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China punishes officials after woman miscarries outside lockdown hospital

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China punishes officials after woman miscarries outside lockdown hospital


China’s historic city of Xi’an has been under strict home confinement for two weeks as Beijing sticks to its “zero-Covid” strategy – Copyright AFP STR

Chinese authorities said Thursday they have punished officials after footage went viral of an eight-month pregnant woman miscarrying in the locked-down city of Xi’an when a hospital refused her entry without a Covid test.

The historic city of 13 million has been under strict home confinement for two weeks as Beijing sticks to its “zero-Covid” strategy to stamp out all virus cases.

The distressing incident was detailed in a social media post by the woman’s niece on January 1, which included photos and video of the woman sitting on a plastic stool outside the hospital surrounded by a pool of blood.

The post was later removed but first gathered hundreds of millions of views and sparked widespread anger online about the hardships some Xi’an residents are facing in the locked-down megacity.

The city government said in a statement Thursday the incident at Xi’an Gaoxin Hospital had aroused “widespread concern and caused a bad social impact” and the local health bureau was investigating.

The hospital’s general manager had been suspended and “relevant responsible persons” at the outpatient department were removed from their posts, it said.

The city’s health commission had also instructed the hospital to “apologise to the public, actively reflect, and sort out hidden dangers in the work process”.

“A warning” was given to the head of Xi’an’s emergency response team and the health commission director, the statement said, adding that they did not “meet the requirements for the treatment of special populations”.

Posted on the city government’s official WeChat account, the statement racked up more than 290 million views within hours of being published — illustrating the huge interest the case has generated within China.

According to the January 1 post that went viral, staff refused to admit the heavily pregnant woman for two hours because she did not have a negative Covid test within the last 48 hours.

Her niece wrote that she did hold a negative test result, but that it had expired by just a few hours.

AFP could not verify the post, and calls to the hospital went unanswered.

On Wednesday, officials told reporters that Xi’an was opening “green channels” to provide quick access to medical services to certain groups — such as pregnant women and patients with critical illnesses — without referencing this case.

Coronavirus cases in China remain very low by international standards. But in recent weeks, infections have reached a high not seen since March 2020.

There were 189 cases reported Thursday, including 63 in Xi’an.



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TikTok Faces More Legal Challenges Over Data Collection and its Failure to Protect Young Users

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TikTok Seeks to Address Data Security Concerns, as FBI Calls for Full Ban of the App

TikTok is facing yet another legal challenge in the US, with the State of Indiana filing a lawsuit that accuses TikTok and parent company ByteDance of violating the state’s consumer protection laws, and in particular, failing to safeguard young people and privacy.

As reported by BBC:

“Indiana filed two lawsuits on Wednesday. The first one claims the app exposes young users to inappropriate content. In the other complaint, [Indiana] also alleges TikTok does not disclose the Chinese government’s potential to access sensitive consumer information.”

Described in court documents as ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’, the suit alleges that TikTok ‘deceives and misleads’ consumers about the risks to their data, while also exposing youngsters to ‘a variety of inappropriate content’.

TikTok’s faced similar challenges around the world, and has even been banned for periods in other nations due to perceived promotion of harmful content. Recent reports about harmful challenges have also heightened concerns on this front. A Bloomberg investigation highlighted at least 10 cases of underage users dying after attempting dangerous trends like ‘The Blackout Challenge’.

And this is an aside from the broader concerns about data privacy, which the app remains under CFIUS investigation for, as US politicians continue to debate whether or not the Chinese-owned app should be allowed to continue to operate within the US.

It still feels like it would take a significant escalation for the app banned outright, but that remains a possibility, and with various high-profile security officials also sounding the alarm, the pressure remains high on TikTok, with the threat of total removal from the US, and likely other markets in-turn, looming at all times.

Last month, FBI Director Chris Wray stated that, in his view, TikTok poses a threat to national security, joining FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr and Republican senator Josh Hawley in voicing their concerns about the app and its data gathering processes. Republican Senators, in particular, have continued to raise queries about the app, as the Biden Administration oversees its long-running review of the platform, which has experienced repeated delays and setbacks, and is now, reportedly, unlikely to be completed by its original end of the year timeframe.

But it could, eventually, recommend the removal of TikTok in the US.

For its part, TikTok says that it remains confident that it will be able to address all US concerns about its data security, via a new deal with Oracle to store US user data in the US. But with the company recently noting that European user data can still be accessed by China-based staff, the concerns remain high, and could easily rise even further, dependent on overall US/China relations.

So how are relations between the two superpowers going?

Just looking at headlines from the past week, there are reports of a potential defense partnership between China and Saudi Arabia, ongoing tensions over Chinese military activations in the South China Sea, and the US increasing its military presence in Australia due to concerns about Chinese escalation.

All of these are issues that could lead to further tension between China and the US. But they might not – and while the two nations are working to establish more beneficial, equitable and peaceful ties, that bodes well for TikTok, as there’s no significant increase in public pressure to take action against the app.

But again, things can change very quickly, and with so many security experts flagging concerns about the app, along with the issues related to underage exposure, there’s clearly a level of underlying concern, that could bubble up at any time.

And when you also consider TikTok’s growing influence – the app now has over a billion users, and is increasingly being used as a search engine and a news source, especially among young audiences – those questions are valid, and should be posed before it’s too late.   

The influence of Russian activists on Facebook was only ever analyzed in retrospect. Those calling for action on TikTok are warning that we need to be proactive on such this time around.

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