Palau islands have been inundated with Chinese tourists

The pristine Palau islands have been inundated with Chinese tourists and not everyone is happy about it.

CHINESE tourists are flocking to the remote Palau islands as China’s growing number of rich seek new frontiers abroad, but not everyone in the Micronesian paradise is happy about it.

Strapped into life-jackets and screaming with excitement, groups of boisterous Chinese thrillseekers tear around Palau’s “Milky Way” lagoon on a flotilla of speedboats — a spectacle unfamiliar to locals just a few months ago.

Residents of the archipelago, part of the larger island group of Micronesia, are baffled as to why Chinese travellers represented almost 62 per cent of all visitors in February — up from 16 per cent in January 2014.

Chinese cruise ship “Xian Ni”, which previously operated in China’s famous Yangtze River and whose crew fled and abandoned it in Palauan waters. AFP PHOTO / SBASTIEN BLANCSource:AFP

For businessman Du Chuang from Chengdu in China’s Sichuan province, it is because his increasingly wealthy countrymen are becoming more adventurous, smashing the stereotype of the herded package tour.

Du first started to travel by visiting Hainan, the Chinese island in the South China Sea currently witnessing a massive development of hotel resorts. He then ventured to Thailand before branching out to the Maldives.

“The corals here are more beautiful than Sanya (on Hainan),” the 46-year-old told AFP, scrolling through photos on his phone of a $1,400 helicopter trip over Palau’s Seventy Islands that he took his family on.

Chinese tourists in Palau jumping from their speedboat into the “Milky Way” that locals claim have therapeutic properties that will make you look 10 years younger. AFP PHOTO / SBASTIEN BLANCSource:AFP

“Palau is small and magnificent,” added the owner of a successful IT company. Hoteliers are catching on, with some establishments focusing on Chinese clientele booked out months in advance. At “Sea Passion Hotel” in Koror, 74 of their 75 rooms were occupied by Chinese visitors when AFP visited.

On a beach Chinese women wearing full body suits to protect themselves from the sun pose for selfies with husbands and boyfriends in sleeveless vests, which they send to their friends back home in China’s grey megacities.

In these heavenly islands of Micronesia, Chinese tourists are now everywhere to be seen. AFP PHOTO / SBASTIEN BLANCSource:AFP

‘It’s like paradise’

Jia Yixin, a 30-year-old from Shanghai, didn’t think twice about paying $1,133 (1,000 euros) for a six-day trip to Palau that she found online.

“It is like paradise here,” she beamed. “In Shanghai the air is polluted but here people respect the environment,” Jia added.

Ironically it is the potential environmental impact of the Chinese invasion that is at the forefront of the minds of many of the islands’ 18,000 population.

Palau welcomed just shy of 141,000 visitors last year, up 34 per cent on 2013, largely on the back of the Chinese visitors. But in February this year, mainland Chinese visitors leaped more than 500 per cent year-on-year to 10,955 — more than half Palau’s total population.

Tourism accounts for close to 85 per cent of Palau’s gross domestic product (GDP), and while profits are up, some are worried the long-term damage may be too great.

Chinese tourists getting ready to swim in the world renowned “Jellyfish lake”, a marine lake where visitors can swim with thousands of golden jellyfish on the Rock Islands in Palau. AFP PHOTO / SBASTIEN BLANCSource:AFP

“This is a very sudden influx, so we are trying to understand the situation” said Nanae Singeo, managing director of the Palau Visitors Authority, the local tourist board.

“We have never experienced this much tourism before and the magnitude is really giving us a lot of pressure. We are a very tiny country with scarce resources so this sudden increase is an unknown challenge for us,” she added.

Palau has long catered for a particular type of visitor, with up to 70 per cent of tourists coming for world-famous diving in stunning blue waters with pristine corals.

Japanese were traditionally the largest contingent, followed by Taiwanese and Korean visitors. But the majority of the new wave of Chinese tourists seem more interested — for now at least — in lounging on the beach.

“We are not seeing a growth rate to match the number of visitors,” said Singeo. “Tourists are up 34 per cent so technically we should see economic benefits at the rate of 30 per cent or more, but that’s not the case.”

Palau is famous for its world class diving. AFP PHOTO / SBASTIEN BLANCSource:AFP

‘They wreck corals’

On the streets of Koror, some accused Chinese people of being noisy and disrespectful towards the environment.

“They wreck corals and throw their rubbish in the sea,” chided Norman, a taxi driver.

In another recent example, a Chinese tour operator named “Yellow Skin Tour” caused outrage in Palau with leaflets including photos of grinning Chinese tourists holding up turtles they had removed from the water — in one case by its flippers.

Residents have also accused Chinese tourists of being responsible for the deaths of some jellyfish at the natural wonder “Jellyfish Lake”.

Visitors are encouraged to marvel at the harmless creatures by floating on the surface, but some locals complain that many Chinese lack swimming skills and thrash around, disturbing the wildlife.

Chinese tourists have been accused of harming marine life in Palau.Source:Getty Images

The Palau government is exploring ways to try to stem the tide of Chinese tourists to the western Pacific Ocean archipelago and this week said the number of charter flights from China would be halved next month.

President Tommy Remengesau said the move was not intended to discriminate against any nationality but was to prevent tourism from becoming too reliant on one market.

“Do we want to control growth or do we want growth to control us?” he asked reporters. “It will be irresponsible for me as a leader if this trend continues. I am not only looking at the present but, as a leader, I am looking after tomorrow.” But the number of hotels, restaurants and guides in Palau now catering for a Chinese market would suggest that citizens of the world’s second-largest economy are likely to keep coming.

New app that allows anyone to create Android ransomware now free on underground Chinese hacking forum

The app is easy to use and requires just clicking a few buttons to create a brand new, fully functional Android ransomwareiStock
The constantly evolving cybercrime-as-a-service (CaaS) community thrives by making available malware-creating and hacking tools to wannabe hackers. Now novice cybercriminals can easily create their own Android ransomware, thanks to new free apps that are essentially TDKs (Trojan Development Kits). These free apps are currently only available in Chinese underground hacking forums.

The free app, discovered by Symantec security researcher Dinesh Venkatesan, is similar to other regular Android apps, with the exception that it allows users, even those with little or no knowledge of coding, to create malware. According to Venkatesan, the app is easy to use and requires users to just fill a form detailing the customisation they want and click a few buttons to create a brand new, fully functional Android ransomware.

“Once all of the information has been filled in, the user hits the ‘create’ button and, if they haven’t already done so, is asked to subscribe to the service. The app allows the user to start an online chat with the app’s developer where they can arrange a one-time payment. Once the user has subscribed, they can continue with the process, making as many ransomware variants as they desire,” Venkatesan wrote in a blog.

The ransomware strains developed by the app are based on the popular Lockdroid ransomware family, which doesn’t actually encrypt files, instead locks users out of their devices with a password that only the hacker knows.

The TDK app also allows users to customise their ransomware in several ways:-

Displays a ransom message in the locked screen

Create a specific icon for the ransomware-laced app

Create animation to be displayed on the locked screen

Create the code required to unlock the device

The TDK app is currently only available for Chinese speakers. However, in the event the app becomes popular, the cybercriminals operating it could change the interface language, which according to Venkatesan, is fairly simple to do. The researcher suggested that the app could soon be made available to wannabe cybercriminals in different languages as well.

“The emergence of easy to use malware development kits such as these lowers the bar for aspiring cyber criminals wanting to enter the ransomware game. Individuals with little technical knowledge can now create their very own customized Android ransomware,” Venkatesan said. “However, these apps are not just useful for aspiring and inexperienced cyber criminals as even hardened malware authors could find these easy-to-use kits an efficient alternative to putting the work in themselves. We expect to see an increase in mobile ransomware variants as these development kits become more widespread.”

Chinese blogger’s essay about Beijing pulled down amid controversy

IT WAS always going to be a controversial piece of writing.

Chinese blogger Zhang Wumao’s damning assessment of life in Beijing and everyone who lived there was witty, but emotive, and it didn’t hold back.

Zhang, who has lived in China’s massive capital since moving there as a 25-year-old in 2006, used his essay to take aim at everything. The enormous size of the crowded city. The unfriendliness of its residents. Its overwhelmed infrastructure and real estate market.

And the central, stinging message of the essay — which has been translated to English as “Beijing Has 20 Million People Pretending to Live There” — was that the city was on a quest to become one of the world’s great metropolises but that was coming at the expense of its soul.

In China, pieces of writing like that don’t go unnoticed.

The first response was on Chinese social media platforms, Weibo and WeChat, where it went viral. Zhang published the article on WeChat on July 23, and in one night, it had been viewed more than five million times, according to Quartz. Over the next two days it was picked up by Chinese news media and triggered debate across the country — and then it disappeared.


Zhang’s essay outlined a number of key problems in his adopted city.

Firstly, Beijing’s people had “no warmth”, he said. And that was partly because they were too busy, and that was because their city was too big to get around.

Zhang pointed out Beijing was the equivalent to 2.5 times Shanghai, 15 times Hong Kong, 21 times New York, and 27 times Seoul, and it was getting bigger, fast. “Beijing is a tumour, and no one can control how fast it is growing,” he said.

He discussed how Beijing’s many great wonders — the Imperial Palace, the Great Wall — brought pride to the city but left him feeling “emotionless”. “You can’t make food out of these things,” he said.

He poked fun at Beijing’s older generations and rich kids with fake lives, and contemplated the city’s many migrants, “who have no real estate from previous generations” and were locked out of the real estate bubble.

Wrapping up the essay, Zhang reflected on how Beijing was rapidly expanding and changing “with unprecedented speed” and that the process was eroding the city that its oldest residents once knew.

The city’s landmarks were a source of pride but “you can’t make food” out of such things, Zhang said.Source:Alamy

“For Beijing’s new immigrants, the city is a distant place where they can’t stay; for Beijing’s old residents, the city is an old home they can’t return to,” Zhang wrote.

“The large numbers of people coming from outside the city have raised the housing prices in Beijing — they’ve created a flourishing city. But do you believe it? The native Beijingers might not need this kind of flourishing, and they also do not want higher housing prices. They are just like us, wanting a home that does not have too many people or too much traffic.”

He said efforts this year to “brick up the core city of Beijing” had forced small shops, hotels and restaurants to close and forced more people in the low-end market to leave.

“This type of dressing-down and losing-weight city management frantically puts Beijing on the road to being a high-end and classy city. But it is becoming less and less of a convenient and liveable city, and it is becoming further and further removed from being a city with a tolerant and open spirit,” he said.

“There are over 20 million people left in this city, pretending to live. In reality, there simply is no life in this city. Here, all we have is the dreams of some people, and the jobs of most people.”

In the two days after Zhang unleashed his essay on social media, it triggered debate across China.

Many praised Zhang’s “honest” writing, Quartz reported.

“Whether you fake it or you try hard, it’s all okay: This is Beijing. It’s not liveable, but you sure can make a living,” one person commented.

Others took offence at his suggestion Beijing’s residents lived fake, meaningless lives.

“What on earth gave him the courage to speak on behalf of 20 million Beijing people?” another person said.

“I am one of these 20 million people, and sorry, but my life is not fake — I am living it.”

Some people questioned Zhang’s motives, suggesting he wrote a deliberately inflammatory piece for viral fame.

But on July 25, just two days after it was published, Zhang’s article disappeared from social media sites and news sites. It was also pulled from Zhang’s WeChat account, where he first published it.

State-run media then published a series of responses to Zhang that criticised his essay.

In a message published on Weibo, the state-run People’s Daily wrote: “The essay ‘Beijing Has 20 Million People Pretending to Live There’ is a viral hit but is not approved of.

“There really is such a thing as the ‘Big City Disease’, and we do not need to pretend as if people in first-tier cities are not struggling and facing hardships.

“But in Beijing, both locals and outsiders are alive and kicking; they are all the more real because of their dreams. Making a living is hard, but it is the days of watching flowers blossom and wilt that are full of life. The city and its people don’t have it easy, but they have to show some tolerance for each other and then they can both succeed.”

Xinhua News Agency also criticised Zhang’s essay, along with state broadcaster CCTV, which said Beijing was not as cold as Zhang described it. “Everyone already knows that it’s not easy living in a big city. The future of Beijing is in the hands of competent, daring, and hardworking people who pursue their dreams,” CCTV said.

Zhang has now apologised for the piece. In an interview with the Economic Observer, the writer said he not discreet enough in his essay and asked the media “not to magnify my mistake into a matter of principle”.

“This is an article with many problems,” Zhang said, according to a translation in the Modern Chinese Literature and Culture centre at Ohio State University.
“In fact, I didn’t intend to express anything. I was just being contrarian and trying to amuse readers. I didn’t realise that I was wrongly contrarian and trying to amuse wrongly. I don’t want to cause more troubles and make anyone upset about it.”

But back on Weibo, many have questioned Zhang’s need for an apology.

“Why you have to apologise?” one person wrote. “If the article was full of lies, it wouldn’t have resonated with so many people. Is it because the author ruined some people’s dreams by telling the truth?”


Waste not, want not: Leftovers from a roast are ideal for this dish / Julia Platt Leonard

Julia Platt Leonard’s twist on Chinese chicken salad was a happy accident, created when one missing ingredient was subsituted for what was on hand. The resulting drizzle adds a new dimension to this zingy American lunchtime classic

One of the first and most important lessons you learn in cooking is the importance of mise en place – everything in its place. It’s a great idea. You measure and prep all the ingredients so when you start cooking, everything is to hand and there’s no nasty surprises.

But these days I’m often cooking while simultaneously folding laundry and answering emails so mise en place goes out the window along with just about anything else that isn’t life-threatening.

This is what happened when I went to make my Chinese chicken salad. I searched everywhere but there was no chilli oil.

I could have made my own but that takes time and time was another thing I didn’t have in stock.

Instead I reached for the Vietnamese chilli garlic sauce that I did have on hand. You can find different brands of chilli garlic sauce at the supermarket but the one I use comes from Chinatown and has a rooster on it. While I was poaching the chicken for the salad I did a quick search on the internet.

Turns out it’s made by a company called Huy Fong Foods in the US. The company was started by David Tran, a refugee from Vietnam who left by boat in 1979.

The name of the boat was Huey Fong which means “gathering prosperity”. When he started his hot sauce business in 1980 he decided to call it Huy Fong and adopted the rooster as his logo since he was born in the Chinese zodiac Year of the Rooster.

Since then, the business has grown and enjoys a loyal following, myself included. So technically, this recipe should be Vietnamese Chicken Salad – I’ll leave it as it is, but send David Tran my thanks for bailing me out.

Leafy greens, crunchy almonds and chicken combine deliciously with an Asian-inspired dressing (Julia Platt Leonard)
Chinese chicken salad

Serves 2-3

If you’ve got leftover chicken from a roast, you’re all set. If not, you can poach a chicken breast.

½ Chinese cabbage, about 300g
20g coriander, with roots if possible
2 spring onions
200g chicken (1 large chicken breast)


1 tbsp chilli garlic sauce
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp sesame oil
1 tsp caster sugar
1 lime


Sesame seeds
Chopped almonds

If you’re using leftover cooked chicken, simply shred it into bite size pieces and keep refrigerated until ready to use. If you’re poaching a chicken breast, place the breast in a pan, cover with water, add a generous sprinkling of salt and place the lid on. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat and gently poach until the chicken is just cooked. Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool down in the poaching liquid then shred the meat and refrigerate while you prepare the salad.

To make the salad, remove the core from the cabbage, slice thinly and place in a salad bowl. Roughly chop the coriander and add to the mix. Thinly slice the spring onions and toss into the salad.

To make the dressing, combine the chilli garlic sauce, oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, and caster sugar. Slice the lime in half and add the juice from one of the halves. Cut the remaining half into wedges to serve with the salad.

When you’re ready to serve, add the chicken to the greens and top with the dressing. Combine and place into serving bowls. Top with your choice of garnishes and a wedge of lime.

Social Media Posts Reveal Bad-Air Days In Chinese Cities

Residents of China’s megacities who post comments about air quality to social media can give environmental scientists a window into pollution levels there.

A multidisciplinary study by Rice University researchers showed that the frequency of key words like dust, cough, haze, mask and blue sky can be used as a proxy measurement of the amount of airborne particulate matter in the country’s urban centers at any given time.

The words were culled from millions of posts to China’s Weibo, a popular microblogging platform. The posts were collected by Rice computer scientists for a study on Chinese censorship of social media three years ago.

The research led by Rice computer scientist Dan Wallach and environmental engineer Daniel Cohan appears this month in the open-access journal PLOS One.

“The big takeaway is that people grouse about air quality, and as it gets worse, people complain more,” said Wallach, a professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering, whose lab collected the publicly available posts.

“When it’s really bad, it flattens out,” he said. “They’re as complained-out as they’re going to be. And if it gets good enough, few people complain. But there’s a zone in the middle where people really grouse, and we can measure that.

“A city the size of Beijing has air-quality meters, but not many,” Wallach said. “But if you have millions of people, you potentially have millions of meters. It’s a way of adding extra data.”

The researchers came up with a metric, the Air Discussion Index (ADI), based on the frequency with which pollution-related terms appeared in 112 million posts from 2011 to 2013 by residents of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, where pollution is thought to be most troublesome in China.

“We looked at what words correlated with the pollution-level data we had,” Wallach said. “Some words that came out were nonsense. But others, like cough or wheeze, clearly had something to do with the conditions. Others, like blue sky, inversely correlated with the weather or pollution.”

“There’s a lot of discussion about censorship in Chinese media, including in Dan Wallach’s work, but one of the things we like about this particular study is that it relies on data that are almost never censored, the most innocuous terms of all,” said co-author Aynne Kokas, an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and an affiliate of Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

“These terms are almost impossible to censor because of how common they are,” she said. “As a result, we think this method is really effective not only in China but could also work in other contexts where there are heavily regulated social-media environments.”

The most accurate ADI readings were those for Beijing. When matched to hourly sensor readings from the U.S. Embassy there, the researchers found the technique analyzed pollution levels with an accuracy of 88.2 percent. ADI performance for the other cities where the pollution isn’t as severe and Weibo posts not as plentiful wasn’t as accurate: 63 percent for Shanghai, 42 percent for Guangzhou and 36 percent for Chengdu.

Particulate matter measuring less than 2.5 microns in diameter — about 30 times less than the diameter of the average human hair — is known to permanently damage the lungs. The United States’ air-quality standard for concentrations of this size of particulate matter is no more than 35 micrograms (millionths of a gram) per cubic meter over any 24-hour period and an annual average of no more than 12 micrograms per cubic meter.

Cohan said Chinese air pollution standards aren’t vastly different from those in the U.S., but the pollutant concentrations are. “Particulate matter levels in Beijing are often 10 times as high as we typically observe in U.S. cities,” he said.

Wallach said he was surprised by the level of air-quality information that was found in the Weibo posts — data that he and colleagues had collected for a 2013 study on social media censorship.

“I was chatting with Dan Cohan, and I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got all this data about China. Do you think we could measure something about pollution from all this data?’” Wallach recalled. “We all got together to see if the Weibo data told a story, and it turns out it did.”

Cohan said, “China is an ideal testbed, because the pollutant levels are so high and so variable that you can literally see the difference day to day. Still, I was surprised that social media posts could correlate so strongly with air-quality conditions.”

Wallach said it was interesting to note that the U.S. Embassy measurements correlated well with the Chinese government’s own ground-level reporting on urban pollution. “Some people in China think their government might be lying to them about air quality, but based on what we found, that isn’t the case,” he said.

Co-authors of the paper include Rice alumnus Zhu Tao, now at Google, and Rice postdoctoral fellow Rui Zhang, now at the National Park Service. Cohan is an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Chinese Chicken Stir-Fry (Quick and Healthy)

This Chinese Chicken Stir-Fry recipe makes life easier on a busy night. With just a few ingredients and only one pan, this healthy dinner can be on the table in half an hour. Although I try my best to meal plan, it’s always good to have a meal like this up your sleeve for those nights that just don’t go the way you think!

I love Asian flavors, and in my opinion this recipe beats takeout any night!

How to Make Chinese Chicken Stir-Fry

You can use regular cabbage in this recipe, but my favorite kind of cabbage to use (when in season) is Napa cabbage, which is softer and has thinner leaves. Napa cabbage makes for a more delicate texture. Homemade Five-Spice mix is also great on this recipe.

In place of the usual soy sauce, this recipe uses coconut aminos. Made from the sap of coconut trees, coconut aminos boasts a number of health benefits and avoids the soy, wheat, and MSG found in most commercially produced soy sauce.

The slight sweetness of the honey and coconut aminos pairs well with the tang of the apple cider vinegar and the nuttiness of the sesame seeds for a complex but simple flavor. It’s got all the flavors of comfort food with the freshness of healthy ingredients!


Stir-Fry: The Perfect Go-To Meal for Wellness Mamas

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … stir-fry is my go-to! Whatever the flavors and ingredients use, stir-fry is always quick, easy, and makes it easy to incorporate lots of seasonal veggies. In fact, I bet you’ll find more variations of stir-fry in my recipes than almost any other. Sausage Squash Stir-Fry, Beef and Cabbage Stir-Fry, Apple Chicken Stir-Fry … you name it, I’ve put it together, trying to use up the ingredients in my fridge.

Practice makes perfect, and after a while we’ve settled on our family favorites. (All of which I include in my Wellness Mama Cookbook, of course!)

Check out some of my other favorite stir-fry recipes in my recipe index.

3 votes


Chinese Chicken Stir-Fry

prep 5 mins

cook 20 mins

total 25 mins

author wellness mama

yield 4-5

A simple stir-fry using chicken, napa cabbage or cabbage, and spices with coconut aminos, honey and vinegar.


4 chicken breasts
1 large head of cabbage (napa cabbage, preferably)
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 TBSP butter or coconut oil
1/2 tsp each of ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper (or 1 TBSP of five spice)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
¼ cup coconut aminos
¼ cup honey (optional)
3 TBSP apple cider vinegar
toasted sesame seeds (optional)
1 red bell pepper, sliced (optional)

Thinly slice chicken and season with salt, pepper, ginger, and garlic and sprinkle with apple cider vinegar. Let sit 5 minutes to marinate.
Heat 1-2 TBSP of butter or coconut oil in large skillet or wok. Sauté chicken and remove when cooked and slightly brown.
Thinly slice cabbage, pepper (optional) and onion. Sauté in remaining coconut oil or butter in the same pan until soft.
Add the chicken back to the skillet/wok and add soy sauce and honey, if using.
Drizzle sparingly with sesame oil.
Add more seasoning to taste, if desired.
Portion out individual servings and garnish with sesame seeds (optional).
courses main

cuisine stir-fry

Teen’s death at Chinese internet addiction camp sparks anger

A Chinese teenager has died days after he was sent to an internet addiction treatment centre, reigniting criticism of these controversial institutions.

The 18-year-old had allegedly sustained multiple injuries, and the centre’s director and staff members have been held by police, according to reports.

The incident took place earlier this month in eastern Anhui province.

China has seen a proliferation in so-called “boot camps” aimed at treating internet and gaming addictions.

Some are known for their military-style discipline and have been criticised for overly harsh practices.

‘Completely covered with scars’

In the latest incident in Anhui, the teenager’s mother, surnamed Liu, said her son had developed a serious internet addiction which she and her husband were unable to help.

The parents then decided to send their son to a centre in Fuyang city which touted to use a combination of “psychological counselling and physical training” to treat children for their internet addictions, reported the Anhui Shangbao newspaper.

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Ms Liu dropped off her son on the night of 3 August. Two days later, the parents were informed that their son had been rushed to the hospital, where he later died.

The exact cause of the teenager’s death is not known.

But the parents said they were told by doctors who examined their son’s body that he had sustained more than 20 external injuries, as well as several internal injuries. They were allowed to see his body in the mortuary.

“My son’s body was completely covered with scars, from top to toe… When I sent my son to the centre he was still fine, how could he have died within 48 hours?” Ms Liu was quoted as saying in Anhui Shangbao.

State broadcaster CCTV said the centre’s director and four teaching staff have been held by police, and authorities have shut down the centre while investigations are ongoing.

‘Lack of education’

In the wake of the incident, many online and in newspaper editorials called for tighter regulation of addiction treatment centres – but also criticised the teenager’s parents.

“In the end this is due to a lack of family education,” said one commenter on microblogging platform Sina Weibo.

An editorial by the Mingguang Daily paper noted that “some parents, upon discovering the problem, fail to reflect on their responsibility to educate, and instead want to seek third parties’ help in solving the problem.”

Addiction “boot camps” have grown in number across China in recent years. Some are run out of government hospitals while others are private centres or schools.

They remain popular despite growing controversy over some centres’ practices, such as beating patients and electroshock therapy, and a string of shocking incidents. Last year, a teenager reportedly killed her mother for sending her to a centre where she was allegedly abused.

Trent Bax of Ewha Womans University, who has researched Chinese internet addiction, says many centres use “emotive power advertising” which appeal to parents who want “a ‘quick fix’ solution to their child’s problems”.

“The parents are also acting in response to a very real fear that the only child’s successful future may never be realised because they refuse to stop gaming and start studying,” he told the BBC.

In some cases, says Prof Bax, parents may also hold the “‘traditional’ view of education that permits the use of violence to ‘straighten out’ a delinquent child”.

Chinese authorities have begun cracking down, and earlier this year drafted lawswhich, if passed, would explicitly prohibit abusive treatment of internet addicts such as electroshock therapy.

Companies have also moved to limit minors’ excessive online gaming. Last month, internet giant Tencent began imposing restrictions on gaming hours for young users of one of its most popular games.

Hong Kong activist ‘abducted by Chinese agents’

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Howard Lam (L), who claims he was abducted, blindfolded and beaten by mainland China agents, shows his stapled thighs and injuries to the media in Hong Kong on 11 August 2017Image copyrightAFP
Image captionHoward Lam says he was warned against trying to engage with Liu Xia

A veteran democracy activist in Hong Kong says he was kidnapped, beaten and tortured by agents of mainland China after trying to get in touch with Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

The activist, Howard Lam, said on his Facebook page in late July that he had obtained a signed photo of the Barcelona football player Lionel Messi, and that he intended to send it to Ms Liu as a condolence gift.

Liu Xiaobo, who died from liver cancer in July, was a big fan of the football star.

Earlier this week, Mr Lam said he had received a phone call from an old acquaintance working for the Chinese security services who warned him to stay away from Ms Liu, who is believed to be under continued house arrest.

The activist said he was abducted on Thursday afternoon in the bustling neighbourhood of Mongkok by unknown men speaking Mandarin Chinese – spoken in the mainland but far less common in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong.

WARNING: This article contains a close up image of the injury.

“They gave me a warning,” said Mr Lam. “They wanted to alert so many people that if you don’t love China, your government, you may have the chance of something like this happening.”

He said he had been rendered unconscious by a chemical applied to his nose and mouth. After he regained consciousness, he was being beaten around the torso and tortured with a stapler.

He said the men taunted him, saying they were making crosses with the metal staples because the activist was a Christian. Eventually, he fainted again.

Howard Lam shows crosses made from metal staples in his legs
Image captionMr Lam says the men used a stapler to make crosses in his legs
The photo Howard Lam wanted to send to Liu Xia
Image captionMr Lam says he wanted to send a signed photo to Liu Xiaobo’s widow

When he came to shortly after midnight, he found himself on a beach in eastern Hong Kong and made his way to a taxi.

The first thing Mr Lam did on Friday morning was to give a news conference, before heading to hospital for treatment, where he was questioned by police officers.

When asked about the case, police commissioner Stephen Lo said the allegations were serious and that the investigation had begun.

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Lee Cheuk-yan, a former lawmaker who took Mr Lam to hospital, told BBC News that this was a very strange case, with an unclear motive.

“Either they are trying to warn off the people of Hong Kong, or they are trying to make trouble,” he said.

He admitted that he had no clear idea who “they” were, but suspected that whoever ordered the abduction was in mainland China.

Hong Kong media are already comparing this case to the mystery of the five Causeway Bay booksellers, one of whom was allegedly abducted from Hong Kong.

The case – and the equally mysterious disappearance of a Chinese tycoon – caused widespread concern about the rise of Chinese influence in Hong Kong.

Mainland agents are not allowed to operate in Hong Kong, which is a semi-autonomous territory responsible for its own law and order.