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Blogging Beijing

The 2008 Summer Olympics will punctuate three decades of development and test China's global legitimacy. They've already transformed the way millions of people think and live. Seattleite and Fulbright researcher Daniel Beekman brings you Beijing.

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August 10, 2008 5:05 AM

Drum Tower tragedy

Posted by Daniel Beekman

A Minnesota couple - parents of 2004 volleyball Olympian Elisabeth Bachman and in-laws of U.S. men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon - was attacked by a knife-wielding Chinese man while touring Beijing's 13th-century Drum Tower yesterday.

Todd Bachman was killed. His wife, Barbara, sustained stab wounds and was rushed into surgery. This morning in Beijing, the U.S. Olympic Committee reported her condition as critical but stable. The couple's Chinese guide was also hospitalized.

The attacker, Tang Yongming, took his own life - leaping off a 130-foot high balcony on the Drum Tower. According to U.S. officials in Beijing, Interpol and Chinese authorities, the stabbing was an 'act of senseless violence,' rather than a terrorist attack related to the 2008 Games.

"At the Drum Tower? What happened?" a Beijing breakfast cook asked Saturday. "Was it terrorist attack? If not, it shouldn't affect Sino-U.S. relations."

"Yeah, I read about the incident online last night," said a young Olympic volunteer and subway attendant. "It's really sad. The guy jumped afterwards, right?

"Every city that hosts the Games is vulnerable to these kind of happenings. Our country's police are working hard, but they can only protect most people. They can't protect every single person all the time."

An instant headline in America, the Drum Tower deaths have received little media attention thus far in Beijing.

"I don't think there was anything about it in yesterday's Wanbao ('Evening News')," a street-side drink-seller said Saturday morning. "I don't know why."

"No, no, no," an elderly woman wearing the red ribbon of Beijing's Olympic neighborhood guards on her sleeve responded. "I don't know what you're talking about."

This morning's Xinjingbao ('Beijing News') ran a short brief on Page A15 with the headline "Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses concern for attacked American tourists."

"I haven't heard anything - I didn't watch television last night," said a Chinese man strolling through Beijing's Olympic green.

"Nobody wishes for this sort of thing, especially all of us in China," a Beijing college student and Olympic volunteer remarked Saturday. "Although security is tight these days, preventing this sort of thing is impossible."

Beijing News brief on Drum Tower attacks (upper right).

Foreign fans seek tickets Saturday morning near Beijing's 2008 Olympic Green.

Front page of Saturday's Beijing News - China's first 2008 gold medalist.

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August 9, 2008 5:12 PM

Meet Beijing's Olympic volunteers

Posted by Daniel Beekman

I penned a story on Beijing's university student Olympic volunteers for today's Seattle Times - 'Army of volunteers powers the Olympics.'

It's an intimate look at the young men and women Beijing has asked to keep the 2008 Games running smoothly. This month, they'll attempt to bridge the cultural gap separating East and West. They are a fascinating group - China's future leaders.

An excerpt from the story:

BEIJING - Today and every day of the Olympics, John Marshall Wu will begin work before sunrise - interpreting for Ukranian martial artists and Georgian judo masters.

Wu, 22, is a Beijing university student and a 2008 Olympics volunteer. He is one of 75,000 fanny-packed volunteers who will wait on the top athletes and luckiest fans.

"Fun? I'm not sure the Games will be fun," Wu said. "At times I'll be bored. At times I'll be tired. At all times, though, I'll be happy."

Continue reading here.


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'Beijing The Fashion Olympics'

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August 9, 2008 5:30 AM

Opening Ceremonies at Wangfujing

Posted by Daniel Beekman

Those with money, power and press passes flocked to the Beijing's Bird's Nest National stadium last night for a radiant Olympic opening ceremonies.

Most Beijingers stayed home, pressed round televisions blaring the long-awaited news - success for China!

But the 80,000-seat Bird's Nest couldn't hold Beijing's patriotic young people. Nor could the city's five million televisions satisfy them.

Enthusiastic Beijingers poured into 26 jumbotron equipped 'Cultural Squares' Friday to sweat, hug and cheer - from Ditan Park near the capital's largest Tibetan temple, to cosmopolitan Chaoyang District's ritziest shopping mall, to suburban Fengtai's Lotus Flower Park, to the Avenue of Everlasting Peace and shopper's walk Wangfujing.

Watching the opening ceremonies at Wangfujing Shopping Street in Beijing

Thousands watched director Zhang Yimou's spectacular ode to the Chinese culture and civilization at Wangfujing, where 'Go China!' chants occasionally broke through an appreciative hush. Zhang's glowing scroll, air-bound astronaut and human hanzi (Chinese characters) won over the crowd.

Then a global marathon, as athletes from 204 nations marched into China's massive National Stadium. Applause for Australia, Hungary, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, Ivory Coast soccer boss Didier Drogba, the NBA's Dirk Nowitzki and Russian politician Vladimir Putin.

Many Wangfujing youngsters booed Japan's Olympic athletes, and drowned out shouts of 'USA!' screaming 'Victory for China!' America's Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, favored to snatch a gold medal in basketball, stood tall.

Those who remained past midnight saw gymnast-turned-businessman Li Ning's stunning aerial sprint to light 2008's Olympic flame, and went wild with excitement.

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August 8, 2008 8:53 AM

Bush opens new American embassy in Beijing

Posted by Daniel Beekman

American President George W. Bush opened a muscular new U.S. Embassy in Beijing today, the world's second-largest diplomatic compound (America's war-ready Baghdad Embassy ranks number one).

Hazy skies heralded the day of China's Olympic opening ceremonies and a fresh era in Sino-U.S. relations, one defined by close economic ties and increasing competition. A small group of Beijing neighbors turned up for the show.

But Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, slipped into the $434 million, 500,000 square-foot complex unseen, then presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony behind thick, sandy walls and bulletproof glass. Chinese servers donned red, white and blue lonestar shirts and cowboy hats for the occasion.

"I don't like Xiao Bushi ('Little Bush')," said a tailor squatting nearby. "He's too bull-headed. But Chinese-American relations have really improved.

"I'll admit it - I didn't like your government very much before. Now China and the U.S. are partners, though - friends."

President Bush arrived in Beijing early this week, and plans to attend tonight's Olympic opening ceremonies.

"I was glad to hear he'll attend," a Qingdao-based businessman said. "There are a few world leaders who've talked about boycotting Beijing's Games. It's so strange - why boycott a global sports event and offend everyone?"

Dominated by a central glass tower, the new embassy will house 700 staffers and more than 20 federal agencies. China unveiled its own bulky embassy in Washington, D.C. last week - the city's largest.

"China is developing fast," another spectator commented Friday morning. "Twenty-five, fifty years from now our GDP may exceed America's. GDP doesn't mean everything, though."

"I've never known an American well," said a caterer standing outside the embassy. "What are Americans like? I'm not sure."

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August 8, 2008 8:11 AM

Torch relay...out of sight

Posted by Daniel Beekman

They arrived in twos and threes yesterday afternoon, toting Chinese flags and digital cameras. A sizeable crowd formed round Ditan Park's southern gate.

"I'm here for the torch relay," a Beijing real estate broker exclaimed. "These are China's first Olympics. As hosts, we Chinese feel we should actively support the 2008 Games. Being here for the torch relay - it makes me happy."

Enthusiastic throngs have trailed China's Olympic flame through more than 100 cities along its domestic torch, which began May 2 in Hong Kong.

Chinese spectators rallied behind the relay this April, when politically minded protestors sought to snuff the flame in London and Paris, two of 20 international stops.

Eager fans pressed against security guards and police barricades at Beijing's Tiantan (Temple of Heaven) Wednesday, straining for a glimpse of China's celebrity torchbearers.

"Olympics! Peace! Flame!" beamed a young man selling 'Go China' headbands. "I sold a bunch at Tiantan - so far not many here."

Other Ditan opportunists peddled flags, stickers, pins, face paint and t-shirts - all China red.

"I rode the train in from my hometown today," a stooped migrant worker from Liaoning province said. "It took 12 hours - 'hard seat.' I'm here for two days. I don't have any tickets, so I'll just walk around.

"When I was young, I didn't even know about the Olympic Games. Now I'm in Beijing!"

Towering Basketball star Yao Ming will carry China's flag into the Bird's Nest (National Stadium), but organizers have kept mum on who will light the Olympic cauldron during tonight's opening ceremonies.

Candidates include Yao, gold medalist hurdler Liu Xiang and gymnast-businessman Li Ning. Some here have speculated that Yao will help a child finish China's relay, perhaps one of Sichuan province's earthquake orphans.

Luminaries like Washington's former Chinese-American governor, Gary Locke, and kung-fu legend Jackie Chan have served as torchbearers this summer.

"Liu Xiang, Yao Ming, whoever - I love them all," a woman in straw hat and sunglasses said. "Whoever runs past, I'll cheer."

Posters nearby advertised a two-minute jog through Ditan - the torch relay's final stop for the day. But an hour before the flame was supposed to arrive police pulled out bullhorns and advised the crowd to disperse.

"Zheli kanbujian," they shouted. "From here you won't be able to see. You might as well go home."

Only spectators carrying special 'passes' would be allowed to enter the park and cheer on the Olympic flame.

Local organizers have exercised strict control over the relay in Beijing, hoping to avoid unseemly disruptions. Yesterday morning, residents cursed Chinese soldiers after being forced from Tiananmen Square ahead of the Olympic flame.

"I'm a little disappointed that we won't be able to see," admitted a young 2008 Games volunteer. "Don't worry though, I won't lose my Olympic reqing ('passion'). I'm headed to the countdown at Tiananmen Square tonight."

"I heard the police just now, but I'm not sure they're speaking the truth," an elderly woman said. "Anyway, this is my last chance to see the relay. I'm going to stay right here."


'Let the God Games Begin'

'Olympian Blogger: Chris Liwski'

'Compliments for President Bush'

'US pastor paints Beijing hotel rooms in protest'

'China apologizes for police beating of foreign journalists'

'Disputes aside on Bush's visit to Beijing'

'Beijingers open doors to foreign guests'

'Steve Kelley: China and the NBA'

'US men beat Japan in soccer opener'

'Beijing Olympics: Where are the Japanese tourists'

'Pacific Northwest Olympic athletes'

'Shandong province cuts electricty for Games'

'Joint Korean Olympic march cancelled'

'2008 Olympics viewers guide'

'Protestors detained by Beijing police'

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August 6, 2008 5:46 PM

A Beijing courtyard epic

Posted by Daniel Beekman

(Note: Phone calls to the property developer referenced below went unanswered. This Blogging Beijing entry, therefore, speaks to one family's experience only. It does not represent a full investigation. The principal interviewees also asked that their Chinese names be withheld.)

"This courtyard has suffered three great dramas, three great crises," Tina H began solemnly.

Spectacled and graying, Ms. H spoke with her hands - as if she were literally reaching into her family's troubled past, plucking memories from a tree.

"They took our furniture. They choked our goldfish to death with perfume. They burned our apricot tree."

Ms. H has told the story many times.

Spanning a Cultural Revolution, an economic explosion and China's Olympic movement, the story is far from over.

The courtyard Red Guards took from the Hs in 1966, the courtyard Ms. H reclaimed decades later, is in danger again. A well-connected Beijing developer is determined to wrest it away.

Ms. H's younger brother has returned from Seattle; although they possess no deed to the courtyard, the Hs intend to keep their home.

"Our leaders want to build towers. They want to put on a show for the world," remarked Bill H, who deals software. "They want to earn money.

"The people who want our courtyard - we told them off. 'Just wait until the Games are done,' they said. Post-Olympics, the harmony you see in Beijing today will disappear."

Mr. and Ms. H, brother and sister, are mired in an unusual property dispute, their family courtyard casualty to a quirk of history. It was confiscated during China's chaotic Cultural Revolution, afterwards sold to a private firm.

While Chinese leaders later condemned the Cultural Revolution, the Hs were never recompensed. They've waited 40 years.

A young boy explores the H family courtyard, a forest of flowers and vines today.

An abandoned factory sags at the back of the courtyard, left from China's Cultural Revolution.

Mr. and Ms. H's grandfather with Mao Zedong (center right, wearing cap) in the Red Army' s stronghold Yan'an, 1939.

Ms. H remembers her grandfather well. A physician, he kept nine pretty bottles on a sandalwood table in the courtyard's west wing.

One day in 1966, the bottles - valuable antiques - disappeared.

"I asked my grandfather where the bottles had gone," Ms. H recalled. "He said Red Guards would inspect our home, that they'd consider the bottles old and wrong, that even under my bed the bottles wouldn't be safe. I was devastated."

On the evening of August 24, 1966, Ms. H heard jogging boots. Red Guards - Chairman Mao Zedong's young fanatics. They seized the courtyard and forced Ms. H's grandparents to kneel.

The Hs didn't stray far. They settled in a compound across the street, sharing it with five other families - more than 30 people. That's where Mr. H grew up. He lived within spitting distance of his former home for 16 years.

Red Guards targeted landowners and intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution; Ms. H's grandfather was both. In 1967, a radical 'counter-current' swept through Beijing.

"My grandfather wouldn't shut his mouth in defeat," remembered Ms. H. "So he bore the brunt of it."

Ms. H's grandfather was arrested, beaten and held for a year. The Hs shouldered his criminal reputation.

"The other families in our compound were very poor," said Ms. H. "They ate only steamed buns. Yet they taunted us. We had enough money to buy rice, but rarely smiled. I envied the other children, chewing their steamed buns."

Mr. and Ms. H were ridiculed at school. Ms. H remembers the Cultural Revolution vividly: red propaganda posters and neighborhood parades. Meanwhile, the courtyard served as a kindergarten and a state-run electronics factory.

Suddenly, in 1976, the Cultural Revolution came to a close. Ms. H was 20.

"One day, I reached an intersection," she said. "There was a crowd waiting to cross. Someone called my name. 'Your courtyard's been sold again.'

"The news hit me like a bolt from the blue. 'Now,' I thought, 'I have to snatch it back.'"

So began a second crisis. Aided by factory insiders, Ms. H snuck into the courtyard and took up residence. From 1982 on, she shared the space with the courtyard's buyer.

The buyer, an import-export company, took Ms. H to court. A district judge ordered her out. She appealed; a city judge concurred in 1990.

Six years later, China's supreme court tried the case. Ms. H lost again. Thanks to the People's Congress Overseas Chinese Committee, the suit disappeared.

Quarrels over property are common in China, where there's only one official landowner: the Chinese Communist Party. Residents who resist development are known as 'nail-house' fighters - dingzihu.

"We don't have private property in China," explained Matthew Gao, Secretary General of the Beijing Planner's Society. "The state wields a lot of power. When these disputes go to court, the common people often lose."

Sometimes dingzihu hold out for money; that isn't what the Hs are after.

"We're willing to negotiate," said Mr. H. "The bottom line is 'we want to live here.'"

Until 2003, Ms. H shared the courtyard with the import-export company. She often dreamed about what the home had been like decades before - a friendly, secluded abode.

"Our courtyard was peculiar to Beijing," Ms. H recalled. "It had three successive gates and a corridor of scientific design. In the summer, our roof blocked the sun. In the winter, the sun warmed my room."

Thousands of courtyards were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Thousands of blockish factory buildings were installed. Only one H family structure remains.

Today, market forces are finishing off Beijing's traditional neighborhoods.

"Beijing still had a city wall 20 years ago," said Gao. "It had 11 gates. Now three are left. The wall is gone."

Legislators have tried to restrict development ahead of the Olympics. They passed a comprehensive plan designating 31 'historical streets' in 2004.

But according to Hu Xinyu, director of the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center, implementation has been spotty at best.

"We're working with neighborhood committees," said Hu. "We want to help the government enforce these measures.

"Unfortunately, awareness is low. Most people have no idea there are such laws."

Mr. and Ms. H's altered home falls outside the sphere of heritage protection.

Ms. H reminisces about her simple courtyard life before the Cultural Revolution.

In the courtyard's abandoned factory, a first floor hallway.

'No trespassing' read the faded characters on the H's back wall.

In 2003, an infamous developer purchased the courtyard.

"They're very evil," declared Ms. H. "A few years ago, they tricked a resident into the street, covered his head with a black handkerchief and led him away.

"When he returned, his home was demolished. They threatened him with a knife; that's how they relocate people."

According to Ms. H, many Chinese developers operate outside the law.

"Some developers in Beijing are very cooperative," admitted Hu. "Others are quite arrogant, completely neglectful of courtyard preservation."

"In most cases, we acquire property already leveled," said a spokesman with high-end developer SOHO China (not the developer involved), who asked to remain anonymous.

"Generally, the city handles relocation and compensation. We are very respectful of the law."

A third crisis commenced March 25 this year. Over 100 men assembled unannounced and pushed over the Hs' rear wall.

Police sent the gang packing, though no arrests were made. 'You don't own the place,' the police told Ms. H. Mr. H hired a handful of guards, installed cameras and strengthened the courtyard's front gate.

On April 1, the gang reappeared; police turned them back. On April 3, they showed up again, to slice through the courtyard's electrical cables.

Nothing has happened for months now. Local authorities, says Mr. H, want no part of the conflict.

"The Olympics are coming soon," he said. "If a violent incident were to occur, the police would be punished and the district leaders would lose face."

Mr. H worries that foreign fans of the 2008 Games won't see 'the real China.'

"Our government wants the world to think China is a developing country, a land of opportunity for Fortune 500 companies," he said.

"Supposedly, we've built a harmonious society. But we want harmony anchored in justice, not force."

Will the Hs retain their courtyard after the Games?

"If you can prove that you owned property before 1949 and can prove it was confiscated, you've got a chance," said H. "It's nearly impossible, because of the Cultural Revolution."

"Things here have changed thanks to the Olympics," said Mr. H. "China has opened up to the world.

"But we still have a long way to go. Can property belong to individuals, or only the state? China needs to answer this question."

Seattle Times in Beijing:

'Times' Olympic coverage'

'Columnist Steve Kelley's blog'

'Reporter Kristi Heim's blog'

'Photographer Rod Mar's blog'


'Seattle Times' photographer Rod Mar takes in Beijing Olympic torch relay'

'ESPN reporter encounters trouble at Beijing Tibet protest'

'Usain Bolt still not sure if he'll run the sprint double'

'Dream Team welcomed to Beijing'

'Americans protest in Games city against Chinese abortions'

'American athletes apologize for masks'

'PETA press conference shut down in Beijing'

'Guangzhou's Olympic whistle-blowers'

'Asia Society on Beijing's air'

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August 6, 2008 5:35 PM

An Olympic mall

Posted by Daniel Beekman

Three months ago, the booted parking attendants and stilettoed saleswomen of Beijing's Modern Plaza (Dangdai Shangcheng) off North 3rd Ring Road played to a crowd of 100 domestic and international reporters.

An official 'Olympic mall,' Modern Plaza boasts staffers competent in French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, English. As for the reporters, "neither language nor physical obstacles stood in the way of their interviews."

So read a report released by BOCOG - Beijing's Olympic organizing committee - the same outfit responsible for May's event.

Modern Plaza, a five-story jewel of a mall where grannies bring toddlers to play in an outdoor fountain and angular beauties bring husbands to visit Cartier, expects to see a spike in foreign shoppers during this month's Games.

"Some foreign customers visit our mall normally, but not too many," admitted one Modern Plaza manager. "Maybe less than five percent of our shoppers are from abroad.

"In August there will be more, because of the Olympics. We are located near Beijing's Friendship Hotel - a famous place to stay. Plus, our mall is outstanding. We have been evaluated as such in terms of English service."

Boasting high-end retailers like Cartier, Beijing's Modern Plaza is an official 'Olympic mall.'

Every morning, Modern Plaza's parking lot doubles as a dance floor.

Modern Plaza's salespeople began attending English-language trainings in 2004.

"The Olympics are for giving foreigners a look at China," said a smartly dressed Samsonite Luggage saleswoman, hired a year ago. "I've studied English. I've participated in our Modern Plaza team activities.

"Learning English isn't difficult. It's basically the same as Chinese pinyin. Anyway, the English I know is simple. 'Welcome,' 'thank you for coming' - that kind of stuff."

Two young saleswomen bent over a small counter out front of Modern Plaza's Hush Puppies store.

"Actually, we're studying English right now," one laughed, pulling out a laminated phrase-sheet - '30 Essential Sentences.' "We're all studying English and Olympic history in our spare time. It's about improving our suzhi ('quality') and serving our foreign friends."

One of the sentences on her sheet was 'Made in Italy.' Another, 'Please take your belongings with you.'

"Business has been up in our store since 2007," said the Samsonite saleswoman. "We're selling more and more of the most expensive luggage."

Interactive map of Beijing/China - follow up on posts and get oriented:



'The Protest Games Begin'

'Torch relay route in Beijing unveiled'

'Bush to open new U.S. Embassy in Beijing on first day of Olympics'

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'Olympian Blogger: Jason Read'

'Who is That Masked Athlete?'

3 days to go - Beijing photo gallery

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August 5, 2008 4:09 PM

China's ethnic Koreans and the Olympics

Posted by Daniel Beekman

Once Yao Ming lights Beijing's Olympic cauldron and the 2008 Games begin, you'll hear a lot of talk about 'China' and 'the Chinese.'

Rightly so, because these are China's Olympic Games - Tibetan dissent notwithstanding, a truly unifying, national moment.

But it's worth remembering how enormous and diverse the Middle Kingdom is.

Several hundred miles northeast of Beijing there's a sliver of rugged, green land where most every morning reveals a 'blue sky day' and peddlers peddle leisurely, sniping at passersby in accented Korean.

"What're you doing up here?" a leathery man selling pears in Yanji city asked Monday. "The Olympics are in Beijing. Want to buy a pear?"

Yanji is the capital of Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin province, home to two million people - 850,000 members of China's Korean ethnic minority. Yanji and Yanbian are wedged between China, North Korea and Russia.

The 2008 Games have proved more contentious than even Zhongnanhai's critics expected. Spurned by princes and marathoners, championed by movie stars and dictators, China's first-ever Olympics have elicited ethnic unrest and intense media scrutiny.

Chief among the questions fueling pre-Games debate here and abroad: whose Olympics are these? Are they China's? Are they the world's? Do they belong to big business? Or to the Chinese people? To the rich? To the poor? To Beijing? Or to the entire country?

Years ago, Beijing's Olympic organizers bestowed on the 2008 Games a trio of didactic 'concepts' : 'Hi-tech Olympics,' 'Humanistic Olympics,' and 'People's Olympics.'

According to their official website:

"People's Olympics means that we will take the hosting of the Olympic Games as an opportunity to popularize the Olympic spirit...We will always give first consideration to the need of people...We will also encourage the widest participation of the people in the preparation for the Games, as it will greatly push forward the sports and cultural development nationwide and increase the cohesion and pride of the Chinese nation."

Chinese Olympic volunteers number over two million, from crossing guards to Internet nannies. Contrary to popular belief on the streets of Beijing, millions of tickets to the Games were sold at affordable rates.

Yet for the residents of isolated Yanji, less than 100km west of North Korea and culturally distinct from Beijing, what Olympic ownership is there to claim?

A statue representing longevity presides over China's border with North Korea.

Crossing into North Korea from China without a visa is strictly forbidden.

Tourists snap photos from China's half of a bridge; a faded poster of Kim Il-Sung.

China's partnership with North Korea has suffered in recent years.

Many ethnic Koreans here will cheer for China during Beijing's Olympics.

"I've got nothing to do with the Olympics personally," explained a newspaper seller in Yanji who belongs to China's Han Chinese majority. "I don't have the means to attend the Games in Beijing.

"Even when the torch relay came through Yanji, I stayed to man my newspaper stand. I support the Olympics all the same, though. I'm proud of China."

This summer's domestic torch relay represents organizers' bid to include all of China in the Olympics. The sacred flame passed through more than 100 Chinese cities on its way to Beijing. It will reach the capital tomorrow; on July 16 the torch relay visited Yanji.

"Yeah, I went to see the torch relay here," said an energetic, ethnic Korean man spitting seeds outside his Yanji cornerstone. "It was really great, although it rained."

An old ethnic Korean man exploded when asked about Beijing's Games.

"Jiayou! Jiayou! Aoyun jiaoyou! Aoyun wansui!" he shouted. "Go! Go! Go Olympics! Long live the Olympics!

"We're Korean - we are a minority in China. We welcome outsiders. We're just like you," he continued, then launched into another cheer. "Friendship! Harmony! WorldpeaceOlympicGamestenthousandyears!"

South Korean fashions dominate the small Chinese city of Yanji.

In Jilin province's Yanbian Prefecture, dog is a popular dish. Here, pet dogs for sale.

Yanji is buslting thanks to Chinese and South Korean investment.

Locals - Korean and Chinese - favor hikes on Mao'er mountain, near Yanji.

Green vistas, blue skies, fresh air...a world away from Beijing.

Traditional Korean culture, including dance, is alive and well in Yanbian.

There are rumors of ethnic competition, and possibly resentment, in Yanji. Decades ago the city was overwhelmingly Korean - a sleepy metropolis in North Korea's shadow. During the China's Cultural Revolution, it's said that some Yanji Koreans fled over the border.

Refugees cross from North Korea to China now, and Yanji's economy has taken off thanks to a booming Chinese markets and South Korean investment. South Koreans manage a top-notch university: the Yanbian College of Science and Technology.

"My older brother works for Samsung - a South Korean firm - in Guangzhou," said one recent graduate, a third-generation ethnic Korean.

In 1952 ethnic Koreans accounted for 60 percent of Yanbian's population - today half that. Yanji is a relatively prosperous city, and Han Chinese are moving in.

"Most Chaozu (ethnic Koreans) support China and the 2008 Games," the newspaper seller said. "The ones who don't, it's a personality problem. It's got nothing to do with their ethnicity."

"There are no ethnic problems here," said a female migrant worker from Liaoning province. "We're all for the Olympics and China."

"I've lived here 30 years," said a Beijing native and artist. "I was assigned to Yanji by the government after college graduation. We Chinese are peace-loving people. We avoid conflict. For all of us, these Olympics are a dream come true."

Koreans came to Yanbian in two waves - first in the 19th century, and again between the World Wars. Many sought refuge in China during Japan's 20th century occupation of Korea.

"My parents fled the Japanese, immigrated to Yanji," a 47-year old ethnic Korean said. "I was born here. The Olympics haven't really changed our lives. If South Korea were to face China during the Games, I suppose I'd cheer for the country with more athletic ability."

"We'll support China against Korea during the Olympics, of course," said a 16-year old boy. "Our family immigrated from Korea 20 years ago, but there's no difference between us and our Han neighbors."

Interactive map of Beijing/China - follow up on posts and get oriented:



'China tightens security following attack in west'

'Q&A: Terrorism in China'

'Usain Bolt still not sure if he'll run the sprint double'

'China's Sichuan hit by 6.0 magnitude quake, one dead'

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More from this blog

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