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Military buffs do good deeds

THEY appear in uniforms bearing the letters "MP" but, don't worry, they're just members of a fan club promoting civic order and doing good deeds. Pan Zheng reports.

Since the start of the year, crowds of youths wearing uniforms and black jackets with the letters MP (military police) emblazoned on them are always seen at various occasions.

It turns out, however, that they're not real MPs, but members of the M65 Military Club, a fraternity of online military history buffs and uniform collectors.

Armed with walkie-talkies and wearing unique MP uniforms, they act as security guards, emergency rescue team members and volunteers promoting good social manners.

They are also doing good deeds in the community and are approved by the Communist Party of China Youth League.

SonicBBS M65 Military Club is the biggest club of this kind in Shanghai, having been founded in 1998 and comprising two parts -- an online BBS forum and a military uniform club.

It boasts about 300,000 registered members online and hundreds of volunteers who regularly participate in community activities. Most of them are avid fans of the latest military equipment (tanks, artillery, rockets, tech) and vintage uniforms.

"Originally I founded this club just out of personal interest," says Yan Hong, who is now also the council chairman of Shanghai Yinsu Youth Volunteer Service Center.

"In 1994, one of my friends sent me a navy uniform from America and that started my interest."

Yan has amassed a collection of over 1,000 military uniforms, mostly US Navy dress. "My first uniform cost me hundreds of dollars," Yan recalls. "It was a huge amount at that time but when you're eager to get something, you don't consider the price much."

Yan always attracts attention when he goes out wearing a uniform but says that's not his purpose.

"I always think a man's behavior should match his clothing. When wearing a military uniform, you should also behave as a professional army man, being responsible and maintaining justice," he says.

Yan doesn't just wear the uniform and talk about it, as one of his experiences shows. He swung into action when he and a friend apprehended a thief who had stolen a woman's wallet on Nanjing Road W.

They caught the thief and held him, along with three associates who came to give help. Yan and his club members often find themselves in such situations.

But they don't advocate violence.

"On the contrary, I require our club members as well as myself to be gentle and kind," Yan says. "The most important thing to remember is justice, responsibility and protecting the weak."

Initially they just organized activities such as having dinners together, communicating and showing off their military collections. However as time went on, Yan thought they should also help their community and country.

"After last year's May 12 earthquake, we realized that we should not just entertain ourselves. We should do something more meaningful and take more responsibility in society," Yan says.

Now the M65 Club has established links with the Youth League and authorities of World Expo 2010.

"We want to eventually make our club a social organization like the American Salvation Army," Yan says.

The Salvation Army is celebrated as "the most efficient organization in America," he says.

"Over 100 years of development, it's now a grand charity organization with over 3.4 million volunteers." And that's the direction he wants to take M65 Club in the future.

Members recently became involved in dozens of successful volunteer initiatives, such as "Go Left and Stand Right," which publicized the right way of using escalators, and "Red Stop, Go Green," publicizing traffic rules.

"We have about 200-300 volunteer members," Yan says.

They often appear together in their black jackets and communicate using radios, distinguishing them from other bands of volunteers.

"That's not for fun," Yan says. In order to better serve society, Yan and many other club members have acquired licenses for radio operations and emergency rescue.

"We always carry first aid gear when going out so we can help others at any time," he says.

Yan says it's been a strong start for the group and he hopes for more in the future.

"Since we established the connection with Expo, this will be our main work in the near future," he says. But that's not all.

"I hope after Expo, our club will become a full volunteer organization, just like the American Salvation Army. That's my dream," Yan says.

Club members have two set uniforms, one set is yellowish-gray imported from the United States and the other a black jacket with "MP" printed on it and bought from South Korea.

The club founder Yan has over 1,000 items in his collection, mostly uniforms, hats, insignia and so on.

Apart from his US Navy uniforms, Yan's personal collection includes ground force uniforms from the former Soviet Union and battle dress from Britain, France, the Netherlands and many other countries.

Yan Jiawei, director of Youth Volunteer Work Department of Shanghai Communist Youth League Committee, praises the club.

"They are very active in various volunteer works. They're very strictly disciplined and very well organized.

"And I think most important is their spirit of devotion, which all members of society should learn from," he says.


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