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  Beijing Scene

Beijing Scene, Volume 6, Issue 8, December 3 - 9

In the Dark

One evening in Shanghai a local man surnamed Zhang walked past a private video shop advertising "CDs - RMB15 for 2" and "VCD - RMB10 for 3" and "American adventure and terror movies."

Since Mr. Zhang really liked to see the newest movies, he entered the shop and found many customers busy selecting CDs and VCDs. Suddenly, all the lights in the shop went off and the entire store became black inside. The steel door in the front came crashing down and was locked. In the dark "there was chaos" with people shoving each other and stepping on shoes. Then the crowd crammed in the shop heard a voice say, "Everybody be quiet. The police are coming. Just be quiet for a while and we will release you!" The police came down the street outside inspecting the video shops for porno flicks, closing some down and dragging people off. As the steel gate of this shop was down and the lights off, they assumed that the shop was closed and did not even bother knocking at the entrance. After the police passed by, some half hour afterwards, the shop owner turned the lights back on, opened the steel door and released the crowd. Mr. Zhang sighed saying to himself, "I have watched many American adventure movies, but now I have lived through one. So I don't need to see anymore!"

Xinmin Evening News

Dirty Water

In He county of Anhui province there was a big public swimming pool. After nine days of operation a rumor began to spread that anybody who went to swim in this pool would catch a form of venereal disease.

Following the rumor of outbreak of venereal disease in the public pool, everybody fearing that they caught the disease ran off to the county "Women's Baby Protection Clinic." Every person tested reported a "positive" result. The conclusion was that "everybody had the disease" which "had to be cured immediately!" Everybody had to purchase special medicine to cure the disease at the cost of RMB192 per bottle, which of course was sold exclusively by the clinic.

Some people however, were skeptical wondering "How can you get venereal disease from swimming?" A group went together to Nanjing for serious medical tests at the National Venereal Control Center. Following tests at the national center it was determined that the results of all of these cases were in fact negative. So what happened?

An investigation found that the source of the rumor was in fact the local "Women's Baby Protection Clinic" which sought to increase revenues through medicine sales. When confronted during the investigation a spokesperson from the clinic explained apologetically, "You must understand, our medical tests were only rough tests to see the general results." A class action suit is now being brought against the clinic.

Beijing Youth Daily

Secretarial Skills

A company issued an advertisement at an employment agency stating, "Hiring Secretaries at High Salaries!" Within a few days several hundred application letters were received. Following "each level of leaders reviewing" the applications 10 girls were selected for interviews. The girls were described as "beautiful and talented."

On the day of the appointed interview each of the girls paraded into the company offices for their interview. "After a matter of moments each of the first nine girls left the interview room with sad expressions on their faces." All of these girls were from "brand name universities." Why? The first question each secretary seeking a position was asked was, "Can you drink liquor?" When the response was "No" the person interviewing the girls systematically kicked them out of the room. Only the last girl who was from the northeast of China (Dongbei, notorious for big drinking) became excited when she heard the question realizing her opportunity had arrived. She proudly responded, "My years of drinking liquor are more than a dozen. I do not even bother using a cup anymore, but prefer to drink right out of a bowl!" Nothing more was said by the man carrying out the interview except "Great! You're hired!" He then went on to explain, "In our company we seek comprehensive talent. One hand carries the diploma. The other hand carries the bottle. You are a real genius and we appreciate your talent!"

Xinmin Evening News

Three Gorges Gaffe

After thousands of years of letting their sewage flow downstream and out to sea, Chongqing and other Yangtze cities now face the prospect of it staying in the water that laps their shores. If completed as planned, the massive Three Gorges dam will slow the Yangtze river's flow, backing up water and concentrating sewage and modern-day pollutants in its 600-kilometer reservoir. A Chinese scientist from Chongqing predicts it will be a "huge, stagnant, stinking pond."

Every year, Chongqing, a highly industrialized municipality of 30 million, produces about 1.2 billion tons of wastewater: 900 million tons of industrial wastewater and 300 million tons of sewage. The municipality, at the planned reservoir's upstream end, treats only about one-third of its industrial wastewater and almost none of its sewage before flushing it into the river.

Paper, steel, silk, and chemical factories line the Yangtze, often covering the swirling waters with white foam or effluents. A 1997 study by Chen Guojie, a professor at the Chengdu Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, part of China's Academy of Sciences, indicated that seven pollutants, including petroleum, mercury, lead, volatile phenol, non-ionic ammonia, phosphorus, and colon bacillus already exceed permissible standards in the water flowing past Chongqing, Fuling, Fengdu, Wanxian and Wushan. This giant plume of greasy, polluted water is expected to spread into stagnant bays off the main reservoir after the dam's construction. The pollution problem along the Yangtze is not new. After the Gezhouba dam was built on the Yangtze in 1989, forty kilometers downstream of Three Gorges, visitors described a river full of sewage with garbage strewn everywhere and waste oil from ships and factories covering its surface. According to a Chinese journalist whose account was published in the book The River Dragon Has Come! there was so much oil on the surface of the Gezhouba reservoir at one point that "nearby farmers would skim off a few jars, pour it into their tractors, and drive off."

The pollution problem was overlooked in the official feasibility studies for the Three Gorges dam, which critics claimed overestimated the benefits and underestimated the costs. The Chinese feasibility study, for example, failed to study the dam's effect on the reservoir's water quality. And the Canadian study which was conducted for the Chinese government by five Canadian engineering firms, and financed by the Canadian International Development Agency acknowledged the problem but failed to include wastewater treatment in their estimate of project costs.

The situation has become so desperate that Chongqing has hurried plans to build 23 sewage treatment plants with USD100 million in World Bank money. These facilities, however, will not treat all of the sewage or any of the industrial effluent. The World Bank, which stated in 1988 that the Three Gorges dam is not economically viable, is now considering a USD250 million loan to Chongqing for wastewater and solid waste treatment - the first phase of a long-term program.

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