Businessman loses 'World Cup air' suit

By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-12-14 07:25

A Chinese businessman who once tried to sell land on the moon lost a lawsuit yesterday against the Chaoyang District's administration for industry and commerce in Beijing, which had denied him a permit to sell bags of World Cup "air."

Li Jie, who calls himself the chief executive of the "Lunar Embassy to China," had sought a permit in June to sell air imported from the German stadiums that hosted World Cup matches earlier this year for 50 yuan (US$6.4) a bag.

"My idea was that fans unable to make the trip to the World Cup soccer tournament in Germany earlier this year could hang the green plastic bags around their necks and breathe in the air while watching World Cup matches on television," Li told China Daily.

But the Chaoyang District administration rejected his application in July on the grounds that "special air from special places" did not qualify as an "industrial category."

The bureau argued that air does not belong to any commercial or sports and cultural category as defined by State regulations.

"Also, special air may include air harmful to human beings and cannot be effectively supervised," said Zhang Kangda, a lawyer with the bureau.

However, Li defended the idea of selling the air in court and accused the bureau of denying him an sales opportunity that only comes "once every four years."

"The 'special air from special places' in my application includes air from the 2008 Olympics stadiums, Tian'anmen Square, Qomolongma, the moon, a pigsty, a horse paddock and even the Chaoyang District Court," Li said.

As evidence, Li listed Little Fox Sells Air a story in a primary school textbook about a cunning fox that opens an air-selling business in a polluted city and "does good business."

"A textbook could not possibly advocate breaking the law, could it?" Li asked in the court.

Upon hearing the Chaoyang District People's Court's verdict yesterday morning, Li immediately filed another lawsuit against the commerce department, this time, at the No 2 Intermediate People's Court.

Li had 25 bags of the "auspicious air" sent to him by a German businessman. The air had leaked out of four of the bags during the journey from Germany to China.

He gave the remaining bags to enthusiastic soccer fans who sought him out after the media had reported his business ideal.

The bags measure approximately 5 centimetres by 13 centimetres each.

Li first came to prominence as chief executive officer of Beijing Lunar Village Aeronautics Science and Technology Co Ltd, which claimed that anyone willing to pay 298 yuan (US$37) could buy an acre of land on the moon from Li.

The Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce shut down Li's company three days after it opened in September 2005, and blacklisted it as one of the city's top 10 false advertisers in 2005.

Li said his lunar real estate business was legal because it had been authorized by the US Lunar Embassy.

Dennis Hope, a US entrepreneur, founded the US Lunar Embassy in 1980 by registering his claim to the surface of the moon and eight other planets with the US Government.

Millions of people have bought lunar "land" from Hope, according to media reports.

Thirty-three people bought 49 acres of land on the moon at for 298 yuan (US$37) per acre from Li before the authorities intervened.

Most of those people gave the land to their friends as gifts, said Li.

(China Daily 12/14/2006 page3)

Top China News  
Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours