China: The Inconsistent Police State
We always knew that China was strict with seeing ID and monitoring people, but the extent to which it does it has been a surprise. An even bigger surprise is which laws are strongly enforced and which seem to be openly flaunted.
To enter the Forbidden City in Beijing Annemarie’s bag was searched (as was everyone else’s), but mainly for paperwork, anything that could spread ‘propaganda’. To enter Tiananmen square everyone had to undergo the same bag search, plus a full pat down, ID check and even bottles of Coke were opened and the contents sniffed. Except of course if you were a foreigner and they let you through with no checks whatsoever.
To change my foreign currency I had to show ID. To buy train tickets I again had to show ID. Then to enter the railway station I had to show the ticket plus my ID. On the train security carried out random checks on passengers, he had an electronic device which contained images of the passengers’ ID cards (your ID card/passport are photographed when you buy the tickets) and checked to see if they match up with the passenger allocated to the seat/bed. I guess this is to control people’s movements and to make sure that certain people can’t enter sensitive areas or travel freely.
I can’t access Facebook, which is not a huge loss but still shows the fear of people writing and communicating what they want.
In Beijing the army is on the streets. In front of many buildings, at underground exits, around main tourist sites and even guarding a park. The army shouldn’t be on the streets in any free country, they are for fighting external enemies not internal enemies of the state. Also the police presence around sensitive sites was enormous. At every major road junction, underground station and basically anywhere that you would expect a crowd of people you will see a police presence (usually indicated by some tacky red and blue flashing lights, like in the USA but plastic looking cheap rubbish).
On the other hand a number of ‘crimes’ seem to go unpunished. Ticket touts are everywhere and they have tickets for everything at a bargain price. From cheap underground tickets to half price tours. They stand in front of the entrance to the underground and sell tickets for half the official price. The tickets surely won’t work yet the police do nothing. In the hostels they have examples of illegal tour companies and their cards, these people are everywhere in Beijing selling tours (most are probably legal) and yet the police do nothing.
The traffic laws are either very liberal or openly flaunted too. When traffic lights go to red not all cars stop and obey, quite a few just continue on into the traffic going across the road. The green man doesn’t mean it’s safe to cross, it means that there are slightly fewer vehicles in the road to kill you. All the mopeds are electric (good for the environment at least) but they are silent and seem to be treated like a bicycle. They can ignore red lights, use the pavement (and beep and expect you to move), go the wrong way up one-way streets, go on the wrong side of the road and generally meander wherever they want. If the road gets narrow or bumpy they use the pavement. If it’s a one way street they’ll use the pavement. The only slightly good thing is that when you cross the road in front of them most will swerve around you or slow down, cars just keep on driving at you.
What annoys me is that the first examples of law enforcement are what you would expect in a Fascist police state in which the government has to control the people speech and movements to maintain power. The second set are laws which I would expect to be upheld in a ‘socialist’ state in which the government is ensuring the state is for the happiness of the people.
Based on the laws I’ve seen upheld and those that are not, then calling China a Socialist State is nothing but a joke, this is a repressive and controlling police state. But we already knew that anyway.
Posted from Kunming, Yunnan, China.