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Monday, March 27, 2000, updated at 09:47(GMT+8)


Healthy Activities to Replace Superstition

People who believe in superstitions and pseudo-science should be offered sports and recreation venues, and physical and psychological assessments that can put them back on the road to a healthy life, scientists and experts recommend.

Those engaged in superstitious activities, including members of Falun Gong, are victims of "science illiteracy," they said at a symposium on fighting pseudo-science in Beijing last week.

Although the Falun Gong cult has been outlawed in China, its pernicious influences have still not been eradicated, according to the symposium.

Superstitions emerging in China include the belief in ghosts, witchcraft, and supernatural abilities, said Ren Jiyu, president of the China Atheism Society.

Ren said at the symposium that superstitious activities are a disturbing social phenomenon.

A survey conducted by Chinese Association for Science and Technology (CAST), the sponsor of the symposium, recently showed that 35.5 per cent of Chinese people believe in fortune-telling and divination, a figure nearly 7 per cent higher than the 28.7 per cent in 1996.

Insufficient venues for exercise is another reason they resort to superstition, said Li Liyan, a researcher in the State Sports General Administration.

"Most stadiums and gymnasiums in China's cities are built for holding higher-level competitions instead of being used by the public for physical exercises. If people are in better condition by doing exercises, they are not likely to have the time or interest to join superstitious groups," Li said.

He suggested that government build community fitness centres that would provide daily recreational and health-care activities.

People usually feel gloomy when they are ill, said Yuan Zhong, deputy director of the publishing house affiliated with Beijing Medical University.

These people are prone to believe "tender words" coined by fortune-tellers.

Financial woes, job problems and other troubles probably make people vulnerable to belief in superstitions, Yuan said.

Therefore, Yuan suggested, China should open more psychological counselling agencies.

The symposium attracted more than 40 scientists and experts from the natural and social sciences.

In recent years, superstitious practices have become common in some areas, especially in the countryside, said Gong Yuzhi, a science association official.

In Sichuan and Hubei provinces, for example, some fortune-tellers have cheated many people by winning their confidences by first showing bogus certificates from social science research institutes, Gong said.

He said a close eye should be kept on fortune-tellers to stop them from cheating people.

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