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African Swine Flu: dishonest media in China blamed for inadequate warnings

Taiwanese customs continues to report cases of Chinese citizens being fined for smuggling meat products into Taiwan

Confiscated contraband meat products (Photo/Taipei Customs)

Confiscated contraband meat products (Photo/Taipei Customs)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The restrictive media environment is to blame for a lack of public awareness of the severe and quickly growing African swine fever crisis in China, according to Chinese residents.

Despite measures by Chinese airlines to inform passengers of the ban in Taiwan on the import of meat products, incidents of Chinese tourists being fined for smuggling contraband meat into Taiwan are still being reported almost on a daily basis.

Shanghai-headquartered Spring Airlines (春秋航空) noted that passengers will receive repeated warnings about the meat restrictions at least twice before flying to Taiwan -- during check-in procedures and through inflight announcements prior to the plane’s landing, reported Central News Agency.

Nevertheless, a number of arriving Chinese residents, Chinese spouses, and Taiwanese returning from China were apparently ignorant of the severity of the animal disease and have appeared flabbergasted when they learned that bringing contraband meat would incur a hefty fine of at least NT$200,000 (US$6,432), since Taiwan raised penalty fines to keep African swine flu at bay earlier this month.

As Taiwan ramps up effort to prevent the epidemic from spreading, notably the continuous coverage of the gravity of the crisis, media in Chian has been relatively quiet in reporting on the development of the disease’s outbreak, reckoned a Shanghai resident surnamed Wang.

Rather than telling the public “what to do,” Chinese news outlets instead have only managed to provide information about new areas affected by the outbreak, reported Central News Agency citing Wang.

Wang suggested a possible explanation is that as most regions of China have “fallen” in the war against African swine fever, and so the focus of the communist party is no longer on disease prevention, but on keeping consumer prices in check and mitigating the fallout of the crisis.

The UN recently issued a warning that the disease is "here to stay" in China, and utmost diligence is required to avoid major damage to food security and livelihoods.