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Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 22, August 20 - 26


Life is a Gamble

In a small county village in Henan Province, a young police officer named Zhang was on duty at the local police station. Suddenly somebody telephoned revealing a scandal, " The local village head is gambling at somebody's home!" In a whispered voice, details of the address were given.

Young police officer Zhang ran off on his motorcycle with siren blaring to arrest the local village head gambling illegally. Young Zhang was very thrilled thinking that this would be his big-time arrest, a ticket to promotion within his police station.

Clang! The door of the local village head's home flew open. Young officer Zhang burst in ready to make the arrest. Zhang however, stopped short in the middle of his police action. His jaw dropped when he saw who was sitting in the room gambling away with the village chief "Hi! Young Zhang, did something happen at the police station that you need me to help you with?" said the chief of police as he turned his head around looking at Young Zhang bursting through the door. The chief of police-Zhang's superior-was busy gambling away with the village head!
-Baokan Wenzhai

Sacred Places

In a southern China town this summer, a wild snake was found climbing on the branches of a tree. Somebody with a sense of humor put a sign up saying, " The Yellow Emperor Dragon of Heaven." No sooner had the sign gone up then villagers began to show up at the tree, kowtowing before the snake which was hanging from the branches.

Several days went by and the snake disappeared, probably back into the forest. But the villagers kept coming to the tree to kowtow. Villagers from outlying areas followed arriving one after another to kowtow before the tree.

Soon villagers used cement and bricks to build a small throne before the tree upon which a plaque was cemented with the characters written on it saying " The Throne of the Dragon Emperor." Others wrapped the tree in yellow cloth, the imperial color. More and more people came to kowtow.

Soon all kinds of vendors set up stalls around the tree selling all kinds of religious trinkets, fruits and commodities. Soon people driving through the area heard about the sacred tree. Drivers of cars and trucks parked at the sacred tree to pay homage to the tree. Soon there were regular traffic jams in the area as people lined up for the privilege of kowtowing.

Finally when the traffic situation became so serious after ten days of devotees visiting the shrine, the concerned authorities came to control the situation and stop all of the commotion, closing down the newly proclaimed religious site.
-Baokan Wenzhai

Controversial Auteur in Venice

A movie by controversial Chinese director Zhang Yuan, whose previous films have made waves at home, will complete the line-up for next month's Venice film festival, the organizers say.

Guo Nian Hui Jia (Seventeen Years) is based on the true story of an adolescent who kills his half-sister in a fit of rage and receives a long prison sentence, but is let out temporarily to visit his family over Chinese New Year.

The director, a graduate of the Beijing Film Academy, has upset the government with his underground films Mama, Beijing Bastards, Sons and East Palace and West Palace, which they tried to prevent from being shown outside China.

" I am very happy that Zhang Yuan's film was ready There's no doubt that this is a much awaited film," says festival director Alberto Barbera. Zhang Yimou, one of China's most well-known filmmakers and director of the acclaimed Red Sorghum and Raise the Red Lantern, is also competing for the coveted Golden Lion at the festival with his latest film, Not One Less.

The festival opens with the European premiere of the late Stanley Kubrick's steamy film Eyes Wide Shut, which is showing out of competition.

Advertisers Lose In Beijing's Billboard Ban

Beijing has ordered all billboards and commercial signs along its main thoroughfare be permanently removed-without compensation to advertisers-in the run-up to China's 50th anniversary celebrations.

" All billboards and neon signs on Chang'an Boulevard will be completely taken down by September 15 and never hung up on the street again," a spokesman for the Outdoor Advertising Office of the Beijing Administration Committee says.

" The dismantling of the signs is a government order so we cannot talk about compensation right now," he says, but added the committee might later " hold negotiations" with advertising companies.

Officials at Kodak and IBM confirmed that they had been told to remove their advertisements along the city's main artery, but declined to comment on financial losses.

An order released by the committee indicated that all neon signs, electronic signs and roadside advertisements at the capital airport, the west and central railway stations, major expressways and the city's two 'ring roads' would be taken down temporarily, the Beijing Youth Daily reports.

The Commission released the order exactly 50 days before October 1, which will mark 50 years of mainland Communist rule, as part of a campaign to beautify the sprawling metropolis.

Committee Director Fu Bainan estimated there were now more than 5,000 outdoor billboards in the capital which have grown " somewhat out of control" with a barrage of billboards set up illegally in recent years, the Xinhua News Agency says.

" This has not only hurt the capital's image as a political and cultural center, but also affected its traditional grace as an ancient city," Fu was quoted as saying.

But another article published last week quoted an official with the Chang'an Avenue Renovation Office as saying the billboard removal would be a " hard" task due to " profit losses the companies are likely to experience." Local media reports estimated direct economic losses from the order to register at around rmb 100 million (US $12 million).

Beijing has also ordered a complete makeover for both Chang'an Avenue and Tiananmen Square. A full-scale military parade and fireworks display are planned in the square itself, with plans to widen Chang'an Avenue and install fountains along a central reservation well under way.

Order of the Court

More than 850,000 court rulings, involving more than US$31.2 billion dollars, failed to be executed by the end of June this year due to interference from various authorities, the official Xinhua News Agency reports.

At a national conference on Friday, Luo Gan, a State Councillor and member of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party, called on the authorities to stop the interference to law enforcement. Authorities include government bodies, armed forces, political parties, special interest organizations and enterprises. No authorities should be allowed to go beyond the limits of the law, says Mr. Luo.

Enforcement of court rulings has been difficult, due to overriding policies and regulations, which are issued by local authorities based on departmental, regional or economic interests. As a first step to abolish the local protectionism, Mr. Luo says that local authorities must respect the national law, which nullifies local policies and regulations that are in conflict. He also emphasizes that those who obstruct law enforcement and cause severe consequences will be punished. At the enterprise level, immediate action will be taken against those responsible for tax evasion and using workers to challenge law enforcement.


  Previous Briefs...

August 13 - 19, 1999

August 6 - 12, 1999

July 30 - August 5, 1999

July 23 -29, 1999

July 16 -22, 1999

July 9 - 15, 1999

July 2 - 8, 1999

June 25 - July 1, 1999


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