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Chongqing idioms

Here’s a superb snippet from a posting entitled ‘Funny Bits from Beijing Olympics’ found on the ‘Inside-Out China‘ blog. I’ve replaced the names to make the story a little more palatable, otherwise everything is as is.

Two Chongqing tourists Wu and Jin arrived at Beijing. On a bus, Wu looked at the map and said, “Lets first kill to Tiananmen, then Chairman Mao’s Memorial, then Zhongnanhai.” Jin answered, “Good, we’ll do what you said, kill all the way along this route.” (Chongqing idiom: “kill the way” 杀过去 means “go there.”) Alarmed Beijing passengers reported their dialogue to the police and the two Chongqing men were arrested as soon as they got off the bus.

After several hours interrogation and detention in the police station, they were released. Walking to the Tiananmen Square, the two men kept silent. They just looked at each other and sighed. At last, Wu said to Jin, “Why don’t you shoot?” Jin replied, “You didn’t shoot, why do I dare to shoot?” (Chongqing idiom: “shoot” 开腔 means “talk.”) Before they knew their arms were twisted by plain-clothe police.

A week later the two Chongqing men came out of the detention house. They looked at each other. Wu said, “This is good. My pockets are all empty. Where should we go to get some bullets?” (Chongqing idiom: “bullet” 子弹 means “money.”) The armed guards at the gate charged up and pinned them down on the ground.

Eventually, the Public Security Bureau issued a nationwide notice: “Chongqing idioms are strictly forbidden during the Beijing Olympics.”

Click here for the full post

. . . . and finally, for a translated joke, posted on the Black and White Cat blog, relating to the responses from different nations to Michael Phelps’ recent success click here.

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Bring ’em on

Actually I’m not sure if China is preparing for a sports event, i.e. running around in circles, jumping over obstacles, throwing things, generally fooling around and having a good time, or about to go to war. Reading websites such as the China Daily [CD] and the Shanghai Daily [SD] you might be excused for believing the latter and that China is under threat of imminent attack.

“Missile launchers have been assigned to the Bird’s Nest National Stadium. Any perceived threats to Games venues from the air will be shot down.” in this bulletin.

“The Navy will ensure security at sea as the coastal city of Qingdao hosts sailing events.
Special task forces have also been trained to deal with nuclear or biochemical attacks.”

Nothing is being left to chance; land sea, air, nuclear, biological or chemical attacks have all been planned for and will be dealt with summarily. There is obviously a very powerful enemy afoot.

Sniffer dog patrols are out on duty as far way as Anhui province. Road security is stepped up, as shown in this bulletin, and in the Shanghai Daily report referenced above –

“From the beginning of next week every vehicle coming to Beijing will undergo a security check.

Hundreds of check points will be set up at the road entrances to Beijing, ring roads and downtown to ensure a safe Olympic Games.

Each vehicle entering the capital during the Games will be checked electronically and by sniffer dogs.

Bus passengers traveling to Beijing will have their ID cards and belongings checked from July 20.

If just one passenger fails to show a valid ID card, the bus and all its passengers will be refused entry to the city.”

The government has taken its fight against terror overseas and set up a cooperating body, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation [SCO] with neighbouring countries – Russia, Kazahkstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The first thing to notice about them is that they are all pretty dodgy regimes and all have little or no regard for basic human rights; not exactly the sort of freedom-loving partners most western governments would want to line up with.

If all this were just for show then why fuss over it, but the PRC government seems to be taking its own propaganda very seriously indeed – one might almost be lead to think it actually believes it – and these measures could cause a lot of hassle for any visitors to Beijing. Just take the last statement in the SD report regarding the possibility of a passengers being refused entry because one ID card/passport doesn’t look quite right. A whole busload of people brassed off in one fell swoop. That’s efficiency for you. There is more than ample scope for rubbing people up the wrong way and knowing the government’s enthusiasm and skill in these areas it is more than likely there will be a few toes trodden on in the coming weeks. But the most exciting little gem is the promise of a reward for anyone who provides information “about a planned terrorist attack, possible sabotage by an illegal organization, such as the Falun Gong, murder of Olympic-related personnel or foreigners, or some other major crimes“ [notice how the scope widens with each phrase] see CD again. The bulletin says “The tip-off must include accurate and detailed information“, but offering money on this scale [a minimum of 10,000 yuan and a maximum of 500,000 yuan] may be just a little too tempting. Here is an ideal opportunity to settle old scores with anyone you dislike and line your pocket at the same time. Let’s see how many ‘denouncements’ are made this summer and how many victims of this scheme end up behind bars as terrorists.

This question has been asked before but it needs to asked again, and again, and again until we have a real answer, otherwise how can we take China’s War on Terror seriously. What evidence, beyond the political rhetoric, is available to show that “’the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism” [Mr Chen’s words] really do exist in China? None, so far. Maybe one day the government will surprise us by showing police records, photographs and paraphernalia relating to these incidents, but until then we must reserve judgment. Just one more little question; according to the governments own reports, most of these alleged gangs are armed, principally, with knives, so are anti-aircraft missiles, naval deployments and one of the biggest land army mobilisations that has been seen for years [there are as many personnel tied up with this operation as the USA deployed in Iraq] really justified?

Welcome to Beijing 2008.

Related posts  A question of security

A question of security?

The PRC government is making an effort to systematically clear out foreigners residing and working in China, particularly those in Beijing. That the clear-out is widespread is not disputed and no one with a non-Chinese skin is safe no matter how long they have lived in China and no matter what they are there for. For any government to expel illegal immigrants is not unreasonable; there are expatriates living in China with no visa, expired visas or inappropriate visas, so they should not be too surprised when the PSB comes knocking on their door, but this goes much further. The rules regarding the issue of visas have been changed drastically and extensions to existing visas and residency permits are becoming very hard to obtain. Read through almost any blog written by an expatriate in China and you’ll soon get a feel of the problem. What is not so easy to ascertain is why this is happening.

The process started, in a low key way, some time last year when the PRC government began rounding up and deporting evangelists and missionaries [foreign evangelists are illegal in China], as reported on several websites, click here for one of them. Then early this year foreign students in Beijing were told they would have to vacate their quarters during the summer months. At the time a few people thought this a little odd, while others, myself included, felt there was probably a rational explanation somewhere and this was nothing to fuss about. During the Spring the process was extended to illegal migrant workers from neighbouring countries such as North Korea. Several of these ended up in the UK as asylum seekers as they dared not return to face Kim Jong-Il’s regime; several passed through the reception centre not far from where I live. Since then the net has spread and no one seems to be beyond its reach.

As work [‘Z’] and business [‘F”] visas have expired renewal has been denied or the application process made so long and tortuous people have given up and gone away. When ‘Z’ visas have been issued they have been limited to single entry only. Travel visas [‘L’], which once were available in a variety of formats have been reduced to one type only, 30 days, single entry. The days of multiple entry visas are over for now. One very odd rule of thumb has emerged, no one born after 1984 has been granted renewal of a ‘Z’ visa. So if you are a tourist and just wish to make one visit of 2 or 3 weeks this summer, no problem, but if you require anything else be prepared for a long wait and possible disappointment.

If it were just the ne’er-do-wells, who occasionally land up in China, who were affected I would have no qualms and might even applaud the government but this simply isn’t the case. This report on the Cup Of Cha weblog gives a general outline of the picture and this, this and this report from Simpson’s Paradox details the departure of, first, two of the blogger’s friends and not long after, her boyfriend’s sudden departure which will be followed soon by her own. Another well-known blogger has had to return to his home country to go through the visa application process, to the amusement of one or two of the commenters, as detailed in this report on The Opposite End Of China blog. A 71 year old man who who has been running his own company in China for several years has had to leave at short notice, as reported on the Wall Street Journal. And this report on the TIME magazine website outlines the problem and details a few more cases. Root around on the web long enough and you will accumulate a list as long as your arm of expulsion stories.

Another clearing out process has been taking place which doesn’t involve foreigners but could be equally relevant to this question. Dissenters and other trouble makers have been locked up, petty dissenters, petitioners and other undesirables who were a regular feature of the Beijing streets have been moved as far away from tourist areas as possible. This has all been part of the campaign to tidy up the streets and make them more agreeable for western eyes. Walk along any city centre street in Beijing and how many beggars do you see? See Ben’s Blog.

One of the effects, which I find hard to believe was intended, has been a downturn in international tourist traffic. Bookings this year are lower than for the same period last year and even for the month of August itself the figures are not good – see this report on the Economist website.

As to why this has happened we can only theorise. The official reason is ’security’. Whether this makes any sense or not doesn’t seem to matter as the Chinese authorities are determined to put on a show of strength, as shown on this China Daily report. Some of the measures shown are ideal for TV/Photo-ops but not a lot use for dealing with real terrorism or civil disturbances. In previous months the PLA and police have been hard at work undertaking training exercises and now it all comes to fruition in the form of a massive mobilisation and a string of spectacular displays of Chinese strength and prowess. Click on to any Chinese media website [e.g. Xinhua, QQ news] and you will see propaganda photos showing the PSB, PLA, PLAN and almost anyone else who wears a government uniform, going through their paces valiantly defending the motherland and fighting off the evils of the outside world. The PRC government claims to be fighting insurgents in the far west province of Xinjiang in the form of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement [ETIM] which in turn is claimed to be linked to Al’Qaeda. While resentment against the governing Han people does exist amongst the Uygur people of Xinjiang no-one seems to know if ETIM itself genuinely exists. Early this year Xinhua reported a raid on an ETIM gang in Urumqi – click here – and during the spring an airline hi-jacking/sabotage incident was reported – click here. A search on the internet will produce alternative reports of the same incidents but in not one of them is there one item evidence, photographic or otherwise, cited or referred to to prove that these incidents occurred. Even the Xinhua reports themselves, usually published some time after each incident, are devoid of any reference to evidence that the incidents took place. One incident was purported to have taken place in a residential neighbourhood and was said to have resulted in several deaths, but none of the neighbours knew anything of it. All of which calls into question just how real terrorism in China is. Even if it were real, in what way does expelling foreign residents make the Olympic games any more safe? Or is it, as some suggest, just an excuse for a continuing crackdown on anyone the authorities don’t like?

But back to the expulsions. If security is not the real reason for this, what is? Millions of tourists are expected to arrive in Beijing during the Games and along with them will be thousands of news reporters. The authorities want them all to see China at its best and to this end they have been beavering away for several years preparing the infrastructure, the amenities, environment and the people. Over all these elements the government has some degree of control and the authorities have good reason to feel reasonably confident about the preparations, e.g. the people have been put through many re-education programmes, such as how to queue in a civilised manner, how to not spit, how to clap harmoniously, etc, but the one thing the government cannot control is the foreign population [said by some to be around quarter of a million in Beijing]. To speak to a native Beijinger [北京公民] a reporter will probably need an interpreter, and the native Beijinger will probably already know what he must [and not] say to foreign reporters. To speak to a foreign resident would not be quite so irksome – and finding foreigners is remarkably easy, just stand in the high street of any large city and see how easy it is to spot the laowai amongst the surrounding sea of jet black hair and tanned faces – and if the questions were to become too probing who knows what might be said and then reported? Could there be a risk here? So, to present the world with a picture of an unflawed harmonious society the way ahead is to make sure that the only people available on the streets are re-educated natives and first time tourists, that way there will be no embarrassing stories to deal with.

北京欢迎您

Beijing welcomes you.

Torch Fatigue in Suzhou

Thank you to Beijing Olympics FAN for bringing this posting on the This Is China blog to my attention.

Every country which hosts the Olympics adds a little extra flavour which is all its own, but no one has done this on such a grand scale as China with the resulting outcome that the Olympic element is almost lost beneath that added by China. These games are ‘owned’ by the Chinese people and don’t you, the waiguoren, forget that – and don’t even think of making any negative comments about them.

Full post here.

How to . .

Here’s a useful posting, on Simpson’s Paradox, all about how to make use of a volume of The Thorn Birds . . . .

The ‘b’-word

blindman.jpgThe ‘b’-word has been mentioned in the press. Again. At the time of Mr Spielberg’s disengagement with BOCOG there was some talk of boycotting the 2008 Olympics in protest over China’s involvement with Darfur, but it then faded away. Since the recent troubles in Tibet the topic has been revived and the notion is now being discussed amongst some European political circles. I’ve said once before that not going to the 2008 Olympics seems rather foolish after going to all the trouble of awarding the games to Beijing in the first place and I still feel the same way so perhaps a little clarification is necessary.

 

 

Does anyone remember the 1980 Games, held in Moscow? That year the USA persuaded many other countries [about 60, I believe] to join it in boycotting the Moscow games in protest at the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The games went ahead as planned; the only disappointment for the spectators was that the records were not pushed as far forward as might have happened if everyone had participated. The conflict in Afghanistan continued for another 10 years and the only people to have been affected directly from the action were those athletes instructed by their countries to not participate. Did the boycott achieve much? Well, the following Olympic games in 1984, and held in Los Angeles, were boycotted, tit for tat, by the Russians and that is the only result I am aware of. Not long ago Prime Minister Brown boycotted the EU Conference in Lisbon as President Mugabe [of Zimbabwe] had been invited to attend. I’m unsure what Gordon Brown hoped to achieve by that, teach Robert Mugabe a lesson and scare him back home perhaps, tell Europe that Britain and Zimbabwe don’t mix maybe, I can only guess. What I do know is that he scored a resounding silence with this fatuous gesture. So much for the power of the boycott.

 

Looking at this from a slightly different angle, in what way are the British public and other westerners getting involved in this matter. Are they boycotting Chinese goods? Refusing to buy anything with a ‘Made in China’ stamp on it? Are western businessmen withdrawing from deals struck with Chinese enterprises? Have our ministers refused to attend trade missions in China? Have we advised all tourists to not travel to China? No. Really? In fact, for the rest of the world it’s pretty much business as usual. So why must athletes be singled out to bear this message of disapproval to China and have their years of training and hopes sacrificed? At best this can only be described as an exercising of double standards, but at worst it is nothing short of gross hypocrisy.

 

In the b-camp there are some who are convinced the way forward is to stage an all-out boycott and there is some logic in this as only a boycott supported by the vast majority of participants could effectively stop the event from being staged, but there are others who take what they see as a more pragmatic and moderate view. Instead of denying athletes the opportunity to compete they say we should go ahead and attend, as planned, but boycott the opening ceremony. And if that wouldn’t teach them a lesson I don’t know what will!

Related posts – Xizang, Take Note.

 

Take Note . . .

bocog-sign.jpg Lord Malloch-Brown has spoken up in support of Steven Spielberg‘s decision to quit his post as adviser to the Beijing Oympic Games. By so doing he has forced China’s leaders to “sit up and take notice” and has “focussed minds”. If you don’t believe me it is all here in The Times. Quite. But somehow I don’t see China’s leaders suddenly trembling in their boots and changing their ways simply because a film director has said something negative and walked off in a huff. What he has to say may have some validity, I’m not going to discuss that, but if so why did it take so long [two years] for his conscience to kick into action? China has changed in that time, economically very rapidly, on other scores very slowly but nevertheless the changes made have been positive ones, so China is now a [marginally] better place than when Spielberg first took the job. Could this just be another celebrity jumping on the fashionable protest bandwagon? Or is it because someone told him to? One story circulating is that Mia Farrow had a word in his ear after which the decision was made, but I don’t know if there is any truth in it. The fear is that Mr Spielberg’s action in turning his back on the PRC government and endeavouring to embarrass them may have had a totally negative effect, the opposite of what he wanted, and may even have destroyed some of the goodwill built up by others.

Critics cite various reasons for not holding the games in Beijing but, for one reason or another, all those issues were overlooked and, rightly or wrongly, the decision was taken. Having done that it now seems rather stupid to be proposing to not go to Beijing because of failings in human rights issues, dissatisfaction with how Tibet has been handled, because China is not preventing a civil war in the Sudan [which, incidentally, it didn’t cause and has been going on for 40 years] and a dozen and one other grumbles, all of which we were well aware of when the IOC made its decision.

I’m not overjoyed that the games have gone to Beijing [even less so that they will be in London in 2012, but that’s another story] but I’m not in favour of using the games as a political football and taking cheap shots at the host. Quitting a job goes no where. Staging protests, demonstrations or other street activities, as some have suggested, will achieve nothing and is unlikely to do anyone any credit at all. [I really do hope that there are no street protests or arena demos this summer – not because the demonstrators may not have a point to make but simply because of the repercussions and difficulties this would cause the people of China afterwards. The demonstrators are most unlikely to suffer for their actions.] Direct action, even negative action, may be ok in the west, criticising our government is a national pastime, but in China these things would be seen as inappropriate, and coming from an ousider with no connection with the country, hurtful or insulting. Spielberg will probably be seen, by the Chinese, as someone who intended to cause upset or offence, not as someone concerned with human rights. For the Chinese people ‘face’ is a powerful issue and direct criticism is one sure-fire way of antagonising them and ensuring they are not on your side. There are ways and means of talking to the Chinese people, Chinese businesses and the Chinese government successfully but confrontation isn’t one of them.

There are many other blogs which have a lot more to say about this issue, and far more convincingly I might add, here are a few
Silicon Hutong
Image Thief
One Man Bandwidth
Mutant Palm – what Spielberg should have said
Global Voices – includes translated comments from a Chinese blogger
The Sri Lanka Guardian – includes translated comments from Chinese bloggers