BEIJING, Nov. 10 -- Aliens are living in Yunnan, Heilongjiang and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, according to a professor of physics at Yunnan University.
"The complicated terrain of these places makes them perfect for observation of us earthlings," said Zhang Yifang, director of the Kunming UFO Research Association.
The Yunnan capital city accounts for one-tenth of all sightings in the province ¨C more than 400 since 1972 when a large group of people in Xishan district reported a shiny brass bowl-like object, he said.
Zhang, 62, was just one of hundreds of sky watchers who convened to discuss unexplained phenomena at the October 31-November 16 Kunming UFO Forum, perhaps the only place in China where "have you seen the saucers?" is a preferred greeting.
The only reason why Yunnan has so many UFO sightings is there are so many UFO enthusi-asts, the critics argue.
They are wrong, Zhang insists. The aliens are living right here among us and he knows it.
"Yunnan is a mysterious place, full of oddities," he said. "The aliens' intelligence is beyond us. They must have a good reason to choose to stay in Yunnan."
No solid evidence proves they are in Yunnan, he concedes.
"But I believe they are nice and they have no intention of attacking us," he said. "Perhaps they are shape-shifters camouflaged as human beings or they have manufactured human-like robots to watch us."
How many aliens or robots, or when they first came to settle, he could not say.
UFOs are an "old" topic in China: the elderly took up about half the seats at the forum hosted by Zhang on Saturday, a half-empty hall with capacity for about 200. Zhang joined the Kunming UFO Research Association in 1980 and has shared sightings with associations from other provinces.
"Many people in China believe aliens exist," he said, "but only a few UFO lovers devote themselves to doing the research."
Zhang's son, Zhang Shu, 29, is one of the youngest members of the UFO association. His passion for research has been deeply influenced by his father.
"Young people don't really like to spend time researching something when you don't even know if it exists," he said. "It feels like you are researching the air."
"What's more, if they tell their friends they are doing UFO research, they would be mocked incessantly."