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05/15/2013

China busts bursting condoms at home, but exports on sale in Africa

Condoms
A worker tests condoms in a factory in the Chinese province of Guangzhou in 2005. (AP Photo)

Well it’s official: China’s world-famous fake manufacturers have boldly gone where no men have gone before – manufacturing fake condoms.

Chinese state media trumpeted the fact this week that police had busted a fake condom operation in the southern province of Fujian – back in March, actually.

Why authorities are making a big deal of it now isn’t clear.

Perhaps they’re hoping to sound alarm bells – and alarming it is: police started to investigate after finding condoms selling on taobao.com, China’s largest online marketplace, for just 1 Yuan, or about 16 cents.

The investigation led them to a workshop in the southern province of Fujian, where they arrested two owners and 10 workers, and confiscated 2 million fake condoms.

The workshop was pushing out 20,000 “condoms” per day, packaged under brand names like Durex, as well a popular Chinese brand known as Jissbon – a somewhat unfortunate translation of the name “James Bond.”

Two other workshops were also busted, one in the central Chinese province of Henan, and another in Zhejiang province, on the south east coast.

But the story is bigger.

Chinese entrepreneurs have also been exporting the product.

Media reports from Africa, where China has spent the better part of the last decade making itself an indispensable trading partner, show fake condoms from China have landed in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, as well as in other countries.

Earlier this month, Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration announced the arrest of a trader in the capital of Lagos who had hauled in counterfeit drugs, medicines and fake Rough Rider condoms from China.

Olisameka Osefoh told police he had been working with a cartel in China.

He wasn’t the first: Osefoh’s arrest followed reports last month from the West African country of Ghana. FDA officials there warned the public to be on the look out for fake condoms from China marketed under the brand name “Be Safe.”

The state agency said batches of the condoms were inadequately lubricated, had visible holes and were prone to burst.

Bill Schiller has held bureau postings for the Star in Johannesburg, Berlin, London and Beijing. He is a NNA and Amnesty International Award winner, and a Harvard Nieman Fellow from the class of '06. Follow him on Twitter @wschiller

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