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Friday, 6 October, 2000, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
Harry Potter battles Chinese pirates
Book buyers
Bookshops reported huge queues from the early hours
Bookshops in Beijing have been swamped by adults and children alike eager to get their hands on the first Chinese translations of the Harry Potter books.

With Harry's magic casting a spell over Chinese readers well ahead of Friday's publication date many shops brought in extra security guards to deal with the anticipated rush.

Harry Potter
Harry Potter: A good role model for Chinese children
Thanks to a massive publicity campaign in newspapers, television and online, millions of Chinese children are already familiar with the adventures of the boy wizard known as "Ha-Li Bo-te".

Publication of an initial print run of 600,000 copies of the first three Harry books was brought forward by a week to head off the challenge from illegal pirate translations that have already sold well.

In an effort to beat the counterfeiters the People's Literature Publishing House printed the books on specially produced green tinted paper.

Eager readers

Potter book
The initial print-run of 600,000 was brought forward by a week
In the Chinese capital and 20 other cities, shops reported queues of eager children and their equally intrigued parents building up hours ahead of opening time.

The publishers say that Harry's exploits provide a good role model for children and dismiss critics who say the tales of vampires, zombies and trolls promote superstition.

"The values in the stories such as being kind to people are really universal," said Nie Zhenning, People's Literature Publishing's senior editor. "We're really proud to bring such a nice book to China."

Some parents, however, have expressed concerns that the books will distract their children from their education.

Education worries

Bookshop
Children and adults alike have been drawn in by the Potter spell
"She hasn't finished learning all the things in her schoolbooks," said one mother as she shepherded her daughter away from the Potter throng.

"If she reads too many other books, it'll complicate her brain. It will affect her homework."

Others though said the massive publicity campaign, unprecedented for a foreign work of fiction in China, had simply got the better of them.

"I read in a newspaper about how the books had sold 30 million copies and really wanted to see what was so attractive about them," said office worker Wang Jiguan.

Mrs Wang added that she planned to read the books first because her child was too small to follow the plots - but, then again, parents will use any excuse these days.

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