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Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 25, September 10 - 16


Fire in the hole
In Beijing's Fangshan District a tourist discovered an old lady selling goods from a large plastic bag. When the man went over to see what she was selling, sure enough the goods on offer were army grenades-the same type the tourist had seen in WWII movies.

The grenades were sold for a remarkably cheap price of rmb 1 each. The tourist asked the old lady if the grenades were real. The old lady replied, "If you doubt it, you can buy one yourself and test it." The man bought one, pulled the pin, and tossed the grenade into the scenic hillside nearby. Sure enough the grenade exploded, sending deafening echoes throughout the scenic valley.

The old lady explained that "the grenades are made in a rural area of Hebei Province out of raw gun powder and dirt," adding that, "many tourists find it very 'exciting' to buy these and throw them!"

Journalists soon went to Fangshan to check out the story. To their shock grenade dealers could be seen everywhere along the lakeside selling grenades where many innocent people were swimming. The journalists asked the park management administration why they did not do anything to control the situation. The administration director simply replied, "I am too busy."

Then the journalists asked the grenade sellers, "Isn't it illegal to sell these grenades?" The grenade sellers scoffed, "Of course it is illegal. So what?! The authorities do not dare to try and stop us."
- Beijing Evening News

Auspicious Nuptials
If you are not getting married this month, then you are simply out-of-it! Why? This is September-the ninth month of the year 1999. In Chinese, nine-pronounced jiu-sounds like the word for longevity. So if you are married on September 9, 1999, it is a sure thing that your marriage will be long lasting-and presumably both spouses will have long lives too.

More than 30 percent of the marriages being held this year have been booked for September 9, 1999. Aside from the nationwide traffic jams which all the wedding processions this date is destined to bring-it is estimated that each wedding will cost a nationwide average of rmb 10,000. In the end this may do more to stimulate domestic spending than the new tax on bank savings.
- China Business Times

Inauspicious Diet
In Putuo District, Shanghai, there was a retired man named Yang who played mahjong every day, and lost each time. Finally, after racking up huge losses in a night of mahjong, he came home and was furious with his wife who always prepared vegetarian cooking.

"I always lose because of your cooking," Yang shouted, referring to his
wife's vegetarian cooking which in Chinese is su and sounds like the word for lose. "You will cook no more vegetables (sucai). In the future only cook meat (hun). Tomorrow you will cook chicken, beef, anything, I just want to eat meat."

The next day his wife prepared chicken, beef, pork, everything except vegetables. The result was that her husband lost another game of mahjong.

He came home furious and hollered, "So you cooked meat for me. But I lost again because my mind was hun (the word for meat also sounds like "dizzy" in Chinese)."
- Xinmin Evening News

Lion Kings
In Anyang City, Henan Province, there is a new trend. Regardless of whether it is a company, store, factory, school or even political and legal organization, every entity will place two big stone lions at the doorway.

This occurs most commonly when two stores or organizations have their doors face-to-face across a street. One will put out two stone lions. The one across the street will add bigger lions. Then the lions on the other side will get bigger, and so on. Then when they are too big, the contest will shift into materials to see who uses the most expensive materials. For example, one middle school in Anyang had a beautiful pair of stone lions at its gate. When asked why the school had such beautiful lions, the dean of the school explained that right across the street was the morgue of the local hospital. "Every year, we have many sick students in our school.

It is definitely related to having this place of bad fortune across the street." The dean had requested many government departments to move the morgue. But as nobody did anything about it, the school only had the choice of buying two big lions to place at the gate across from the morgue.

The gate lion trend seems to be growing in Anyang without stop. Of course the business of stone lion carvers is booming.
- Beijing Evening News

Church Ruins
A 700-year-old ruin found along China's ancient Silk Road route is believed to be the site of the earliest Roman Catholic church in Asia, state media reports.

The ruins are located in the Inner Mongolian town of Abinsm, which in Mongolian means "a place with many temples," 380 miles northwest of Beijing, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reports.

Walls 50 meters-high mark the site, which is believed to have once housed a huge main hall with two rostrums up to five meters high. A white stone lion recently found under the ruins resembles those found in front of Catholic cathedrals in Italy, and tile shards carry designs similar to those found in Europe.

Archeologists had not determined the exact nature of the site until the stone lion was discovered during recent excavations. Roman Catholic missionaries traveling along the Silk Road, which passes from China through Central Asia, were among the first westerners to visit China.

Abinsm was the site of the first synod held in China, during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1358), the report cited Japanese archaeologist Namio Egami as saying. The town, home to a Turkic tribe known as the Wanggu, thrived during the Yuan Dynasty.

Tragedy of the Commons
China's breakneck economic growth is threatening a national and global ecological disaster, Greenpeace says in its first ever report on the country.

Greenpeace China says China faces "environmental meltdown" if it waits to get rich before tackling its numerous grave environmental ills. Most of the problems set out in the 32-page Greenpeace report, which draws heavily on Chinese government statistics and reports from state-controlled media, are well documented.

But if the message is not new-last year Chinese media reported with unprecedented candor on the role of deforestation in deadly summer floods-the messenger was novel in a country that takes a dim view of Greenpeace-style social activism.

Executive director of the Hong Kong-based group Ho Wai Chi issued a report cataloging the environmental price China has paid for rapid economic growth in the last two decades-recurring and worsening floods, acid rain and foul urban water and air.

"China is emphasizing its development, and the environment is being
sacrificed," Ho says.
The costly environmental damage threatens not only China's 1.3 billion people but the planet as well, the group says.

But Ho says Greenpeace China is "testing the waters" on the mainland and will eschew the dramatic and confrontational protests it has used to pursue its agenda in other countries.

"In different countries we have different styles of action," he says in regard to whether Greenpeace activists in China will be chaining themselves to trees or surrounding toxic waste boats in protest.
In China, Ho says: "The idea of an independent report from an NGO (non-governmental organization) is unusual."

Greenpeace's first action in China-a protest against nuclear testing in August 1995-was promptly repressed by police and jeered by Chinese onlookers.

Seconds after five Greenpeace executives unfurled a huge banner in central Beijing's Tiananmen Square that said "Stop all nuclear testing-Greenpeace,", police seized it and hauled them away as onlookers
shouted "arrest them, arrest them."

Ho says two-year-old Greenpeace China has a "working relationship" with the Beijing government and will share its expertise with the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), a cabinet-level body whose profile is rising as China has come to recognize the extent of its ecological degradation.

Ho says the Chinese government has recognized the seriousness of its pollution problems. "We acknowledge they have made a lot of effort, but we want to speed up the process," he says.

"China, which uses seven times more energy to produce one dollar of gross domestic product (GDP) than developed countries, must promote cleaner and more efficient energy use and not wait until it gets rich to clean up its skies and waters," he adds.

"If we have to pollute first and clean up later, that means we are paying twice." Direct economic losses from pollution averaged three to five percent of GDP in the 1990s, Greenpeace says, quoting SEPA data.


  Previous Briefs...

September 3 - 9, 1999

August 27 - Sept. 2, 1999

August 20 - 26, 1999

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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