China angers 40,000 women

The UN Secretary-General is being urged to confront China over its arrangements for the World Conference on Women in September, under which non-governmental organisations (NGOs) would be forced to meet in a tourist centre far from Peking.

A letter of protest was delivered to Mr Boutros-Ghali this week by the organisers of the NGO Forum, which plans to bring together 40,000 representatives of women's groups for meetings and events to be held in parallel with the ministerial conference in the capital.

The dispute started in March, when China announced it was abandoning plans to offer the NGOs the Workers' Stadium in Peking, close to the venue of the official conference, claiming it was structurally unsound.

Instead, it proposed accommodating them in the Huairou scenic complex, at least one hour's drive from the city.

Most governments recognise that the Women's Conference - the fourth such UN gathering - would be pointless without the participation of private lobby groups. It will be difficult for Mr Boutros-Ghali to ignore the NGOs' appeal.

"We are going to support the NGOs on this issue", a senior Western diplomat said. "I think the Chinese could quickly come to regret that they got themselves into this mess."

Women's groups may demand that the conference be moved to another country if China does not change course. The NGOs' principle complaint is that the distance of Huairou from Peking will make it impossible for them to influence the conference. They fear the Huairou site is suitable for only about 20,000 participants. "It has come to a point where it is just impossible to organise anything," said Joan Ross Frankson of the International Women's Tribune Center in New York, which has gathered protest messages from 1,700 different groups in 64 countries.

nPeking (AP) -In an article in yesterday's Peking Daily, the mayor of Huairou said the city was "definitely making progress" in improving facilities by building conference halls and installing better water and electricity lines.