Why People's Daily Is More Fun Than Hydroponics

HONG KONG (05/16/2000) - I don't know about you, but I find genuine Internet-based entertainment in dangerously short supply. Sure, I've got a couple of sites bookmarked, such as The Onion (http://www.theonion.com) and Salon (http://www.salon.com).

Although I enjoy the quality of writing that Salon offers, it's just too serious for me sometimes. That's when I head for The Onion. Stories like "Student snaps awake upon hearing word 'hydroponics'" never fail to brighten up my day. And then there's Jim Anchower's column, The Cruise -- that's some fine reading, amigos.

But The Onion is updated weekly, and that's just not enough for me. Thank goodness I've discovered People's Daily Online (http://www.peopledaily.com.cn).

Updated every day (in theory, at least), People's Daily Online offers up some of the funniest reading you'll find on the Internet. Hands down.

Take this gem posted on May 2: "HK vows to become Asia's Green Model for Environment."

The article quotes our fearless leader and Chief Executive (Officer) Tung Chee-Hwa announcing that environmental protection "is a matter of utmost importance."

"Without clean air and clean water we cannot fully achieve our goal of being a world city," added Tung.

"We aim to make Hong Kong even greener," said Tung, perhaps explaining why the government has decided to bulldoze undeveloped green areas for the construction of projects such as the Hong Kong Cyberport and Disneyland.

People's Daily also covers the tough human-rights stories. Just take a look at the lead story the site ran on May 5, entitled "China fulfills obligations under U.N. convention against torture."

At first I thought this might be a hard-hitting expose, revealing how Chinese officials had already tortured their quota of prisoners for the year.

Boy, was I wrong! Instead, the story covered a report on the use of torture in Chinese prisons presented by a Chinese official at some U.N. meeting.

Did you know that 179 people were convicted in China of extorting confessions from suspects using torture? I sure didn't. In fact, I would have thought that the number was a lot higher. Thanks to People's Daily I'm now on top of the ... ummm ... facts.

But it seems that the hot shots at the U.N. were impressed. A Cypriot rapporteur (defined as someone who gives reports, perhaps professionally) was reported to have said, "The Chinese report is a good report indeed. ... It follows all the guidelines."

Of course, I'm not sure what the guidelines for U.N. reports are. The article didn't say. For all I know, the only guidelines could have been that the report be really long and really boring (perhaps touching on the mating habits of the rare Siberian mountain goat.)But besides tackling the tough stories, the People's Daily Online site seems to be striving to be culturally sensitive as well. Take the story entitled "Indian army denies report it killed 9 Pakis," for instance. Maybe next week they'll let us know what whitey's up to these days.

But the stories offered up by the wacky bunch at People's Daily are just the tip of the iceberg. In a remarkable display of ... umm ... openness, People's Daily Online also offers a discussion forum where users can join an ongoing discourse on this and other issues. Of course, most of what gets discussed seems to be users railing at Western imperialism (or something) or complaining that their politically sensitive posts are being censored. But, hey, that's what makes this site so much fun.

Once you've had enough of the discussion forum, head back to the main page.

Here you'll find a link to a special section titled "Refuting Annette Lu's remarks." In this section, you'll be able to find a whole bunch of entertaining articles such as "What is Annette Lu up to?", "Wrath from Annette Lu's hometown" and "Annette Lu betrays motherland."

Reading through all this coverage of Taiwan Vice President Lu, I'm starting to suspect that someone in China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait made a pass at her and got blown off.

Now, I'm not saying that People's Daily is the only source of online humor available to you. There's also the business section of your favorite daily newspaper. Just about any article concerning the listing plans of a local Internet start-up company is bound to bring a smile to your day.

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