By television, Internet, special newspaper editions and mobile phone text messages, word of the start of the US-led war against Iraq spread quickly across the mainland. In Shanghai, many residents expressed opposition to the war, in line with the government's position, but few showed sympathy for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. 'The big hoodlum is attacking the little hoodlum. No one is on the side of justice,' white collar worker Liu Zhendong said. 'Although I work for a US company, I think the United States is being unreasonable.' Retired worker Wang Baoyou heard the news from friends while he was doing his morning exercises in the park. 'The US should give Iraq a lesson, but everyone in the United Nations should agree,' he said. China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has called repeatedly for a political solution to the Iraq crisis. But anti-war demonstrations on the mainland have been suppressed by the government's strict controls over public protests. Huang Weiping, a housewife in her 30s, said she was glued to her television set for the latest news. State television took the rare move of showing live the address of US President George W. Bush announcing war. 'Ordinary people in Iraq will suffer. The Bush administration is overstepping but I have no sympathy for Saddam Hussein,' she said. Sheng Bing, who works in the information technology sector, expressed some admiration for the embattled Iraqi president. 'Saddam is a bad leader. He should step down. But I admire his courage in fighting a stronger opponent,' he said. The American School in Shanghai let students take their spring holiday a few days early because of the war. At the US consulate in Shanghai, Chinese paramilitary soldiers patrolled the walls of the compound with machine guns, equipped with flak jackets and helmets. In Guangzhou, people said the war was about Iraq's oil, but that Mr Hussein deserved what he got. A taxi driver surnamed Qiu, said: 'Of course, Saddam is a bad man. If not, he would not have invaded Kuwait. But the Americans are very bad, too. They bully Iraq. Whether or not they found any weapons of mass destruction they would have gone ahead and attacked Iraq.' Qian Hongwu, a company executive, watched news of the war breaking out on a big-screen television in the World Trade Centre shopping mall. He said: 'Saddam deserves it but it really depends on how you look at the issue. China is against the war because it is an oil importer and it has some projects in Iraq. There is a fear that the US will control our source of oil.' Stella Cheung, a property agent, said: 'Saddam may be bad but I don't think what he's done is serious enough to warrant a war against Iraq. It's going to be a complicated war because Iraq has said it will take retaliatory action. 'But I'm not worried. China is not a target for terrorists. We will be safe.' Her colleague, Larry Cui, said, 'I am absolutely against war. This is going to be very bad for the US's reputation. Saddam is not a good man but the US is going overboard and taking things into its own hands. People are going to harbour revenge in their hearts when this is over. 'I'm concerned about the implications. This is going to set a precedent for other nations.' The US consulate-general in the city was closed and the main approach road was barricaded.