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Xinhua News, March 2, 2007

Ten ferries are to be added to the Macao-Hong Kong route as more casino projects are under construction in Macao, the Macao Post Daily reported Friday. The new ferries will help bring more Hong Kong gamblers to Macao, said the newspaper. Hong Kong residents dominate some 30 to 40 percent of the tourist arrivals in Macao annually.

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March 1, 2007
Local markets for live fowls and processed fowl products have been suspended of trading since a new case of human infection of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu virus was found in Jian’ou, a city in east China’s Fujian Province, late last month.
 
Local health authorities early on Thursday informed the public of the confirmation of the case.
 
In an interview with Xinhua on Thursday, an official from Jian’ou, a county-level city under jurisdiction of Nanping City, admitted that a five-level reporting network, from the levels of the village through to the province, had been put into operation around the clock.
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Xinhua News, March 1, 2007
Chairman Mao Memorial Hall is to close from March 3 to September 20 for maintenance, according to the hall’s administration.
 
Located in Tian’anmen Square in downtown Beijing, Chairman Mao Memorial Hall was built after Mao Zedong died on September 9, 1976 and completed in May 1977. Since the hall opened on September 9 the same year, it has received 158 million visitors, who came to pay respects to the late Chinese leader.
 
Mao Zedong (1893-1976), a native of Hunan Province in central China, was one of the founding members of the Communist Party of China.
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Regarded as the important symbol of the Chinese cultural treasure, Terra-cotta Warriors, one of the eighth wonders of the world, were hidden underground buried with Emperor in Qin Dynasty for over two millennia. But now another army, made of women and children, have come to people's sights, telling vivid stories about the cruelty of war.

The array of soldiers, created by 50-year-old Norwegian artist Marian Heyerdahl, has been on display recently in 798 Space, a gallery in a trendy art community "Dashanzi" in Beijing. Modeled after the famous terracotta soldiers in ancient capital city Xi'an in northwest China, the army consists of 57 statue terracotta warriors in the form of women and children, which attracting many Chinese and foreign visitors.
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The China National Tourism Administration has announced a further loosening of restrictions on foreign-funded travel agencies. An official with the administration says the new policy - which starts in July - will make it easier for foreign agencies to enter the Chinese market. Ning Yan has the story:

Reporter:
Man Hongwei, head of the Administration's Department of Quality Control and Management, says now is the time to put the policy in place.

"On July 1st, we will fulfill two promises we made when we entered the World Trade Organization, that's half a year ahead of schedule. First, the amount of capital required to register foreign travel agencies will be the same as local agencies across the country. Second, foreign-funded travel agencies will be allowed to set up their branches in all provinces."

Man Hongwei says foreign-funded travel agencies must currently have a minimum of 2.5 million yuan, or about 300 thousand US dollars, in capital to set up an office in the country. But this will be remarkably reduced by 40% to 1.5 million yuan.

The official says China's tourism industry has met most of the commitments made when China joined the WTO five years ago. He says the world's top 10 hotel chains have already expanded their business to China. And there are now no barriers for foreign-funded hospitality groups seeking to enter the Chinese market.

Man Hongwei adds that there are now 25 foreign and joint-venture travel agencies in China, including the world's largest, American Express, and Europe's largest, TUI.

He says he believes the new policy will attract more international hospitality groups to China and help boost the country’s tourism industry.
Vice-president of American Express, Gregor Lochtie, welcomes the relaxation of restrictions on foreign-funded travel agencies.

"I think the changes are positive. From the business travel and corporate travel management, which American Express operates, most of the major agencies in the world already have operations in China. They may be another segment of the travel industry, new foreign players that enter the Chinese market."

In 2006, the total number of tourists traveling to and from China hit 80 million, bringing revenue of 600 billion yuan, or about 75 billion US dollars, to the country's tourism industry.

China is now the world's fourth most popular tourist destination and Asia's largest source of tourists. The World Tourism Organization predicts that the country has the potential to become the world's second most popular tourist destination. It says the 2008 Beijing Olympics will be an especially big boost to the Chinese tourism market.

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