July 10, 2009 / 6:00 AM / 8 years ago

China to build own Neverland as Michael Jackson tribute

<p>A general view of the train station at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, California July 3, 2009.Phil Klein</p>

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese developers are commemorating the late Michael Jackson by building a scaled-down replica of his Neverland Ranch on an island off Shanghai, a state-run newspaper said on Friday.

Investors in the project, which will cost about 100 million yuan ($15 million) to build, hope it will open on Chongming island ahead of next year's Expo in Shanghai, the China Daily newspaper reported.

While they are not as popular as the Taiwanese and Hong Kong stars who dominate the music scene in China, Western artists are making inroads in the local market, thanks to young fans.

"By building a Neverland here in China, we want to pay tribute to him and at the same time offer the Chinese people an outlet for expressing their love toward him," the report quoted Qiu Xuefan, one of the investors, as saying.

Jackson, who died on June 25 in Los Angeles, abandoned Neverland -- once filled with theme-park rides and even a zoo -- after his child molestation trial in 2005.

The Shanghai version will have "Chinese characteristics to have it blend in with the local environment," the paper added, without elaborating.

But not everyone is convinced it's a good idea.

"If the purpose is simply to pay tribute to Michael, I would suggest investors open it for free, just as Michael did for the children," said Wei Wei, deputy head of Jackson's Chinese fan club. "Otherwise, they are just making money from it."

But Qiu, who professes his love for Jackson's music, said the ranch would help keep the King of Pop's legacy alive.

"His music is a legacy to the world and should not be forgotten. We also would like to set up a fund, with profits being used to help encourage children with musical talent."

Last week, an "instant" biography of Jackson in Chinese hit the bookshelves, which local newspapers said was penned by two Chinese writers who worked on it for two days straight but who had never met their subject.

($1=6.831 Yuan)

Reporting by Shanghai newsroom, editing by Miral Fahmy

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