China Air Pollution Level 3-times Worse Than WHO Recommended in First Half


Air pollution in China’s largest cities, as measured by the concentration of fine particulates that pose the greatest health risk, was three-times worse in the first half of the year than levels advised by the World Health Organization. Continue reading

China Chemical Plant Exploded On the Same Day State-run Newspaper Claimed It’s Safe


BEIJING, China – An explosion Tuesday at a Chinese plant that produces the toxic chemical paraxylene has added fuel to a growing movement opposing such plants, on the same day that a state-run newspaper prominently urged the public to accept the industry as safe. Continue reading

Chinese Activist beaten for daring official to swim in polluted river


A Chinese farmer who dared a local environment official to swim in his province’s polluted rivers has been badly beaten in an attack his family says was linked to his activism.

Chen Zuqian, from the township of Banqiao in Zhejiang province, was one of a number of farmers and business people who publicly offered money to government officials to swim in  rivers to highlight the sorry state of China’s waterways. Continue reading

Polluted ‘Cancer Villages’ in China Acknowledged First Time by Regime


The Chinese regime for the first time admitted the existence of so-called “cancer villages”—areas near factories and polluted waterways where cancer rates have increased to startlingly high levels.

The Sina Weibo of the state-run Global Times on Wednesday published news and a map of the villages that are especially cancer-stricken. Posting in Chinese, the Times, a mouthpiece of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, cited the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection. The blog Tea Leaf Nation brought attention to the post. Continue reading

Soil Pollution- a State Secret in China


Public agitation within Beijing’s smogosphere—including campaigns on Chinese social media and recent aggressive reporting from state-affiliated newspapers—has gradually prompted the government to release more data about air quality. It’s not the same as solving the problem, but the relative openness is an encouraging sign. Continue reading

China Accounts for Almost Half of the World’s Burning of Coal, U.S. Report Says


China’s dependence on burning coal to meet its soaring energy demands has grown even more, with a new report saying that the country now accounts for nearly half of global coal consumption, meaning that the dense air pollution lingering over Chinese cities will likely only get worse.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Tuesday that China’s consumption of coal grew 9 percent in 2011, continuing an upward trend for the 12th consecutive year. In 2011, China’s coal use grew by some 325 million tons, representing 87 percent of the total increase that year. Continue reading

Pollution in China Goes ‘Off the Charts’ Beyond the Measurements


The stifling pollution currently plaguing much of northeastern China has reached levels so high it is beyond the measurements used in the U.S. to chart air quality.

“What Beijing is experiencing — and even worse in the provinces — is off the charts from anything we experience in the United States, and likely more than anything we’ve experienced in our country’s history,” said John Walke, the director of the Climate & Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group. Continue reading

Excess heavy metals in 10% of China’s land


BEIJING — About 10 percent of China’s farmland contains excessive levels of heavy metals due to contaminated water and poisonous waste seeping into the soil, state media said Monday, citing a government survey.

Pollution from heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cancer-causing cadmium is often blamed for poisoning entire villages and crop-growing land in China as factory bosses flout environmental laws and farmers use toxic fertilisers.

The report in the Southern Metropolis Daily said the survey organised by the environmental protection ministry found about 10 percent of farmland had “striking problems of heavy metal levels exceeding (official) limits”.

“Heavy metal pollution incidents have occurred repeatedly in recent years,” Wan Bentai, chief engineer at the ministry, was quoted saying. Continue reading

An Overhead View of China’s Pollution (photo)


Alex Frangos, via http://blogs.wsj.com/, Sep. 27, 2010 -

NASA data shows fine particulate matter density world-wide.

To get a sense of how China’s air quality compares with the rest of the world, there’s a new map of global air-particulate pollution from Canadian scientists using National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite data. The verdict: It doesn’t look good. Continue reading

Greenpeace Says China Oil Spill 60 times larger than Officially Reported, after a 10-day on-site investigation


VOA News, 30 July 2010 -

The environmental group Greenpeace says it believes an oil spill in northeastern China was up to 60 times larger than has been reported.

Richard Steiner, a marine conservation expert from the University of Alaska, announced the conclusion Friday after a 10-day on-site investigation.

Steiner estimates the July 16 explosion at an oil terminal in Dalian released 60,000 to 90,000 tons of crude oil into the South China Sea, making it larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.  Official estimates have said only 1,500 tons of crude were spilled.

The explosion ruptured two pipelines and ignited a fire that raged for 15 hours. Greenpeace said Chinese workers told the group they deliberately released additional oil into the sea to contain the fire and reduce the risk that a nearby tank of dimethylbenzene would explode.

Steiner said at a Beijing news conference that the explosion and fire completely destroyed one oil tank with a capacity of 90,000 tons. He said Greenpeace was told that the tank had been filled shortly before the blast.

He said a spill of that size would rank among the 30 largest ever recorded.

The oil spill expert, engaged as a consultant by Greenpeace, said Chinese crews have already recovered more than 1,500 tons of oil – the amount officially said to have been spilled.

Reuters news agency contacted PetroChina on Friday but said officials of the company, which operates the oil storage facilities at Dalian, could not confirm or deny the Greenpeace findings.

- VOA News

Northeast China town: Flooding traps 30,000, washed 1,000 barrels of explosive chemicals into a river


BBC News, July 28, 2010 -

Flooding in northeastern China has stranded 30,000 people in one town and washed 1,000 barrels of explosive chemicals into a river, reports say.

In Kouqian town in Jilin province, residents were trapped when a reservoir and two rivers overflowed following torrential rain.

In Jilin city itself, containers of explosive fluid from a chemical plant were washed into the Songhua river.

China is facing its worst flooding in more than a decade.

Weeks of heavy rain have swollen rivers and caused damage, landslides and bridge collapses across a swathe of the country.

According to state media, 928 people have died because of the seasonal bad weather and another 477 are missing.

More than 200 rescue workers have been sent to Kouqian, where tens of thousands of residents are reportedly trapped after the Xingshan reservoir and the Wende and Songhua rivers burst their banks.

Chinese media reports said houses and buildings were under water, and 80 people were trapped in a train station surrounded by water.

In Jilin city, emergency teams were trying to recover barrels of explosive chemicals washed into the river.

Environmental officials were said to be monitoring the water quality in the river.

Further to the south, in Wuhan city in Hubei province, workers were sandbagging river banks ahead of possible flooding where the Yangtze and Han rivers converge…….(More details from BBC News)

Crews use bare hands to clean the spreading oil spill in northeast China


AFP, July 22, 2010 -

BEIJING — Chinese authorities battled Thursday to contain an oil spill on the country’s northeast coast amid reports it was spreading and as warnings emerged of a heavy long-term environmental impact.

The government has mobilised hundreds of fishing boats and other vessels to clean up the spill that occurred in the port city of Dalian, but Greenpeace said many people thrown into the effort were reduced to using their bare hands.

The spill happened last Friday after two pipelines exploded at an oil storage depot, triggering a spectacular blaze that burned throughout the weekend.

Officials said shortly after the spill that about 1,500 tonnes of oil were spilled into the Yellow Sea off Liaoning province.

A government estimate Monday said the slick had affected 435 square kilometres (around 170 square miles) of the Yellow Sea.

However, a report late Wednesday said the slick had spread to 946 square kilometres, and stretched as far as 90 kilometres along the coast. The report appeared in the Shenyang Evening News, based in the provincial capital.

The government has said about 40 special oil-skimming vessels were leading the clean-up and that 23 tonnes of oil-eating bacteria were being employed.

China National Petroleum Corp, the country’s biggest oil company and owner of the pipelines that exploded, said in a statement on its website Thursday that at least 400 tonnes of the spilt oil had been cleaned up already.

Zhong Yu, a Greenpeace campaigner observing the clean-up efforts, however said many of the mobilised civilians and firefighters had no equipment or protective gear.

“The citizens-turned-cleaners we saw yesterday in the sea basically did not have any protective gear and could only use their hands to clean up the oil,” she told AFP by phone.

Zhong said tourist beaches and other long stretches of coast were awash with black sludge up to 30 centimetres (one foot) thick near the shore.

“There is a strong smell of acid and oil in the air,” she said.

The economic impact was already being felt by businesses in the area, with state press reports saying tourist beaches normally crammed with summer visitors were empty. Some beaches were officially closed to the public.

The area also has a major fishing industry, but catches had been banned for now……. (more details from AFP)

BP oil spill: failed safety device on Deepwater Horizon rig was modified in China


Tim Webb, The Observer, Sunday 18 July 2010 -

BP ordered the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, whose explosion led to the worst environmental disaster in US history, to overhaul a crucial piece of the rig’s safety equipment in China, the Observer has learnt. The blow-out preventer – the last line of defence against an out-of-control well – subsequently failed to activate and is at the centre of investigations into what caused the disaster.

Experts say that the practice of having such engineering work carried out in China, rather than the US, saves money and is common in the industry.

This weekend BP remained cautiously optimistic that the cap placed on top of the Gulf of Mexico well on Thursday night would continue to hold back the torrent of oil. It is the first time the flow has been stopped since the accident happened almost three months ago. But BP said that the pressure readings from the Macondo well were not as high as it had hoped, which could indicate that it has ruptured and that oil could be leaking out somewhere else.

There is no evidence that the significant modifications to the blowout preventer (BOP), which were carried out in China in 2005, caused the equipment to fail. But industry lawyers said BP could be made liable for any mistakes that a Chinese subcontractor made carrying out the work. It would be almost impossible to secure damages in China, where international law is barely recognised.

It is understood that lawyers for Cameron International, the manufacturer of the BOP, will argue the device was so significantly modified in China that it no longer resembled the original component, and that Cameron should therefore not be held liable.

Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon, which bought the BOP from Cameron, has already told congressional hearings into the disaster that the modifications were carried out at BP’s request and “under its direction” as the lessee of the rig. BP and Cameron declined to comment this weekend…….(more details from The Guardian)

China Oil Spill Threatens Australia’s Great Barrier Reef


VOA News, Apr. 5, 2010-

Australian officials warn that the Great Barrier Reef is in grave danger of being further contaminated by oil after a Chinese ship ran aground off Queensland.  The vessel is stuck on a sandbar and has already leaked at least two tons of dark sludge into the water.

A frantic clean-up operation is under way where the Chinese-registered coal ship, Shen Neng 1, is aground in an area where commercial shipping is restricted to protect the world’s largest coral reef.

About two tons of oil has seeped into the water so far from the damaged vessel, creating a slick up to three kilometers long.

Aircraft have sprayed chemicals in an attempt to disperse the contamination.

There are concerns that the ship, which ran aground Saturday, may break up and spill 950 tons of oil into the sea.

Salvage experts are on board to try to prevent that from happening.

The Queensland state premier, Anna Bligh, says the emergency team will help to minimize the environmental damage……. (more details from VOA News)

Korean Peninsula Blanketed by Worst Yellow Dust from China


By Bae Ji-sook, The Korea Times, Staff Reporter, Mar. 21, 2010-

The Korean Peninsula experienced its worst case of yellow dust ever recorded Saturday and Sunday, leading the weather administration to advise people to take extra care as more is expected this month.

The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) posted a special yellow dust warning for most parts of the country Saturday.

The dust in the air marked 2,684 micrograms per cubic meter in Daegu; 2,408 micrograms in Jindo, South Jeolla Province; and 1,048 micrograms in Sokcho, Gangwon Province. These are the worst figures since the KMA started taking dust density measurements in 2005.

According to the agency, the special warning is posted only when the density is over 800 micrograms per cubic meter. The KMA posted its first such warning in 2007.

Drivers and pedestrians said the thick dust clouded their visibility.

The particles also kept many people from going outdoors for fear of respiratory problems.

A KMA spokesman said the dust storm was initiated in the Gobi. “Dust from Neimenggu (Inner Mongolia) and the yellow soil of the Hwangho River valley (China) have also contributed to the record amount of pollutants in the air.

Another dust storm is heading here from the inner part of China, likely causing more dust across the nation by Monday,” he said.

Air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide blowing in from China have long been a headache here……. (more details from The Korea Times)

China factory closed amid lead poisoning fears- at least 88 children tested positive


AFP, Mar. 15, 2010-

BEIJING — Authorities in southwestern China have closed a factory after nearly 100 people — most of them children — tested positive for lead poisoning, state media said Monday.

A total of 94 people in Sichuan province, including 88 children, were found to have excessive levels of lead in their blood and officials suspect a nearby factory may be at fault, the province’s news website scol.com.cn reported.

Seven children — the youngest of which is just over one year old — are being treated in hospital and the others are being monitored at home.

Local officials said a preliminary investigation had revealed a firm making lead out of used batteries — Longchang Zhongyi Alloy Company — could be the cause of the health scare.

It was not immediately clear how the residents were poisoned but officials are currently testing surface and well water, vegetables and soil within 800 metres of the plant.

It is the latest in a series of lead poisoning incidents across China that has highlighted the human cost of pollution in a nation that has so far prioritised economic growth over environmental protection.

Last year, authorities in central Henan province said they would relocate 15,000 people away from smelting plants in one area after nearly 1,000 children tested positive for lead poisoning.

Excessive levels of lead are considered hazardous particularly to children, who can experience stunted growth and even mental retardation……. (more details from AFP)

Oil Spill From Broken Pipeline Threatens China’s Yellow River


NTDTV, Jan. 4, 2010-

39,000 gallons of diesel oil spilled into the Wei River last Wednesday.

The leak was from a pipeline owned by China National Petroleum Corporation in northwestern Shaanxi Province.

Concerns are high because the Wei River is a tributary of the Yellow River, a major source of water for millions of people.

According to state television reports, the Yellow River and other sources of water have not been contaminated by the spill.

But diesel has been found in water 20 miles from the leak, and residents have been warned against using any of the river water.

A preliminary investigation showed that the pipeline damage was caused by construction work by a third party.

China periodically faces spills into rivers that result in water supplies being cut off.

The most serious incident was in 2005 when an explosion at an industrial plant sent toxic chemicals streaming into the Songhua River. That forced the shutdown of water supplies to nearly four million people.

Run-off from heavy fertilizer use, industrial waste and untreated sewage also caused a foul-smelling algae bloom on a lake in Jiangsu Province in 2007 that left tap water undrinkable in a city of more than two million people.

- NTDTV

One woman’s fight against pollution in China


By Marianne Barriaux (AFP) , Dec. 15, 2009-

XINXIANG, China — After years of campaigning to clean up the sludge-filled rivers and acrid air of central China’s Henan province, Tian Guirong no longer has a bed to call her own and says she fears for her life.

As world leaders huddle in Copenhagen for crunch talks on a global climate change deal, Tian’s story is an example of the huge struggle faced by some developing countries trying to fight pollution.

Her group, the Xinxiang Environmental Protection Volunteers Association, has helped close more than 100 polluting factories — plants she says were responsible for illness and death among local residents.

“I’m scared, I don’t dare sleep at a fixed place. Tonight I’ll be at my son’s, tomorrow at my daughter’s, or I stay at my association,” Tian told AFP in an interview at her office in a derelict former factory in Xinxiang city.

“We receive threatening phone calls, and volunteers have also got phone calls at home late at night,” she said, adding she thinks those who call are thugs hired by angry factory owners.

Tian first started her environmental work in 1998, recycling used batteries……. (more details from AFP)

Over 2,000 Protest Pollution and Arrests in Southeast China Village


By Gu Qing’er, Epoch Times Staff,  Oct 24, 2009-Over 2,000 residents from Paibian Village, Guangdong Province, protest in front of the Putian Town Hall the morning of Oct. 22 , 2009

An ongoing struggle between residents and a local ceramic factory over pollution has erupted in protesting, arrests, and riot police presence. When a dozen resident activists of Paibian Village, Jiedong County, Guangdong Province were arrested the morning of Oct. 22, thousands went to the local regime officials, demanding their release.

An Epoch Times reporter interviewed villagers at the scene. According to a villager surnamed Lu, there were no legal procedures, and no one knew where the arrested villagers were taken. He said there were more than 2,000 people who joined the protest.

Another protester, surnamed Chen, said that his friend’s husband was not only arrested, but his cash and cell phone were confiscated.

“What kind of policemen were they! They did not show any ID, but just broke down the door and dashed into the house. I saw policemen taking one woman away in her underwear,” Chen said.

“It’s quite chaotic, and riot police are here,” he said. “The head official is not coming out to talk to us.”

Victims of Factory Pollution

Villagers complain that the exhaust from a ceramic factory has been jeopardizing the quality of life and health of local residents.

“The exhaust smells like disinfectants. It’s horrible and makes me dizzy,” Chen said. “My neighbor’s bamboo shoots stopped growing, and the school children have to cover their mouths and noses.”

The ceramic factory in question is located less than 170 feet from a residential area and an elementary school with 900 students. Students are reported to have symptoms of coughing, sore throats, dizziness, and chest pain.

There is no tap water in the village and residents drink from wells they have dug. The factory also releases waste water into the ground, polluting local sources of water. Residents have complained about loud noises from the factory as well.

Even neighboring villages are affected—residents complain that wind-born pollutants have caused a large number of crops to wither.
Taking the Issue into their Own Hands

Villagers at first approached the Bureau of Environmental Protection with their complaints, and were told the factory was being monitored and was unlicensed due to its failure to meet environmental standards. Local government officials took no action to assist the residents, and neither did the factory respond to complaints.

Two months ago, residents of the affected villages determined they would initiate action on their own. Thousands cooperated to set up roadblocks which stopped the factory from transporting materials. They also demanded that the ceramic factory move out of their area.

A fight broke out between residents and the factory owners the evening of Aug. 9. A resident told The Epoch Times that the factory owner threatened to run down residents with trucks. He also threatened to blow up an oil tank in the factory that would cause the whole village to burn.

The resident also reported that the owner bragged he had paid a town hall official a million yuan, and “he was not worried about us.”

- The Epochtimes

Fujian Parents Protest New Lead Poisoning Outbreak


NTDTV via youtube,Sep. 18, 2009-

Another outbreak of lead poisoning has been reported in China— this time in an industrial district of Fujian Province.

Radio Free Asia reports that since last Friday, parents in Jiaoyang County have gathered at a local battery factory. They say pollution from the Shanghang Huaqiang Battery Company is giving their kids lead poisoning.

Lead Children Denied Tests by Official In Central China


Radio Free Asia, Aug. 26, 2009-

HONG KONG—Promises by local government officials offering free blood tests to children affected by pollution from smelting plants in the central Chinese province of Hunan have yet to be fulfilled, residents and officials said.

An official at the hospital near worst-hit Wugang township, where more than 1,000 children are believed to have higher-than-normal levels of lead in their blood, said the hospital had not yet been told how to deal with the large numbers of worried parents trying to book tests.

“There are several dozen patients coming for blood tests every day, but I don’t know the actual patient numbers per day,” said an employee who answered the phone at the Wugang People’s Hospital.

“Senior management has requested a survey [of lead poisoning cases], and we will know the procedure in a few days’ time,” she added.

Local officials have promised the closure of privately owned zinc and manganese smelting plants after being hit by a wave of violent clashes between police and angry parents in central Hunan and northern Shaanxi provinces in recent weeks.

Official Chinese media also reported that free blood tests would be available for children affected by the polluting factories, but residents of Wugang say the authorities have yet to deliver on their promises.

Bribery alleged

“There are only three government permission slips for free individual blood tests for the whole village,” a mother surnamed Wang from Wugang said.

“Some parents are willing to pay the cost themselves in order to have their children checked. However, local hospitals have been bribed by someone, so the parents never see the correct results,” she said.

Another Wugang villager surnamed Zhang said she had been turned down for lead tests at several hospitals in the area.

“Some said there was no electricity, some said the machines weren’t working, and some said the maintenance staff hadn’t shown up for work at the right time, and so on,” Zhang said.

Some villagers even went as far as Hengyang city, taking their children to at least five hospitals, she said.

“But none of the children has actually been tested,” she said……. (more from The Radio fee Asia)

1,300 Children Poisoned by Lead in Central China


Radio Free Asia, Aug. 21, 2009-

HONG KONG—More than 1,300 children have been poisoned by lead from a year-old manganese factory in China’s central Hunan province, official media said, on the heels of another lead-poisoning scandal in nearby Shaanxi province.

The mass lead contamination in Wenping township, Hunan province, has led to charges that authorities have failed to adequately regulate toxins. Official media said it had opened in May last year without approval from local environmental authorities.

Sixty to 70 percent of children living near the factory showed unhealthy levels of lead in their blood, the official Xinhua news agency said.

A total of 851 children were found to have excessive lead levels in their blood, Xinhua news agency said. It said 155 children were still receiving hospital treatment, out of a total of 174 cases requiring hospitalization.

Authorities closed the factory, located near a kindergarten, primary school, and middle school, and detained two executives on suspicion of “causing severe environment pollution.”

An employee at the Wugang municipal government, contacted by telephone, said Wednesday that the manganese factory had been closed.

“The manganese mine has been shut down. Lead poison from industrial pollution is quite common in China. Our municipal leaders attached great importance to this incident and have taken many measures to deal with it,” the city employee, who asked to be identified by his surname, Huang, said.

“Wugang city has posted a notice in Hengjiang village, indicating that all residents who live within 2.5 kms of the manganese factory can go to the designated clinics to have medical exams and the government will pay for the cost. The municipal government has begun an investigation on the factory and whoever is responsible for the pollution will be held accountable,” he said.

Yang Xin, an environmental activist from Chengdu, Sichuan province, said this latest incident of lead poisoning—along with another reported last week in Shaanxi—show that China’s small- and medium-sized mining enterprises must be overhauled.

“Many small- and medium-sized mining enterprises face similar problems such as shortage of money and lack of technology,” Yang said.

“They are usually privately owned and operated and their owners seek profits only and care little about environmental protection. There is a trend that such phenomena are spreading out from China’s coastal areas to the mid-west regions.”

Some employ local residents, including children, who know little about industrial pollution. “They’re easy prey,” he said.

Protesters recently stormed the Dongling smelting works in Shaanxi, which they blamed for the lead poisoning of 851 children.

The Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Co. was ordered by environmental protection authorities in Fengxiang county to suspend lead and zinc production Aug. 6 following a public outcry.

Fengxiang county government has offered free blood tests for 1,016 children aged 14 and under from three villages of Changqing Township, official media reported.

- Radio Free Asia

China: U.S. Embassy Twitter Updates Report Air Quality “very unhealthy” “Hazardous” in Beijing


By Grace Wu, Epoch Times Staff Aug 16, 2009 -

Despite official boasts of increased “blue sky days,” hourly Twitter updates from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing report air quality as “very unhealthy” and even “hazardous.”

“Blue sky days” are when the air quality is rated as “moderate,” averaging a reading of 100 or less on the Air Quality Index. Beijing’s Environmental Protection Bureau reported meeting its targeted 256 “blue sky days” per year, early last November.

On the same days that Beijing deems the air quality “moderate”, readings from the U.S. Embassy’s own monitoring station reflect otherwise, appearing to contradict official claims that air quality has significantly improved since the 2008 Olympics. On June 18, the embassy reported air quality as hazardous, while Beijing’s official data read “slightly polluted.”

Part of the reason for the difference may be a matter of standards. The embassy measures air quality based on the United States’ EPA standard, which measures airborne particles such as soot, dust and liquid droplets with diameters smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM 2.5). China measures air quality based a less rigorous scale of particles less than 10 micrometers (PM 10). Particles with PM 2.5 pose greater health risks than those with PM 10, since they are not as easily expelled via coughing.

The embassy has been conducting its own measurements as a resource for the health of its staff, according to embassy spokesperson Susan Stevenson, interviewed by Time. The data is shared on the embassy’s Twitter feed, BeijingAir.

Another possible factor behind the discrepancy is the location of monitoring systems. Steven Andrews, an American environmental consultant, has suggested that Beijing officials have moved monitoring stations to less polluted areas so they would reap better data. Du Shaozhong, deputy head of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, denies such allegations, though he did not elaborate on possible reasons for the inconsistent figures.

Since the Olympics, Beijing’s pollution levels have been under scrutiny. To reach the basic air quality required for the Olympics, Beijing closed its surrounding factories, limited traffic, and stopped construction projects.

The report Beijing 2008 Olympic Games – Final Environmental Assessment released during the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council meeting on February 18, noted that “there remains significant room to improve Beijing’s air quality.”

- The Epochtimes