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Beijing kicks off mission to wipe out cockroaches

By Mary Kwang, The Straits Times, 22 November 2000

Roaches and mosquitoes have taken over from sparrows and bedbugs as top pests and the 'foreign influx' is being blamed for the roach plague

BEIJING - The Chinese capital has embarked on an all-out, unified, campaign against cockroaches whose numbers have thrived and multiplied in the wake of the country's economic reforms.

A sign of the improved times is that the cockroach and the mosquito have today replaced the sparrow and the bedbug among Beijing's four pests, as compared to the 1950s and 1960s.

The housefly and the rat remain on this dubious honours list.

Mr Shen Weirui, an official with the Beijing Insect-Disease Prevention Office, told The Straits Times that economic progress meant that residents were richer and enjoyed better housing conditions.

Hotels and restaurants have also mushroomed.

He said that in the past, local houses had to make do with just a stove for heating.

That provided less warmth than modern houses which have new heating installations.

Cockroaches were then found only in restaurants where food was plenty and places like foreign embassies, which enjoyed sufficient heating.'

The authorities blame the foreign influx for the city's roach plague.

Ninety-five per cent of cockroaches found here are of the German breed - brown and less than 1.5 cm long.

The remaining 5 per cent are from the larger American family.

Beijing's own homegrown cockroach - small, black and flat and common before the 1980s - has virtually disappeared.

Beijing residents have been more vocal in their calls to do something about these crawly creatures this year.

One reason is that with the cold weather hitting the capital at least two weeks earlier than in previous years, the city had supplied heating to apartments earlier than Nov 15, the customary date for flicking on the heating switch.

Cockroaches are attracted to the warmth.

The Beijing government issued a directive to launch the first round of the city-wide anti-roach campaign on Nov 16 that ends today.

The second stage would be launched next month to kill young cockroaches that might have hatched in the intervening weeks.

Mr Yu Chuanjiang, an official of the Beijing Patriotic Hygiene Campaign Committee, which spearheads the anti-vermin drive, said that government agencies would be in charge of eliminating the pest in public areas.

Residents and enterprises were responsible for their own premises.

In housing projects, however, property management agencies or residents' committees would undertake the task.

Those who fail to take part in the clean-up would be fined sums of between 20 yuan (S$4) and 50 yuan (S$10), the government has warned.

Local media reports said that several 'Kill Cockroaches' hotlines had been inundated with people asking where the cockroach poison could be purchased or complaining that their property managers had failed to observe the municipal directive.