CHINA'S first national beauty contest ended last night with the hasty coronation of the winner, Miss Pan Tao, 22, on a poorly-lit stage to the sound of lukewarm applause from a half-capacity audience. The model from Hefei in Anhui province beat 43 girls from around the country to win the title of Miss Dong Feng 1993. The victory qualified her to represent China in this year's Miss World contest in South Africa, where she will compete with beauty queens from 70 countries, including Taiwan. Miss Pan was crowned by Miss World - Julia Kourotchkina of Russia - as the show overran by 30 minutes. The three-hour final was held at the China Shenzhen Coliseum. The stage was converted only days before the show. Under a weak spotlight on a barely-decorated stage, 24 semi-finalists from 12 provinces competed in a cheongsam and a swimming suit parade, which decided the 12 finalists for a question-and-answer session. They were asked their views on beauty, friendship and their future. The contest was conducted in Putonghua. The semi-finalists, aged between 18 and 25, were mostly students and clerical workers but also included a nurse, a town planner, and a reporter. According to the organisers, 6,000 tickets priced between 80 and 150 yuan (HK$108 and HK$203), were snapped up within a few hours of their going on sale last Monday. But, if that was the case, only half of the ticket holders turned up last night, as the contest conspicuously failed to become the talk of the town. Even top city officials were absent. Some Shenzhen residents said they had not heard about the competition, and the organisers were rushing to finish promotional banners and flags just hours before the contest began. The final kicked off with a quick announcement of the 24 semi-finalists after a 45-minute delay caused by what the organisers described as ''unclear but minor problems''. The audience began to get impatient shortly after the cheongsam parade - some started smoking while others talked loudly with friends. Some were yawning. Mr Chen Tao and his wife, who were given two complimentary tickets, left for home in the middle of the contest. Mr Chen said: ''It is incredibly boring and a bad show, but it is good sign that Shenzhen will be more open to Western ways.'' Only about one-third of the seats were occupied when the seven judges decided on the winners - second place going to Miss Zhu Tong, a 23-year-old economic researcher from Shenyang, and third place to Miss Ma Jia, a 22-year-old kindergarten teacher, also from Shenyang. Despite the lack of an enthusiastic audience, the organisers said it was a successful show. However, China's national television station, CCTV, declined to cover the contest, saying it was ''too political''.