News: April 2008 Archives

My father is a former airline employee, so it's odd that I've developed a healthy skepticism about flying. Given the choice, I feel much safer on China's vast railway system; not to mention that sitting and having a beer and some dinner in the dining car is better than the slop hurled from airline waitresses.

But anyone will tell you that traveling by train is much more dangerous, and today we were sadly reminded of that truth. The New York Times picks it up from here:

A predawn collision between two passenger trains in Eastern China on Monday has killed at least 70 people and injured around 250, according to Xinhua, the state news agency, making it one of the deadliest rail accidents in recent years.
The two trains, one heading from Beijing to Qingdao and the other traveling between Yantai and Xuzhou, collided at 4:40 a.m. in the town of Zibo, Shandong Province.
Witnesses said one train derailed at a bend and then struck the other, throwing at least ten cars into a ditch. Wire reports quoted a rail official saying that a new timetable introduced on Monday might have contributed to the crash.

This is a tragedy on a very large scale. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims.

sleeping anchors.jpg This is a nice break from the back-and-forth on Tibet.

CCTV 1 anchor Wen Jing was caught by a sharp netizen yawning on air, obviously not aware the camera was focused on her. The netizen also posted a second photo, which appeared to show the anchor shortly after she realized the camera was on.

The photos have drawn a number of comments online, with many people blaming the director. This is the second CCTV mix-up recently, as the state-run network accidentally broadcast an anchor having her make-up applied.

CCTV spokesperson Mrs. Liang lept to her producers - and Wen Jing's - defense, saying, "This is an obvious mistake. But we want the audience to understand these anchors are tired, and have to arrive at the station at 3am. Maybe she was too tired."

She said fines for these kinds of mistakes range from 50 to 200 RMB.

The original story was published in Xiandai Kuai Bao, a newspaper owned by Xinhua that is published in Jiangsu Province. It can be found here.

sleeping anchors2.jpg
Well, at least she wasn't blushing....

The New York Times has published an article today telling the story of a 20 year old girl at Duke University who tried to mediate between the Tibetan and Chinese protesters on campus:

Ms. Wang, who had friends on both sides, tried to get the two groups to talk, participants said. She began traversing what she called "the middle ground," asking the groups' leaders to meet and making bargains. She said she agreed to write "Free Tibet, Save Tibet" on one student's back only if he would speak with pro-Chinese demonstrators. She pleaded and lectured. In one photo, she is walking toward a phalanx of Chinese flags and banners, her arms overhead in a "timeout" T.
But the would-be referee went unheeded. With Chinese anger stoked by disruption of the Olympic torch relays and criticism of government policy toward Tibet, what was once a favorite campus cause -- the Dalai Lama's people -- had become a dangerous flash point, as Ms. Wang was soon to find out.
The next day, a photo appeared on an Internet forum for Chinese students with a photo of Ms. Wang and the words "traitor to your country" emblazoned in Chinese across her forehead. Ms. Wang's Chinese name, identification number and contact information were posted, along with directions to her parents' apartment in Qingdao, a Chinese port city.
Salted with ugly rumors and manipulated photographs, the story of the young woman who was said to have taken sides with Tibet spread through China's most popular Web sites, at each stop generating hundreds or thousands of raging, derogatory posts, some even suggesting that Ms. Wang -- a slight, rosy 20-year-old -- be burned in oil. Someone posted a photo of what was purported to be a bucket of feces emptied on the doorstep of her parents, who had gone into hiding.

We know a conflict has gone too far when even the mediators are demonized.

Rewriting history

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17tibet_450.jpgIt was only a couple of short years ago that Chinese people smashed Japanese businesses in Shanghai and marched on the embassy in Beijing over former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine and the use of school history textbooks that Chinese people felt washed over Japanese atrocities during World War II.

Well, how the tables have turned. While we know certain facets of Chinese history (ahem... like a little demonstration in a big square in 1989) are omitted from local history textbooks, the Chinese government is taking it one step further.

China is getting ready to open a museum on Tibetan history, and one in which the Dalai Lama will be edited out:

"He will not appear after 1959," said Lian Xiangmin, a Chinese scholar involved in the museum, referring to the year the Tibetan spiritual leader fled to India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. "This is a Tibet museum, and we don't recognize him as part of Tibet anymore."

The problem with this, of course, is China's version of "history" and "reality" are becoming far more distant and isolated from the rest of the world. And that leads to misunderstandings like we're witnessing now.

(Photo of Chairman Mao with the Dalai Lama (right) and Panchen Lama from the New York Times)

pasport1.gif My local police detachment is getting quite familiar with me. After each step in the visa renewal process, I've had to pop in there to re-register. Once, I had to register twice in the same week (to get the necessary documents for the next step in the procedure).

It has always been standard for foreign residents of China to register with their local police station. But now it appears that tourists have to as well. This email was sent out by the Canadian Embassy in Beijing:

Anecdotal reports indicate that frequent travellers to China and foreign residents in the country have perceived a change in the visa administration and issuance process. Official sources advise that there is an ongoing effort to strengthen enforcement of existing rules and regulations. Foreign nationals travelling to or residing in China are recommended to thoroughly review all relevant information available regarding the visa issuance process, consult the local visa issuing offices and plan accordingly.
All foreigners (tourists, visitors, and long-term residents) must register their place of residence with the local Public Security Bureau within 24 hours of arrival. Foreign nationals with resident permits are reminded to register after every re-entry into China from abroad as they are not exempted from this regulation which is now being more strictly enforced. If you are in a hotel, registration is done as part of the check-in process. Those staying with family or friends in a private home must also observe this requirement. Failure to do so can result in fines and/or detention.

I've had many visitors, both family and friends, stay with me here in Beijing. Sometimes, they are only here for a short time or stopover; standing in line at the police station isn't my idea of a good use of time, especially when tourists need to write where they intend to stay on their customs form upon entering China anyway.

I'd be surprised if many people actually followed through with this regulation.

img.jpg Although this is an isolated case (as far as I know), actions like this affect the reputations of all foreigners living in China.

Xin Kuai Bao (新快报), a newspaper based in Guangzhou, is reporting three drunk foreigners (according to the building's security guard) took a prostitute to their apartment in Yuexiu District around midnight Friday. A man in the building, Mr. Wang, reported hearing loud arguments coming from the suite on the 30th floor around 3am Saturday. Mr. Wang says she was shouting, "There are three people here, how can you pay just for one!"

Her body was found on an outdoor platform near the 11th and 12th floors later on Saturday morning, after she had allegedly been thrown from the 30th floor. Police cordoned off the area, and are now investigating.

The full article in 新快报 can be found here.

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This page is a archive of entries in the News category from April 2008.

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