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Chengdu to outlaw abuse of panda images
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Saucy and suggestive commercial exploitation of panda images may become a thing of the past in the pandas' home city if a planned law is passed.

The bid for legislation to protect panda images comes in the wake of some controversial uses of panda iconography which have got Chinese citizens hot under the collar.

Self-styled panda artist Zhao Bandi outraged many with his Bandi-Panda fashion show at China Fashion Week in Beijing earlier this month.

Self-styled panda artist Zhao Bandi outraged many with his Bandi-Panda fashion show at China Fashion Week in Beijing earlier this month, sparking nationwide concerns that the so-called conceptual art creation abused the panda's decent image of being a friendly and cute symbol.

Zhao, who always wears a cap that makes him look like a panda cub on his head, is frequently accompanied at media events by a clutch of scantily-clad panda girls - dressed in the sexy style of bunny girls, but with panda-eared wigs instead of bunny-eared ones.

"I'm a king in the panda's world. You see these panda girls are my concubines," he said modestly in an interview with sina.com, a popular web portal in China on Thursday.

At the Beijing fashion parade Zhao used panda imagery in each of his creations. He said he used panda images as "a medium to present different clothing styles of Chinese social classes and social issues."

"There is no meaningful links between panda and these figures that Zhao depicted in his fashion design. He just uses panda as a commercial stunt," was a comment typical of many found on Internet messageboards.

The Chengdu Municipal Committee of the National People's Congress, in west China's Sichuan province, on Friday confirmed the receipt of the planned law, jointly outlined by the municipal bureaus of forestry, parks and woods.

If passed, it would become the world's first panda law.

Zhao told the media that it was "unexpected" news to hear that his fashion concept might be outlawed by the legislation.

"To me, human being are always more important than pandas. I have no intention to make fun of pandas. I am a fan of pandas," he said.

"People deem giant pandas to be China's state treasure. I am also a treasure for China, no less significant than the panda," said Zhao, who prefers to be called pandaman.

"Zhao's commercial stunt has prompted us to accelerate the drafting of the legislation, but regulating commercial activities abusive to the pandas' image is not the only concern," said Zhu Shang, an official with the Chengdu Forestry Bureau, who has taken part in the drafting work.

Zhu told Xinhua that the bureau began preparations for the drafting in June. The issues taken into consideration also included making regulations on artificial panda breeding, and banning photography of newly-born panda cubs.

"In many cases, moral condemnation seems a weak punishment for abusive activities concerning giant pandas. Issues like artificial breeding and commercial exploitation of the animal and the animal's image are not within the spectrum of China's Wildlife Protection Law," said Zhu.

"The panda is not simply seen as an endangered wild animal here in Chengdu, but an asset representing the city's image," said Qu Ying, deputy director of the municipal legislature. Qu disclosed that the legislature was in favor of the law.

"It usually takes half a year for the legislature to go through the routine deliberation of a feasibility report sent by government, before submitting it to the provincial-level legislature for approval," Qu said.

Giant pandas are one of the world's most endangered species. Just 1,590 giant pandas are estimated to live in the wild, mostly in southwest China's mountainous regions. By the end of 2006, about 239 giant pandas lived in captivity in China.

(Xinhua News Agency November 24, 2007)

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