Rain brings chaos to opening of conference

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 April, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 April, 1997, 12:00am

A major conference aimed at narrowing the development gap between prosperous coastal regions and the hinterland was marred by poor organisation yesterday.

The opening of the '97 Investment and Trade Forum for Co-operation Between East and West China was hit by problems which affected more than 5,000 delegates and 200 reporters who arrived at the exhibition centre in the Shaanxi city of Xian.

Ignoring forecasts of rain, officials insisted the opening would take place in a courtyard in front of the exhibition centre as scheduled.

When reporters arrived before proceedings began, they found young girls and dancers in traditional spring dresses wet-through and shivering. The journalists, many without umbrellas, then tried to push their way into the shelter of the centre but were held back by police.

Then the drainage system failed, leaving the courtyard filled with pools of water.

The forum was fully supported by Beijing which hoped it would promote east-west co-operation and narrow the development gap. Shaanxi officials said that the province was striving hard to catch up with coastal regions.

And Xian officials repeated their determination to reclaim the ancient capital city's past glory and turn it into a financial centre for middle and western China.

However, judging from the forum's organisation, they must have a long way to go.