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In Short
Translations from the chinese press

North Korean Leader’s Secret Passion: Basketball
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has another passion apart from running the isolationist nation: basketball.

In 2000, then-U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited North Korea and gave Kim a ball signed by Michael Jordan.

“We should make our youths and workers play a lot of basketball,” North Korean media quoted Kim Jong Il as saying that year.

Kim will soon have a new 12,300-seat basketball court in his capital. South Korea’s Hyundai conglomerate has finished a $57 million gymnasium in Pyongyang that includes a state-of-the-art court with large TV screens and air conditioning. Construction proceeded despite tension this year over North Korea’s suspected development of nuclear weapons.

Hyundai, trying to develop business in North Korea and promote reconciliation, hopes to open the gym in August.

Sports diplomacy between the Koreas is periodic, even as political and military tension remains high. They held goodwill basketball games in Pyongyang in 1999 to mark the inception of the gym project, and North Korea sent 200 athletes to the University Games in the South Korean city of Daegu in August.

North Korea began promoting basketball as part of the “Grow Tall Movement” during a deadly famine in the mid-1990s, the South Korean government and Northern defectors say. Malnutrition stunted the growth of many North Korean children, according to aid workers.

North Korean media have claimed students playing basketball were 1.2 inches to 1.9 inches taller than those playing other sports. It said the game “activates hundreds of millions of brains cells per second” because players must continuously make quick decisions.

In 1997, North Korea introduced its own scoring system, giving eight points to baskets made in the final two seconds.

According to Pyongyang’s official Chongnyonjunwie newspaper, dunks are three points, instead of the usual two, and one point is deducted for every free throw missed. Four points are given to shots made from more than 21 feet and to 3-pointers that hit the net without touching the rim.

“Under state promotion, schools allotted more gym class time to basketball,” said Kim Eun-chul, a 34-year-old former North Korean high school teacher who defected to South Korea in 1999.

Kim said most North Korean youngsters, lacking computer games and other modern diversions, spend free time playing soccer, volleyball and basketball. But balls are rare, so students and teachers stay after school to play. “Sports that don’t need much money to play are generally popular in the North,” said Chung Hyung-gyo, an official at South Korea’s Unification Ministry

Police Told To End Arrest Quotas
China’s police have been ordered to end the practice of arrest quotas, in a move to safeguard the rights of the public. State Councilor and Minister of Public Security Zhou Yongkang also told all police, especially “grass-roots” units, that they must shed their interests in all commercial recreational facilities. Zhou, who is also member of both the Political Bureau and the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, urged all officers to refrain from any actions that offended public morality, caused public outrage or violated human rights. Zhou made the order at a national teleconference on strengthening the management of community-based police units, which he described as the cornerstone of public security work. The work of community-based police officers was directly related to the public interest and had a direct impact on the authority of the CPC and the government, he stressed. Zhou said police must enforce the law in a strict, fair and civilized manner.

Mutual Suspicions
It may come as no surprise to cognoscenti of Sino-American relations that both cultures are riddled with distrust for each other. And if media bias is any indication of popular sentiment, then things seem to be getting worse, not better. Recent studies of Chinese and American mutual perception suggest that both sides’ views of the other have become increasingly negative in the last few years.

In China, fears about Western—and particularly American—hegemony are growing. According to a series of papers from George Washington University this spring, journals published by Communist Party think-tanks generally view the U.S. as an imperial power that improperly involves itself in other countries’ affairs. Similarly, many books recently released in China contain “generally negative and critical portrayals” of America, says David Shambaugh, Director of the China Policy Program at the university’s Elliot School of International Affairs.

On the American side, popular representations of China tend to be equally critical. An Elliot School case-study found that coverage in the last three years in the U.S.’s four major newspapers—the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal—largely, though not universally, demonized China. Reviews of so-called “China Threat” literature also suggest a prevalence of anti-Chinese sentiment in the American media, according to another George Washington University author.
Certainly, the U.S. and China have a long history of cross-cultural misunderstanding, and a relationship that has often been characterized by suspicion, ambiguity, and contradiction. The disporportionately negative tone in both countries’ media, however, is a more recent development. “The ambivalence noted in previous years has seemingly given way to a predominantly disapproving and critical set of mutual perceptions,” Shambaugh writes in this month’s Journal of Contemporary China. “To be sure,” he adds, “a series of difficult and unpleasant events—the Tiananmen massacre, the Yinhe ship affair, the Cox Commision inquiry, the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, the EP-3 incident, and other mishaps—have all contributed to the increased negativity.” Nevertheless, the motivating history behind the increasingly tense Sino-American cultural relationship is part of the diagnosis of an international discontent, rather than a prescription for its eradication. As Shambaugh concludes in his paper (titled “Imagining Demons: the rise of negative imagery in US-China relations”): “this trend is of concern.”

China Affirms Ban on Gay Marriage
China is lifting its demand that couples obtain approval from their employers before getting married but will continue to ban same-sex unions, state media reported. Zhang Mingliang, an official of the Civil Affairs Ministry said that China’s 2001 marriage law forbids gay marriages and that officials won’t process paperwork for such unions, the official Xinhua News Agency and newspapers reported. “According to relevant rules, couples of the same sex are forbidden to marry each other,” Zhang was quoted as saying in The Beijing Times newspaper. The recent approval of same-sex marriage in two Canadian provinces has sparked debate in China. Zhang made his comments in response to “a controversy in society over the issue of whether homosexuals should be allowed to marry,” the Times reported.

Gays were strongly persecuted after the founding of Communist China in 1949, and until recently, Chinese psychiatrists listed homosexuality as a mental illness. Even today, few Chinese gay men and lesbians publicly acknowledge their homosexuality, and antigay discrimination is still strong. The new marriage registration rules, to take effect October 1, eliminate the requirement that couples first obtain certificates of approval from their employers before they wed. The requirement harked back to the days when an individual’s state work unit controlled many aspects of life, including housing, health care, and children’s education.

HIV-Positive Couple Make History in China
A HIV-positive couple has wed publicly for the first time in China in a ceremony widely reported in state newspapers, a sign more sufferers may be ready to tackle rampant discrimination.

Doctors and AIDS activists said the couple’s openness in allowing the press to cover their wedding would help fight discrimination and boost AIDS prevention in China, which says it has around 1 million HIV sufferers.

Cao Xueliang, 37, and his bride Wang Daiying, 34, traded vows at a wedding banquet in their native town of Gongmin in the southwestern province of Sichuan, guests said.
“The new couple and the guests were very happy, like any other normal wedding,” Xiao Wei, an aid worker who attended the festivities, told Reuters by telephone. “The new couple said they would overcome all difficulties together in the future.”

Xiao, who works with a Sino-British AIDS prevention project active in Gongmin, said more than 200 guests attended last Friday’s wedding, including some who are HIV-positive.

“Local villagers didn’t mind sharing a meal with them,” he said.

All 67 HIV patients in the town were infected as a result of illegal blood selling in the central province of Henan in the early 1990s, the official China Daily said on Monday.
Wang was infected with HIV by her former husband He Yong, who went to Henan with Cao to sell their blood, it said. He died in September 2002, leaving his wife and daughter.

The Sichuan newlyweds allowed state newspapers to splash color photographs of themselves, both wearing striped shirts and corsages of red roses, laughing and dining with guests at the bride’s modest courtyard home.

“The newlyweds already decided before marriage they did not want to have children,” the Beijing Morning Post said in a half-page story accompanied by legal and medical commentary.

Experts believe the true number of China’s HIV sufferers is closer to 1.5 million, and the United Nations says the number could soar to 10 million by 2010 if the government does not do more to contain the disease.

“Right now, most HIV-positive and AIDS patients are not open about their status,” said Han Ning, a doctor at Beijing’s Ditan hospital.

“If they could learn from the new couple to be open about their personal experiences, they would be better understood by the public,” he said.

Sufferers cannot legally secure jobs in cities if they fail mandatory health tests, while others in certain parts of China cannot marry if they are infected with the virus, activists say.

Hong Kong Store’s Nazi Theme Sparks Fury
German and Israeli diplomats have lashed out at a Hong Kong fashion company for using swastikas and other Nazi party symbols in a clothing line and to decorate its chain of stores.

The firm, which calls itself http://www.izzue.com., produced a range of T-shirts and pants with Nazi symbols printed on them. One T-shirt has a portrait of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler standing on a laurel.

Red banners with white swastikas on top of iron crosses hung Saturday from the ceilings of some of the firm’s 14 stores. The banners also carried a sign that resembled the symbol of the Third Reich: an eagle above a swastika. One branch broadcast Nazi propaganda films on a wall with a projector.

“It’s totally inappropriate because these symbols of the Nazi regime stand
for cruelty and crimes against humanity,” a vice consul of the German Consulate General in Hong Kong said on condition of anonymity. “These symbols brought a
lot of pain not only over Europe, but over the whole world. It’s definitely not the way to promote clothes.”

The diplomat urged the public to boycott the shops.

The company’s marketing manager, Deborah Cheng, said the Nazi-themed decorations and clothes were not intended to cause an outcry and may be withdrawn. She said the company had received a few complaints from customers.

“We’re seriously considering removing the displays. But before we take them off, we have to find a replacement,” she said.

Cheng added that the designer wanted the clothes to have a military theme and did not realize that the Nazi symbols would be considered offensive.

Staff at one of the stores tried to stop an Associated Press photographer
from taking pictures of the shop and tied up the lower part of the banners to hide the Nazi symbols.

Israeli Consul-General Eli Avidar said the consulate has received dozens of
complaints about the displays in the past two days.

“People were furious, hurt and shocked that such a thing could happen,” Avidar was quoted as saying. “It is unbearable to think that anyone can design a marketing campaign that desecrates the deaths of millions of people.”

In April, soft drink giant Coca-Cola pulled a promotional robot figurine adorned with what appeared to be Nazi swastikas following criticism from a Jewish leader in Hong Kong.
And in July last year Hong Kong coffee chain Pacific Coffee was forced to apologise after its stores used a quote from Hitler for is chalkboard “Thought for the day” spot.

Expensive Brides

These are inflationary times in the mainland spouse market. The practice of buying wives in rural China has long been documented, but increasing demand in recent years means the price of a bride has gone up substantially.

Zhang Jinrong, 53, headed to Yunnan Province to find a wife for his son, according to a report in the local press. Zhang Yongming, 31, was about to leave his native Chongqing and join the floating masses in search of part-time work in the wealthier eastern provinces.

His father did not want him to go alone, but single women are scarce in their county. It was also unlikely that he would find someone in the city. A migrant worker’s lifestyle—14-hour days, seven days a week and shacking up in overcrowded dormitories—is not the most conducive to finding a partner.

So Mr. Zhang senior headed to the southwest to attend an advertised auction and buy a daughter-in-law. Unfortunately, the basic economic principles of supply and demand were to weigh heavily against him.

There are now more than 117 males born on the mainland for every 100 females, according to official statistics. Worldwide, the ratio is between 105 and 107 males to 100 females. In some rural areas in China, there are twice as many boys born as girls.
Boys have been traditionally favored in Chinese families, partly because they are seen as the ones who carry on the family name. Parents also feel boys have greater earning potential and will be able to provide an economic safety net that the state is unable to offer.

Statistics show that the tendency to discriminate in favor of male offspring has greatly increased since the introduction of the one-child policy: 20 years ago, the male-female birth ratio in China was comparable to the global average.

Despite laws banning the practice, many women have sex-selective abortions, where they undergo ultrasound scans and opt to abort the fetus if it is believed to be female.
According to some estimates, the skewed gender ratio will mean that by 2020, there could be 100 million mainland bachelors.

Local reports indicate that a few years ago, the average price for a wife was about ¥3,000 ($384). Now, with men becoming increasingly desperate to find a spouse, the norm is about ¥15,000.

Many of the women are abducted and forced into marriage. Hundreds have recounted harrowing tales of being raped, beaten and brutalized. And, viewed as a commodity, the women can be sold on if the mood takes their husbands. But reports also indicate that rural women are increasingly becoming willing participants, seeing it as an opportunity to earn a lump sum for their family. They also believe that it will be better than a life of prostitution in the cities or being mired in rural poverty at home.

In Yunnan, Mr. Zhang senior sets his sights on a 20-year-old, illiterate girl with very dark skin. Her family is asking ¥15,000, a tall order for Mr. Zhang, who supports himself and three dependents on less than ¥600 a month. But he is intent on getting his son a bride, so after prolonged negotiations, a deal is done for ¥14,000.

Huang A-se returned with Mr. Zhang to their Chongqing home and wedding plans were put into action. In her new village, the young woman will be surrounded by women who, like her, are products of this social phenomenon.

Pan Chunhua, the director of the local police station, said that more than 200 brides who had been bought had moved into their village over the past few years, mostly from the impoverished provinces of Yunnan or Guizhou.

“It’s really the only option for a lot of people these days,” he said.

Dubya a Real Doll

Meet GI George, a high-flying, helmet-carrying Navy pilot who should be strutting into a toy store near you soon.

Blue Box Toys, a Chinese company that also produces “Little Kitty” products, is hoping to sell at least 5,000 of the 12-inch-tall Bush figurines commemorating the president’s May 1 landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, when he declared that major combat in Iraq was over.

Since that declaration, more Americans have been killed by Iraqi soldiers and
guerrilla fighters than during the war.

An artist in Hong Kong carved Bush’s likeness from photos of the event, and all of the figure’s clothing and accessories are modeled precisely on what the president wore the day he landed in a S-3B Viking aircraft.

The hair on the fully poseable doll is cropped close, and he wears the steeled look of a man with many missions under his belt. He carries flares, a helmet, extra oxygen and a parachute harness. Even his zippers zip.

In reality, Bush avoided any Vietnam flights by signing up for a quiet tour of duty in the Texas National Guard, a time period the president rarely talks about.

But there’s nothing mysterious about the aviator action figure, which is intended to “commemorate something historical, something we all watched,” according to company spokeswoman Lauri Aibel.

Aibel, who said that she did not vote for Bush, says he’s worthy of his own action figure because he transfixed America by doing something no president had ever
done before.

But she said the company has received some very negative feedback
on the action figure.

“They say, ‘How can you do this?’ “ Aibel said.

The president’s likeness, packaged with a $39.99 price tag and marketed as “Elite Force Aviator: George W. Bush—U.S. President and Naval Aviator,” marks the first time Blue Box Toys and its subsidiary, BBI, have turned a political figure into a toy. A few years ago, BBI created an action figure modeled on Rudy Bosch, the former Navy SEAL who became famous on CBS’s “Survivor.”

Aibel said BBI had no interest in making a political point with their figure. She noted that executives at the privately held company are Chinese and are largely unaware of the political repercussions of Bush’s carrier landing.

Since the president is a public figure, there’s a wide latitude under the law for using his image, the toy company said.

Democrats, many of whom ripped into the president last spring for what they claimed was a political stunt, are unimpressed with the president’s latest incarnation as a plastic doll.

“It’s no surprise that some company would turn George Bush into a toy. He’s been a puppet of big business since Inauguration Day,” said Jamal Simmons, a spokesman for Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who is running for president.

Tony Welch, a spokesman for Terry McAuliffe, head of the Democratic National Committee, said: “It’s impossible for there to be a Bush action figure showing him working on the economy because it’s something that the president has never done.”

So far, the action figure is only available online, but it will eventually be sold in retail stores.

The White House declined to comment.

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Copyright 2003, by China Now Magazine. All rights reserved.