It’s a bit of a different story this month, and it took me a while to figure out how I was going to tell it. My apologies for being a couple of days late.
I have a friend who’s just gotten out of a Chinese Detention Centre. He was inside for a month, and what he went through was fairly horrific. He’s certainly not the man he was before he went in. Before I tell you a bit more of his story, however, I’d like to talk briefly about a few of the other foreigners that were in there at the same time.
There’s the guy, for instance, who made the mistake of being in a bar at the same time that a bar fight broke out between two groups of Chinese. He wasn’t involved in any way at all, but he was the one the Police picked up because he was the only customer who wasn’t a local. He was, in fact, a sailor on a container ship that had docked up the river, and this was his first visit to China. He spent every night crying and praying. He only got out when the Captain of his ship payed an enormous bribe to the prison guards.
Or the guy from South East Asia, who was picked up in a random sweep in the far west (Xinjiang to the locals, East Turkestan to the rest of the world). His crime was ‘looking like a separatist’. The local Police there, unwilling to admit they had picked up a foreigner by mistake, shipped him off to distant Shanghai. He’s been in for months, and has no prospect of getting out any time soon.
Then there’s the foreign investor whose Joint Venture partner, a corrupt member of the Shanghai Government, decided he wanted the whole operation for himself, and had this poor blighter arrested and put away.
Worst of all, the guy who has been inside for a year and a half. His crime? In the words of the guard who boasted to my friend: “He’s black, and we don’t like black people in China. We don’t want to let him out”.
None of these people – none of them – have ever been charged with any crime. None of them has, to the best of my knowledge, been allowed to see a lawyer. Their consulates don’t know they are in there. Their families haven’t heard from them. They have simply disappeared.
Which brings me to my friend.
He was in a bar with his colleagues after work early one evening, when a very large, very drunk American came over and accused his boss of stealing his drink. He was very obviously looking to start a fight. The target of his aggression offered to buy him another drink to replace the one he had lost, and the American went away after roundly abusing the entire group. Half an hour later he was back, and made to attack my friend. My friend threw up his arm to protect his face, and the glass he was holding nicked the American (but not badly, just enough to draw a little blood). After the American was restrained, my friend left quickly so as to avoid further incident, but apparently the American was able to find out where he worked and what his name was.
Several days later, my friend got an email from this American, which said “I’m gonna fuck you up”. That night, when he arrived home, the Police had set a trap for him, and whisked him away to the Detention Centre.
My friend was lucky – his girlfriend knew what happened to him. Why lucky? Because when the girlfriend went to the consulate, and the consulate went to the Police asking why they hadn’t filed the mandatory report with them, the Police denied any knowledge of the incident. They continued to deny knowing the whereabouts of my friend for a week, and when they finally admitted to knowing where he was, it took another week before they allowed Consular officials to see him, in clear violation of several international agreements. My friend was warned at this time not to say anything except that he was being treated well.
He was not being treated well, not by a long shot.
He was being subjected to intense political re-education, all day every day. No exercise, bright lights all the time, emotional abuse, you name it. He was placed in a small cell with half a dozen Chinese murderers who had also been subjected to the same political re-education, and who as a result harboured a particular hatred towards all foreigners. He ate stale rice and drank dirty water for a month. He slept on the floor. No showers, and one shave per week, with a blunt and bloodied razor that was used for the entire prison population (he refused to shave). Following the events in Sichuan recently, the guards came around and demanded that all prisoners sign a document ‘donating’ their money to the guards, for an ‘Earthquake Appeal’, and when my friend refused, the guards saw to it that all the other prisoners knew it.
My friend was not treated well. Not by a long shot.
He was released after his family agreed to pay the American 350,000 RMB (although he had originally demanded 1,000,000). That’s a lot of money.
And what about this mysterious American, the one who arranged for him to be there? Well, it turns out that this particular Yank has rather a history of doing this sort of thing to people. His modus operandi is to start fights with other foreigners, younger than himself and smaller in build, and then have them arrested. He either pays the Police a percentage or a set price, it isn’t clear which. And then he pockets the money and moves on to the next victim. A regular, old-fashioned, extortion racket. Just like in the old days.
This bastard lives in Shanghai, and has in fact been here for quite a few years. He is involved in real estate, and has a lot of local connections to help him do his dirty work. I know who this person is, I know what he looks like, I know where he works and where he lives, and I know what I’d like to see happen to him. My friend has asked that I don’t publish any of that, and I intend to respect his wishes. But I will also be hitting my knees on the floor every night, praying that this bastard gets his just desserts.
This Wet Pussy Award is for him.
Un-named Yank Bastard, Wet Pussy Award winner.
And where now are the righteous Chinese patriots, the ones who cry foul whenever China’s human rights record is questioned? I can only presume they are okay with their own Police and Party Officials colluding with this American, to extort money out of other foreigners. But hey, feel free to prove me wrong – until you do, I’ll go right on believing that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
And while I’m quoting others, here’s another one for you:
“Why is that camera off? You don’t know what you’re doing here, but maybe I know what I’m doing here. These people [the State] are risking their lives for us? I want to see what they’re going through, even if they don’t want us to. And I want other people to see it. What do you think they’re doing out there? Protecting and defending secrecy? That’s the world of Mao, the world of Stalin, the world of secret police, of secret trials, of secret deaths! You force the press into the cold, and all you will get is lies and innuendo, and nothing – nothing! – is worse for a free society than a press that is in service to the Military and the Politicians. Nothing! You turn that camera off when I tell you to turn it off! You think I give a damn what you think about me? You serve the People? So do I.”