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    Emergency Plans Unfold for 2008

    An emergency response and disaster relief plan that includes emergency centers at every Olympic venue was announced this week by Beijing officials.

    The first Olympic emergency centers will be built at key venues including the Olympic Park and the Olympic Village.

    Japanese security expert Izumi Harada urged the city to "step up efforts to remove potential threats from terrorist attacks, safety incidents in and around the venues, food poisoning disasters and computer hackers", the official China Daily newspaper said.

    Emergency managers of the Beijing Olympics should use a "pre-emptive strategy using state of the art information technology", the newspaper quoted Harada from a forum on security for the 2008 Games.

    Hou Xinyi, deputy director of BOCOG's technology department, agreed with Harada.

    "Athens introduced a number of hi-tech devices in the 2004 Games, but a large part of them were left unused," Hou said. "So we should strengthen our personnel training to efficiently use our hardware."

    "Although the new emergency response and disaster relief plan is part of the city's 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) and its goals are set to be achieved in 2010, Olympic security is the principal concern," China Daily reports.

    For instance, a citywide computer surveillance network will be set up and put into operation ahead of the Games.

    The city has already installed more than 260,000 cameras, mostly in financial institutions, hotels, schools and residential communities, according to statistics from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Public Security.

    Mines to Close for Olympics

    Hundreds of mines near Beijing are expected to close in time to improve the city's air quality before the 2008 Olympics.

    The Beijing Bureau of Land and Resources aims to close 70 percent of the mines by the end of 2007 and 90 percent by 2010,

    Beijing has already closed about half of its 900 mines, which occupy 4,890 hectares of land and have accumulated waste residue of 167.89 million tons.

    All mines that do not meet environmental protection and safety production standards will be closed, and the city government will continue to crack down on illegal mining of iron ore, coal and gravel, a land bureau official says.

    Mascot Maker Under Investigation

    The head of the company that makes the plush toy versions of the Beijing mascots is under investigation, the Shanghai Daily reports.

    Yuan Yonglin, president of the Haixin Group, is "assisting in an investigation into his personal violations of [Communist] Party rules and regulations", the newspaper quotes a
    A woman walks in front of a billboard promoting the China-Africa summit in Beijing this weekend. (AFP) 
    company statement as saying.

    Haixin specializes in down, furs, leather and stuffed toys and is one of Shanghai's largest manufacturers. It signed a contract last year to supply mascot toys for the 2008 Olympics.

    The company statement gave no details of Yuan's case but the newspaper said he was "associated with people and companies that have been implicated in the city's welfare-fund scandal".

    More than 50 people have reportedly been sacked, questioned or arrested in connection with the growing corruption scandal linked to misuse of pension funds in the city. Those investigated include Shanghai Communist Party chief Chen Liangyu and the head of China's Formula One
    circuit in Shanghai, Yu Zhifei.

    Beijing Mobilizes for Africa Forum

    About 810,000 security guards, traffic wardens, retired workers, government officials and volunteers are on the job keeping order for the China-Africa forum that?s been underway in Beijing this week.

    Beijing officials view the exercise as an early test of plans to control traffic and crowds during the Olympics.

    Leaders and officials from more than 40 African nations will attend the forum that ends on Nov. 5.

    Reported from Beijing by Bill Smith

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