Monday, August 5, 2013

Searching for Information About Milk Powder Safety on China's Web Sites: From Sanlu to Yili to Fonterra

On August 5, 2013,, a web site operated by the Chinese government's State Council Information Office, published an op-ed entitled "New Zealand Needs to Start Building Trust in the Long-Term." Some excerpts:
But with yet another trade imbroglio, this one Fonterra's botulism scare, surely it's time to ask the New Zealand government: "Where's the quality control?" 
Fonterra might have come away with some credit had it moved quickly to isolate the affected produce and implement a recall, but when such a problem takes more than a year to come to light, it's elevated from an industry event to a national issue.
. . . .
While it's true the government isn't responsible for the contamination of Fonterra produce, it should be held accountable for the fact that nothing was done to identify the problem before it was dispatched to export markets and domestic customers.
This screenshot was taken on August 5, 2013, and shows that a search for "Fonterra Botulism" (恒天然 肉毒杆菌) returned over 170,000 results.

Yili Milk Powder

On June 15, 2012, the state sponsored Global Times reported:
Dairy producer Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co said yesterday that it has started recalling most of its Quanyou series formula milk powder produced from November 2011 to May 2012 since Wednesday, due to excessive mercury content which is harmful to the nervous system.
The screenshots, taken the same day, show that while searches on Sina Weibo returned results for "Yili" (伊利) and "Milk powder" (奶粉), searches for "Yili milk powder" (伊利 奶粉) and "Yili mercury" (伊利 汞) returned no results, just a censorship notice.

Sanlu Milk Powder and Li Changjiang

On December 28, 2009, the state-sponsored China Daily published an article entitled "Tainted Milk Official in New Role." Some excerpts:
A government minister who lost his job over last year's tainted baby formula scandal has been appointed deputy head of a department leading China's war on porn. 
Li Changjiang, 65, former head of the top quality agency, is now vice-director of the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications.
. . . .
Li resigned as minister of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine days after the Sanlu milk scandal was exposed last September. 
The State Council had made a statement that the quality administration had to bear "supervision responsibility for the milk food contamination". 
The tainted formula killed six children and led to more than 300,000 more suffering urinary tract problems, such as kidney stones.
These screenshots were taken in December 2009, and show that searches on Baidu and Youdao for "Poison Milk Official Who Stepped Down Li Changjiang Reinstated" (毒奶粉下马的李长江复职) returned no results, just a censorship notice.

Zhao Lianhai and Kidney Stone Babies

In 2010, Zhao Lianhai (赵连海) was sentenced to 2½ years imprisonment for "disturbing social order" after he started the "Home for Kidney Stone Babies" (结石宝宝之家, web site and attempted to lead parents in getting restitution and treatment for their children who had been poisoned by Sanlu's melamine-tainted milk powder.

These screenshots were taken in November 2010, and show that the state-sponsored newspaper Southern Weekend posted, and then deleted, an article entitled "Kidney Stone Baby Father Zhao Lianhai's Lawyer is Dismissed" (结石宝宝父亲赵连海律师被解除委托).

This screenshot was also taken in November, 2010, and shows that Baidu was restricting search results for "Zhao Lianhai" to a white list of about a dozen web sites controlled by the central government and the Communist Party.

On November 2, 2011, China's state-run media reported that a Beijing court had ordered Hudong (互动) CEO Pan Haidong (潘海东) to pay 120,000 yuan in compensation and publish 30 days' of apologies to Baidu for making defamatory statements including: "Baidu once took 3,000,000 yuan to help the Sanlu Group block negative information about the Sanlu melamine poisoned milk powder incident" (百度曾帮助三鹿集团屏蔽三聚氰胺毒奶粉事件的负面消息并借此挣了300万). According to the report:
This court's decision not only held that Pan Haidong should be held responsible as a public figure for spreading malicious rumors, it also washed Baidu clean of the misrepresentations and misunderstandings it had suffered from some Internet users who did not know the facts. 
Zhao continued to campaign after his release, and in January 2012 he tried to launch a poll on Sina Weibo asking people whether they supported Sina's censorship of the phrase "Kidney Stone Babies." Here's a translation of his poll:
Do You Support Sina Weibo Blocking Keywords Related to "Kidney Stone Babies"?
Participants: 438
According to Baidu's Baike Entry on Kidney Stone Babies:
"Kidney Stone Babies" (结石宝宝) refers to those infants who became ill with "twin recurring kidney stones" and "urethra kidney stones" as a result of ingesting infant formula containing melamine from Sanlu and other brands. This was a phrase that arose after China's 2008 Sanlu Milk Powder Incident, and expressed the concern and pity people had for these children.
However, in the years following the Kidney Stone Babies incident, all information about assisting Kidney Stone Babies published on Sina Weibo has been completely blocked by Sina Weibo. So I want to ask: What law does the phrase Kidney Stone Babies actually violate? What regulation does it violate? As a large media broadcasting company, Sina is not only not helping Kidney Stone Babies, on the contrary, it is for a long time blocked searches relating to Kidney Stone Babies. Their behavior flies in the face of the bottom line for social morality. I demand that Sina must stop blocking the phrase Kidney Stone Babies and Apologize!
Sina Must Stop Blocking the Phrase Kidney Stone Babies and Apologise: 437 (100%)
Support Sina's Censorship: 1 (0%).
This screenshot was taken on the same day Zhao launched his poll, and shows that a search on Sina Weibo for "Kidney Stone Babies" returned no results, just a censorship notice.

These screenshots show that, within hours after Zhao launched the poll, Sina deleted it.

Here's Zhao's Weibo posts about the censorship:
9:36 pm Its really weird: Sina sent me a system notice clearly saying: "Your poll 'Do You Support Sina Blocking Phrases Relating to Kidney Stone Babies?' has been deleted." But when I look now its still possible to vote at this address, and there are currently 413 people who have voted for "Sina Must Stop Blocking the Phrase Kidney Stone Babies and Apologise"!
好奇怪:新浪发来的系统通知明明说“你支持新浪微博屏蔽结石宝宝相关词条吗?”这个投票被删除,但发现目前还可以投票呢,投票地址: 目前投给“新浪必须解除所有结石宝宝词条屏蔽并道歉”这一项的已达到413人! 
9:59 pm Damn! The Sina Poll has been completely deleted The last time I checked there were over 455 vote for "Sina Must Stop Blocking the Phrase Kidney Stone Babies and Apologize," and the number of voters was growing rapidly, with only one vote for "Support Sina's Censorship." Its really gratifying to see those supporters in just four hours. Censors - we will not forget!
他娘的!新浪那个投票还是被彻底删除了 ,最后我看到的投票数字是455投给“新浪必须解除所有结石宝宝词条屏蔽并道歉”这一项,并且投票速度逐渐在加快,只有1票投给“支持新浪屏蔽”。短短4个小时看到的支持让人欣慰!删吧,咱先记上!
These screenshots were taken on August 5, 2013, and show that Sina Weibo was not censoring search results for "Zhao Lianhai" or "Kidney Stone Babies.

These screenshots were taken the same day, and show that Baidu was still banning users from creating PostBar (Tieba 贴吧) forums about "Zhao Lianhai" and "Kidney Stone Babies."