness exercise.

The truth is, as Time pointed out, yoga is not an all-around means to attain health. According studies published by American Council on Exercise, subjects' aerobic capacities were not much improved. Yoga is not the best way to lose weight either. Additionally, despite of its benefits in relieving stress and alleviating osteoarthritis, yoga does not treat osteoporosis.

Faced with Zheng Xinyuan's plight, Chen Shiyi (陈世益), director of Sports Medicine Center at Shanghai Huashan Hospital (the authoritative institution on treatment of sports injuries), could only express helplessness. "Without further research we really cannot say that her injury was caused by yoga. Any athletic activity has the potential to lead to injuries, among which spinal ones are the more serious. Why did these people get hurt? It could be their bodies were just not cut out for these types of motions, or it could be that the motions exceeded physiological limits."

Even if a correlation can be established, the small number of cases mean that these results lack statistical significance. While the risks of Taichi has long ago been studied, such numbers are lacking for yoga.

Both Chen Shiyi and Jia Lianshun (贾连顺), head of Orthopedics Department at Shanghai Changzheng Hospital, think that yoga is not suitable for the masses. "Adults' ligaments and bone structures have already matured. Postures that require flexibility of limb, joints and spinal cord, if they exceed the ability of the ligaments and bones to extend and compress, will lead to damage," Jia Lianshun explained. Every exerciser should carefully consider his/her age and the range of movement expected. People over 30 years of age are not suitable for yoga training.

Jia's hospital had to treat yoga exercisers for their injuries as early as 7 or 8 years ago.

As for the injured who have trouble linking their conditions to yoga, Jia Lianshun said: "A study on injuries caused by yoga will offend too many people. First, the operators. Second the fanatics. So no one conducts research in this area. What we can do is warn exercisers to be prepared and guard against injuries.

Born in China, trained in both Western and Chinese medicine, Huang Zonglong (黄宗隆) is now a licensed medical practitioner in Shanghai. He specialized in Chinese bone setting and traditional health techniques. His views on yoga differ slightly from those of experts Chen and Jia. "Even with correct practice, yoga is not intended for curing diseases. Rather it helps already healthy people to achieve a better state. For sick people, yoga might exacerbate their problems.

As far as Huang knows, more than half of the city dwellers are not healthy. Some even practice yoga with the goal of eliminating their illness. Huang Zonglong's clinic frequently receives injured yoga patients, "Some are students, and some are trainers. I will not mention any specific numbers though."

Contrary to his Chinese counterparts, Dr. Gary Dorshimer, Director of Internal Medicine/Sports Medicine Fellowship in Pennsylvania Hospital, has rarely met any exerciser who receives spinal injury because of yoga. He told the reporter, "Most of what I have seen are muscle strains. Severe muscle damages and tendon ruptures are very rare; the spinal cord injuries are uncommon too. I think the probability of these are very low."

In contrast to the American doctor's sanguine outlook, Cheng Songfeng said, "For someone who has a specific goal such as losing weight, how can he know the proper level of physical activity? The human spinal cord does not come with any alarm device. Only a professional coach can tell. Yet, Chinese coaches have neither the ability nor the motivation to make the proper judgments. They even sustain injuries in the process."

Chaotic Yoga Businesses

Chen Shiyi visited India on a business trip last November. "I told fellow Indian doctors that there are many people in China interested in yoga. They thought it was strange, because in India, most of the practitioners start when they are really young, sort of like China's acrobats. None of my Indian friends and families are into yoga. China has many fitness regimens, why is yoga [the only one] this popular? Because present day yoga caters to certain fashion trends. It can help people lose weight, it can do this and that, so people swarm to the gyms."

According the most accepted theory, yoga was originally a set of disciplines followed by ancient Indian monks. True mastery can be achieved only after 20 years of devoted practice. However, Chinese media indicate that in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Wuhan, a few days to 3 months is enough to churn out one yoga coach. There is no unified or systematic certification.

During Zheng Xinyuan's one year stint with yoga, she has met several coaches. Each had a different teaching style--some stressed meditation, while others emphasized asanas. In the studio that Zheng went to, only one coach was permanently stationed; the rest just does guest teaching. "They can earn up to 10,000 yuan per month, but the work is hard. They have to do the routines many times." Said Zheng.

This is the status in most studios. The migrant coaches earn more fees, and at the same time the studio owners can cut down expenses. The popular business model first began in the United States and was introduced to China in the 1990s along with fitness gyms. Because yoga does not require fine motor skills, needs very little area to practice, is mysterious and full of wonderful healing powers, it blossomed from secondary programs to meriting independent studios of its own in only a few years. Yoga centers have spread from mega-cities to counties and towns.

There are large chains, medium-sized studios, auxiliary yoga programs in large fitness centers, and private tutors who offer individual training services. The cost varies greatly from 30 yuan per session to 300 yuan per session. More than 10 types have spawned off from the classic Hatha yoga, including but not limited to hot yoga and yoga for pregnant women.

Nevertheless, behind the striving yoga industry, there are almost no regulations or standards.

"The yoga coach training not only teaches postures but also a set of teaching methods. In fact, most studio owners value not so much the certification as the trainer's personal charisma. This is very subtle: a "good" coach will not only get personal obedience but also idolization." Cheng Songfeng explained, "In a quiet atmosphere, the combination of soft music and the coach's voice can be soporific." During his two month stint as yoga coach, he did not have any certification either.

Keeping track of the number of studios in major cities has become mission impossible since there is no supervising agency. Interestingly, to establish their authenticity, the many organizations in China--International Yoga Institute, the Asia-Pacific International Yoga Association, China yoga Industry Association, Asia Society Bo Lan Yoga, International Yoga Teacher Association ... ...--all invariably claim to be the first in existence and the one to guarantee pure Indian yoga teaching from start to present.

An employee working for the General Administration of Sports told the reporter that yoga has not been officially registered as a sport with the administration. As a result, the process of opening a training center is much simplified. The owner needs no permission from sports management agencies. Paperwork in Departments of Industry and Commerce, Taxation, Health and Fire will suffice. It is easier than opening up a cigarette kiosk.

Zheng Xinyuan, who believes herself a victim of yoga,, currently stays home. Under doctor's orders, she avoids any heavy lifting.

The yoga studio in her residential area is still operating, but she never entered it again. She was surprised to see that the two girls who used to be front desk receptionists are now the studio's coaches. (Names of the yoga victims are fake to disguise their identity)

(Part 3 "The culprit is not yoga" to be continued...the truth is I ran out of gas)
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