Great Wall visits restricted
Tourists will be banned from exploring undeveloped sections of the Great Wall beginning Friday to protect the ancient monument from damage, state media and officials said yesterday. Visitors will be barred from stepping off paths to overgrown and crumbling parts of the wall, said an official at the Beijing Tourism Administration said. He would only give his surname, Tu. Violators face fines of between 200 yuan (US$24) and 30,000 yuan (US$3,600,) the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Churches shun gay policy
Singapore's influential council of churches yesterday asked the government to stop its new policy to allow the hiring of homosexuals for the civil service, claiming such a lifestyle was "sinful and unacceptable." The National Council of Churches, which represent Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians, urged the government to maintain legislation banning homosexual acts and refrain from the promotion of "homosexual lifestyle and activities." Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said earlier this month his government would begin hiring openly gay people.
■ New Zealand
Asians excel in baking
Asian immigrants are forming the upper crust of pie bakers in New Zealand. A Cambodian immigrant was honored yesterday for baking New Zealand's best pie -- a staple served up everywhere from family tables to sports grounds. Patrick Lam and his wife Lyn Ho won the award, beating off pie-makers from more than 180 other New Zealand bakeries, Supreme Pie Award organizers said. As well as taking the top prize at the awards, the Cambodian-born bakers' steak, mince and cheese pies were also judged the best in their category, the biggest in the annual competition.
■ Hong Kong
High-profile rapist jailed
A serial rapist who targeted school and college girls and videotaped his assaults has been jailed for life in Hong Kong, a news report said yesterday. Cheung Lai-man, 35, started building up a collection of rape videos by filming his attacks on three girls aged 12, 20 and 21, all while they were on their way to school or university. He dragged two of the victims into bushes and videotaped his attacks and on the third occasion set up a makeshift hillside shelter especially to rape his victim, the South China Morning Post reported. The attacks were carried out from 1997 to last year.
■ Solomon Islands
Rebel leader to give up arms
A key Solomon Islands rebel leader yesterday agreed to surrender weapons to an Australian led intervention force, an Australian official said here. The Solomon Islands has suffered a four-year-long civil war which an Australian led intervention force is seeking to end while restoring law and order. Rebels from Malaita island and Guadalcanal have been fighting with several militant groups. Intervention coordinator Nick Warner flew to Auki, the capital of Malaita, yesterday and met Malaita Eagle Force leader Jimmy Rasta, who was reported to have announced he would round up his weapons and present them to the force on Aug. 15. "We will destroy the weapons on the spot at the ceremony," Warner told reporters here.
No rest for the homeless
Managers at a multi-storey parking lot in the industrial city of Stoke-on-Trent are to play Beethoven's Ninth Symphony continuously to drive away homeless people who sleep rough there once the cars have gone, the city council announced Tuesday. The passionate masterpiece will run on a loop 24 hours a day at the John Street car park for a two-month trial period. The council also claims the symphony will also help "lighten the mood" for stressed-out workers and visiting shoppers and says that if successful, the idea will be extended to other areas.