Chinese people expressed intense concern yesterday over the US-led war against Iraq as local media carried live broadcast and continuous coverage of the event.
"What I am concerned most about now are the conditions of the innocent Iraqi people, especially children and women," said Tie Yingbin, a computer engineer in Beijing.
She said she kept a close eye on the latest news reports on the Internet about the war and she still hoped there would be opportunity for a peaceful settlement of the Iraqi issue.
She said she disliked the use of force by US-led powers against Iraq, particularly when it was not authorized by the United Nations.
Duan Zonggui, a taxi driver with the Beijing-based Beifang Taxi Group, said he learned from the war that the stability of a nation was of the greatest importance, as he expressed deep sympathy for the ordinary Iraqi people.
"I knew the war was coming, but when it really happened, I just cannot believe it," he said, adding he was worried about possible rises in oil prices.
Increased oil prices also made many potential car buyers hold onto their cash.
Huang Jixiang, a car dealer in Beijing, said he has met several possible buyers who had delayed purchases as a result of increased fuel prices.
In Yinchuan, capital of Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Muslims expressed regret over the US military attack on Iraq and are praying for peace for Iraqi Muslims.
"The whole world hopes to resolve the Iraq issue through political and diplomatic channels, and launching a war will bring nothing but greater suffering and disaster for the Iraqi people," said Yang Huaizhong, a famous scholar of the ethnic Hui group with the Ningxia Academy of Social Sciences.
"We Muslims oppose any form of war and hope for peaceful coexistence for all ethnic groups, nationalities, religions and beliefs," said Ma Zhonghe, a mullah in Xiji County in Ningxia.
"As a Muslim, I hope for peaceful coexistence for all the people across the world and expect the US military action against Iraq to end as soon as possible," said Na Hongjun, a villager from Yongning County in Ningxia.
Since the United States issued its "48-hour ultimatum" to Iraq, Muslims in Yinchuan, Guyuan, Xiji and other cities and counties in Ningxia have expressed their opposition to the US military attack on Iraq, holding that it seriously undermines the global desire for peace.
The Chinese autonomous region has 1.92 million Muslims, or one third of the total population in Ningxia.
The United Nations had a vital role to play in seeking a political solution to the Iraqi issue, and the United States should have got UN authorization first before taking any military action, said Ding Wen, deputy secretary-general of the Ningxia Islam Association.
As one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the United States should take the lead in implementing the relevant UN resolutions, he added.
Extra guards and tighter security cordons around foreign diplomatic compounds in Beijing, including the US and Iraqi embassies, have been seen in Beijing since US military action in Iraq began.
The US and Iraqi embassies are just three blocks away from each other in Beijing.
Despite the heavy security, "work in the embassies is going ahead normally," guards posted outside both the United States and British embassies in Beijing told China Daily yesterday afternoon, several hours after the war started.
Beside the soldiers and armed police, people still waited in line in front of the two embassies to apply for visas to the two countries.
However, the war still made the United States embassy more cautious than usual.
Only about 10 people out of the nearly 200 applicants during the whole afternoon have been granted visas to the United States, estimated a woman offering services to the applicants outside the embassy every day.
Under the shadow of the on-going Gulf War, major travel agencies, including the China International Travel Service, China Travel Service and China Youth Tourism Service, have suspended trips to the Middle East.
The first two victims are tours to Turkey and Egypt, two countries just opened as tourism destinations by the National Tourism Administration last May.
According to Du Jidong from the China Travel Service, the outbreak of war will not only freeze Middle East travel routes, but also the entire overseas travel business will be affected.