TIME China

A Viral Video Urges Chinese Parents to Welcome LGBT Kids Home This Lunar New Year

The short film has become a holiday hit in China

This week, hundreds of millions of Chinese will crowd on to planes, trains, cars and motorbikes to make their way home for chun jie, or spring festival. It is a celebration — cue the fireworks — and a chance to reunite with loved ones after months, even years, away. It is also a time to eat, a time to rest, and, for many, a time to field a whole lot of questions from family members: Where’s your girlfriend? When are you getting married? Don’t you know we want a grandchild?

For LGBT folks in China, those questions can be particularly tough. Though China decriminalized gay sex in the late 1990s, stigma and discrimination persist in the workplace and at home, as documented in a report by the UNDP released last year. Though many find a degree of freedom and acceptance in China’s big, booming cities, some struggle to discuss their gender and sexual identities with their parents — a fact that prompted the Chinese branch of PFLAG (formerly known as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) to make a short film about the issue.

The video, Coming Home, tells the story of a young man who summons the courage to talk to his mom about being gay, only to be criticized and cast out. After a long period of heartache and estrangement, his mother comes around, tearfully welcoming him home. As the credits roll, real mothers speak directly to the camera, offering words of encouragement and advice to young people facing the journey.

The message to parents: “Accept your children, welcome them home.” And for children: “Don’t give up. Your parents might not understand today, but maybe they will tomorrow.” It’s a sentiment that obviously struck a chord: the video has already racked up 100 million views.

Read next: New Google Doodle Honors Chinese New Year

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME China

Watch China’s Creepy Musical Tribute to Its Online Censors

All together now: "The Internet strengthens the country"

Is this a good song about the glory of online censorship? Or is this the greatest song ever about the glory of online censorship?

The ode, written by Wang Pingjiu, is a rousing choral tribute to the Chinese system of online surveillance and censorship known as the Great Firewall — and the government department behind it. In recent weeks, the wall has been rising as the ruling party cracks down on virtual private networks (VPNs) and online speech.

As well it should, the song suggests. Here is a translation courtesy of China Economic Review:


The moon and stars guard us loyally


Undertaking the duty of the sun rising from the East


Creativity, every day clean and fresh


Like a bundle of honest sunshine that moves the heart


The power of all things growing in unity


Dedication to the global village becomes the most beautiful scene


Every river in this world loyally seeks the sea


Undertaking the measurement of Chinese civilization


Five thousand years build up, illuminating creative thought


Honesty is the lifeblood of a people


We unite at the center of Heaven and Earth


Faith and devotion flow immeasurable distance alongside the Yellow and Yangzi rivers

网络强国 网在哪中国界碑在哪

The Internet strengthens the country, wherever it goes there too stretch China’s borders

网络强国 从遥远的宇宙到思念的家

The Internet strengthens the country, from the distant universe to one’s longed-for home

网络强国 告诉世界中国梦在崛起大中华

The Internet strengthens the country, telling the world the Chinese dream is rising in Greater China

网络强国 一个我在世界代表着国家

The Internet strengthens the country, every one of us is representing our country for the world.

There are signs, however that the censors are perhaps a little embarrassed by the attention. As the video began circulating, links to it started going dead — because in China, even the songs about censorship are censored.

With reporting from Gu Yongqiang / Beijing

TIME Education

China Hit by Another SAT Cheating Scandal

Testing sheet
Getty Images

Another round of tests, another set of allegations of organized cheating in China

Here we go again.

The test scores of an unknown number of international students who took the SAT in January are being withheld and reviewed, officials from the College Board and its global test administration and security provider, Educational Testing Service (ETS), tell TIME.

Citing concern for “current and future investigations,” ETS declined to disclose details about the breach. “Individual test-takers whose scores are being held have been impacted by the delay have been informed,” writes ETS spokesman Thomas Ewing in an email. “This review process may take up to five weeks.”

Ewing emphasized that the College Board and ETS remain “committed to ensuring all students have access to a fair testing environment and to fulfilling our responsibility to deliver test scores with integrity to colleges and universities.” A key part of that, Ewing says, is “identifying, stopping and mitigating security breaches.”

This is the latest in a series of apparent security breaches involving the international administration of the SAT. In October 2014, TIME broke the news that ETS was reviewing the scores of all students from China and South Korea—and right in the run-up to early admission, or early action, deadlines. Students in Asia also complained about delays in scores from the November and December tests.

Though ETS will not comment on the nature of the alleged cheating, their email to students in October pointed a finger at “organizations that seek to illegally obtain test materials for their own profit.” Multiple sources in the test prep industry say unscrupulous agents in China and South Korea have been selling test questions ahead of the SAT.

That may well have been the case in January. The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) on Jan. 22 published a statement saying they were emailed a copy of one of the Jan. 24 tests. FairTest said the questions appeared to come from an international SAT administered in June 2014. The organization had initially said incorrectly that the test had been used in the U.S.

Fair Test and others are calling on the College Board and ETS to stop re-using test questions. “Recycling test forms that were previously administered in the U.S. is the root cause of this ongoing scandal,” says Robert Schaeffer, FairTest’s public education director, in the statement.

But the exact cause of the January test score suspension is still unknown. Thousands of students are waiting for an answer—and their scores.

Update: The original story was updated to include clarification about the exam obtained by FairTest. It was the international exam from June 2014.

TIME China

See China’s Migrant Scrap Peddlers Eke Out a Living on Booming Beijing’s Edge

“These people make the city work,” says Getty photographer Kevin Frayer. “Beijing needs them”

Mrs. Zhou avoids the city. In the seven years she’s lived and worked in Beijing’s vast northern suburbs, she’s ventured only once to the capital’s peak-roofed core. Raised in a village in Henan province, she never learned to read or write much. Subway maps and street signs are impenetrable. She frets about getting lost.

But Zhou, 36, knows the capital. It appears to her each day in the fragments of plastic she sorts. Garbage collectors from across the city lumber in with waste stacked high on their motorbikes. Zhou spends her days picking through twisted tubing, abandoned appliances, and take-away containers still splattered with sauce.

From the hearth of her brick and concrete shelter, she’s also learned a little about the world beyond Beijing. The ever growing city sheds plastic like snakes shed skin, yielding no shortage of waste. But her livelihood depends on the worth of the material, which is linked to the global price of oil. The past two months have been brutal: what once earned her two yuan, or 32¢, now earns 80 jiao, or about 13¢. “More plastic, less money,” she says.

Big cities produce a lot of trash. In Beijing, home to more than 21 million people, the task of collecting, sorting and recycling it falls primarily on migrant workers. In a place that is constantly rebuilding, they clear away the old to make way for the new. Some, in turn, will save enough to make the leap to more comfortable urban life. Others will stay on the margins, making just enough to send a little back home.

It is these links between city and country, core and periphery, that drew Getty photographer Kevin Frayer to Dongxiakou, where Mrs. Zhou lives. The district was once home to tens of thousands of recyclers, but as Beijing bulges northward, the land is being developed. Though half-built apartment blocks now loom in the distance, a few hundred have stayed to keep toiling until the last trucks roll through. “These people make the city work,” says Frayer. “Beijing needs them.”

Yet the city offers little by way of welcome. Though they work about 10 minutes by motorbike from the closest subway station, they live a world apart. Their kids are not eligible for Beijing’s public schools and they often can’t afford private tuition. On a Monday afternoon in January, several children traipsed about the trash heaps in padded jackets and fuzzy slippers, digging for treasure with chapped, blackened hands.

Beijing’s dry, cold weather makes living and working in Dongxiakou tough. Some families give about half of their net income to the local laoban, or boss, for a place to stay and a shot at incoming scrap. (The boss also advised them not to talk to visitors, which is why we’ve withheld their names.) Others simply squat in temporary shelters built from the discarded lumber, scrap metal, and plastic sheets they sort.

Mr. Zhao, a 60-year-old from Sichuan province, more that 1,000 miles away, built his own hut of particleboard, reclaimed bricks and old cement bags. When the camp closes, it will be sold off piece by piece. Then he, and Beijing’s leftovers, must move somewhere, anywhere, else.

TIME China

See China’s Internet Dilemma in One Screen Grab

Can the country really hope for entrepreneurial innovation while restricting Internet access?

Chinese state media today announced a plan to lure more “entrepreneurial” expatriates to China. The goal is to get people into startups and promote innovation, according to a site-leading story Wednesday on the English-language edition of the China Daily.

Running just below that article, though, was a piece headlined “VPN Providers Must Obey Rules.” VPN (virtual private network) providers are the companies that help people jump over China’s Great Firewall. In recent weeks, the government has targeted several such firms, slowing or stopping their services altogether.

The thing is, the “innovative” foreign entrepreneurs China seeks will almost certainly want unfettered access to the Internet. You know, crazy stuff like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube (all of which are banned in China). What’s a startup-loving Communist Party official to do?

TIME China

Watch This Haunting Seven-Minute Film About China’s Insane Air Pollution

It's haunting and eerily beautiful

Greenpeace East Asia today released a seven-minute film by director Jia Zhangke about China’s toxic air. The impressionistic piece, Smog Journeys, follows two families — one rural, one urban — as they live, play, and work in the country’s polluted northeast.

“When it comes to smog, no matter what jobs we do, it is still a problem we all face,” says Jia in an interview released online.

Jia is one of China’s most renowned filmmakers. His work is famously gritty, filled with tales of alienation and strife, and shot in shades of brown and gray. His last feature, A Touch of Sin (2013), was a critical hit abroad, but was considered too politically sensitive to be shown on the Chinese mainland.

TIME Pope Francis

Stop Breeding Like Rabbits? The Pope Misses the Point on Contraception

Giuseppe Cacace—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis adresses journalists sitting onboard a plane during his trip back to Rome, on Jan. 19, 2015.

Emily is Beijing Correspondent at TIME.

It is not the mom of seven who should be scolded for "irresponsibility"

On his flight back to Rome on Monday, Pope Francis offered the press corps some friendly advice on family planning. During his recent travels in the Philippines, he said, he met a mother who risked her life to bear seven children. Chiding her “irresponsibility,” he said the Catholic Church’s prohibition on modern contraception does not mean large families are a must. “Some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits,” he said. “But no.”

Now, I can’t argue with the Pope on matters of doctrine — that’s his specialty. But in the Philippines, the church’s stance on “artificial” contraception is also a national political issue. And its opposition to the use of things like birth-control pills and condoms is a matter of public health and human rights. From that perspective, his decree is deeply problematic.

The Philippines’ Catholic hierarchy has fought long and hard to restrict access to prophylactics. Over the past few decades, as most countries embraced family planning, the Philippines has moved in the opposite direction, discouraging the use of contraception and prohibiting abortion under any circumstance. They cast condom use as anti-Catholic and anti-Filipino, insisting that couples ought to use “natural methods.” That means abstinence — or abstinence on all but a woman’s least fertile days. (I once got a briefing on this from a bishop; it was awkward.)

Opposition from the church, particularly the influential Catholic Bishops Conference, kept the country’s family-planning bill on the shelves for more than a decade. Yet the Holy See is at odds with the stated preferences of Filipinos. Research suggests that most support voluntary family planning, and surveys show an unmet need, meaning a large number of women would like to control the number and timing of their pregnancies but can’t. That gap is highest (about 25%) among poor women, who, for instance, might be less able to afford pills or condoms, or may be less educated on their use.

The antiprophylactic rhetoric is also at odds with what we know about family planning in terms of public health. As social policy, abstinence does not work. Multiple studies show that without access to affordable, modern methods of contraception, the number of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies rises, as do rates of sexually transmitted infections and unsafe abortions. (Here is a telling case study from Manila.)

Finally, whether she chose to have seven children or did not have other options, the woman Pope Francis met — and all others — are entitled to make their own decisions about reproduction and reproductive health without coercion, danger or disrespect.

“Irresponsibility” is insisting on abstinence at women’s expense.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME North Korea

North Korean Camp Survivor Admits He Was Not Straight About His Story

Shin Dong-hyuk
Jason DeCrow—AP North Korean human-rights activist Shin Dong-hyuk delivers remarks during an event on human rights in North Korea at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, in New York City, on Sept. 23, 2014

Shin Dong-hyuk's story was the basis for the book Escape From Camp 14

When Shin Dong-hyuk’s life story was published in 2012, CNN hailed it as a “true North Korea survival story.” Born in a notorious North Korean prison complex, Shin endured almost unimaginable deprivation and torture before breaking out, crawling under an electrified fence, and over the body of a fellow prisoner, to flee. The account, Escape From Camp 14, by journalist Blaine Harden, became a New York Times best seller, helping to call global attention to the country’s egregious rights abuses.

Trouble is, it was not all true.

On Friday Jan. 16, Shin told Harden a revised version of the story. While he was born at Camp 14, he spent part of his youth at another complex, Camp 18, escaping twice before landing back at the first camp, he now says. And it was at Camp 18, not at Camp 14, that he betrayed his mother and brother, sharing their plan to escape, and then witnessing their executions. This and other new details came to light after fellow defectors raised questions about the tale. The new timeline, first published by the Washington Post, has yet to be confirmed.

“When I agreed to share my experience for the book, I found it was too painful to think about some of the things that happened,” Shin told Harden. “So I made a compromise in my mind. I altered some details that I thought wouldn’t matter. I didn’t want to tell exactly what happened in order not to relive these painful moments all over again.” Shin also said in a Facebook page that he did not realize that the extent to which these details mattered, and asked forgiveness.

The details, of course, do matter. As one of the most high-profile survivors of North Korea’s political prisons, Shin has done more than most to raise awareness about the camps and the people who suffer there. Doubts about his credibility as a witness — and hence his credibility as a spokesperson — may make people less likely to believe other survivor testimony.

In weighing the revelations, though, it’s worth keeping three things in mind. First, we don’t yet know the full story. In his Facebook post, Shin said he would not be speaking further on the matter. The author, Harden, says he and his publishers will work to find out what really happened and to amend the book. Until they release more details, or others are able to corroborate Shin’s revised story, there will be gaps. The bulk of the story may — or may not — be true.

Second, it is worth considering why survivors of trauma might provide inconsistent or incorrect testimony. As Shin himself says in his Facebook note, recounting torture can be traumatic, especially when it involves the suffering of family members or friends. And Shin’s story is based on childhood and teenage memories of profound suffering and abuse.

Indeed, those who work with North Korean refugees note that obscuring details and withholding information can be a sort of survival strategy. “North Korean refugees can face more challenges than other refugees because they are acutely aware that what they say may affect people back in North Korea,” says Sokeel Park, director of research and strategy at Liberty in North Korea, an NGO that works with North Koreans. “They still feel tied because their relatives, or the people who helped them escape, are there.”

Third, and perhaps most important, with or without Shin’s testimony, there is a wide body of evidence that the prison camps exist — and are absolutely brutal. A U.N. investigation into the country’s rights abuses includes testimony from 80 witnesses, and was also based on accounts by 240 others who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. “The basic knowledge on how serious this is does not hinge on the details of one person’s story,” says Park.

That’s the same message Shin sent out before stepping away from the spotlight for a while. “Instead of me, you all can still fight,” he wrote. “The world still needs to know of the horrendous and unspeakable horrors that are taking place.”

And that, no doubt, is true.

TIME Philippines

Pope Calls Out Philippines on Corruption and ‘Scandalous’ Inequality

Pope Francis Visits Philippines - Day 2
Lisa Maree Williams—Getty Images Pope Francis waves to thousands of followers as he arrives at the Manila Cathedral on Jan. 16, 2015, in Manila

His remarks come on the first day of a highly anticipated four-day visit

Pope Francis has called on the Philippine government to fulfill its pledges to crack down on the country’s rampant corruption.

Addressing assembled dignitaries, including President Benigno Aquino, at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila on Friday, the Pontiff called on “everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor.”

He added that “it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good” and asked Filipinos “to hear the voice of the poor.” Injustice and oppression, he said, had given rise to “glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities.”

The Pope’s remarks will have resonance for Aquino. When he campaigned for President in 2010, he vowed to fight poverty and tackle corruption and said that for too long the Philippines’ ruling elite had grown rich at the expense of the poor. The campaign message hit home in a country where about 1 in 4 lives in poverty. But while steps in the right direction have been made, official impunity and social inequality persist.

Filipinos, meanwhile, are sure to be pleased by the Pontiff’s comments. The country’s vibrant civil society has fought hard for decades to improve governance and give ordinary people a better shot. Their efforts have been stymied, though, by political infighting, special interests, and sclerotic courts that often operate at the behest of the wealthy and well-connected.

Pope Francis is on the first day of a highly anticipated four-day visit to Asia’s most Catholic nation. During his stay, he will tour areas hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) in 2013, and deliver Mass to what’s expected to be a millions-strong crowd in the capital.

TIME Philippines

Millions Expected to See Pope Francis Visit the Philippines

Pope Francis waves to the crowd next to President Aquino upon his arrival at Villamor Air Base in Manila
Erik De Castro—Reuters Pope Francis waves to the crowd next to President Benigno Aquino upon his arrival at Villamor Air Base for a state and pastoral visit, in Manila on Jan. 15, 2015.

Asia's most Catholic nation will treat him like a rock star

You know the expression, more Catholic than the Pope? Well, the Philippines, more than any other country, comes close. More than 80% of the former Spanish colony’s population — or about 70 million people — are Catholic, and the Church still holds considerable sway in matters of state. It is the only country outside the Vatican City, for instance, where divorce is illegal. When Pope John Paul II visited in 1995, he was greeted like a rock star; a record-breaking 5 million people attended his Manila mass.

Now it’s Pope Francis’ turn for a grand tour of Asia’s most Catholic nation. He lands in the Philippines Thursday evening, local time, to start a four-day visit. His itinerary includes a trip to the area hit by Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda), and a mass in the capital, Manila, on Sunday. Local authorities are expecting a millions-strong gathering, despite concerns about security (more on that here) and the possibility of torrential rain.

If previous visits are any indication, it’s going to be a party. Filipinos are convening on the capital from across the country and around the world. Many will stand in line for days for the chance to see him. If they don’t they can still buy all manner of Pope merchandise — from stamps to t-shirts to commemorative children’s books. Odds are good that the crowds will at some point burst into the event’s official song.

Amid all the pageantry, Filipinos will be listening closely for Pope Francis’ perspective on issues of national concern. Although the Philippines is still heavily influenced by Church thinking — gay marriage is banned; abortion is illegal — over the last decade or so, there has been a move away from a hard-line stance on the use of modern methods of contraception, such as condoms and birth control pills.

For years, even as contraception became the norm elsewhere, the country’s Catholic establishment remained firmly opposed to the use any type of prophylactic, casting condoms as anti-Filipino and an affront to God’s will. In 2000, the mayor of Manila effectively banned the distribution of condoms in government hospitals and clinics.

In 2012, after more than a decade of debate, the government finally passed a national family planning bill. It was victory for rights campaigners and women’s groups, and the fulfillment of a campaign promise for President Benigno Aquino III, but remains deeply unpopular among conservatives.

With a Pope in town for the first time in 10 years, Filipinos will be keen to hear his thoughts on this and other questions. Much has changed in Filipino society since 1995; their love for the Pope has not.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser