Mainland China Travel Tips

Taxi tip for Guangzhou

I was in Guangzhou last weekend and had the opportunity to take taxi with a relative who is a Guangzhou native.  He told me a secret about Guangzhou: “We Guangzhou people only take yellow taxi. They are Guangzhou people’s taxi.” According to him, the yellow taxi company recruits only locals as taxi drivers, not those unable to speak Cantonese from other provinces. True to his words, we went on a yellow taxi whose driver started to reminisce about the past in Cantonese upon hearing that we were heading to Pan Xi Restaurant (畔溪酒家),a restaurant founded in 1947 and known for its garden setting.

The taxi driver said: “The old tea houses had a distinct flavor, which is long gone. Remember these old restaurants used to have netted windows? The owners would put up the nets over the windows so that the customers would not fly the plates out through the windows. For the bills were decided by the number of plates left on the tables. Flying plates was commonplace then.

“In days of yore, the steamed beef cubes were small as they were never re-heated. Nowadays, the steamed beef cubes are big, as they are heated again and again. The good taste is gone.”

I understand from the conversation why the Guangzhou people trust yellow taxi.

There are seven taxi colors in Guangzhou, representing different taxi operators. The taxi fare is the same despite the myriad of colors.

China As It Is

Ai Wei Wei’s “Grass Mud Horse Style”

When I was showed this video, I thought it is a parody of Ai Wei Wei, the Chinese dissident artist, dancing PSY’s Gangnam Style. It is not. It is indeed Ai Wei Wei himself dancing Gangnam Style, but in his irreverent and creative way. What a character!

The video is titled “Grass Mud Horse Style,” (草泥馬),which in Chinese is a vulgar slur, a sly insult Ai coined for mocking his country’s Internet censors . The video, uploaded 24 Oct, has been swiftly censored.

Ai told the media that in making the video, he wanted to give people some laughs in their face of dismal reality – he just learnt that the home of his friend’s family was being demolished to pave way for re-development, a constant happening in today’s China.

China As It Is

HK journalists forced to interview

We all know China is lawless. But to this extent?  I still find it hard to believe.

Two Hong Kong Journalists from Mingpao (明報) went to Shaoyang(邵陽)of Hunan Province to interview the relatives of a Chinese dissident Li Wang Yang,  who was alleged by the authority to have committed suicide in hospital, after being interviewed by HK media. After the interview, the journalists were “kidnapped”  by more than 10 public security guys and brought to a hotel, saying that they needed protection.

During detention, their computers, recorders and cameras all were confiscated, and were interrogated repeatedly. And they were put into separate rooms with each of them guarded by two to three police.  And of course, they were not allowed any contact with the outside world.

The next day, the police brought to them the sister and sister- in-law of Li Wang Yang for them to interview and wanted to record the whole interview.  You’d better cooperate, so that you can return to HK early or you have to face legal procedures, they were told.

In front of the government camera, the sister and sister-in-law of Li Wang Yang said all the opposite things of what they told the journalists earlier, including the admission that they signed for the cremation of Li’s body, toeing the official line.  Earlier they told the journalists that they had not agreed to it.

The two journalists were released after 44 hours being detained in the hotel.

China As It Is

Head of Hunan Province: it was undoubtedly suicide

The Communist Party Head of Hunan Province, Zhou Qiang, in meeting HK press, said yesterday that there is strong evidence and it is crystal clear that Li Wang Yang (李旺陽)killed himself. He said “Hunan is ruled by law, just as China is ruled by law”. “In Hunan, no one ever doubted about this. Li’s family members and his sister also indicated their acceptance of the conclusion of police investigation. “

Lie after lie. It can be told so unscrupulously and with such ease. Maybe he should also mention that Li’s sister Li Wang Ling (李旺玲)has been forced to disappear for dozens of days, and Li’s good friend Xiao Yong (肖勇)has been detained and put into labour camp for 18 months since the death of Li.

Dissident Li Wang Yang from Hunan Province was found dead in the hospital under suspicious circumstances after being interviewed by a HK journalist. The police and the official investigation just concluded said he killed himself.

Are you not angry if your government has sponsored national education material which says the ruling group in China is “selfless” and “progressive”?

China As It Is

Li Wang Yang

Li Wang Yang (李旺陽) was a worker in Shaoyang city, Hunan Province, when he led and organized the workers to participate in the 1989 pro-democracy movement. He was arrested and prisoned after the authority brutally crushed the movement on June 4. After 11 years in prison, he was released in 2000 only to be prisoned again the next year for allegedly connecting with overseas organizations. He was released in May 2011 after yet another 11 years in prison.

During the prison time, he lost his sight and his hearing ability due to torture. The prison authority used specially made pliers to pinch his hands. “I felt dizzy when they pinched really hard, and then I couldn’t see anything, ” he said.

Li was very frail, almost all teeth extracted, and could hardly walk without support after all the torture . Upon release in 2011, he was sent to hospital for treatment but was guarded 24 hours by national security personnel. His first public interview with a HK journalist was broadcast earlier this month, on 2 June, and on 6 June, the authority informed his relatives that Li had committed suicide.

No one would believe that Li would committee suicide in the hospital after he, with a strong character,  had survived 21 years of imprisonment and torture. “This is assassination”, the HK journalist who interviewed him said. He blamed himself for leading to Li’s death.

It is believed by many that the authority wanted to punish Li for speaking to the media by killing him. And they might think, well, who cared, he was just a worker.

In the interview, Li said firmly about his determination to fight for democracy for the country and praised those, particularly Tiananmen Mothers for their tireless efforts to demand reassessment of the 1989 pro- democracy movement which was labeled by the authority as “riot”. He spoke eloquently and boldly in the interview about reversing the verdict on the movement.

People like Li Wang Yang would have been forgotten if not for the saddening tragedy. But who would want to remember him at the expense of his life? This is the real tragedy.

In the 1989 pro-democracy movement, workers were a formidable force, besides university students. But they were forgotten for their role and the subsequent persecution and suffering.

Shame on those Chinese who brag about their country’s might and power when people’s lives in their country can be taken anytime as those in power wish.

Salute Li and the likes of Li.


Please sign this Urgent Appeal for Credible Investigation into the Truth of Li Wangyang’s Death