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China As It Is China Visa

Six groups of people denied entry to China

Following the tightening up of China visa issues, the organizers of the Beijing Olympics issued a reminder called Legal Guide to foreigners on 2 June, saying that some groups of people are not welcome to China.

The Legal Guide targets at foreigners, but it is posted on the Chinese website of the Olympic organizers only, not on its English website. So how can the foreigners know?  Isn’t it strange??

According to the Legal Guide, entry will be denied to those:

1) having been expelled from China by the Chinese government;
2) regarded as likely to carry out terrorist and violent attacks and engage in subversive activities;
3) regarded as likely to engage in drug trafficking and prostitution;
4) with mental illness and contagious diseases such as sexually transmitted disease, leprosy and tuberculosis;
5)  who cannot afford their expenses during their stay in China;
6) regarded as likely to engage in other activities that threaten the national security and interests of China.

I have one big problem with this notice. How can China be so flagrantly discriminatory against people with mental illness and STD when the country has a large number of people with mental illness and STD, especially AIDS, who desperately need the society not to discriminate against them and need care?

You cannot rid the country of discrimination if the leadership/high ranking officials of the country are using the language of discrimination.

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China As It Is

Welcoming the top leader vs saving lives

It is reported that when China president Hu Jintao paid his first visit to the earthquake region yesterday, the rescuers stopped their race against the time to save those buried underneath the collapsed buildings for two hours, just to welcome Hu.

Soldiers, armed police and firefighters queued up to welcome Hu during his visit to the Beichuan county, one of the hard hit areas by the powerful 7.9-magnitude Sichuan earthquake, according to South China Morning Post.

The moral of the story? Ordinary people’s lives matter little compared with the state top leader’s visit.

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China As It Is

A tale of the Sichuan quake

The following report from a South China Morning Post journalist describes how a bunch of people got together and made it to the cut-off town Yingxiu, at the epicenter of the 7.9-magnitude earthquake in the Sichuan province.

These people trekked to the town despite dangers and against warnings, for different reasons, showing human’s compassion and perseverance in the face of calamity and difficulties.

A story to share with all of you:

Journey into the quake’s heart of darkness
Choi Chi-yuk
May 17, 2008

Choi Chi-yuk was among the first journalists to reach Yingxiu at the epicentre of the Sichuan earthquake. In his second report, he describes the 49km trek to ground zero

As the group I am travelling with makes its way towards the heart of the disaster, fleeing refugees warn us of the conditions ahead and urge us to turn back.

“Please listen to me. Give up this idea of going there. It’s too dangerous,” a young man in his 20s yelled at us. “Rocks of all sizes are falling from the mountains. On the other side of the road is the cliff. You would have no place to hide if there is a landslide. Stop this madness now and turn back.”

Another man, his head still bandaged, chimed in. “The place has been running out of food and water since Monday. People are fighting for everything. It is a complete chaos. You’d have no place to sleep even if you do get there,” he warned.

My heart sank and my mouth ran dry. A young woman, whom we met on the road and was trying desperately to reach her family who lived at the epicentre at Wenchuan in Sichuan, turned pale and sat down on the ground in despair. She buried her face in her hands and wept quietly.

A long silence followed but when the woman looked up again, there was renewed resolution in her eyes.
“I will go! Even if this is a rush to death, I want to die together with my family,” she said.

Her brave words lifted our hearts, and nodding to each other, the five of us pushed on.

We were strangers coming from different parts of China and from all walks of life, but all eager to reach Wenchuan.

No news had come out from the epicentre since the quake struck on Monday. All roads leading to the county were destroyed or blocked by rocks.

To find out what was happening to the tens of thousands of people living there, I hiked 49km through the mountains to reach them.

My march began in Dujiangyan , midway between Wenchuan and Chengdu , at 3.30pm on Wednesday. Knowing that food and water would be scarce at the scene, I packed 2 litres of bottled water, two packs of biscuits, a notebook computer and a camera in my bag – more than 6kg in total.

Once on the road, I was joined by others also trying to head to Wenchuan – all of us driven by a different purpose to reach the disaster zone.

Yu Jianjan, a migrant worker in Qingdao , Shandong , rushed back to Sichuan after learning of the quake.
He said his parents, uncle, elder brother and sister-in-law were all living in Wenchuan.

“I have not heard a word from them since the quake. I’m sick of worrying. I must go and find out what happened to them,” Mr Yu said as tears welled in his eyes.

Zhong, a broad-shouldered man with a big bag on his back, told us that he was from Huangshi in the central province of Hubei . He packed up and came to Sichuan once he heard the news.

“I have no friends or relatives here. But I want to do my part to help people in the disaster area. I want to do my bit to help out,” he said. “This bag is full of food and water. I guess this is what is most needed in the area.”

Two girls, both in their 20s, were also members of our team. Liu Jianqin, the less shy of the two, said they were rushing back to see their classmates in Wenchuan.

The girls went to Chengdu with their teacher on Monday, narrowly escaping the disaster. But their fellow schoolmates were all trapped in Yingxiu.

We soon became friends as we helped each other to hike through the rough mountains. We followed the destroyed road linking Dujiangyan to Yingxiu.

Along the way, rocks tumbled down from the mountain on my right-hand side and crashed into the turgid Min River, sending loud booming echoes across the valley like ominous warnings.

At some sections we saw huge rocks the size of a house blocking our way. Fearing the worst, we quickened our pace despite the fatigue setting in after hours of hard walking.

The road was filled with cracks big enough to swallow up an adult. After sunset, the path would become practically impassable. We were also racing against time to reach Wenchuan before nightfall.

The fatigue, worry and anxiety soon clouded my senses. My mind went blank and I could only focus on the next step.

To keep myself up, I had to tell myself silently that I must make it to Yingxiu as soon as possible.

But I was jolted awake by the first scenes of disaster: bridges broken and scattered across fields; vehicles lying smashed and twisted at the foot of a nearby hill, the dead trapped  inside.

The odour of the bodies mixed with the smell of the rotten food spilling from the car. We were so overwhelmed with terror none of us could speak.

Night fell. But to my relief, a bright moon lit our road. Looking up, I offered a silent prayer to the sky.

We came upon a steep slope, with Yingxiu lying just behind. The path was slippery with mud after days of rainfall. Soon we were covered in dirt and sweat, forced to crawl uphill with bare hands.

At 12.30am on Thursday, after nine hours and 45km, I finally reached the outskirt of Yingxiu.

Exhausted but exited, we collapsed on the ground and could not move anymore. With the temperature only a few degrees above zero, we fell into sleep soon.

The rest was tense and brief. At about 1.30am, the ground suddenly shook and everyone jumped up in fear and wonder. At least five more aftershocks followed that night. When dawn arrived, we again set off towards the town centre – which was still 5km ahead.

Carefully navigating the broken rocks, we had to measure each of our steps, while remembering to look up for falling rocks from the hills above.

It was not until 8.30am that I reached downtown Yingxiu. My clothes were soaked with sweat, my legs felt burned by blisters, but I had made it. I was moved by what I saw on the road, and by the care and love my travel companions showed to their family and to each other.

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China As It Is

My conversation 15 years ago with an Israeli traveler

15 years ago, I was in Kathmandu, Nepal when an Israeli traveler, who stayed in the same hotel, asked me this question: “As a Chinese, do you think Tibet should be part of China?” “Hmmm…they said Tibet has been part of China for thousands of years.” I was too young then to have thought critically about the issue. I didn’t know how to answer then and so just quoted something I heard, something the Chinese authorities and media have always said.   

Recently, there appeared a video on YouTube about Tibet, attracting millions of hits. The title says “Why Tibet was, is and always will be a part of China”. The arguments and “solid facts” claimed are all familiar to the Chinese. Among others, it claims that Tibet has been part of China since 1271, the Yuan Dynasty. Only that this time the arguments are put into English and made into a video for a wider world to see.

It seems that the world of China has remained static during those 15 intervening years and more, despite its economic ascendancy. Many people there have thought alike and the government has more or less been saying the same things to its people (such as quickly blaming the “Dalai Lama clique” for any protests and riots in Tibet).

My conversation with the Israeli traveler did not end there. The traveler then asked me: You said Tibet has been part of China since a certain point of time in history. But dating back is subjective, isn’t it? You can also say that dating back this and that point of time, Tibet was not part of China. Or, how much further can you date back so that you can assuredly claim that China has been part of China? History is long, you know.

15 years have passed and I still vividly remember the conversation. Since then I have been to Tibet, have cared more about the place and its people, and have travelled more, read more and listened more, to have formed my own view about Tibet.

Thanks my fellow traveler, though I can no longer recall your name.

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China As It Is

English Bible only

A bizarre policy surfaces these days: During the Beijing Olympics month, Bible’s English version is allowed in the Beijing hotels that are open to foreigners.

So if it is outside the Olympics period (August 2008), not any form of bible can be allowed in the hotel room; and even during this period, only bible in English (not Chinese) is allowed.

What it actually says is that, only the foreigners who come to watch the Olympics have the need for Bible. Not foreigners at any other time and definitely not Chinese.