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Wednesday, August 23, 2000, updated at 16:15(GMT+8)

Shanghai Citizens Bare Souls on Radio Programs

In China's largest commercial city Shanghai, a number of people cannot fall asleep at night because of heavy work commitments and stress.

But they have an outlet with a talk show program called "Accompanying You Until Daybreak" broadcast on the Shanghai Oriental Broadcasting Station.

Listeners can call in to talk with the show's hosts and can, if they wish, bare their souls to the whole city. Many people have regained their once shattered confidence by tuning into or being an active participant on the program.

Three years ago, Wu Jindi, a mother of two children, lost her factory job and worse still broke up with her husband. At that time, she only had 20 yuan (about 2.4 U.S. dollars) in her pocket.

Wu, in her forties, even wanted to kill herself before she called Yu Chen, one of program's hosts. Yu listened, consoled her like a good friend, and asked listeners to help Wu.

Yu did not expect that the program would be so well received. "An elderly lady was waiting for me outside the broadcasting station at 5:00 am with 1,000 yuan for Wu when I had just finished the program," he said.

With the help from people from all walks of life, Wu opened a social service center employing 10 jobless women. In 1998, Wu's situation became much better and she remarried.

Many Shanghai residents wait eagerly each night to tune into the program, which was launched in 1992. So far, more than 20 people have worked as a host for the program.

Shanghai also has other talk show radio programs, on which lawyers help citizens buy houses and provide legal consultancy services, flea market owners tell people what's on their shelf.

Listeners can also find out how to solve problems which arise from traffic accidents, and learn what to do in a dispute with a shopping center.

Yu is a lawyer by profession and his job as a radio host is just part-time.

He said he likes radio as a medium because he can reach out to a multitude of people. "In today's modern society, people need more heart-to-heart communication," Yu said.

During a talk radio program that specializes in giving advice to callers one may encounter all kinds of questions, but it is important to answer questions differently depending on who you are talking to.

" I'm ready to help others, but people often think I'm a fool," said a listener to the "Accompany You Until Daybreak" radio program.

Another listener said, "I fell in love with a married man, but I don't want to listen to platitudes. If you were my older brother, what advice would you give me?"

"I like my job in foreign enterprise, but I was troubled when my boss tried to make sexual advances toward me at the office..."

In most cases, the hosts are patient and polite, but they can also be tough.

A young man who used to live overseas telephoned Ye Sha, a female host of the program, pouring out his broken heart as he told of his numerous girlfriends who all dumped him in the end.

Ye told him bluntly, "What does love mean to you? You cannot go blindly into a relationship without being a responsible person."

Shi Meijun, a department director at Shanghai Oriental Broadcasting Station, said many people feel empty about life in general, and this is quite common in a large bustling metropolis like Shanghai which has a population of 13 million.

Communication between people is crucial, said Geng Wenxiu, a psychology professor at East China Normal University, and a former host of the program.

"The program is a mirror reflecting society," Ye said. "Several years ago, those who called us were young couples living in separate places who cannot stay together or migrant workers. What made them miserable was that they could not stay with their spouses."

"Today, there are problems such as extramarital affairs, young lovers living together and wealthy men taking on a mistress," she said. "We talk to our listeners and also offer them practical and realistic advice."

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In China's largest commercial city Shanghai, a number of people cannot fall asleep at night because of heavy work commitments and stress.

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