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China starts 1-year Expo countdown

CHINA'S top legislator started a timer yesterday in Beijing's Tian'anmen Square to kick off the one-year countdown to the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

Wu Bangguo, chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, said at a ceremony that the government "will spare no effort" in preparation for the world fair and that the country looks forward to "experiencing technological advances and sharing the achievements of human civilization with friends around the world."

He said the World Expo has proved during its more than 150-year history to play an important role in promoting world economic and technological development and that it will also foster cultural development.

The Expo will be staged from May 1 to October 31 next year.

So far 236 countries, regions and international groups have confirmed their participation in the event, which is centered on the theme "Better City, Better Life."

Saint Kitts, Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines were the latest confirmed participants, said a spokesman for the Shanghai World Expo Coordination Bureau.

Among the participating countries, 50 are from Africa, 33 from the Americas, 45 from Europe, 45 from Asia and 16 from Oceania.

Twenty are yet to forge diplomatic relations with China, including Bhutan, Palau and Guatemala.

The countdown timer was installed at the east side of Tian'anmen Square, where a similar timer earlier counted down the days to the Beijing Olympics. After the Expo opens, the timer will display the daily number of visitors.

Wu said the Expo will help increase cooperation between China and the world.

It will provide an opportunity for all participants to demonstrate effective city planning and development and environmentally friendly lifestyles for sustainable development, he said.

Meanwhile, a new Website to promote Hong Kong's Expo participation was launched yesterday.

The Website will keep the public up to date about the city's preparations for and participation in the event and provide another channel for Internet users around the world to learn more about the city.

"This mega event will provide an excellent opportunity to showcase the connectivity, creativity and attractions of our city to audiences in the mainland and around the world," Hong Kong Chief Secretary for Administration Henry Tang, who chairs the steering committee for the city's participation in the Expo, said in his welcome message on the Website.


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