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  Beijing Scene



Cyber-Justice
A heartbroken elderly man used the Internet to take revenge on an unlicensed doctor after his daughter died from a botched abortion. Retiree Liu Ruixiang, a resident of Inner Mongolia, bought a computer and taught himself how to use the Internet, and went on to put the doctor - who did not hold a license to practice - behind bars, the Beijing Youth Daily reports.

Liu began his one-man online crusade for justice shortly after his daughter died in 1998. At the time, local police claimed there was insufficient evidence against the doctor to convict him.

Using most of his savings, Liu bought a computer. Every day he surfed China's websites on legal issues and posted messages in chatrooms about his plight. Eventually the Procurator's Daily newspaper heard about Liu's story and sent a reporter to investigate. The reporter found Liu in a simple room he had converted into a research office. The room was littered with printouts of downloaded information from the Internet, including the Procurator's Daily's website, portals like Netease, and personal sites created by individuals with similar cases.

Officials in Beijing, who heard about Liu's story from the media, initiated an investigation of his complaint and agreed to help file a lawsuit. The case was then heard in a court in Inner Mongolia where the doctor, Cui Xuekun, was found guilty. Cui was sentenced to three years in prison and fined RMB5000.

Best-Selling Scribe to Become Monk
Famous Chinese writer Wang Shuo has given away his fortune in preparation for moving to the sacred Buddhist Wutai Mountain to become a monk, according to a Chinese news report.

After increasingly acrimonious public falling-outs with fellow scribe Jin Yong and award-winning filmmaker Zhang Yimou, Wang Shuo told reporters that he is tired of the "secular world" (hongchen), and that he plans to join a monastery in the northern Shanxi province Wutai Mountains. Wang only recently returned from a several year self-imposed exile in the United States, during which he stopped writing.

Upon returning to China, he penned several books in quick succession, the most recent of which, Seeing the World Through a Dog's Eyes, expresses Wang's despair at the state of the world today and human society.

Wang says in his new book: "Culture does not come from nothing. It must have an origin. That is why people are always looking for a Master. But contemporary Chinese society is cut off from its traditional cultural roots, so what is created is false. I choose to go and become a monk because that is my fate (yuanfen), but also because of my deep pessimism about our culture."

The report says that Wang has made arrangements for his significant wealth. He has given a small part to his wife and daughter, and the rest has been donated to charity.

The report can be viewed online at: www.netease.com/news/item/0,1567,56389,00.htm

People's Court
Evidence that the West's obsession with litigation is spreading to China is apparent in the case of a man who successfully sued a state-run television station for running too many commercials.

The plaintiff, Wang Zhongqin, was a fervent fan of the epic historical drama Kuan Ju Princes, the Beijing Youth Daily reports. Wang filed a formal complaint with the Beijing Intermediate Court that too many commercials ruined the serial drama for viewers. In what is seen as a landmark decision in China's newly commercializing media industry, the court ruled in Wang's favor and awarded damages of RMB700 and a public apology.

In addition to the damages and apology, Wang was also refunded RMB17.8 in cable service fees for the airtime in question. The television station is appealing the decision.

Red White and Blue Baijiu
Move over wine coolers, make way bourbon whiskey, the newest intoxicant to entice American drinkers is Chinese erguotou?!

Beijing's largest producer of China's trademark spirit - a cheap, popular firewater brewed from fermented sorghum - has hit U.S. store shelves. Some 450 cases of Hong Xing (Red Star)-brand erguotou were recently exported to the home of martinis and gin-and-juice, the Beijing Youth Daily reports. Red Star, China's largest producer of baijiu, is hoping to become the first Chinese booze to become a household name in the U.S.

Erguotou is a clear, highly potent liquor which contains about 60 percent alcohol by volume.

Red Star erguotou, typically packaged in clear green glass bottles, is already available in more than 20 countries worldwide, but mostly appeals to an overseas Chinese clientele. The company's foray into the U.S. market, which includes selling erguotou and a few new liquors tailored to American imbibers' taste, is being led by a Sino-U.S. joint venture. Red Star is also preparing to build a distillery in the U.S.

Ecommerce Up 12 Times By 2002
Electronic commerce is set to explode in China. Industry observers say by the end of this year, the country's volume of online shopping will reach RMB800 million (US$96.7 million) annually. And by 2002, this figure will soar to RMB10 billion (US$1.2 billion), the China Business Daily reports.

According to the newspaper, China had only 100 online stores at the beginning of last year. It now has more than 600, and is adding two new online stores a day.

Ecommerce in China also grew quickly last year, as its volume more than doubled to RMB200 million (US$24.2 million) from 1998. According to the newspaper, 1999 is when ecommerce in China transformed itself from mere talk to reality.

Last year, Internet commerce spread quickly from China's coastal regions to its interior, and from big cities to small and medium-sized ones. The Chinese Government also clearly strengthened its support and its efforts to coordinate this growth of ecommerce, the newspaper reports.

Now, the newspaper notes, many Chinese companies have voluntarily established and introduced ecommerce rules and regulations, while sectors such as financial systems, tax-collection systems, securities, pharmaceuticals and construction have begun experimenting with ecommerce.

According to the newspaper, most Chinese Internet shoppers either pay online or by cash on delivery.

Eternal Dam-Nation
China has sentenced to death an official who embezzled nearly US$1.5 million from the controversial Three Gorges Dam project, a court official says.

The former director of the district construction bureau in Fengdu, Sichuan province received the death sentence on February 25 for stealing RMB12 million (US$1.44 million), a court spokesman in southwestern Chongqing city says.

Reports of massive graft have enveloped the construction of the world's biggest hydroelectric dam on the Yangtze River since it began in 1994, but this is the first death penalty handed down.

China's auditor general said in January that around US$600 million earmarked for the resettlement of those made homeless by the project has been embezzled, 12 percent of the entire relocation budget. The official press, however, has revised the embezzled figure down to 7.4 percent of the relocation budget.

The Chongqing court spokesman also reveals that an official from the migration bureau in Wanzhou district near the city was jailed for life in May last year for corruption. Wang Sumei was convicted of taking money from the bureau and losing it in extravagant mahjong gambling parties between September 1997 and December 1998.

State press described Wang as a compulsive gambler who continued to mount up debts in an effort to win back her losses. She regularly took between RMB60,000 to RMB200,000 from the relocation fund which she had complete access to. Some 1.3 million people are expected to be relocated from the banks of the Yangtze River to make way for the 632 square kilometer (252 square mile) reservoir which will be created upon the completion of the Three Gorges Dam.

Officials said in January that criminal proceedings had been started against 14 officials involved in dam corruption and that others were still being investigated.

The National Audit Office says much of the embezzled money was used to construct buildings, set up companies and buy shares on the stock market. Doubts about the US$27 billion dollar Three Gorges project in central Hubei province surfaced in public last year when Premier Zhu Rongji issued a stern warning to officials to ensure there was no "negligence" in the construction, the brainchild of his predecessor Li Peng.

A month later the official press revealed that around 100 officials linked to the project had been sanctioned for corruption involving sums of US$1200-24,000 dollars.

Many people living in the area are reluctant to leave the banks of the Yangtze River to make way for the reservoir, while experts have questioned the financial logic of the project and warned of its damaging impact on the environment.

The official media has in the past blamed corruption for problems in the relocation project. By 1998 only 60 percent of the new houses that should have been built to house people in the dam's path had been finished.

 


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