Planet China

Out of this world

Meteorites have been much in the news lately, particularly after one struck Chelyabinsk in Russia. In China too a meteorite has hit the headlines, albeit for less tragic reasons. This one struck Xinjiang in 1898, and has prompted a bizarre legal battle. Facing off in the dispute are the two local guides who ‘discovered’ the meteor in 2011 and the government (which seized it so as to ‘protect’ it). The meteorite is reckoned to be the second biggest to have hit China, and the guides believe they ought to have been given financial compensation by the government for finding it. Instead the Beijing Planetarium offered them a certificate; and on further lobbying Rmb5,000 ($803) each, which they refused. As one of the guides told South Weekend: “We expected the reward to be in the hundreds of thousands of yuan.” Complicating matters further the man who owns the land on which the meteor fell says by rights he owns it. A professor from the Law School of Peking University says regrettably Chinese property laws make no mention of meteorites.


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