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Shanghai stops ancient blood sport: cricket fighting
Updated: 2004-11-12 17:02

Shanghai is cracking down on gamblers drawn to an ancient bloodsport forcing opponents into a gruesome battle to the death: cricket fighting.

The scene of criker fighting [njnews]
Police detained 46 people and confiscated 39 pots containing the insect pugilists, together with 54,000 yuan (US$6,500; euro 5,400) in wagers during a raid on a gambling den in the city's Pudong district.

Two men, Ding Liangkai and 70-year-old Ren Xiaohai were charged with organizing the fights, punishable by up to three years in prison.

Cricket fighting was a passion of the ancient Chinese, who housed their favorites in elaborate wood or bronze cages and fed them special diets of seeds and small insects.

The crickets are starved before matches to make them ornery, then released into a tiny ring where they kick and bite each other to death.

Suppressed after the 1949 Communist Revolution, the pastime has revived in recent years but remains closely associated with gambling, which is strictly forbidden in China.

Shanghai Daily quoted Ren, a 50-year veteran of the sport, as saying he organized the fights because he was unable to find crickets in the wild and couldn't afford to buy top fighters, who can cost up to 1,000 yuan (US$120; euro 100).

"In this way, we could not only enjoy cricket fighting free of charge but also earn money by collecting a 5 percent bonus from the gamblers," Ren was quoted as saying.

There was no word on the fate of the crickets.

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