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SOCIETY & CULTURE

By Runhua Zhao / Jan 18, 2019 06:19 PM / Society & Culture

A still from the popular trailer.

A still from the popular trailer.

Cartoon character Peppa Pig was once censored for being a “gangster icon.”

Now, she’s back, and spreading peace and love.

A 6-minute trailer for a Peppa Pig movie has gone viral on the Chinese internet, with over 330 million views on Weibo as of Friday. The live-action trailer stars real villagers, not actors, in Northern China’s Hebei.

In the trailer, an elderly peasant named Li Baoyu asks his friends and neighbors in the village who “Peiqi” is after hearing his grandson talk about it on a phone call from Beijing. Peiqi is Peppa’s Chinese name. In the end, Li figures it out – and presents his a Peppa Pig made out of scrap metal to his grandson for Chinese New Year.

The heartwarming film is a major change of pace for Peppa, who just last year was banned from appearing on some social media platforms including Douyin.

The cartoon figure and her family were deemed subversive after certain Chinese subcultures adopted her as a mascot. Rebellious kids wore stickers featuring Peppa as a symbol of their gangster-cool.

But her censorship on various platforms did not diminish Peppa’s fame. Produced by Alibaba Pictures and Entertainment One, the upcoming film is about Peppa learning Chinese New Year rituals, and will debut on Feb. 5.

Related: China’s Online Broadcasters Decide to Censor Selves


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SOCIETY & CULTURE

By Runhua Zhao / Jan 18, 2019 04:22 PM / Society & Culture

Fans of the herbal health company Infinitus. Photo: VCG

Fans of the herbal health company Infinitus. Photo: VCG

A woman in Shaanxi province says a Chinese herbal health company offered her money to retract allegations that her daughter fell ill as a result of the firm’s products.

Tian Shuping began purchasing Infinitus products after her three-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a bacterial infection in 2017. At the time, Infinitus franchiser Fan Le told Tian that there was no need to follow any prescription instructions because all the products were “natural.”

When the toddler later showed symptoms of abnormal sweating and yellowing eyes, Fan told Tian to continue using Infinitus products rather than seek medical advice.

When Tian finally took her daughter to the hospital, it was only after her condition had significantly worsened. Her daughter was diagnosed with health problems caused by the accumulation of the Infinitus drugs: cardiac damage, liver damage and rickets.

An Infinitus representative reportedly offered Tian compensation of 600,000 yuan ($89,000) if she agreed to retract the allegations she had made to the media, as well as withdraw her official complaint to government authorities, according to a recording of the conversation Tian provided to The Paper. The offer would have also required Tian to go on the record stating that her daughter’s symptoms were an individual case unrelated to product quality.

Tian refused. An Infinitus staffer later said Tian turned it down because she demanded 1 million yuan, but did not offer further details.

Infinitus is an affiliate of Hong Kong sauce-maker Lee Kum Kee.

No official investigation into the case has been launched.

Related: Chinese Firm’s Drug Recalled Over Cancer-Causing Impurity


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By Zhao Runhua / Jan 17, 2019 05:23 PM / Society & Culture

Wang Zhian in 2015. Photo: VCG

Wang Zhian in 2015. Photo: VCG

A famous Chinese journalist is vigorously denying charges by Baidu that he “maliciously slandered” the tech giant.

Baidu lodged the complaint Friday, after the journalist, Wang Zhian, wrote about several high-profile deaths resulting from misleading medical advertisements. Baidu was linked to one of those cases, in which a patient died after a web search led him to ineffective experimental treatment.

Wang’s article, published Jan. 4 on his pubic WeChat account, focused on a recent incident involving Quanjian Group, which advertised spurious treatments that allegedly contributed to the death of a 4-year-old. Wang’s article then noted other examples of fraudulent medical treatments and misleading advertisements, and criticized China’s lack of regulation on the sector.

The article mentioned Baidu only twice, but it revived the well-reported accusation that the search engine had displayed ads for unsupported medical care and questionable health-care providers – including the case of 21-year-old college student Wei Zexi, who died after receiving ineffective treatment he learned about from Baidu.

Baidu argued that the health care groups were to blame, and said Wang had slandered Baidu by linking it with the scandals.

Baidu sent its complaint to Tencent-owned WeChat, which forwarded it to Wang.

Baidu said that “Quanjian and other medical care brands mentioned in Wang's article – not Baidu – have direct responsibility for the patients. [Wang’s] article has been a malicious slander on Baidu’s brand, and has thus seriously harmed our reputation. Please help delete the article, [or] we will consult the law to protect our proper legal rights.”

Wang posted screenshots of the complaint on his public WeChat account. He also asserted that what he said in the original article was all true and that, since he wasn’t even targeting Baidu, the company’s accusations were invalid.

Going a step further, Wang posted a summary of numerous “tragedies” connected to allegedly misleading information found via Baidu searches.

Wang, 50, was a well-respected reporter and TV veteran at state-run CCTV, and now runs his own investigative reporting team in Beijing. The team publishes articles on Wang’s WeChat news account.

“Tencent asked me if I would admit to Baidu’s charges. If I did, once the charges were confirmed, punishment on me would be lighter,” Wang wrote Thursday. “My reply: I won’t!”

Baidu told Caixin that it would offer no comment on the issue.

Related: China’s Highest Court Investigated Over Lost Ruling That Favored Private Company

Correction: An earlier photo misidentified Wang Zhian.

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By Teng Jing Xuan / Jan 16, 2019 05:48 PM / Society & Culture

A record 8.34 million people will graduate from higher education in China this year, up from 8.2 million in 2018, China’s Deputy Minister of Human Resources and Social Security Qiu Xiaoping said at a press conference Wednesday.

“At the same time, structural contradictions in employment are becoming more prominent, with relatively large employment pressure in some regions and industries and among some groups,” Qiu said.

Qiu spoke at an inter-ministry State Council Information Office press conference organized to discuss goals set at the Central Economic Work Conference, a key policy meeting that took place in December.

New graduates will be a top priority in the ministry’s work to boost employment, Qiu said.

Related: Why Are China’s Graduate Admissions Tests So Badly Run?

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By Zhao Runhua / Jan 16, 2019 04:44 PM / Society & Culture

Wang Linkai, second from left, was one of the performers affected by iQiyi's new practice of blurring out earrings on male performers. Photo: VCG

Wang Linkai, second from left, was one of the performers affected by iQiyi's new practice of blurring out earrings on male performers. Photo: VCG

The hottest new accessory on Chinese variety shows isn’t something you can buy in a store: it’s a pixel blur.

Fans of some Chinese celebrities have noticed that iQiyi, the country's leading video distribution platform, has begun blurring their male idols' ear piercings in videos.

Hashtags like “male celebrities not allowed to wear earrings on air” have so far received over 260 million views on Chinese microblogging site Weibo, with many users suspecting that iQiyi may be responding to regulatory pressure.

 

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A screenshot of Wang from an iQiyi video, posted on Weibo by user Xingwenjiaofu.

China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, its entertainment watchdog, however, has yet to explicitly issue any restrictions on how celebrities dress.

So far, there has been no response from either iQiyi or any government units.


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By Teng Jing Xuan / Jan 16, 2019 12:40 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Enshi, a city in central China’s Hubei province, is sick of its road safety problem.

Last February, it rolled out “precautionary” house calls by local traffic police to drivers of heavy vehicles and people who have previously broken driving laws.

Now, the city known for winding mountain roads says it’ll start treating fatal traffic incidents as homicide cases, local newspaper Chutian Metropolis Daily reported Tuesday.

If someone is killed in a traffic incident in Enshi, the director of the city’s public security bureau, along with leaders from the transport bureau, will be required to attend the scene.

In 2017, China’s annual death toll from road accidents ranked second-highest in the world, according to state news agency Xinhua.


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By Isabelle Li / Jan 11, 2019 06:42 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Staff at a zoo in central China’s Wuhan have denied accusations of animal abuse after a visitor’s video of a skinny tiger licking mud went viral on Weibo.

In the video, the visitor, surnamed Wang, can be heard saying that the tiger is thin and starved enough to want to eat mud.

Staff at Wuhan Zoo denied the charge that they were starving their animals. Their explanation? The tiger was simply lapping up the residue of his earlier meal from the ground. Three chickens were fed to the 7-year-old tiger that morning, staffers said.

The zoo also told local media that the tiger, brought to Wuhan from Ningbo, in Eastern China’s Jiangsu province, last year, is a Bengal, a species that is usually smaller than the Siberian tigers that are seen in Northeastern China. With a weight of 120 kilograms, this tiger is not any skinnier than his Bengal peers, the zoo said.

Related: China Shelves Rule Allowing Trade in Tiger, Rhino Parts


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By Zhao Runhua / Jan 07, 2019 04:57 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

A construction crew got an unexpected history lesson Sunday at Guangdong’s Sun Yat-sen University: the discovery of ancient Chinese tombs.

Diggers at the school’s south campus unearthed cultural relics that experts say date back to the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).

The site was immediately closed to allow further field investigation.

Experts are still examining the findings, but they say they have uncovered tombs and other objects from the Han, Ming and Qing dynasties.

Sun Yat-sen has three branches in Guangzhou. Since the 1950s, there have been a number of archeological findings at the north and south campuses.

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Photo: VCG

Related: Sun Yat-Sen Scholar Suspended Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations

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By Zhao Runhua / Jan 04, 2019 04:40 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Chinese audiences were promised a mainstream romance fit for a New Year's Eve date night.

But “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” which director Bi Gan describes as a “deconstructed” film noir, wasn’t quite what they expected.

The film’s China first-day box office returns on Dec. 31 hit 260 million yuan ($37.9 million) — but over 310,000 cinemagoers asked for a refund because they were disappointed by what they saw. Box office takings plunged to 11.2 million yuan the next day — and fell further to 1.8 million yuan on the third day, Jan. 2, according to box office tracker Maoyan.

Huace Media, the film’s NEEQ-listed co-producer, has seen as much as 2.1 billion yuan of its market cap evaporate thanks to the poor audience response to the film, which was screened at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

“Long Day’s Journey into Night” stars Tang Wei, best known as the lead actress of Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” (2007), and tells the story of a man who returns to his hometown and experiences strange visions of the past.

Chinese industry watchers say the film’s disappointing box office performance is largely due to a gap between audience expectations set up by the marketing campaign and the film itself. 

Related: Another Record Year for China’s Box Office, But Growth Slows

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By Tanner Brown / Jan 04, 2019 03:20 PM / Society & Culture

Eight people are missing after two ships collided Friday off the coast of East China’s Fujian province, authorities said.

A fishing vessel carrying 14 people sank Friday morning after colliding with a Hong Kong-registered cargo ship, Fujian’s maritime safety agency said.

Six people have been rescued as teams search for the remaining crew members.

Related: Sailor Identifies Company Responsible for 6,223 Dead Sharks

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By Bloomberg / Jan 04, 2019 09:11 AM / Society & Culture

Weeks before China will release its official birth figures for 2018, a demographer’s estimate of fewer than 15 million new births has sparked discussion on social media, underscoring growth concerns gripping the world’s second-largest economy.

Beijing-based China Times newspaper reported on Dec. 25 that the annual number of births was expected to drop by as much as 2 million -- possibly below 15 million -- citing two demographers. The forecast was circulated on social-media platforms including Weibo, leading users to question if policy makers had been too optimistic in assuming a baby boom would follow a loosening of China’s restrictive birth limits in 2016.

In August, China’s parliament removed “family planning” policies from the latest draft of a revised civil code slated for adoption in 2020, a signal population control measures would eventually be eliminated. The State Council, China’s cabinet, has commissioned research on the repercussions of ending the roughly four-decade-old policy and intends to enact the change nationwide, Bloomberg reported in May, citing people familiar with the matter.

“The two-child policy fell short of expectations, and the effect of accumulated fertility desires has faded,” China Evergrande Group’s chief economist Ren Zeping said on his official WeChat account on Tuesday, calling for an immediate end of birth limits to boost the fertility rate.

A figure of 15 million births would be the third-lowest total since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, He Yafu, one of the demographers cited by China Times, told Bloomberg News. It would only exceed 1960 and 1961, when the country was hit by natural disasters and famine.

On Thursday, the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper reported new births last year were expected to range from 15 million to 16 million, the lowest since 2011, citing an official researcher affiliated with the National Health Commission -- which sets China’s population policies. The National Health Commission didn’t reply to a fax seeking comment.

Demographic trends are weighing on President Xi Jinping’s efforts to develop China’s economy, driving up pension and health care costs and sending foreign companies looking elsewhere for labor. China’s State Council projected in 2017 that about one-quarter of its population would be 60 or older by 2030 -- compared with 13 percent in 2010.

“Is China the next Japan?” Weibo user Shengyin2011Gongguan asked. “Three years after the two-child policy, we still remember some experts once foresaw a baby-boom after the policy and even suggested making preparations to curb excessive population growth.”

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Related: 

Lining Up to Get Pregnant: The Unintended Victims of the Two-Child Rule

Why China's Gender Gap Is Growing

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By Ren Qiuyu / Jan 03, 2019 12:24 PM / Society & Culture

The first image of the moon's far side taken by China's Chang'e-4 probe. Photo: CNSA.

The first image of the moon's far side taken by China's Chang'e-4 probe. Photo: CNSA.

China’s Chang’e 4 probe successfully landed on the far side of the moon on Thursday Jan. 3 at 10:26 a.m. China time, state media said.

The spacecraft was launched last month, and the touchdown makes China the first country to have landed a craft on the moon’s far side.

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By Tang Ziyi / Jan 02, 2019 01:51 PM / Society & Culture

Five people have been killed and four injured from a fire at a massage clinic in Bijie, a city in Guizhou province, in China’s southwest.

The cause of the incident is under investigation, the Beijing News reported.

Related:  ‘The Air Was on Fire’: ChemChina Apologizes for Deadly Plant Explosion

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By Zhao Runhua / Dec 28, 2018 05:57 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Fishermen in Jilin kicked off their annual ice-fishing festival Friday with a weighty haul: a 45-pound fish that was quickly auctioned off for 999,999 yuan ($145,943).

The buyer? Panpan Foods, a well-known Chinese snack company based in Fujian.

Though the annual event celebrates ancient ice-fishing techniques and boasts an air of sacred respect for the region’s traditions, the auspicious first catch can sell at auction for a wildly “modern” sum — in this year’s case, a million yuan.

The UNESCO-recognized festival showcases the Mongolian technique of piercing holes in thick winter ice and threading nets into the water beneath — a method that can capture huge batches of fish.

Related: China’s Bohai Sea Is ‘Almost Out Of’ Large Fish, Report Warns

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By Zhao Runhua / Dec 27, 2018 05:09 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

It was the one ride that an aspiring graduate student surnamed Yang couldn’t afford to miss.

And yet that’s exactly what happened, after the undergrad’s Didi driver blew her off over the weekend, causing her to miss China’s national graduate school entrance exam.

Chinese parents and students are known for taking extreme measures to ensure their timely arrival for such exams, which pervade society and can make or break a career. People often book hotels just to be close to an exam site, and police have been known to clear nearby roads on days of important tests.

But Yang clearly hadn’t done enough homework. She booked a Didi car to get to the exam venue, which was around a 20-minute drive from her hotel. She set the ride for 1:10 p.m., figuring that would be more than enough for an exam starting at 2 p.m. At 1:28 p.m., already late for the pick-up, the driver told Yang he was on the way. But then three minutes later the driver called again to say he couldn’t make it, and canceled the trip.

Yang managed to get another Didi and finally arrived at 2:18 p.m. But she wasn’t allowed to take the exam due to her lateness. She complained to Didi, and was informed the driver would receive a relatively minor slap on the wrist, a downgrade of service rating, for the last-minute cancellation. After the story stirred discussion online, Didi offered to have the driver compensate Yang’s 180-yuan ($26) exam registration fee, and also offered her a 30-yuan ride hailing coupon.

Yang said she never expected the driver to drop a scheduled trip, even as netizens criticized her for having no backup plan for such an important event. Yang took a philosophical approach and said the negative comments wouldn’t affect her life, and that she will plan better for future events, according to an interview about her experience with The Paper. 

Related: China Regulator Slams Didi Over Safety as Startup Pledges Fixes

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By Charlotte Yang and Teng Jing Xuan / Dec 27, 2018 12:05 PM / Society & Culture

Yuan Lin. Photo: Weibo

Yuan Lin. Photo: Weibo

The rare appointment of a young woman as deputy mayor of a Chinese city has gone viral, attracting social media scrutiny as well as calls for more female representation in politics.

Yuan Lin, a 28-year-old Phd candidate at China’s prestigious Peking University, has been appointed deputy mayor of Fuqing, a city of 1.4 million in southern China’s Fujian province.

She was elected to the position by the Fuqing people's congress, according to a report by local media.

Born in 1990, Yuan has a bachelor and a master degree from Rice University in the U.S.

Her appointment delighted many social media users, as China has few female leaders in politics. The country has never had a female president and less than a quarter of the current members of the country’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress, are women.

A comment from user “peach-rilak,” which received more than 10,000 likes, said: “ Support. Hope more woman can get into politics.”

But others commented on Yuan's appearance and questioned her qualifications.

Some asked how someone so young, with so little work experience, could be appointed to such a position.

One user, playing on the similarity between the words for "nurse" and "deputy" in Fujian-accented Chinese, said that when she heard the news from a colleague, she thought "this pretty woman was Fuqing city's head nurse."

"I had to hear it at least five times before I understood why my colleague thought this woman was so impressive," the user said.

"With her high cheek bones, she gives people a sense of a strong woman," one man who described himself as a "divination" expert posted, in an analysis of Yuan's personality. But, "because her business spirit is too strong, she frequently cannot attend to her other half's feelings, and will have more difficulty managing a household and marriage."

The discussion got so heated that some people began debating whether the public's surprised reaction was sexist, or really just focused on Yuan's youth and inexperience.

"Now that a woman can be a deputy mayor they say it's because of her connections," SYgegewu wrote. "Isn't this very normal overseas?"

SYGegewu's commenters insisted Yuan's gender had nothing to do with the uproar.

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Update:

In response to the online debate, the local government has now clarified that Yuan was appointed to the position as part of a ten-month internship program run by Peking University and is not a permanent office-bearer.

Related: How Bad Is Sexism in the Chinese Workplace?

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By Charlotte Yang / Dec 26, 2018 02:36 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Chinese authorities have stepped up their crackdown on organized illegal gambling that makes use of WeChat’s “red envelope” feature, the country’s supreme court said Tuesday.

WeChat first introduced the immensely popular feature in 2014. Unlike regular money transfers on WeChat, red envelopes allow users to hide the amount being transferred until the recipient completes the transfer. Chat group members may also send red envelopes that can be opened by multiple people, each of whom receives a different, randomized amount.

Inviting gamblers into WeChat groups, and setting up gambling games involving red envelopes for profit under certain conditions could qualify as “opening a casino” under China’s criminal law, said the Supreme People's Court, China’s highest court.

Under Chinese law, people caught opening casinos can face fines and up to ten years of imprisonment.   


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By Tanner Brown / Dec 26, 2018 10:25 AM / Society & Culture

A man who hijacked a bus and killed 8 people in China Tuesday had recently had problems with a local government committee, CCTV said.

The 48-year-old male used a knife to take control of a bus in Longyan, a city in Fujian province, before crashing it into vehicles along a city street. At least 22 people were injured in addition to the eight confirmed dead.

Video footage showed injured bodies on the street and police wrestling a man to the ground.

CCTV said the man lashed out after a local committee visited his home to check if his father qualified for social benefits.

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By Tang Ziyi / Dec 25, 2018 04:50 PM / Society & Culture

Company notice. Photo: via Qianjiang Evening News

Company notice. Photo: via Qianjiang Evening News

Several Chinese firms have offered promotions in solidarity with Huawei. But one has gone a step further.

A tech company in Zhejiang province informed its employees that they would get partially reimbursed for buying Huawei products, local media Qianjiang Evening News reported.

But more strikingly, the unnamed company said that employees who bought Apple products would lose their chance for promotions.

The moves are displays of patriotism amid troubles for the Chinese company, whose CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada this month at the request of the U.S., before being released on bail.

Some Chinese organizations recently offered deals to customers who support controversial tech giant Huawei. One tourist site in China let visitors in for free if they brought along a Huawei phone.

It is unknown whether any employees have actually been punished for Apple purchases so far.

Related: In-Depth: The Shockwaves of Meng Wanzhou’s Arrest

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By Zhao Runhua / Dec 25, 2018 12:00 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Update

Li Guoqing has apologized for his comments, reported below. He wrote on Weibo today:

“My expression has caused trouble for everyone, especially women, and I apologize. My full post does not advocate being open about sex. My examples happened before I was married and the person (mentioned in the post) was single. I made the examples to remind everyone to respect each other and not get swindled into sex in the name of love. Today Sweden calls on couples to sign (contracts) before they make love.”

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Original post:

An e-commerce founder has been criticized for calling fellow tech mogul Richard Liu’s alleged rape of a woman merely an “affair.”

Earlier this week, prosecutors in Minnesota said they will not file sexual assault charges against Liu, the CEO of JD.com, after a college student there accused him of rape.

Liu then published a letter on Weibo apologizing for the confusion and hurt he had brought to his friends and wife.

That prompted comment from another tech mogul — one known for his controversial past statements.

Li Guoqing, co-founder of popular online bookstore Dangdang, said Liu’s case may be “off-color,” but that it was an "affair," not sexual harassment, and as such, it would have only a minor negative effect on society and Liu’s wife.

Li went a step further and shared an unusual “tip”: Before sex, he holds a woman’s hands and asks if she accepts a sexual relationship, even though it is “not for love.”

Dangdang wasn’t happy about Li’s comments. On Sunday the company clarified that Li is no longer a decision-maker at the firm and that his opinions do not represent Dangdang.

“Li categorizes affairs into types and puts senseless labels on them,” the company statement said. “He proudly shows off his pre-marriage [sex] stories and glorifies them as [experience] sharing.”

This is not the first time Li has found himself in trouble for his controversial statements. In 2011, he made headlines abroad when he fired off a tirade directed at Morgan Stanley bankers, whom he called "little rats.” Li added, “Let me **** all of you up after this drama is over."

Related: JD. com Founder Liu Won’t Face Sexual Assault Charge

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