Death for squeezers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 October, 1998, 12:00am

SHANGHAI (October 20): THE threat of death hangs over many people in Shanghai.

Major-General Chiang Ching-kuo, economic control boss, reiterated the threat to-day. An announcement said: 'Anyone found buying or selling gold or foreign currencies in the black market will be sentenced to death.' In Peiping, police threatened immediate execution of anyone exacting squeeze from people bringing cereals into the country. Such squeeze usually had to be paid before grain carts were allowed to pass through the city gates. In Shanghai, in defiance of the threat of death, the black market in United States money is on the rampage again.

Hardly a day goes by that a foreigner, especially Americans, is not approached by black marketeers with offers to sell gold yuan for United States dollars. And every day the black market rate of exchange climbs. To-day's offer is nine gold yuan for one U.S. dollar, more than double the official rate of four to one.

The Government-controlled commodity prices are so low that merchants refuse to sell, preferring to keep them in the hope the Government will lift the ceiling prices. Even daily necessities which a month ago were plentiful, are almost impossible to buy, except on the black market. Most shops still in business display barren shelves.