Excited viewers filled with pride after tuning in

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 October, 2009, 12:00am

Gong Zuomin, a 73-year-old retired engineer from Shenzhen, was so excited about yesterday's celebrations that he woke up at 6am, an hour and a half earlier than usual.

He wanted to make sure none of his family would miss the parade, and tried unsuccessfully to wake his son and daughter-in-law. At 9.30am, shortly before the parade was to start, he warned them that they would regret it forever if they missed it.

'I've got to say 'very' three times to describe how I feel at the moment,' he said. 'China is very strong, we Chinese are very proud of our country, and we lead a very good life.'

Gong was one of hundreds of millions of people across the country who tuned in to watch the military and civilian parade marking 60 years of the People's Republic.

In Guangzhou, Sun Yat-sen University art professor Yao Youyi was a bundle of nerves as he sat with his family in front of his television. The 41-year-old was a lead designer of Guangdong's float.

'I was describing the design of the float when it popped up on the screen and my heart started to beat faster,' he said. 'It was very nerve-racking to watch, but it went off without a hitch, which was a big relief.'

In Urumqi, Xinjiang, 6,000 hand-picked residents gathered for a flag-raising ceremony in People's Square, the scene of violence on July 5 between Han and Uygurs that left at least 200 people dead.

Chen Yun, an internet cafe owner, said he was very excited to watch the parade, particularly the military columns. He said the strong show would encourage Xinjiang people to have more confidence in the nation. 'But the general mood here is not so good, so I might only have dinner with my family,' he said.

The security measures put in place after the violence included blocking the internet in the region.

'Xinjiang is cut off from the rest of the world. Because of this, I could hardly hold onto my ... business and I've almost gone broke,' Chen said.

Nazig, a Uygur shop owner in Urumqi, said festivities were subdued this year because of traffic controls since July 5. She watched the parade in a local hospital,and described it as 'grand' and 'solemn'. She was excited to see the jet fighters, national flags and parade columns.

'Best wishes to the motherland and hope we could live in peace as we're all Chinese,' she said.

Wu Weiping, who runs a handicrafts and gifts wholesaling company in Lhasa , Tibet, said he felt proud to be Chinese after watching the two-hour ceremony.

'With the recovery of tourism in Lhasa, my business has almost rebounded to a level comparable to the thriving spell before the March 14 incident last year,' he said, referring to the ethnic riots that broke out in the region.

In Shanghai, many big outdoor screens were showing the parade, but drizzle dampened the atmosphere. A poll conducted by Shanghai Fudan University found more than 85 per cent of the city's residents watched or listened to the parade in the morning, and that 99 per cent felt 'it was very exciting'.

Shanghai video director Kong Mingzhe, who watched the parade from home, said it was a spectacular show as the government used all sorts of elements to showcase the nation's growing clout.

He said he was particularly impressed by the original voice-over in which Mao Zedong declared the founding of the new China. The 26-year-old said the lavish parade and protracted earlier preparations were justified as a celebration of the country's birthday.

'It's just the same as when you want to mark your mum's birthday, it's natural that you want it to be wonderful and memorable,' Kong said.

Additional reporting by Ivan Zhai, He Huifeng, Lilian Zhang and Choi Chi-yuk