Chinese Protesters Call Attention to Toxic Car Parts, Get Detained by Police

April 18, 2019 Updated: April 18, 2019

Two Chinese citizens who claim they are victims as a result of toxic odors emitted from China-made Audi cars were detained by Shanghai police after they tried to stage a public protest.

In late March, a Chinese social-media post went viral, claiming that six people who owned Audi cars manufactured by FAW-Volkswagen developed leukemia shortly after using the car; two of the six people have died. The firm is a joint venture between the Chinese state-owned automaker FAW and the famed German carmaker. The company manufactures Audis at its plant in Changchun City in northeastern China.

They all reported a strange odor that emanated from inside the cars.

After the post went viral, 3,000 others spoke out about how they developed similar health conditions from toxic parts found in their Audi cars.

Two Protesters

The 18th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition was held at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai on April 16. As automakers, dealers, consumers, and media around the world descended upon the city in preparation for the event, two women staged a protest in front of the venue.

Local state-run media Qilu Evening News reported that the two women protesting on April 12 were Lin Doudou, 30, a leukemia patient from Yantai City of Shandong Province; and a woman only identified by her surname Tian, wife of Fang Shuai, a 40-year-old Beijing man who died of leukemia. Lin and Tian claimed that she and her husband became sick after using a domestic-made Audi.

But the report was soon removed from the newspaper’s website.

Both women were taken by police before they could enter the venue, and detained for several hours at the Xujing Town police station. They have since been released and conducted an exclusive interview by phone with Radio Free Asia (RFA), a U.S.-based media.

“I don’t know how the police found our contact information, and why they detained us,” Lin told RFA. “We are women without any weapons. Furthermore, I’m a patient. I asked the police why did they detain us? They said nothing, and didn’t allow us to leave.”

Lin said she and Tian had planned to protest at the car exhibition because FAW-Volkswagen is one of the exhibitors.

Both of them arrived at Shanghai on April 11, but said they heard heavy kicking outside their hotel room door late at night. Both of them became scared that authorities were threatening them, and moved to another hotel.

The next morning, when they arrived at the exhibition center, they were detained by police. At the police station, the officers told Lin and Tian that representatives from FAW-Volkswagen wanted to talk with them. Tian said the police brought in seven or eight people they claimed were company reps. However, they did not say anything to Lin and Tian and sat there looking at their cell phones.

Eventually, the police allowed them to leave but escorted them to go to the railway station to ensure that they would immediately leave Shanghai.

Lin’s Story

According to a report by news portal Sohu, Lin bought an Audi A4L in May 2015, manufactured in March 2015. In January 2018, she was diagnosed with leukemia.

Lin’s doctor and her family then thought of the Audi A4L, which had a strange odor inside.

Lin drove her car to an air quality testing center on May 25, 2018, and April 5, 2019. Both tests showed that the air inside her car was unhealthy.

The first test showed that the density of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, was 0.17 milligrams per cubic meter, exceeding the national level of allowance for indoor air quality, at 0.10 milligrams per cubic meter.

The second test showed that the density of benzene, also a carcinogen, was 0.23 milligrams per cubic meter, exceeding the limit of 0.11 milligrams.

“I cannot have kids. I don’t know when I’ll die,” Lin told Sohu. Her family has spent more than 1 million yuan ($149,400) for her medical treatment.

Meanwhile, Tian and her husband bought their Audi Q5 on Dec. 30, 2014. Fang was diagnosed with leukemia on Aug. 23, 2016. He died in September 2017 after his family spent over 3 million yuan ($448,000) for his treatment.

Lin presented Sohu with a database containing the real names of 85 alleged victims she has collected in past months—all who said they developed cancers after using a domestic-made Audi car.

In March, Lin and Tian teamed up with 3,000 victims, seeking redress with the China State Administration for Market Regulation. They have not yet received a response.

Meanwhile, FAW-Volkswagen has released a statement saying Chinese regulators have tested its Audi vehicles and found that “the formaldehyde and benzene content in the cars were within the national standard range. It is not harmful to human health.”