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  Beijing Scene

Beijing Scene, Volume 6, Issue 7, November 26 - December 2

Man-Eating Tigers

Three tigers attacked and killed a driver who got out of his bus while taking a load of schoolchildren through the tiger enclosure of Shanghai World Animals Park, the official Wenhui Daily reports.

Xu Weixing's bus broke down as the convoy was moving through the fenced-off tiger area. The 41-year-old was savaged after leaving his vehicle to reattach a tow-rope to the bus, a manager from the park who witnessed the incident says.

Three tigers attacked Xu, inflicting serious wounds with bites to the neck and head. Screams and yelling by children on board the buses alerted a nearby trainer, who drove the giant carnivores off the victim. Xu was immediately taken to hospital, but died within an hour of the attack. "Bites to his neck severed the main arteries, so he died from loss of blood," the manager says.

It was against the suburban park's rules for a non-staff member to exita vehicle in the tiger enclosure, he adds, emphasizing the incident is still under investigation.

The official newspaper says no one visiting the park has been seriously harmed before, although there have been "many" incidents of visitors being frightened in close calls since it opened in November 1995.

Just 24 hours before Xu was attacked, a young tiger at the same park took the head of a six-year-old girl in its teeth after the two posed together for a photograph, the Xinmin Evening News reports.

Her father dropped his camera and used his hands to open the 50 kilogram (110 pound) animal's jaws, and the girl suffered no serious injury. Visitors are allowed to stand close to the one year-old cat, which is relatively accustomed to human contact, the report says, adding that the girl got "too close."

Sex Sells

The "Guangdong Province Comprehensive Tourism Testing Zone" consists of several island resorts which every year receive some 450,000 tourists (both Chinese and foreign) accounting for more than rmb300 million in annual revenue. The "testing" area has been in operation for seven years.

The main tourist attraction on these islands is the plentiful number of prostitutes from the impoverished inland provinces of Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Sichuan, and Guangxi to name a few. Most of the prostitutes (ji or 'chickens') are led there by pimps (jitou or 'chicken heads'). Every year the 'chicken heads' are responsible for leading some 4-5000 'chickens' to these island resorts.

The stories being revealed about these tourism testing zones are quite distressing. In one case a man brought his wife to the islands offering her to serve as a prostitute. Other cases involve fathers bringing their daughters. In one case a mother brought her two daughters. Together the mother and two daughters all engaged in prostitution as a family business.

On one island of there is a zone which spans 80,000 square meters containing 50 "high-class hotels" which at night have girls crawling all over the entrances. In front of one hotel journalists observed "More than 50 girls with big-bellied men making selections in a casual and unrushed manner."

One journalist talked to a girl on the island who throughout the interview kept referring to herself as a ji. The shocked journalist asked the girl why she used such a derogatory term in reference to herself. She responded, "Here nobody cares. Everything is direct and in the open. When we discuss the price with the customer on the street you can hear the dirtiest things said and even the most difficult things to perform discussed openly." The girl went on to express her philosophy, "Everybody here is equal, whether officials or ordinary people, whether you have money or don't. There are no morals, nobody is higher than anyone else."

Newspaper Digest

Up in Smoke

In Siping City, Jilin province there was a factory producing cheap brand cigarettes. Several of these cheap cigarettes were being sold as local "famous brands." Because this cigarette factory was christened the "Number one project of Siping" the local leaders all jumped on the promotional bandwagon and began marketing and selling cigarettes in their own personal capacity.

The result was that government bureaucracies were put to work selling cigarettes which became the "chief task" of government departments starting from the city government, to the county government, to the township government, to the village level grass-roots organizations. The party secretary of Siping City in explaining the government task while selling his batch of cigarettes noted that "this is a political responsibility." In the end it was the local people who were being forced by the government officials at virtually every level to purchase cigarettes regardless of whether they smoked or not.

There was a Mengjialing Town Central School in Lisu County under the Siping City government administration. Teachers salaries were paid up until July this year following which the government stopped paying the teachers their salaries at all. Nevertheless, the teachers were all given the "important task" of selling cigarettes, and instead of paying the teachers their salaries, the government issued cigarettes as payment in kind. After one year even the welfare funds and bonuses given to these teachers were paid in the form of cigarettes.

Needless to say, the Siping Cigarette Factory had excellent growth over this year, and due to the favorable policies of the local government enjoyed a 50 percent growth in sales!

Beijing Youth Daily

Star Wars

China's successful test of a spacecraft for manned flight has major military implications, proving that Beijing has mastered technology that could enable it to overcome US anti-missile defenses, a Chinese military expert says.

Song Yichang tells the state-run China Business Times that the same low-power propulsion technology used to adjust a spacecraft's orbit in flight could also be used to alter the path of offensive missiles, helping them evade proposed US anti-missile defenses known as "Star Wars" or TMD and NMD technology.

China's development of low-momentum rocket propulsion "Is equivalent to having a trump card to counter TMD and NMD," the newspaper says. "We can use this technology to change trajectories in flight, making missiles do a little dance and evade opponents' attacks."

TMD, shorthand for Theater Missile Defense, and NMD, or National Missile Defense, would shoot down incoming missiles. US President Bill Clinton's administration, with the support of Congress, is developing a limited national missile defense that could be deployed as early as 2005. It also is carrying out research with Japan on a regional theater missile defense.

China is vehemently opposed to both systems, saying they could spark a costly and dangerous arms race. It also fears TMD technology could be passed to Taiwan, allowing the island that Beijing regards as a renegade province to defend itself against Chinese missiles.

The China Business Times report is rare official confirmation that China is interested in using technology-not just diplomatic pressure-to combat the proposed anti-missile systems.

"With low-power space rocket technology, it will be hard for the opposite side to control the cost and difficulty of defending against Chinese missiles," the newspaper says. "Even though the opposite side has TMD, it will have to sit down and negotiate with you."

Mr. Song, the military expert, says the successful weekend flight of the Shenzhou capsule "Indicates that our country has grasped the trump card to restrain TMD," the newspaper says.

It does not clearly explain whether or how information from last week's successful unmanned space flight could be used to make defense-evading Chinese missiles. But it says a manned space flight could provide "a large amount of practical data" on low-power rocket propulsion technology.

It adds that testing this technology on the ground is very difficult, in part because of the force of gravity. The successful completion of Shenzhou's unmanned test flight, a breakthrough for China's secretive space program, remains top news this week in many national newspapers.

China is striving to become the third country, after the United States and the former Soviet Union, to put people into outer space.

Y2K Shutdown

China is considering shutting down its banks and cash machines on December 31, the eve of the new millennium, to avoid any potential problems, banking industry officials say.

The country's central bank, People's Bank of China (PBOC), plans to shut down all banks and cash machines in China if the central government approves its request to turn December 31 into a public holiday, a PBOC spokesman says.

Chen Jing, director general of the PBOC's department of payment, science and technology, denies the closures are planned to avoid a bank run.

"The banking industry in China has the confidence and competence to ensure the banking industry will have a smooth rollover into the year 2000," Chen says.

"I think the general public's confidence in a smooth transition into the millennium is strong?ATM (automatic teller) machines have undergone rigorous tests but on December 31, they will be suspended for further testing," Chen adds.

Many other countries, however, are keeping automatic cash withdrawal machines operating and are stocking them with extra cash to ensure an adequate supply on New Year's Eve.

Chen, however, says China has spent at least rmb10 billion (US$1.2 billion) on Y2K preparedness and insists China's banks, from the largest cities to cooperative banks in rural areas, are ready to handle any computer glitches arising from the millennium changeover.

Most of the banking industry's computer systems are old and susceptible to the Y2K millennium bug, but they have been made Y2K compliant as part of a nationwide readiness program, Chen says.

The industry-from banks to related institutions-successfully passed the last of three nationwide tests in September.

The banks also have been required to set up backup systems, such as keeping hard copies of transaction records, and they each also must develop a contingency plan, the final versions of which will be approved in November, Chen says.

"We're closing the banks on December 31 to facilitate year-end accounting and we're closing the ATM machines to conduct final testing on them that day, not because we're scared of a bank run," Chen says.

The banking industry will shut down on January 1 and 2, official public holidays. Cash machines will operate on those two days.

Y2K-related problems have already surfaced in China with some computer networks malfunctioning on April 9, 1999, the 99th day of the year and on September 9, or 9/9/99.

The millennium bug may affect computers that use two digits to identify years. Without reprogramming, computers' ability to distinguish between 2000 and 1900 could cause computer breakdowns and disruptions.

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