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  Beijing Scene

Poisoned Porridge
Scores of schoolchildren in the central China province of Hubei were poisoned after an illiterate cook mistook a dangerous chemical for salt.

The 53-year-old illiterate cook was preparing breakfast at a primary school in the capital city of Wuhan when she ran out of salt, reports the Beijing Youth Daily. She went to her son's house and picked up a container of what she believed was salt, but was actually an industrial-strength chemical.

After finishing breakfast many students fell ill. Some were afflicted with seizures and temporary paralysis, while others began foaming at the mouth.

All 63 students were rushed to a local clinic where they underwent emergency treatment for poisoning. The Wuhan public security bureau and local health officials investigated the poisoning, and identified the cook as the culprit. Several students are still hospitalized, but doctors report that the poisoning is not life-threatening.

One-Child Policy?
Family planning officials in the southeastern province of Guangdong have been charged with fraud, deception, and gross negligence for both ignoring China's strict one-child policy themselves, and accepting bribes to ignore the violations of others.

Communist Party family planning authorities in the cities of Wuchuan and Zhanjiang, both hailed as "Model Family Planning Towns" by provincial authorities, have been involved in corruption and deceit for many years the Beijing Youth Daily reports.

Alarming population growth figures in the two cities tipped off provincial disciplinary officials. A government investigation revealed 5,646 families with two children, and 2,931 with three or more children. Two families even boast broods of more than ten children each. Five of the eight Communist Party members who serve on the family planning committees in the two cities have four or more children.

The offending officials were removed from their posts and punished. In addition, the honorary title "Model Family Planning Town" was retracted from both municipalities.

Entrance Exam "Insurance"
In a move that has outraged local parents, a high school in the Sichuan province capital of Chengdu is demanding that students pay "university entrance exam insurance fees."

Starting from the present semester, the school requires students to put down a deposit before registering for university entrance exam review sessions, the Sichuan newspaper Life Times reports. The deposit amount ranges from RMB260-RMB600, the amount determined by preliminary exam scores. The school promises to refund all of the deposit for the highest scores, 80 percent for a passing score, and nothing in return for a low score. Students who refuse to pay cannot participate in the review session, and are left to prepare for the rigorous examinations themselves. Parents of those students who did not score well in preliminaries are protesting the school's new policy. Many have refused to pay deposits. The school's principal argues that parents are ultimately responsible for how well their children score. The principal argues that families not willing to pay should pull their children out of school.

High scores on university entrance exams are a prerequisite for admission to "name brand" universities, and widely seen as a guarantee of a prestigious government or private sector job after graduation.

Mother Kills Deformed Newborn
A Beijing woman confessed to killing her five-day-old son after finding that the child was born with a birth defect.

Wang Guige, 29, tearfully admitted in a capital courtroom that on August 23, 1999, she deliberately asphyxiated her newborn infant when she discovered that the child was born with only two fingers on his left hand, the Beijing Evening News reports.

While still in a Beijing maternity hospital, Wang placed the infant face down on a crib and pushed his face into a pillow, killing him within 10 minutes. A hospital doctor found the suffocated baby the next morning.

Wang told the courtroom the joy of motherhood quickly dissipated upon learning that her child's hand was deformed. "A disabled child would become an incredible burden. People might look down on him," Wang argued in defense.

Before killing her baby, Wang maintains that she asked hospital officials to help her put the baby boy up for adoption. But they refused, saying the hospital has no adoption program and does not provide such services.

Wang has been convicted of the crime, and is awaiting sentence.

An increasing number of Chinese books are appearing online. A guide to websites that carry online books can be found on the Sina.com web site (www.search.sina.com.cn/search_dir/ys/lb/wx/sk/)

Another list is maintained at Beijing Bookworm

Many books are also listed at Goldnets.Com
(www.goldnets.com/index.html). A good list of Chinese newspapers and periodicals can be found at (www.goldnets.com/other/site/newspaper.html).

As an example of what is available, here is a short list from (www.goldnets.com/js/qt/ cp/index.html)

* An anonymous account of how the Shenyang public security bureau broke an organized crime syndicate in the 1999 3-8 case (www.goldnets.com/js/qt/cp/y/yiming/38/index.html)

* A 1998 survey of Chinese beggars

* An investigation of China's underground sex industry
(www.goldnets.com/js/qt/cp/p/ pansuiming/cunzai/index.html)

* Emotions and Sexuality of Chinese Women by Li Yinhe, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Li holds a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh

* "A Survey of the Trial Marriage Phenomenon - a study of 21 couples"

* Snow Dragon Goes to the North Pole: An Account of the First Chinese Expedition to the North Pole

* China Files: Portrait of Decision Makers is a book based on the Chinese Central Television (CCTV) program China Files. Includes Wan Li, the Anhui governor who encouraged the rural responsibility system and is immortalized in the folk saying yao chi mi, zhao wan li - if you want to eat, go look for Wan Li. (www.goldnets.com/js/qt/cp/z/zhefu/ zhongguodangan/index.html)

* Power Couple: Bill and Hilary Clinton by William Morris
(www.goldnets.com/js/qt/ cp/m/molisi/quanli/index.html)

* A recent biography of Premier Zhu Rongji is at

* The full text of the very popular underground novelization of the corruption in Beijing Mayor Chen Xitong's government The Wrath of Heaven is available at (www.bb.ah.cn/tn/). A short review of the novel is available at
(www.usembassy-china.org.cn/ english/sandt/wrath.htm)

* A page listing many books written over the past ten years about Chinese leaders including Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai at

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