by Charles Hutzler
Associated Press Writer
PUSALU VILLAGE, China (AP) -- Poor farmers in Beijing's barren
hills saw it: an object swathed in colored light arcing heavenward that some
say must have been a UFO.
They're not alone. People in 12 other Chinese cities reported possible
UFO sightings last month. UFO researchers,
meanwhile, were busy looking into claims of an alien abduction in Beijing.
At the beginning of the new millennium, China is astir with sightings of
otherworldly visitors. Such sightings are treated with unexpected
seriousness in this country usually straight jacketed by its communist
China has a bimonthly magazine -- circulation 400,000 -- devoted to
UFO research. The conservative state-run media report UFO
sightings. UFO buffs claim support from eminent scientists and
liaisons with the secretive military, giving their work a scientific sheen
"Some of these sightings are real, some are fake and with others its
unclear,'' said Shen Shituan, a real rocket scientist, president of
Beijing Aerospace University and honorary director of the China
UFO Research Association. "All these phenomena are worth researching.''
Research into UFOs will help spur new forms of high-speed
travel, unlimited sources of energy and faster-growing crops, claims Sun
Shili, president of the government-approved UFO Research
Association (membership 50,000).
For thousands of years, Chinese
have looked to the skies for portents of change on Earth.
While China is passing through its first millennium using the
West's Gregorian calendar, the traditional lunar calendar is ushering in the
Year of the Dragon, regarded as time of tumultuous change.
"All of that sort of millennial fear and trepidation fits in so nicely with
Chinese cosmology -- and also the Hollywood propaganda that everybody's been
lapping up,'' said Geremie Barme, a Chinese culture watcher at
Australia National University.
In Pusalu, a patch of struggling corn and bean farms 30 miles
from Beijing, villagers believe cosmic forces were at play on Dec. 11. As
they tell it, an object the size of a person shimmering with golden light
moved slowly up into the sky from the surrounding arid mountains.
"It was so beautiful, sort of yellow,'' villager Wang Cunqiao said. "It
was like someone flying up to heaven.''
What "it'' was remains a topic of debate. Many villagers are fervent
Buddhists. But local leaders want to play down any religious
overtones, fearing that government censure may spoil plans to attract
tourism to Pusalu.
"Some say it was caused by an earthquake. Some say it was a UFO.
Some say it was a ray of Buddha. I'm telling everyone to call
it an auspicious sign,'' said Chen Jianwen, village secretary for the
officially atheistic Communist Party.
State media ignored religious interpretations and labeled the celestial
events in Pusalu, Beijing, Shanghai
and 10 other Chinese cities in December as possible UFOs. But
UFO researchers have largely dismissed the sightings as
airplane trails catching the low sun.
"If the military didn't chase it, it's because they knew it wasn't a UFO. They were probably testing a new aircraft,'' said Chen
Yanchun, a shipping company executive who helps manage the China UFO
Research Resource Center.