Why does China get it's own special page?
There is a lot of information out there about China's animal testing laws. It can be overwhelming to try and separate the truth from fiction, so I'm going to try and break it down as simply as I can, according to my understanding of things. As always, I encourage people to do their own research, but hopefully this helps, at least a little bit.
By law, cosmetics and beauty products that are sold in China have to be tested on animals. Companies give their products to the Chinese government, who conducts testing for them.
Products that are manufactured in China but not sold in China do not have to be tested on animals. Products can be made and sold in Hong Kong without being subject to the same animal testing laws.
There are many companies that used to be cruelty free, however due to their decisions to sell in China, can no longer be considered cruelty free for this reason. Even if they don't test their products anywhere else in the world, if they sell in China, they must test before the product can be sold in China. The Chinese market is a lucrative one, and unfortunately, many companies have made the decision to enter that market and profit from the potentially millions of additional consumers. From what I can tell, 2012 was the year that many companies decided to forgo their cruelty free status and sell in China. Some of these companies include Sephora, Revlon, L'Oreal, Estee Lauder, Avon, Mary Kay, among others.
One way that I research if a company is truly cruelty free, is to see if they sell in China. A simple Google search can usually reveal that. You can go to a store's Chinese Website, and see what brands they sell. Sephora, who sells many of my favorite makeup brands, has a Chinese website. If you see your favorite brand on that website for sale, odds are they test on animals.
I say "odds are", because there seems to be a question surrounding fully finished and packaged products. Apparently these do not have to be tested. However, what constitutes "fully finished and packaged" can be confusing. Logical Harmony wrote an excellent article which helps explain this:
Logical Harmony: Are Items Imported into China Tested on Animals?
Also I am unclear as to whether products sold online only are subject to these laws. Again, I feel it's important to do your own research - there is a lot of information out there.
A Step in the Right Direction?
On June 30, 2014, China amended it's animal testing laws, so that domestically produced "ordinary" cosmetics were no longer required to be tested on animals. This includes things like shampoo, makeup, perfume, hair care, skin and nail care products. This does not include "special-use" products like hair colour or sunblock, or "Imported" products. It also does not include products that are produced outside of China. Imported cosmetics (i.e. not manufactured in China) must still be tested on animals.
Here are a few good reads on the subject:
How Cosmetics Companies are Diluting Their Cruelty Free Status to Sell in China
Humane Society International: China's Cosmetics Animal Testing FAQ
Sinosphere: China Ends Animal Testing Rule for Some Cosmetics
While this is certainly a step in the right direction, it shouldn't be looked at as a complete end to animal testing in China - far from it. It only affects domestically produced products, and only if there are other forms of testing available. It only affects certain categories of products ("ordinary use" products). Also, it does not ban testing - merely makes it optional. Companies without the resources to carry out other kinds of tests, or the desire to, will continue to test their products and ingredients on animals.