Last month, on the outskirts of Beijing, a bloody coup took place. The reigning king was overthrown, and left a permanent cripple with a fractured skull and scratches all over his body. The power struggle grabbed the attention of many people in the city. It began one afternoon when about eight monkeys at the safari park suddenly pounced on the king, pummelled him nearly unconscious before throwing him off a cliff. The zookeeper, alerted by the commotion, managed to disperse the group using a sling shot. Very soon, a five-year-old monkey emerged as the third ruler of the monkey hill since the safari park opened in 1998. He was christened Star, to distinguish him from his predecessors, Drip and Drop. Star quickly assumed a regal air, holding his tail high to signal his new status as the alpha male in the troop of 170 monkeys. The tale, reported by the Beijing Times, became an instant sensation. The public was anxious to know what happened next. Was the new king secure on his throne? Would there be a counter-coup? What kind of king was Star? According to a zookeeper, Star was different from Drop, who treated his subjects with disdain. 'Star is kind to his subjects - more like the first king,' he said. Eighteen months ago, Drop, who was then five, took the throne from 16-year-old Drip, who died after being badly injured. At feeding time, one monkey sidled up to the wire mesh that separated the monkey kingdom from the rest of the park. Several males charged forward, snarling at him. He was one of Drop's loyal followers, who were driven from the hill following their king's defeat. Star stopped eating, watching how his followers dealt with the would-be infiltrator. A few minutes later, the lone monkey gave up trying to get close to the feeding bucket and retreated into the woods. The banished monkeys would be ostracised for life, the keeper explained. A monkey was either in the system or outside it; there was no return once the line had been crossed. Out in the woods, a one-armed monkey - one of Drip's followers - observed the monkey politics. When Drop was attacked, he had jumped up and down, cheering on the coup. But he was not accepted back into the fold because his loyalty remained in question; the enemy's enemy was not necessarily a friend. Meanwhile, Drop was nursing his wounds. Even if he survived, he would be unable to defend himself because his right leg had been smashed in the fighting. He would have to be kept in a cage and fed for the rest of his life. In many respects, the simian world reflects human society. The Beijing Times, a tabloid and a subsidiary of the Communist Party's People's Daily, captured people's imagination with its finely nuanced allegory. It went all out to woo readers because it faces a potentially cut-throat battle with the Beijing Newspaper, which is backed by the national paper, the Guangming Daily. Guangzhou's Southern Metropolis News has also invested in the Beijing Newspaper. If the monkey story heralds the coming of a tabloid war in Beijing, it will be down to readers to decide who should be king.