Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Dirty Laundry
There are a lot of cliches that many newcomers (and that still includes me after 2 years) have to disabuse themselves regarding China. The first -- despite my so-called sophistication, education and intellect regarding All Things Asian -- was my initial surprise that the populace wasn't wearing drab Mao suits, riding bicycles and quoting The Little Red Book
Many of them were driving Benz's and high-end Toyotas and Hondas, had sex before marriage and thought Crouching Tiger, Hidden Weasel was old school and couldn't understand why America was so taken with such repetitive drek.
The Mao suits/Flying Pigeon bicycle era was 30 years ago, of course. Thinking back, it would be like a Chinese guy arriving in the US expecting to see leisure suits and Nixon posters. But of course we Americans all still routinely pack heat, have the Carpenters on our iPods and engage in random high speed car chases at leisure.
Which brings me ideals and cliches regarding journalism and democracy in China. Recently I learned via a comprehensive China blog called ESWN that Shenzhen was recently gripped with protests.
There have been a slew of Western news reports about growing protests (i.e. a growing democracy movement) in China and they aren't all wrong. Some have been resolved or quashed and some have not been reported accurately. A long running fracas in a village called Tashi that went from July through October and still isn't completely at an end was the most famous and infamous, though ill-reported internationally outside of ESWN.
But when I learned of the Shenzhen brouhaha earlier this week I thought I saw an opening to report something other than the thumb sucking features I've been doing recently.
Summation as I understand it: a group of ex-PLA soldiers now employed as construction workers last weekend protested and petioned the Shenzhen mayor (a corrupt asshole and probably an unindicted --- though there is no legal concept for indictment there) criminal himself. But I'm a natural sucker for causes such as lost wages, poor working conditions and democracy.
Hizzoner stalled them with rhetoric and bullshit and called in working PLA troops/SZ cops to enforce his edict. He also enforced a press blackout and currently it's all at a standstill.
It also happened in the general SZ neighborhood where I live on weekends, though I was clueless about it at the time -- probably cuz I was probably ordering in from the new Pizza Hut delivery and watching a pirate copy of "Forty Year Old Virgin" while alternately listening to a bootleg Lou Reed "New York" CD that I'd congratulated myself on stumbling upon recently.
But C has one PLA connection and on Tuesday after I'd seen on ESWN what I'd missed in the neighborhood, I asked her to quiz him if any of his comrade PLA veterans might be interested in some Hong Kong/Western coverage and if they'd clue me in to any future protests.
"They would love some fair and balanced Hong Kong English language Western democracized press coverage," I was idealistically thinking. "Who wouldn't?"
Well, they aren't.
After two days of protracted cell phone third party conversations their message was basically this.
It's an internal problem. We can handle it thankyouverymuch but no thankyou. Hong Kong media - English or not - can't be trusted because it distorts and exaggerates mainland problems and never reports the positive. We didn't like the coverage we got initially, mainland and especially Hong Kong, so butt out, please.
I can't say I disagree. Even my paper tends to paint the mainland as a uniform hellhole of censorship and repression with reports about mainlanders tending towards uncouth tourist hoardes that pissed, shat and spit in public at Hong Kong Disneyland and authorities who detain democracy and press activists randomly on bogus charges.
And after all, the guys I was (sort of) negotiating were PLA vets. Minimally educated, unsophisticated working class heroes who were being ripped off after leaving the service.
They don't spend a lot of time - if any - dicing the differences between mainland and Hong Kong media, much less the English language press. They just want to make a living and be treated fairly and don't see any advantage in bringing in foreign hacks from a snooty, rich and stuffy city like Hong Kong to aid their case.
I can't say I blame them.
No American has the Capenters on their iPod, well none that I know.
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