Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How to Outsmart Chinese Officials

Wu Kong’s hands gripped the steering wheel; his palms burned; his knuckles whitened. This was Hollywood-movie excitement! If it could, his foot would depress the accelerator straight through the floor for added dramatic effect.

“Hang on!” He hollered, almost elated, to his passengers—a reporter and photographer for the New World Times.

The mysterious sedan followed them in hot pursuit on this desolate, rural village road until they ripped a sharp turn onto the exit and made a clean getaway onto a new, major highway that had been paved and paid for by The State.

But just after losing the sedan, the driver was forced to quickly decelerate to avoid slamming into a village man who was carrying an obscenely long bamboo pole over his shoulder. The man was climbing over the median strip and had to slowly turn his torso until the pole swung parallel to the highway so the car could drive past. Apparently, the villager hadn't been expecting cars this way, let alone the charge of a random speed demon. Wu Kong whooped as he accelerated again, and the photographer snapped a shot out the back window, capturing the villager's astonishment and his pole acrobatics on film.

After ten minutes on the highway, Wu Kong was pulled over by police and answered three-hours of questions, while the photographer and reporter, who spoke only a little Chinese, waited patiently and snoozed all afternoon on one another's shoulders in the rental car's back seat.

Later, the driver explained the problem to his passengers, although the seasoned nesmen had expected as much. Chinese officials were concerned that Wu Kong was driving journalists to the outskirt villages. They suspected these journalists were sticking their noses into Chinese Internal Affairs, sniffing out the details of the most recent paper mill spill. The journalists would have been caught and punished if it weren't for Wu Kong's charms and bribes.

While he drove into the city, Wu Kong suggested a new approach to the foreign journalists, "So what should you do if you are a writer who wants to get the inside story on paper mill spills that sink Chinese villages? You should disguise yourself as toxic sludge! That's what. I tell you: Eat Beijing duck, vomit all over yourself, and don a mask made of tar and shit-smeared feathers. Because Chinese officials ignore toxic sludge. They spend all their energy trying to tighten their grip around the necks of the foreign journalists. I tell you: if you disguise yourself as a stinking, festering, slimy, goopy environmental disaster, you are more likely to sneak below the Central Government’s official radar than if you try to sneak around pretending to be sleepy tourists. That's how you'll get the story. Go toxic!"

"In closing," Wu Kong said as he pulled to the curb of the International Hotel to let off his passengers, "I quote your good, ol’ Eddie Murrow, 'Good night, and good luck!'"

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