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  Beijing Scene

Chinese Cinderella

A five-year-old peasant girl was brutally abused by her foster parents, resulting in both her feet requiring amputation. The girl is now under state care while her foster parents await trial, the Beijing Youth Daily reports.

The child, Tian Yinlan, was abandoned in 1995 by her natural parents because of her sex. She was subsequently placed in a foster home in Jintang county, Sichuan province. The adoptive parents, Deng Xiangzhi and her second husband, Tian Gui'en, took Yinlan into their care because Deng was unable to have any more children of her own.

However, when Deng's 18-year-old son from her first marriage returned to live with the family, the couple began to abuse the girl. She was locked in a small room for weeks at a time with no light, bed, or toilet, and often deprived of food.

Neighbors report seeing her in the middle of winter washing her clothes in a river, dressed only in scraps. Both her feet were swollen, covered in running sores, and in areas bones were exposed.

Early this year local government authorities intervened, and placed the girl in the care of doctors at a Chengdu hospital. At the time of her rescue, she weighed less than 10 kg (22 pounds). Doctors attempted to save her feet, but both appendages required amputation. If found guilty, the foster parents face a minimum sentence of two years in prison.

Psycho Teachers

A recent survey of primary and secondary school teachers in northeast China reveals that more than half of all educators suffer from psychological problems, the Liberation Daily reports. The survey, carried out earlier this year, examined 2,292 teachers from 168 schools across Liaoning province.

The findings paint a worrisome picture of the state of mental health of China's overworked and underpaid state school instructors. More than half of the participants have psychological problems, compared to a national average of only 20 percent. The survey reveals that primary school teachers are more susceptible to these problems than their counterparts in junior and senior high school. The poll also shows that the situation is more serious in cities than in rural areas, and that a greater proportion of women than men suffer mental disorders.

Symptoms of illness include self-contempt, irrational jealousy, and unusually high levels of anxiety, the report says. Compared to similarly-aged government officials and business executives, teachers consider themselves underpaid, overworked and socially inferior. Over half cite an excessive workload as a major reason for their mental deterioration, with 40 percent working over eight hours per day. Delayed pay is also a contributing factor: one individual was owed more than RMB10,000 (US$1,180) in back pay. Headmasters also blame government education authorities, claiming that school inspections are indiscriminate and excessive.

The survey concludes that poor mental health among teachers adversely affects their students, and is linked to an increase in classroom violence over the past year.

AIDS Mutations

New research reveals that the number of strains of the HIV virus found in China ranks among the highest in the world. According to the semi-official China News Service, all eight of the recognized viral forms have been found in the PRC, as well as a new hybrid of two original strains.

The Ministry of Health report describes the rapid spread of this hybrid through the comparatively underdeveloped provinces of Yunnan, Gansu, Ningxia, and Xinjiang, with prostitutes and drug users registering the highest rates of infection. The majority of those infected are aged 20-30, although some are as young as four months.

The hybrid is considerably more infectious than its parent, so the rate of transmission is far greater. It took under three years for the infection rate among Xinjiang's drug-users to reach a saturation level of 70 percent, compared to over five years in Yunnan, where an older strain was prevalent.

Mandatory Mandarin

Although Mandarin is the official tongue of the PRC, it is still considered a second language by up to 30 percent of the population. To address this problem, the National Committee for Language has announced plans to administer a nationwide Mandarin test, the Life Times Daily reports. University students will not be allowed to graduate without passing this exam.

The move is prompted by a concern that, although nearly three quarters of the population consider Mandarin to be their first language, dialects vary dramatically throughout China's 29 provinces and 56 minority nationalities.

Presently many regional schools utilize local dialect in classrooms, but as of April 1 Mandarin use will be mandatory. Professors and teachers born after January 1, 1954 will also be required to take the exam. Others affected include civil servants and education officials.

News Briefs

* Thirty percent of examinees failed China's first national physician's test. Minister of Health Zhang Wenkang says that from now on all medical school graduates must pass this standard examination to be formally registered. Without this, they will not be permitted to issue prescriptions.

* Recent food inspections show that only 63 percent of meat products pass muster. Reasons for failure include excessive bacterial counts, inferior nitrate additives, and high acidity.

* Black lung disease in China has already claimed 130,000 lives with an additional 15,000-20,000 new cases each year. According to the Chinese Ministry of Health, occupational accidents and illnesses are the major cause in the shortening of the working lives of China's 700 million laborers.

* Unemployment is the biggest challenge faced by China as it enters the twentieth-century, according to Chinese economist Hu An'gang. He estimates China's urban and township unemployment rate at eight percent. This is more than twice the rate stated in official records.

* China has relaxed its foreign adoption policy because an increasing number of baby girls are being abandoned. According to official data, it costs a foreign couple between US$13,000-US$24,000 to adopt a Chinese infant.

* Half of Beijing's municipal administrative staff will have to find new jobs. The government recently downsized, reducing the number of departments from 67 to 45.

* The rate of cancer in Chinese children has climbed by 25 percent since the 1960s. The major causes appear to be X-rays during pregnancy, smoking, substandard medication and malnutrition.

* Almost half of the 30 most polluted cities in China are located in Shanxi province the Central Chinese Environmental Monitoring Station reports. The most polluted city in the country is the Shanxi provincial capital of Taiyuan. Beijing ranks third. Suspended particles and sulfur dioxide are the main causes of pollution in China.


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