- PUSALU VILLAGE, China
(AP) - Poor farmers in Beijing's barren hills saw it: an object swathed
in colored light 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 cusp of the new millennium, China is astir with
sightings of otherworldly visitors. And for a country usually straightjacketed
by its communist rulers, alien sightings are getting serious treatment.
- 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 of respectability.
- "Some of these sightings are real, some are fake
and with others it's unclear," said Shen Shituan, a rocket scientist,
president of Beijing Aerospace University and honorary director of the
China UFO Research Association. "All these phenomena are worth researching."
- 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 (48 kilometers) 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
- "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.
- 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.
- "It was so beautiful, sort of yellow," villager
Wang Cunqiao said. "It was like someone flying up to heaven."
- 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.
- Operating from a dingy three-room flat in a Beijing apartment
block, the Resource Center keeps a version of China's X-Files: 140 dictionary-sized
boxes of fading newspaper clippings and eyewitness accounts of sightings.
The collection has, among others items, accounts that the military scrambled
planes in 1998 in unsuccessful pursuit of a UFO.
- Chen said the center had 500 reported UFO sightings in
1999, but after investigation confirmed cases will likely number 200 or
- He's currently checking on a worker's claims that aliens
entered his Beijing home in early December and, with his wife and child
present, spirited him 165 miles (265 kilometers) east and back in a few
- "The increase in flying saucer incidents is natural,"
said Chen, a former Aerospace Ministry researcher with a Ph.D. in aerodynamics.
He cited more manmade aerospace activity and radio signals from Earth penetrating
farther into space