UFO enthusiasts descend on Dalian for conferenceBEIJING, Sept. 9 -- Are they science nuts or are they just being hypnotized by an overdose of science fiction movies?
A cult-like crowd gathered yesterday morning in Dalian, a port city in Northeast China's Liaoning Province, to open the 2005 World UFO Conference. It is the first time the event has been held in China.
The obsession with UFOs (unidentified flying objects) has created the largest community of enthusiasts in the world. The number now exceeds half of the world's total number of intellectuals, claimed Sun Shili, chairman of the conference.
The wide availability of cameras and camcorders has made "comparing notes" much easier and more exciting.
Gu Qingwen, a member of the Beijing UFO Society, showed China Daily a video segment on his mobile phone. The footage, purportedly taken in Beijing's Longqingxia District on Lunar New Year's Day, shows a sun-like object in the sky - large, round and shining. However, it did not cast a shadow on the ground, said Gu, a 37-year-old taxi driver.
Unsurprisingly given his line of work, he has other tales to share: One night in late 2003, after he had dropped off some passengers in Yizhuang District, he felt a sudden headache. "I pulled over. Then, out of nowhere, a beam of strong light shone on me, and I passed out. When I reopened my eyes, I found myself on another street."
If you cannot trust the words of a Beijing taxi driver, rest assured that there are many bona-fide scientists enamoured with UFOs.
For example, in Dalian's UFO Society, 90 per cent of the 400 members have college degrees. "It's exciting for us to use science to decipher UFO sightings," said Zhou Xiaoqiang, secretary-general of the Beijing UFO Society.
Most of those who come to the conference believe that extraterrestrials do exist and that they are more intelligent than us human beings.
"Ufology is blossoming in China, and the participants are mostly professionals," said Stanton Friedman, a US nuclear physicist.
Nowadays, the public does not need much UFO awareness training, as the reporting of sightings is frequent. However, the conference has some surprises up its sleeve: It is offering up two witnesses of "encounters of the third kind."
Eleven years ago, a youth named Meng Zhaoguo from Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province claimed he was attacked by aliens and taken to their flying saucer. "The kind of things I saw and heard there were incredible," he said.
In 1977, Huang Yanqiu was a 21-year-old villager in Hebei Province when he claimed he "vanished three times" in one night. The last time was around 9 pm when he fell asleep in the courtyard. When he woke up at midnight, he found himself 1,200 kilometres away at the plaza of Shanghai Railway Station.
There will, no doubt, be much debate about the authenticity of these stories at the meeting in Dalian. However, one suspects that the truth may well be less strange than the fiction.
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