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Did the Times Censor a Story on Foreign Abortions in China?

Posted: 11/27/2014 11:23 am

China Curmudgeon received this story in our inbox recently from an anonymous source who claims it was spiked by the Times to ensure its reporters continue to have their journalist visas renewed. There is obviously no way for us to verify whether it is real or not – or maybe satire? – so leave it up to you…

Editor’s Note: It seems fake hospital names, terminated pregnancies in the 8th month, and an author known for his satire weren’t enough clues. So to be clear to all readers: this is satirical. It was written by the lovely and talented China Curmudgeon. We sincerely apologize to those who feel misled, and can assure you we have access to a telephone should we ever need to verify something…

For pregnant expatriate women living in Beijing, the feeling is becoming increasingly common. So are the stares, the accusing looks, the friends who stop calling.

For Clarissa Wellington, it came as a surprise. After learning she was expecting last June, she announced her pregnancy to overjoyed friends at brunch in the Chinese capital, where she and her husband have lived for nearly three years.

“Everyone was congratulating us like you’d expect your friends to,” she said. “Then someone asked when we were leaving China. They all assumed we’d leave because I was pregnant.”

Mrs. Wellington recalls the mood at the gathering shifted abruptly when her husband said they planned to stay in Beijing for three to four more years.

“The whole table went silent,” Mrs. Wellington said. “They were shocked. No, it was like they were horrified.”

Air pollution levels in Beijing often fluctuate between harmful and hazardous according to a World Health Organization index, and lung cancer is the city’s top cause of death. Food products are generally considered unsafe.

While many foreign employees of multinationals find working in the Chinese capital has short-term career benefits thanks to high salaries and increasingly common “environmental hardship” allowances, their children can end up paying the long-term cost. Babies are especially at risk. As an infant’s body develops, exposure to toxic pollutants through air, food and water can lead to a wide range of lifelong health problems.

Mrs. Wellington says her plan to raise a child in Beijing for several years made her an outcast in her circle of expatriate friends. Social invitations dried up, and several rounds of Facebook un-friending left her feeling alone.

The only people who attended her baby shower were Chinese colleagues of her husband.

“The whole experience made us stop and reconsider if we really wanted to raise a child in this kind of pollution,” Mrs. Wellington said. “We did some research about what the air in Beijing does to babies, and we decided to wait. That’s why we chose to abort.”

With the pregnancy now terminated, Mrs. Wellington is still in Beijing, waiting out the last months of her husband’s contract at an international law firm. In January the couple plans to return to San Francisco, where they hope to re-conceive in what they consider a more
appropriate environment for children.

“We did it for Micah,” she said, placing a hand on her stomach. “That’s what we were going to name him. But the air in Beijing is so bad that neither of us wanted Micah to even take one breath here.”


In many expat communities in Beijing, abortion is well on its way to becoming the preferred, socially acceptable alternative to the prospect of raising a young child in the world’s most polluted capital city.

“I love kids, and that’s why we ended it,” said Mandy Thompson, a training consultant from Wisconsin who had an abortion in October, just over eight months into her pregnancy.

“Sometimes I think about if we’d decided to have the baby and then went home after a year or two,” she said. “And then I know we definitely made the right decision. The first two years of a baby’s life are the most important for development. And Beijing is no place for human beings, especially the smallest and most vulnerable ones.”

Her husband agrees. When his wife first suggested ending the pregnancy, Randy Thompson was shocked. But with friends and family all trying to convince the couple to choose abortion, he gradually warmed to the idea.

“One day we were stuck in gridlock on third ring, discussing whether to abort or not,” Mr. Thompson said, referring to one of Beijing’s notoriously backed-up freeways that encircle the city. “I remember looking out the window and I couldn’t see the sun. There was light,
but no sunlight. Right then I decided I didn’t want to bring a child into a place like this. We can have a baby later, one that will grow up healthy.”

At Beijing Pacific Family Hospital, a foreign-run clinic with several Western doctors fronting a larger part-time Chinese staff drawn from local hospitals, consultations for abortions have skyrocketed over the last year. Roughly half the expatriate couples who come for prenatal
exams also request information about ending the pregnancy.

“It’s not that they don’t want children,” said Dr. Mark Moore, an obstetrician at Beijing Pacific. “They just don’t want to compromise the child’s health. So now we’re seeing a lot of couples saying ‘let’s do the right thing.’ That means aborting now and having children later, when they’re far away from Beijing.”


Earlier this year the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences published a study calling Beijing nearly “uninhabitable” due to extreme environmental pollution. Another recent study by Chinese and foreign researchers found the long-term effects of China’s pollution
shortens human lives in the country’s north by an average of 5.5 years.

But for many Chinese citizens, national pride translates into strong support for pollution.

“China is a powerful country, and we are surpassing the West in many ways,” said taxi driver Wen Jiqing in a thick Beijing accent peppered with profanity, pausing to hack and spit. As is common in the capital, he calls heavy pollution “poor weather.”

Liu Zheng, a twenty-three year-old intern at an online retailer, moved to Beijing last year after graduating college in her hometown of Xingtai, where the major industry is coal mining. She said she could immediately feel the effects of Beijing’s air on her body. Even now, her throat still burns, and her eyes are consistently red and irritated.

“We should support the government,” Ms. Liu said on a busy street corner when asked her opinion on the city’s air quality, her voice muffled by a thin cotton face-mask. “Pollution is a natural part of development. Anyone who criticizes our pollution is against China.”

When asked if she would ever raise children in Beijing, Ms. Liu replied, “I just found out I’m sterile, and I have absolutely no idea why.”

With most parents in Beijing fighting a losing battle to keep their children healthy, many expecting couples are finding that choosing between childbirth and terminating the pregnancy can be a source of marital tension.

Allison Webber, a management consultant from Canada, is seven months pregnant and says she’s leaning towards abortion.

“I’m starting accept that forcing your kids to live here is a form of child abuse,” she said. “It might be good for my career, but the fact is, it has an effect on a child’s health. I don’t want to be responsible for giving my children asthma.”

Her husband wants to keep the baby, and points to pollution domes that cover sports fields at some of Beijing’s international schools as proof the city’s massive pollution is not prohibitive to raising a child.

“But he smokes, so what does he know,” Mrs. Webber said, sipping imported bottled water at a cafe recently.

“Actually, I know quite a bit,” her husband said from the seat next to her. “Can we not have this conversation here?”

Mrs. Webber shook her head in disgust and looked at the smog outside.

“I just can’t raise a child in this pollution,” she said quietly. “I hate this fucking city.”


Home Page Photo Credit: SCMP


Hey Foreigners, Check Out The Apartment I Have for Rent

Posted: 11/12/2014 3:17 pm

Luxurious and modern 120 sq. meter two-bedroom apartment with new furniture available for rent in a major Mainland Chinese city. If you would like to view the apartment, here is what you can expect to see if you contact me for a tour:

Furniture is new and tasteless. Also possibly toxic, judging from the strong, headache-inducing chemical odor that fills several rooms of the apartment. I chose all the furniture myself and like to pretend it is expensive and high-quality, as I will remind you every 90 seconds if you come view the apartment.

Living room has a couch that is meant to look like a large banana or watermelon slice, like you’d see on a children’s TV show. During a tour, I will present this to you with a straight face, and say it is expensive and high-quality. A massive, multi-colored glass and plastic chandelier hangs from the ceiling. If you are slightly above average height, watch your head.

There is a large oak entertainment center in the living room that was built to hold a 4×3 television. However the television is a 32-inch Skyworth non-HD model that sits on a coffee table pushed up against the windows. It gets about 50 provincial channels, all with varying levels of static and over-modulated sound. The remote control is well-used but still wrapped in plastic from the factory. If you want cable television, all you have to do is call “my friend” who can install it for you illegally, by climbing around on the outside of the 19th-floor balcony without safety gear of any kind. If he falls and dies, it’s your fault. If he lives, he will give me some of the money you pay him because that’s the deal we have.

The living room has floor-to-ceiling windows which offer a striking view of the adjacent apartment building, located just ten meters away.

The kitchen is small and narrow and can uncomfortably fit one person. It is fully equipped with running water. There are two temperatures, cold and scalding, and nothing in between. In the cupboards there are two plates and a fork the previous tenants left. The cupboards also feature cockroach traps.

The refrigerator is in the living room.

Both bedrooms have gigantic king-size beds that fill the entire room and leave room for little else. Although the beds are too large for the space, it is still possible to move around the edges of the room if you shuffle along the wall with your body turned sideways. The master bedroom also has a closet with no drawers or shelves, like a coffin leaned up against the wall vertically.

There is a large bathroom that feels very small because it is packed with both a free-standing bathtub and a separate shower stall, a sink, and a washing machine that does not work. The toilet has no water pressure and does not handle solids very well. A single square of toilet paper can clog it.

There are three more bathrooms located outside the apartment and down the hallway — they are labelled “elevators.” These public restrooms are mainly used by the building’s children and small dogs. They are also a good place to throw trash. In addition, they provide transportation between floors. Smoking is allowed in the elevator-restrooms.

The apartment complex has a courtyard where unfriendly, suspicious old people will congregate during the day. In the courtyard there are bathrooms everywhere — as in, children and small dogs go to the bathroom everywhere. Security is provided by what appears to be uniformed teenagers. These guard-thieves will be particularly watchful and interested when they see you catching a taxi to the airport with suitcases.

One thing you should know: I am not the actual owner of the apartment, but rather a “friend” of the corrupt, government-connected landlord. Normally I only divulge this information very reluctantly at the last minute, in a roundabout way, if you press me over why my ID copy doesn’t match the home ownership papers, or why I signed the contract with someone else’s name. The real estate agent will help me assure you that this is “very normal” and “no problem.”

Rent: RMB 23,000 / month


“Western Banker” Writes Hilarious, Self-Important Letter to Occupy Students

Posted: 11/9/2014 1:09 pm

Welcome to the debut post from The China Curmudgeon.

Dear students,

After occupying large parts of central Hong Kong, you have made your voice heard and made your point. Now it is time to go home, so that the Central Government and wealthy people like myself can go back to ignoring you and the problems you are drawing attention to.

I walked through the Admiralty protest zone yesterday on the way to a lunch meeting. I did not do this to take a selfie, like many tourists do. I did it so that when I talk about Occupy at dinner parties with other members of the elite, I can say that I’ve visited the protests. I feel it adds weight to my argument. And it only took about 15 minutes to do because I didn’t stop to actually engage with any protesters or try to understand their motivations.

So students, I hope you will take my advice, as someone who has been to the protest area and lived in Hong Kong for years. It is really time to tear down the blockades in Admiralty and Mong Kok. There are other more effective ways you can work to influence the direction of Hong Kong. I don’t know what they are, but when I say “other more effective ways” I’m really just hoping to leave it at that.

Is blocking people from coming and going to work democracy? No, it is not. True democracy is the freedom for me to make money, and for you to not elect your leaders.

Many Hong Kong people oppose Occupy Central. The ongoing protests and blockades are affecting countless lives in Hong Kong. Never mind that even the government says that Hong Kong’s economy has not been negatively impacted, and tourism has increased over the same period last year. The whole thing has impacted my life and my rights, and the lives and rights of many others, for two basic reasons:

1. Sometimes it takes me longer to commute.

2. Sometimes it forces me to think about issues I don’t want to think about.

Let’s talk about the second reason. As a Western businessman living in Hong Kong, I do not care if the people of Hong Kong can elect their leaders or not. If the Mainland destroys Hong Kong’s unique identity, I don’t really care either. If the Central Government ends freedom of the press, censors the Internet, and makes Hong Kong start to resemble the polluted hellscape that is Mainland China, then I will just leave. I know that millions of Hong Kong citizens can’t just leave, but that’s life. (Your life, not mine.)

It’s time to recognize that democracies around the world all function differently. Hong Kong is no different. In selecting the Chief Executive, real elections will be held. Students are hoping for direct elections, but the Central Government has announced there will instead be bullshit elections. This might not be the kind of democracy the people of Hong Kong want, but it is still democracy if you consider democracy to be just a word with no meaning. For the record, Hong Kong is democratic. But as in every democratic society, this comes with unique characteristics. What’s special about Hong Kong’s democracy is that a violently repressive government holds veto power over it.

You might consider me insensitive, or even an asshole. But such name-calling misses the point. The point is that you should go home because it’s taking me longer to commute, and I don’t like to think about the issues your actions are making me think about.

Thank you.

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