December 29, 2005 - January 4, 2006

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"The most important characteristic of a chief executive of any region is that he or she should be a noble person."

- Li Ka Shing, business tycoon from Hong Kong, on the topic of the special administrative region's future chief executive. see more

Arabian delights

CHEF Tarek Mouriess carried about 10 kinds of ingredients in his suitcase on his flight to Shanghai to host an Arabic Food Promotion at the Hilton Shanghai.
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Snooker wonder proves father knows best

By Wu Jiao

With impressive victories in the China Open in April and the UK Championship this month, 18-year-old Chinese snooker prodigy Ding Junhui lit up this year's snooker world with unprecedented brilliance.
Sensational victory

Born on April 1, 1987 in Yixing, a city 180 kilometres from Shanghai, snooker superstar Ding Junhui has accomplished an impressive string of victories since 2000.

At the age of 13, Ding won his first prize by finishing third in an Asian Invitational Tournament.

He further stunned the snooker world in 2002 by winning both the Asian under-21 and senior titles and the World Under-21 Championship in Latvia. In the same year, snooker's new star won a gold medal in the Asian Games and reached the semi-finals of the World Amateur Championship.

Due to his outstanding amateur record during 2002-03, he turned professional at the age of 16.

Ding became the second youngest winner of the ranking tournament on April 3, two days after his 18th birthday, which made him the first Asian winner since James Wattana in 1995.

Taking the UK title, the sport's second-biggest tournament, raised him from number 62 to 31 in the world rankings.

While the world cheered his success, Ding's competitors also gave a thumbs-up for this remarkable young man.

"It was only a matter of time before he joined the sport's elite," said Steve Davis, the six-time World Champion who was beaten 10-6 by Ding in the final of the UK Championship.

Ice-cool personality

The words most frequently used by the media when describing Ding are "ice-cool" and "mature".

As a matter of fact, Ding is mature for his age and looks very relaxed on the big stage. He is very strong in taking the initiative to attack and his performance has impressed his opponents.

"There are loads of people who can pot balls but his level of maturity marks him out as something special," said Davis. "I'm pretty certain he'll be a top-eight player fairly soon."

With Ding's success all but assured, the question now is whether it will all go to his head. "I will always keep my feet on the ground. I play snooker just for my interest, not for the sake of fame. So, fame will not influence my play," he said.

Even now, having reached the heights in world snooker, Ding practises as hard as always - eight hours a day from 10 am to 6 pm, without a day off.
According to Ding Wenjun, Ding Junhui's father, the most remarkable feature of his son is that he keeps a cool head, an important characteristic for a snooker player.
"His cool-headedness and modesty help him to play steadily in every match," said Ding Wenjun, the father.
Growing pains
While many snooker fans may easily list the prizes Ding has won, few of them know that he first entered the field as a wild card.
According to Ding Wenjun, who also was a snooker player, he first detected his son's talent when Ding was just 8.
"When I was playing with my friends, he was attracted by the colourful balls and would play by himself on another table for a whole day," said the father. "Then I decided to cultivate his talent."
In order to ensure that the boy always had a table on which to practise, Ding Wenjun gave up his business and opened a snooker club.
"That way I could reserve a table for my son at any time, and more people would come to play, which would help him practise," said the father.
According to Ding Junhui, his father put so much time and energy into his training that the family business suffered.
One year later, Ding Junhui was unbeatable in his hometown. He began to receive systematic training and participate in senior events at the age of 11. Immediately his adult opponents found he was almost unbeatable.
In order to further improve Ding Junhui's skill, the senior Ding decided to bring the boy to Dongguan in Guangdong Province, where the national snooker team trains.
"I wanted to find a better tutor for my son there. I wanted my son to improve more in that environment," he said.
But their stay in Dongguan was to be full of hardship.
To support Ding's training in the local snooker club, his father had to work as a casual labourer. With no money for rent, father and son lived in a five-square-metre room partitioned off from the club.
"It possessed no decent beds, but just a board supported by some abandoned trestles," recalled the father. "Mosquitoes and humidity made it hard to sleep in summer."
Finally, they ran out of their savings as Ding Junhui took part in more and more competitions.
"I made a long-distance call to my wife who had stayed in Yixing, asking her to sell our house. It was the family's last possession," said Ding Wenjun.
"I really owe my deepest gratitude to my father for his perseverance. He is my greatest friend," Ding Junhui told China Daily, full of emotion.
Ding's later success proved his father's decision to take him to Guangdong was worth the adversity.
"Playing with the outstanding players there helped me greatly. I made good progress through that experience," said the youthful snooker wonder.
But Ding Wenjun's decision to train his young son as a professional snooker player aroused much controversy.
"It is quite a bet on life. What if the boy hadn't succeeded and in the meantime lost the best years of study," said a mother who heard of Ding's story.
Facing such scepticism, the father said he would never regret his decision.
"I initially didn't expect my boy to be so remarkable. I just followed his interest and wanted to bring his snooker potential into full play. I have always thought that we should give those who are really talented a chance to realize their dreams," said Ding Wenjun.
Actually, another snooker prodigy, Liang Wenbo, who ranks among the top 100 in the snooker world, was also trained by Ding Wenjun.
Future plans
With fame now arriving, Ding's father told the media that he hopes his son wins the world championship.
But according to Ding Junhui: "My next target has not been decided. But I will take every match seriously as a chance to improve myself. I hope there is a bigger stage for me."
Ding Junhui said he felt lucky to have the chance to play against world-class opponents.
"They each have their own style. Only by dealing with each of them will I become fully prepared in any situation," said the boy.
Ding said that being the only Chinese superstar in world snooker was lonely, at times.
"I hope there will be many more Chinese players in the future who perform well in the major tournaments, and I believe there will be," he said.
There are three Chinese players on snooker's professional tour: Ding, Liang Wenbo (world No 84) and Jin Long (100).
Continuing his studies has become a high priority for both Ding and his parents.
According to the senior Ding, after his son gave up his schooling at the age of 13 in order to concentrate on snooker, Ding Junhui has learned from tutors for two or three hours every day.
"But it is still far from enough," said Ding Wenjun.
According to Lu Hao, Ding's agent, the boy is communicating with several universities in Shanghai to choose the right major to study.
Ding's legend in snooker has provoked considerable admiration among Chinese students, who are mostly urged by their parents to study hard and never consider any other possibility in life.
"The magic achieved by Ding proves that we have many roads to choose between for our future development, rather than just study, study and study," said Wang Shan, a 12-year-old middle school boy from Ding's hometown.
But Ding said that he does not recommend that other children give up their studies without prudent consideration.
"It really depends on each individual. If you think you are really interested and also talented in one way, just pursue it. Otherwise, you'd better follow the normal path," said Ding Junhui.
Ding was once camera shy, but now he seems to enjoy the attention.
"A fully mature person should be experienced in every aspect of life. Social communication is also a skill that Ding Junhui is learning to handle properly," said his agent, Lu.
In his spare time, Ding likes to watch Jackie Chan movies and enjoys swimming.
"Both of them bring me total relaxation," he said.

Cai Shaoyao

Balance public opinion and judicial independence



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