Farmers turn to strippers and gambling

Updated: 2006-11-13 19:59

The exposure of strippers and gambling joints at a township fair in central China has sparked a nationwide debate over the evolving cultural values of the country's farmers.

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China Central Television (CCTV) aired a program at the weekend showing parents -- many with children -- watching naked women gyrating to loud music at a "tourism and culture festival" in Henan Province last week.

Dozens of strippers were occupying sheds along with heavily patronized gambling joints at the festival organized by the government of Duanji Township in Gushi County, according to the CCTV program.

However, local government officials ignored the illegal entertainment when journalists reported the activities.

Some farmers said the strippers performed at the fair last year.

The People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China, carried a commentary on Monday calling for the government to pay greater attention to the "cultural needs" of Chinese farmers.

The article said Chinese leaders had worried about the problems facing agriculture, rural areas and farmers in recent years, but had focused mainly on economic issues.

However, the cultural problems in rural areas were also serious, said the commentary. "When Chinese farmers have enough food and clothing, what will fill the vacuum in their hearts?" the article asked.

Investment in cultural projects accounted for just 28.1 percent of China's total cultural expenditure in 2003, and 71.9 percent went to urban areas.

"China's rural areas have been forgotten by mainstream culture," said the article.

Films about rural life, popular in the 1980s, were on the decline and were unavailable to many farmers. Some traditional local operas were disappearing from their hometowns.

Meanwhile striptease and gambling joints had sprung up in their place, the article warned, calling for writers and artists to create more works for China's 900 million farmers, to care for their needs and reflect their suffering.

The event also inspired a heated debate on the Internet. One user of said the phenomenon was common in many rural areas, especially in Anhui and Henan provinces, once the cradle of Chinese civilization.

"We should not blame the farmers for their ignorance. Instead, the government should be blamed for lack of investment in cultural projects in the countryside," one netizen commented.

Another said the government should build more modern public cultural facilities and improve cultural services in the rural areas to meet the demand of the farmers.

The Eighth Congress of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles and the Seventh Congress of the Chinese Writers Association are being held in Beijing, attracting more than 3,000 Chinese writers and artists.

At the opening of the congresses on Friday, President Hu Jintao urged artists and writers to devote themselves to promoting "cultural harmony" as the country strived to build a "harmonious socialist society".

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