January 17-24, 2006

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Language exchange

"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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Emptied Shanghai Orthodox churches await new roles

By Mark South

With their imposing architecture, cavernous vaulted ceilings and ornate decoration, Shanghai's old Russian Orthodox churches should be prime real estate.

Plumb in the middle of Downtown Shanghai, the former St Nicholas' in Gaolan Road and the Mission church in Xinle Road, both built in the 1930s and registered by the municipal government as architectural heritage, would be worth a fortune to any private investor.

Strange then that today the two buildings stand empty.

The last tenant of the Mission church, The Dome - a teahouse, restaurant and nightclub - has long since vacated the premises.

"It's been closed for more than a year," said a man named Qu who sells newspapers outside the church. "The local government wanted to protect the building and make sure it wasn't damaged so they closed it down."

A short walk away, the building that started life as St Nicholas' church but most recently played venue to the Ashanti Dome, an award winning French restaurant and bar, is also derelict.

According to a Mr Yang, officer with the Luwan district economic committee and custodian of the empty building, the French eatery moved out last November.

"In October we were told to protect the building and the restaurant left. I come here every day to make sure everything is secure - I don't know what will happen in the end but at the moment it isn't on the market for anything."

Built between 1932 and 1934, as well as spending time as a church and a French restaurant, St Nicholas' has hosted various unlikely activities. According to one local history website, the church was once home to a washing machine factory.

During the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) it faced demolition but local residents hung a large picture of Chairman Mao from the roof, and the church was spared.

Before the restaurant opened six years ago, Yang added, the building housed the community cultural office and had also spent time unoccupied.

"I used to sneak in when I was young," said the 55-year-old. "But when it was empty it was really frightening inside."

Yan Ronghua, Yang's boss, whose phone number is posted on the firmly locked door of the building, said orders to remove the bar and restaurant had come from the Central Government and the owner had been compensated for the loss.

The Russian Consulate in Shanghai was unable to confirm whether its government had requested the bars and restaurants be closed for being disrespectful to the buildings' religious past.

Mr Zhang, a security guard working near St Nicholas', was happy its tenure on the Shanghai bar scene had come to an end.

"In the past the bar was very popular and attracted a lot of foreigners. During the day it was quiet but at night it would get quite noisy with tables and chairs on the front terrace. It definitely won't be a bar or restaurant again."

The future use of the buildings appears to be undecided, but one clear favourite has already emerged for St Nicholas' at least.

"It would be great if it could be a church again," said Zhang. "A lot of foreign tourists still come here to take pictures and it would be heartbreaking if the building was ruined."


Cai Shaoyao

Balance public opinion and judicial independence



End of the Dream
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Auto fans melt away
With the approach of the Formula One Grand Prix, Yu Zhifei, deputy general manager of the Shanghai International Circuit, was worried about how to attract enough spectators to the circuit and rev up sluggish fan interest in the event.
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Under artificial eyes

FOR most customers, CCTV (closed-circuit television) surveillance cameras installed in shops, banks, buses or metro stops and many other places, merit little attention. But for Xiao Gang, such cameras have become an agonizing and confusing problem.

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