Related topics

Lonely at The Top: Great Wall Devoid of Sightseers With PM-China, Bjt

June 20, 1989

MUTIANYU, China (AP) _ The view of the jagged mountain landscape seems limitless from atop the Great Wall. All that is missing is the click of camera shutters and the gasps of thrilled foreigners.

The tourist season is here, but there are few people climbing China’s most famous sight - the ″Chang Cheng,″ or Great Wall.

Few people snap up souvenirs or visit the many restaurants that cater to travelers, much to the dismay of the Chinese who rely on tourism for their livelihood.

A Chinese man lingering where tourists can begin walking to the top of the wall, part of a 45-mile stretch as Mutianyu, offered an explanation. Asked about the tourist drought, he pantomimes the shooting of a machine gun, a reference to the government’s violent military suppression of demonstrators two weeks ago in central Beijing.

″There is so little to do now without the foreigners. We’re very tired because we’re not busy,″ he says.

The crackdown on the demonstrators and the worldwide condemnation it has generated have chilled China’s burgeoning tourism industry.

The state-run China International Travel Service has been encouraging foreigners asking about travel within China to continue with their plans to visit the vast country, saying all areas open to tourists are safe.

Economically, there is much at stake.

Earlier this year, the National Tourism Administration released figures showing that China earned $2.2 billion in foreign currency from tourism in 1988, up 19.4 percent from 1987. Through last year, tourism had brought in $12 billion since the country was opened to foreign visitors in 1978, the figures show.

The wall, which winds over mountains and through valleys, is one of China’s premier tourist attractions.

At Mutianyu, about 50 miles north of Beijing, vendors and ticket-takers seemed surprised by foreign visitors who came Monday to see the stone barrier built along China’s northern frontier to protect against invasion. The great work was begun in the third century B.C.

Two people who wanted to ride a cable car to the top had to hunt for someone to sell them tickets. After the purchase, they looked for someone to start the cable car on its way up the mountain.

Later, at the base of the mountain, a vendor pushed for a sale. He motioned to T-shirts and silk quilts displayed on a table at the end of a row of about 40 empty stalls.

″I give you good deal, best deal,″ he said in English.

When a foreigner started to walk away without buying, the vendor talked faster, promising an ″even better deal.″

″Please buy. Please buy here. Good price here. I give you best price here.″

At the nearby Yisong restaurant, the only person in the dining room read a newspaper as he leaned back in his chair, his legs resting on top of a table.

″Closed, closed. The restaurant is closed,″ he said when someone entered the room. He indicated there were no definite plans to reopen.

″When more people come to see the Great Wall we will sell them food,″ he said. ″When will that be? I don’t know.″

Update hourly