Ten Commandments of News
A senior leader has accused the media
of being over-zealous in exposing the dark side of society.
Xu Guangchun, vice-director of the Communist Party's
Propaganda Department, wrote an article in the Guangming
Daily saying the central leadership supports the media's
role as constructive watchdog. But he listed 10 'sins'
of the media, saying reporters must correct these mistakes.
He said some reports were not accurate or contained
distorted facts. In some cases, reporters put words
in the mouths of their interviewees, and misinterpreted
government policies and laws.
Some reporters caused trouble by
writing stories about cases under investigation by police
and anti-graft officers before they were made public.
Mr. Xu said some were 'simple-minded' and others prone
Mr. Xu's article appeared to be a
reaction to a spate of incidents in which reporters
have been attacked or abused at work. Journalists have
called on the authorities to step up protection. But
Mr. Xu offered little consolation. He said it was not
difficult to understand why the media was not welcomed.
Journalists have lobbied for more than a decade for
legislation to protect their rights and independence,
but legislation has not yet been submitted to the National
People's Congress Standing Committee for review.
Popular French perfume Opium has
been banned from mainland markets after consumers complained
the name sent an improper message to young people, industry
The China agent for manufacturer
Yves Saint Laurent confirmed reports that the State
Commercial and Industrial Bureau had last month revoked
the product's registration, effectively banning sales.
'It has already been removed from
shelves across the mainland,' a Guohangxin Technology
spokeswoman says. The perfume had been sold in China
for five years.
'All we can do is express regret,
and we also feel it's very sudden,' she says, adding
that the decision was 'not very consistent with the
country's entering the World Trade Organization.'
Opium, launched in 1977, is one of
the world's most popular brands.
Business Daily says the decision
originated with consumer complaints in Chengdu, Sichuan
province, about two years ago.
Consumers attacked the name as a
form of 'spiritual pollution' which gave youth the wrong
message. The matter shifted to central-Government level
after the manufacturer protested about a local ban.
'Following investigation and assessment,
any meaning [of the word] will produce a bad social
influence,' the state bureau said in its decision. 'According
to rules in clause 27 of the People's Republic of China
Brand Law, we believe this brand is unsuitable for registration.'
The narcotic opium has strong historical
significance in China because addiction to it was widespread
in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The agent's spokeswoman said linking
the perfume to the narcotic and Opium Wars was not appropriate.
'Its name is simply meant to be naughty and suggestive,
like Christian Dior's Poison.'
The decision was final and could
not be appealed, she said, refusing to disclose the
amount of potential sales lost.
One of Shanghai's leading department
stores said it had not yet received official notice
and was still selling Opium.
A spokesman for Italian fashion house
Gucci, which owns Yves Saint Laurent, refused to comment.
However, a source close to Gucci said the perfume's
mainland sales were negligible.
Poor farmers in Beijing's barren
hills saw it: an object swathed in colored light arcing
heavenward that some say must have been a UFO.
They're not alone. People in 12 other
Chinese cities reported possible UFO sightings last
month. UFO researchers, meanwhile, were busy looking
into claims of an alien abduction in Beijing.
At the beginning of the new millennium,
China is astir with sightings of otherworldly visitors.
Such sightings are treated with unexpected seriousness
in this country usually straitjacketed by its communist
China has a bimonthly magazine circulation
400,000 devoted to UFO research. The conservative state-run
media report UFO sightings. UFO buffs claim support
from eminent scientists and liaisons with the secretive
military, giving their work a sheen of scientific respectability.
'Some of these sightings are real,
some are fake and with others it's unclear,' says Shen
Shituan, a real rocket scientist, president of Beijing
Aerospace University and honorary director of the China
UFO Research Association. 'All these phenomena are worth
Research into UFOs will help spur
new forms of high-speed travel, unlimited sources of
energy and faster-growing crops, claims Sun Shili, president
of the government-approved UFO Research Association
A foreign trade expert and a Spanish
translator for Mao Zedong, Sun saw a UFO nearly 30 years
ago while at a labor camp for ideologically suspect
'It was extremely bright and not
very big,' says Sun. 'At that time, I had no knowledge
of UFOs. I thought it was a probe sent by the Soviet
For thousands of years, Chinese have
looked to the skies for portents of change on Earth.
While China is passing through its first millennium
using the West's Gregorian calendar, the traditional
lunar calendar is ushering in the Year of the Dragon,
regarded as a time of tumultuous change.
'All of that sort of millennial fear
and trepidation fits in so nicely with Chinese cosmology
and also the Hollywood propaganda that everybody's been
lapping up,' says Geremie Barme, a Chinese culture watcher
at Australia National University.
In Pusalu, a patch of struggling
corn and bean farms 30 miles from Beijing, villagers
believe cosmic forces were at play on Dec. 11. As they
tell it, an object the size of a person shimmering with
golden light moved slowly up into the sky from the surrounding
'It was so beautiful, sort of yellow,'
villager Wang Cunqiao says. 'It was like someone flying
up to heaven.'
What 'it' was remains a topic of
debate. Many villagers are fervent Buddhists. But local
leaders want to play down any religious overtones, fearing
that government censure may spoil plans to attract tourism
'Some say it was caused by an earthquake.
Some say it was a UFO. Some say it was a ray of Buddha.
I'm telling everyone to call it an auspicious sign,'
says Chen Jianwen, village secretary for the officially
atheistic Communist Party.
State media ignored religious interpretations
and labeled the celestial events in Pusalu, Beijing,
Shanghai and 10 other Chinese cities in December as
possible UFOs. But UFO researchers have largely dismissed
the sightings as airplane trails catching the low sun.
'If the military didn't chase it,
it's because they knew it wasn't a UFO. They were probably
testing a new aircraft,' says Chen Yanchun, a shipping
company executive who helps manage the China UFO Research
Operating from a dingy three-room
flat in a Beijing apartment block, the Resource Center
keeps a version of China's X-Files: 140 dictionary-sized
boxes of fading newspaper clippings and eyewitness accounts
of sightings. The collection has, among others items,
accounts that the military scrambled planes in 1998
in an unsuccessful pursuit of a UFO.
Chen said the center has had 500
reported UFO sightings in 1999, but after investigation
confirmed cases will likely number 200 or so. He is
currently checking on a worker's claims that aliens
entered his Beijing home in early December and, with
his wife and child present, spirited him 165 miles east
and back in a few hours.
'The increase in flying saucer incidents
is natural,' says Chen, a former Aerospace Ministry
researcher with a Ph.D. in aerodynamics. He cited more
manmade aerospace activity and radio signals from Earth
penetrating farther into space. Sun has another theory:
He believes aliens may find China attractive for the
same reason foreign investors and tourists do.
'It's very possible that relatively
rapid development attracts investigations by flying
saucers, and here in China we're becoming more developed,'
he says. 'Generally, well-developed areas like the United
States have reported more sightings.'