Thursday, October 09, 2003

Wild, wild East

Foreign devil coworker Jeff recently invited me to see the other half of his life. He's got a comfortable two and a half bedroom apartment that he shares with his Tibetan girlfriend, but, unknown to her, he also shares a smaller one (two bedrooms, no kitchen) with another Australian expat named Phil that they use for, uh, extracurricular activities. It's in the heart of a red light district dubbed "The Village."
But Jeff and Phil have to vacate soon -- probably this weekend due to events that unfolded in another city in this province last month and have since caused a minor international incident between China and Japan. Variously described in the media here and in Japan as a "three day orgy" or "romp" or "sex tour scandal" involving hundreds of Japanese male tourists, some reportedly as young as 16, and an equal number of Chinese working girls all publicly cavorting in a major hotel, it has also created a ripple effect on the sex trade throughout the province.
While prostitution is illegal here, it's also widespread under a sort of "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.
But the Japanese made the mistake of scheduling their public display of promiscuity on a sensitive anniversary in Chinese-Japanese relations. September 16 is regarded as something of a national day of humilation here because it is the date that marks the Japanese occupation of Manchuria in 1931.
Chinese guests staying at the hotel were quoted as saying that the Japanese men groped the women in the lobby and on elevators, and that guest floors overflowed with scenes of carnality and drunkenness
The result has been a temporary, but widely publicized clampdown on the sex trade throughout the province, complete with near-daily TV and Chinese language print coverage of dozens of pimps and hookers being cuffed, interrogated and humilated by the law.
It's also affected Jeff's alternative living situation. He said he and Phil had a recent visit at their pad from the local police who told them they want the foreigners to vacate the premises.
"We're foreigners, like the Japanese to their minds," he says. "They also are afraid of us dying there. There have been reportedly 18 deaths - a few foreigners and the others Chinese guys who died here while having sex. It's a huge embarrassment to them when that happens and they don't want to chance it."
We left his apartment and took a portable chess set to a "barbie" (barbecue) shop where we sat outside in the cooling evening air, drank some beers, played some chess, ate some BBQ and watched the few soiled doves, their pimps and mamasans left in the area gossiping with each other and drift languidly around looking for clients.
Suddenly around the corner came a lot of shouting and the sound of people running. Four frantic young men carrying a fifth by his arms and legs appeared, brushed by our table and ran up the street into what appeared to be the entrance of an emergency medical clinic. It went by fast, but the prone gray- faced fellow was covered with blood and there was what appeared to be a pocket knife or short handled blade protruding from his chest.
No cops and no ambulance ever appeared.
"Didja see that, mate?" said Jeff. "It's Dodge City, here. Bloody Tombstone."

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