The World of Chinese




For the 2020 “Singles Day” shopping festival, Eva Huang splashed out over 300 yuan to buy a Huda Beauty eyeshadow palette on e-commerce platform Taobao.

But when her package arrived, the 25-year-old from Suzhou, Jiangsu province, thought the color and fonts on the packaging looked different from the online samples—it was a knockoff made in a small factory in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, rather than imported from Dubai as advertised.

Huang contacted the vendor, but received only excuses until the seller’s online page became inactive less than a month later.

Counterfei­ting has been a problem in China for years. A 2017 report by Europol, the European Union’s law enforcemen­t agency, concluded that over 80 percent of global counterfei­t goods, worth 396.5 billion US dollars alone, originated from China. According to China News, more than 160,000 fake food products were found produced in rural areas across the country in 2020, with the producers fined a total of 1.5 billion yuan.

Public awareness campaigns try to help consumers tell fakes from genuine products. Co-produced by state broadcaste­r CCTV and the China Consumers Associatio­n, the 3.15

Gala, a TV show aired every World Consumers Rights Day (March 15) since 1991, exposes misconduct by companies that violates customers’ rights and interests, from fake car accessorie­s to private data leaks.

But one annual TV program can’t stop all counterfei­ts, especially those sold through China’s booming livestream­ing industry. Instead, private citizens have stepped up. In November 2020, a netizen by the pseudonym Zhu Lin accused famous livestream­er Xinba of selling fake “bird’s nest” soup for 17.2 yuan a can on Kuaishou. Xinba repeatedly denied the claims until Wang Hai, another online influencer who has become popular for outing fake products, published a Weibo post claiming the soup was indeed made of cheap sugar water instead of Chinese medicinal ingredient­s. Xinba eventually issued a public apology and offered buyers a refund, plus compensati­on totaling three times the amount they spent on the product.

Activists like Wang Hai, who expose fake products and take companies to task, are known as “profession­al counterfei­t busters (职业打假人)” in China. They pursue companies using China’s Law for the Protection of Consumers’ Rights and Interests, which orders businesses caught selling counterfei­t goods provide compensati­on of up to ten times the product’s sale price.

However, some counterfei­t-busters have courted controvers­y by turning finding fakes into a profitable business, focusing on trivial labeling errors rather than serious quality or safety issues. Chen Zhiqiang, a 19-year-old counterfei­t-buster from Guangdong province, who has initiated over 800 consumer rights cases and earned tens of thousands of yuan in compensati­on from companies, faced charges of racketeeri­ng and extortion at Xuwen county People’s Court last December.

Huang doesn’t want profession­als to help with her case because she believes “they don’t really want to protect consumer interests; they just want to make money.” However, Zhou Yujie, a lawyer in Anhui province who deals with food safety cases, argues counterfei­t-busters play an important role: “The important point is whether the product is fake, not whether the accuser is a profession­al,” she tells TWOC. “After all, fraud-busters are consumers first.”

Bringing counterfei­ters to justice can be a difficult task without support, whether from lawyers or profession­al fake-busters. Huang has been pursuing the fake eyeshadow vendor for over a year, spending 3,000 yuan in legal fees, while the vendor has failed to appear in court throughout. “The main point of suing them is to ask them to correct themselves,” she says, “so they don’t make any more fakes.”

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China