08
Aug
08

Waiting to exhale

Mark writes :

A funny thing happened after last night’s WHYS , which we did from the rooftop of the Fish Nation restaurant here in Beijing. As we were leaving – at 3 in the morning local time (when even in Beijing not many people are about) – there were two men standing opposite watching us leave.

They weren’t going anywhere, they weren’t on their way to somewhere, they were just waiting for us to leave. As we walked towards a main street to find a taxi, they monitored us, while at the street corner another bloke (one of our team thinks he was wearing a wire but maybe that only happens in films), watched us get into our taxis (licence fee payers note : there are no trains at that time of night).We were definitely being watched.

At first you start to think if we’d done something wrong, had we jeopardised the safety of our guests or of our interpreter. We’d sought permission from everyone in sight ; we checked and double-checked how people wished to be referred to on air, we even asked the owner if he was happy for us to say on air that we were here. he was.

Then you think that as much as I love WHYS, we’re pretty small beer, a little speck on the radar of the security services.

All the same, under the page in the rule book that reads “better to be safe than sorry”, I ran it by one of our top people here, someone who works here all the time. His opinion was blunt and to the point : “it’s normal. As long as you didn’t trash the bar wearing a Free Tibet flag, your interpreter will be fine “.

Another day, another day feeling like a mug then. But the rumour mill I referred to yesterday is still working a treat. Our interpreter told us yesterday that today the city would be in lockdown. “no taxis will run”, she said “nothing will move because of the security”.

So it was surprising to walk out of the media village this morning and be able to hail a cab and then get down here to Fish Nation in double quick time on blissfully empty roads. Ok, it is a holiday here, but the misinformation worked.

The street that this restaurant is on is a little narrow straight lane packed with shops and restaurants. Two days ago, nobody had a television on display, now everybody has. The one in our bar is so new it still had the manufacturers stickers on the screen. The mood has changed – the feeling is that after all the fuss and the protests, all the money and the disruption, let’s just have an Olympic Games eh ?

One of our guests on the World Today said that the bloggers in Beijing are almost tired of it before it begins.

The volunteers though are as indefatigable as ever – every time i see them, which is often, I think how London will be, and I have to admit I worry.How could my city live up to this ?
The volunteers here have been distributing books to Beijingers telling them – alright then, asking them- how to behave with us foreigners. Apparently they’re not to ask me my age (probably a good thing) and if they shake my hand they are not to do it for more than 3 seconds.

This attention to detail is remarkable, and a major reason for people’s optimism that the Games will work and work well. One of the plum jobs for a volunteer is to be the person who brings the medals out at each ceremony. They are to incline their bodies at 15 degrees while presenting the tray and must smile – ideally revealing 8 teeth.

James – (who presented WHYS rather well last night Ros and Chloe…!)-is off to an apartment on the outskirts of the city to share the opening ceremony with a Chinese family, while Rebecca and I will be reporting on the atmosphere at the bars and restaurants in this area. We’ll be watching a lot of new televisions. It’s a tough job but i’m sure we’ll dig deep…

Selena, Nelsoni, Vijay ,Bob and others : thanks for your questions to our panel last night. Despite our unofficial observers at the end, I was proud of the programme and the way it sounded. Thanks again. Worth another one next week ?


13 Responses to “Waiting to exhale”


  1. 1 nelsoni
    August 8, 2008 at 10:07

    Hi Mark, thank goodness no one ran foul of the rules up there. Having a WHYS from Beijing last night and being able participate was absolutely fantastic and doing another one again would be top drawer. I am Looking forward to it.

  2. 2 selena
    August 8, 2008 at 10:09

    Thanks again Mark. Another great report. I think I am addicted as i SO look forward to hearing about your experiences.

    🙂

  3. 3 1430a
    August 8, 2008 at 10:15

    Hello Mark ,
    was a nice one yesterday.why not bring in some more stories from China?
    :s

  4. 4 Bob in Queensland
    August 8, 2008 at 10:49

    So Mark…gonna save the T-shirt wearing and bar trashing to your last night, eh?

    Yeah, definitely worth another one next week (or at least while you’re there. How often do you get a chance to talk to the Chinese “man in the street” (or “man in the fish and chip shop at least)? Certainly last night’s effort kept me up until 4AM and was responsible for my dopey behaviour today.

  5. August 8, 2008 at 10:51

    Hi Mark,

    It was a great program. To hear the Chinese speak so freely though under pseudo names was fantastic. My only regret is that I was not given the opportunity to speak to the Chinese and pose my question.

    I am actually wondering how my life will be without participating on the WHYS program when I arrive in China at the end of August. How will I overcome this DILEMMA? It is actually going to be hard for and the thing is that I’m going to be there for 6 solid years. I hope before then some of the restrictions will be relaxed.

  6. 6 nelsoni
    August 8, 2008 at 11:07

    @ Mohammed Ali, I dont envy you going to China to live with all these censorships, after a while you will adjust. Well there is always a way around every wall, you will just have to learn how to bypass the great China firewall. And hope you don’t get caught ( that was a joke).

  7. August 8, 2008 at 11:29

    @Nelsoni,
    Maybe it will not be too much of a problem because I will be busy with my lesson. First to learn Chinese the start my course in clinical and Chinese medicine. I think that will absorb most of my time.

    I know that through my email, i keep sending my comments.

  8. August 8, 2008 at 11:40

    Hi gang ! ;-)… It looks like life in China under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party is pretty similar in many ways to life in Iraq under the rule of Saddam, if we put aside booming economic progress and being able to host the Olympics… Ah, and there’s also another thing, “The civilised and free world” was able to say ‘enough !!’ to the Saddami regime, but unfortunately it kneeled infront of the furious Chinese tiger… Just an innocent question here, it took the US and the UK 21 days to invade my Iraq and overthrow the Saddami regime… How much time will it take for the US to invade China and overthrow the Communist regime there ??! :-)… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna…

  9. August 8, 2008 at 11:47

    A country in which freedom of speech is tantamount to high treason, submission is equal to slavery. Thanks to WHYS for providing a medium for the Chinese to express themselves.

  10. August 8, 2008 at 11:59

    Lubna says
    “Hi gang ! ;-)… It looks like life in China under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party is pretty similar in many ways to life in Iraq under the rule of Saddam, if we put aside booming economic progress and being able to host the Olympics… Ah, and there’s also another thing, “The civilised and free world” was able to say ‘enough !!’ to the Saddami regime, but unfortunately it kneeled infront of the furious Chinese tiger… Just an innocent question here, it took the US and the UK 21 days to invade my Iraq and overthrow the Saddami regime… How much time will it take for the US to invade China and overthrow the Communist regime there ??! :-)… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna…”

    Lubna I’ll have to disagree with you on this. There no way you can compare the brutal and barbaric regime of Saddam to that of the rule of the communist party in China. There are laws and order in China and some degree of respect for human dignity. Torture in the Saddam definition, I don’t think exist on a large scale in China.

    On America invading China to get rid of the communist regime, is unthinkable.

  11. 11 Katharina in Ghent
    August 8, 2008 at 13:01

    Hi Mark,

    I just listened to yesterdays program while doing some really boring stuff, and the show was really great! What impressed me most was that your Chinese guests seemed to be talking quite freely, not worrying too much about how their statements might come to haunt them. If China can continue on this path and it will be truly democratic and free before long.

  12. 12 Venessa
    August 8, 2008 at 13:35

    Hi Mark,

    The show yesterday was great! Please have another one next week. Far too many good questions on the blog went unanswered.

  13. 13 Syed Hasan Turab
    August 8, 2008 at 22:12

    Over all China Olympic opening Cermoney with due reflection of thousand years old histry, strong cultural & social values sound great, though Communist way of handling the heritage sound little embarising from freedom point of view in International atmosphier.
    Presance of 80 countries leader’s sound like endorsement to China the way it is. No doubt multipal forum’s, plateform’s & openion’s always plays an important role & recognise as freedom, though create Governing problems & China can effort this as freedom of speech & differance of openion always bring quality in a nation’s daily life.
    I hope China will open soon for Chinese nation of great heratage & best future.


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