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Saturday, April 10, 1999 Published at 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Short Chinese walk tall

By Duncan Hewitt in Beijing

A Chinese university has set up a short people's association to combat what its founder says is widespread discrimination and low self-esteem.

Chi Hua, a physical education teacher in the north-eastern city of Changchun, says it has been so popular that he has been forced to lower the maximum height limit.

[ image: Mr Chi says tall basketball stars make life worse for the short]
Mr Chi says tall basketball stars make life worse for the short
Mr Chi, who is a strapping 1.8m tall himself, says short people face discrimination both in looking for jobs and for marriage partners.

Among measures he has introduced to build confidence is a short person's basketball team.

Chi Hua says the idea of founding the society came to him after he discovered that many shorter students performed poorly in his sports class and showed little enthusiasm.

Short people often encountered prejudice, he told the BBC, adding that this was traditional, but had been made worse by the popularity of tall role models, such as basketball star Michael Jordan.

Shooting for the top

To combat their resulting lack of confidence, Mr Chi began organising special activities in the Changchun University of Science and Technology where he works.

One of the most successful has been his short person's basketball team.

Mr Chi said it had never won any prizes, but had defeated taller rivals on several occasions and was very popular with the fans.

Other activities include groups where students discuss the problems they face.

Short spouses rejected

Mr Chi said many met discrimination when applying for jobs, while people who advertised for marriage partners in China routinely stipulated that their prospective spouse should be above a certain height.

Mr Chi said he originally set the maximum height for membership of the organisation at 1.66m for men, and 1.58m for women, but after being deluged with applications he has now been forced to drop the limit by two centimetres.

He said his organisation has been particularly beneficial to some students from southern China, who sometimes felt intimidated by their taller northern counterparts.

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