It all started with some small talk. I got into a cab at Xidan after the buses had stopped running, and the cabbie, who was the talkative type, decided to make conversation.
“Did you participate in the moment of silence?”
It was a hard question to answer, though it shouldn’t have been. The answer was “No.” Simple as that. But I equivocated. I told him that I was in a mall during the moment of silence and that I saw some people observing it (which was all true), what about you? He said that he was on the street, standing beside his car, honking his horn. I asked him why and he said dismissively that the state had ordered him to.
Fan Meizhong is one of China’s most infamous people. Much like Sharon Stone and real estate tycoon Wang Shi, “Running Fan” has been mercilessly chided in the Chinese blogosphere since his conduct during the earthquake became public. A teacher in Dujiangyan city, he fled his classroom before any of his students had a chance to leave when the earthquake struck. Although the official line is that his school fired him, it is obvious that the negative backlash against Fan on the internet contributed to his dismissal.
In my previous post about the karma fiasco, I remarked tongue-in-cheek that we should boycott Sharon Stone’s movies. Well apparently that is becoming a reality, which reinforces my belief that one day satire will no longer be necessary because the world itself will have become a farce.
I’m not in the habit of posting YouTube videos but this one warrants some discussion. Let me address potential criticisms first: I know celebrities are not reliable sources on politics. I know celebrities say stupid things—in fact, some even seem in the business of saying stupid things. And yes, if you’ll allow me an ad hominem attack, it is ridiculous for a woman whose initial claim to fame was flashing her vagina on film to pontificate on issues like Tibet.
The video has several parts. It begins with an introduction by an anchor then goes into Stone’s rambling, followed by reactions from carefully-selected bystanders. Only the first reaction is in Chinese; the rest are in English. Watch the video, then we’ll talk.
Many are surprised by the Chinese government’s open response to the quake disaster. They laud the government for having what seems to be an almost miraculous reversal of policy compared to other natural disasters—in 1976, the Chinese tried to suppress news of the Tangshan earthquake that killed 240,000 people. It covered up the Yellow River floods of the last decade, the SARS epidemic of several years ago, and the railway crash of this year. With nonstop news broadcasts, unlimited access (so far) for journalists both foreign and domestic, this seems like the herald of a new age of news freedom and the first step in greater openness and accountability. You couldn’t be more wrong.