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People to People Diplomacy Seeks To Mend Shattered Relations With China After Belgrade Bombing Kills Three Chinese Journalists

While Chinese students throw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, some Americans are attempting to build bridges to the Chinese people. Today, a U.S. based online philanthropy project called the Virtual Foundation, initiated a memorial tree planting project in China, called "The Chinese American Friendship Forest." The Forest will honor the three Chinese journalists, Shao Yunhuan, Xu Xinghu, and Zhu Yin who were killed last week when a NATO bomb struck the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. The project is designed to show the Chinese people that American citizens are not hostile to the Chinese and to express the regret of Americans for the incident.

Randy Kritkausky, the President of ECOLOGIA, an environmental not-for-profit which established the Virtual Foundation project, said, "Our organization works in Russia and we are just about to open an office in China. We have recently seen the NATO military campaign in the Balkans ignite a wave of anti-American feelings in Russia which has seriously set back relations between our two countries. We do not want to see this repeated in China. We hope that our project, which allows Americans to reach out directly to the Chinese people, will reduce the likelihood that all Americans will be viewed as the enemy."

The idea of supporting tree planting projects in China is not new for the Virtual Foundation. For the last two years, it has linked individuals, an American church, and several high school groups with Chinese volunteer organizations engaged in several tree planting projects in China. The American organizations have funded three projects:

  1. Trees For Life - an elementary school tree planting project involving thousands of students in Beijing who grow trees from seed;
  2. Adopt Trees - which provided tools needed for volunteers to adopt and care for neglected trees planted on eroded hillsides;
  3. China's Green Wall - which supported the planting of trees by dozens of volunteers who traveled to the edge of the En Ge Bei desert in order to create a barrier against the advancing desert.

Mr. Kritkausky left for Beijing in mid-May to announce the Chinese-American Friendship Forest project and plant three trees - one for each of the one for each of the Chinese journalists who died. This symbolic act of friendship was intended to be an immediate gesture of American concern over the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and the death of the journalists.

Individuals and organizations interested in supporting the The Chinese American Friendship Forest may do so by making a donation through the Virtual Foundation's website, or by calling its toll free number at (888) 801-7101.