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Xinjiang, China...getting around here

Fred Richardson writes from the "San Juan Islands, half-way between Victoria and Vancouver, on the wrong side of the line." Fred has some experience of his own to add to Anthony Germain's March 10 report of stepped-up policing of journalists in China.

Hi Rick,

 Just listened for the second time to your discussion with Anthony Germain on the new (or current) restrictions and controls on journalists. I travel in China on a tourist visa, much more flexible than a 'journalist' visa (I wouldn't want to travel with one of those in any country!). For years, I've used a name card to tell people something about myself, and to give my email address. The card has Chinese on one side, English on the other and says in four lines: All Electric; Road Construction and Excavation; Precision Explosives Work; and last, Author.

The reaction to this card is very different in the US and in China, something I have found amusing for years. In the US, officials get tense and worried when they see the "Explosives" line; no reaction to the rest... I don't show it or give it to anyone in American airports (not in this land of fear!).

In China, few pay any attention to the "Explosives" line (occasionally, someone might point at the word and ask, "Ba-boom?" and when I nod, they raise an eyebrow and smile). Officials, especially the police, take no notice of that word. But they become formal and serious when they see the word, "Author": I'm asked politely, but without a trace of a smile, "Journalist?"

In Xinjiang last summer, I had many encounters of that sort. I was there just one year after the troubles and fighting between Han and Uyghur triggered by the attacks on Uyghur workers in the factory in Shaoguan, Guangdong, and it was still tense.

Usually I was being hustled out of a zhaodaisuo (an inexpensive hotel: a hostel or guest house) that had no license to allow foreigners to stay. (I'm cheap; I stay in zhaodaisuo all the time. They are simple, but usually clean and safe with everything I want.)

 I would whip out a copy of my book, "Getting Around in China", show the police the chapter with information about finding a bed in places like that, point out that my book was published in Beijing, approved by the GAPP (Government Administration of Press and Publications), and insist that my book represented central policy. Huh! The police would respond strongly (still polite), "Not in Xinjiang!", as they hustled me off to a more expensive hotel.

In the US of A, nobody even notices the word, "Author"

Thanks for your excellent program!


More about Fred Richardson's book
Getting Around In China

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