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China getting ready to welcome World

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, Mar 26: Visitors to China's 2008 Olympics will meet polite, honest citizens eager to give a helping hand and maybe even a free haircut -- or that is the vision behind the ruling Communist Party's latest morality drive.

In early March, Chinese President Hu Jintao launched a campaign to combat eight ''disgraces'' he said have infected Chinese society and replace them with a ''socialist sense of honour and shame''.

Out with greed, shirking and high-living; in with ''serving the people,'' honesty and self-sacrifice, proclaim posters that now speckle the country.

Over the weekend, Beijing city officials launched an effort to drum those values into the city's residents -- who many other Chinese see as pushy and self-absorbed -- by 2008.

''We will cut out uncivilised actions that are contrary to public morality, violate honesty, harm our image, pollute the environment and threaten order,'' said a declaration from several city governments, including Beijing, issued in state media.

today, Beijing's main Wangfujing shopping street was awash with volunteers giving lessons on obeying the law, protecting trees and cleaning up dog droppings.

Accompanied by theme music from ''The Magnificent Seven'', Beijing officials honoured ten model residents, among them Li Zhenhuan, who has been giving free haircuts to residents for over 35 years.

As in past morality drives, there was also free medical advice. But in a nod to the new consumerist China, volunteers now also offered to clean jewellery or string tennis rackets gratis.

''Opening up China has had good economic consequences, but some bad social consequences,'' said Xu Baozheng, a military doctor who was examining patients for free. ''We need to get rid of some of those bad things and restore some traditional values.'' Morality drives have long been a fixture of Chinese government, and many residents can recall the Five Standards, Four Virtues and Three Loves - a package of moral instructions from 1980s campaigns.

By harkening back to ''socialist'' themes, Hu is seeking to show citizens that in a turbulent market economy, traditional values have a place, said Zhang Zhenming, who helped write an instant textbook promoting Hu's campaign.

''Westerners have a notion of sin that comes from religion, but Chinese people aren't so religious,'' he told Reuters.

''We use shame to encourage morality, and because our country is in a period of transition, General Secretary Hu says we need to remind people what society considers shameful.'' On Chinese Internet sites, including that of the official People's Daily, some citizens have said the biggest threat to morality comes from ''parasitic officials'' and ''bandit police.'' But older residents said China needed a stiff dose of moral campaigning to restore old-fashioned virtues.

''These days people don't even cross the street properly,'' said Zhang Guangyu, a Communist Party stalwart who was fixing fountain pens for free on the shopping street.

''We need some education to wake people up,'' he said, eyeing a youth with pierced ears and hair dyed bright orange.


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