[chinese blood, irish heart] - DEFUNCT: June 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Taken at Beijing railway station. Having just installed an x-ray machine at the entrance for the ticket office, a cop dozes off at the screen. Yes ladies & gentlemen, officer sleeps-a-lot here to protect and serve... in his fucking dreams he is! And why would a ticketing office need x-ray machines? The main entrance to the station didn't even have any! I swear, moments after I snapped it a senior police officer walked past and saw him but didn't even say a word. Could it just be this one guy that provokes this generalisation of slackness? No, I have seen enough in the 2 months I've been here to feel very insecure, if indeed there was a threat of course.
Apologies for the blurriness, had to take it on the sly with my camera phone while pretending to be talking on it. Nearby security guards wouldn't like me snapping away.
I'm particularly aghast at lax security in Beijing and I have on a few occasions personally put that to the test. Nothing too illegal, don't worry! The scaremongering about Tibetan and Xinjiang terrorists may all be bullshit but when you have muppets like him not doing his job properly it just tears me up inside! They purchase all these expensive x-rays and beef up security like its martial law, and yet many guards are so tardy and astonishingly young too. I think their aptitude tests consist of colouring within the lines or some shit...


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Me with Mr. John Sweeney of BBC Panorama near Tiananmen Square. I'm not so easily star-struck by celebrities and such, but for journalists it's a whole different matter. These are people who really earn their money.

I have not seen Panorama since I left Ireland and it was only a recent YouTube video I watched of John that refreshed my memory of him (Or else I probably wouldn't have recognised him as he was crowded around by Iraqi football fans). Though what I was really surfing for on YouTube on that boring day at the office were TV reporter bloopers, and that infamous clip of John screaming at a scientologist popped up. Great stuff.

He and his producer told me some horror stories about being tailed by black Audi's and their hotel room being broken into. Though they didn't tell me the plot of the programme I understood their caution. Though I can certainly make a big guess! Media freedom, torture, Sichuan etc. He tells me that once it's broadcast on 4th August (4 days before the Olympics), China may well blacklist him and the BBC will certainly get some flak. Which would be awkward since BBC's one of the broadcasters at the Games.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Er, hello China...

Holy shit! My blog's been uncensored in China! Well, that certainly takes the air of mystery away... poo.
Um, might as well post something productive then! Check out my latest Beijing vids:

Qianmen Street: Can you believe I just snuck in... I squeezed through the rickety dividers and a security guard knowingly saw me as we did a sort of stand-off for 5 seconds before I moved on. Another fine example of lax security.

Beijingers learn English: This is a cute one. Their enthusiasm was contagious!

Mass Games: Legendary Beijing expat Nick Bonner is a North Korean tour operator and the jist of this story is that he'll be away during the Olympics celebrating DPRK's big 60th bash. Wish I was too.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Feeling the heat

Foreign reporters are beginning to show frustration at BOCOG's apparent bias against them. AFP had a story about reporters complaining about lack of access to star Chinese athletes, whereas state media get all the bites. So I ask this: why do they care about interviewing Chinese athletes? Surely respective media organisations would care about their compatriots more? So then I realised it was just the wire agencies complaining about this. In that case I don't give a fuck about their problems!
I have nothing personal against the competent journos and snappers of AP, AFP and Reuters but it's just that I hate seeing us using their material in principle (including the government automatons at Xinhua). I would say almost half of our stories/photos are wire material. Think how more pluralistic and diversified news out there would be if all major newspapers can fork out for their own correspondents/photographers around the world. It's just sad seeing papers using the same wire material for breaking news and stuff. I've been irked many times when our paper used wire photos for the front page... on local stories!! Most recent memory was of the USS Kitty Hawk, goddamn I guess I wasn't even angry, just disappointed.
Back to the main topic: the government does seem to be u-turning on its promise to allow unprecedented freedom to foreign journalists, Tibet still being off limits. The stooges just seem to keep making up new restrictions and barriers for journos. Being in a gray area myself, I am just so damn curious to see how it plays out.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Ireland railroads Lisbon Treaty...

Ireland has always been a thorn to the European Union elites and just like the Nice Treaty voters have said a resounding 'No' to the Lisbon Treaty that apparently seeks to streamline decision making within the EU (and many other smaller things). Sinn Fein was the main protagonist in the 'no' camp and even though most TD's supported the treaty, our little staunch Republican minority in government managed to pull it off, don't ask me how. This is kind of like the '12 Angry Men' scenario - every member state needs to ratify the treaty or else they can't drive Lisbon through. Perhaps the bigwigs should just um, scrap that rule? Maybe a 80% majority would suffice? Morons.

It may seem hypocritcal, or even a tinge of betrayal against the EU who had been instrumental in Ireland's phenomenal economic growth in the past 15 years. Those poor saps who worked so hard in selling Lisbon can kiss their sorry treaty goodbye thanks to the hard-necked Irish. I would've personally voted no too. Left-wing conspiracy perhaps? I don't listen to neither side any more, I'm just glad we were able to hold a referendum while the other 490 million EU citizens sit idly by. Either way, democracy has spoken and I am proud my compatriots are the only ones in the EU (less than 1% of the total population) to have a voice in this. Never before has Ireland had to make such an important decision in its history (as a free state, of course).

Critics say the Lisbon Treaty undermines smaller EU states and may threaten Ireland's neutrality stance - already tarnished by allowing US airplanes en route to Iraq.
Since I've been away so long I admit I hadn't taken any interest in Lisbon till today. Here's something I dug up that compacts what the No camp is propagating...


One month on...

I'm not one for milestones or anniversaries, heck I don't even like celebrating my own birthdays but anyway it's been one month so far on my Beijing stint. Rather unfortunately it's also been one month since the Sichuan earthquake. Quite the day at work I remember - feeling my first earthquake and falling mysteriously ill that prolonged many weeks later. Aside from the bumpy start I'm quite happy I haven't seriously fucked anything up or landed myself in hot water with the friendly Public Security Bureau. There were some teething issues with our workflow but that was expected. Question is will everybody learn from their mistakes?

My explorer spirit has died down recently, and with that I've begun to notice quips and aspects of Beijing life that's beginning to annoy me. First of all, what's with the fucking incessant car horns people?? Every taxi driver I've taken seems to blast the horn like it's a toy. And when will these fuckstick drivers learn that horns won't make the traffic jam go away!
Secondly, for a city that's going to pride itself as an Olympic host, upcoming global superpower and what not, the level of service in general is just appalling. I know China is still classified as a third world country but Beijing is surely a first world city. I'm not trying to be a snob but first world cities demand a level of service and etiquette that reflects its wealth and status.
Other than these two main items, plus hundreds of smaller things, I'm still looking what this city can offer and how I can take advantage of it. How much can I achieve as a relative foreign journalist with PRC citizenship? We shall see - 54 days till the Olympics and 88 more till I return and ponder resignation.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Chengde: a city of too many prayers and temples

Chengde is an amalgamation of Chinese tribes: Han Chinese, Mongolian, Manchurian, Tibetan and other minor tribes. The most noticeably different would be Manchurians, whose skin is more pale and apparently the women are more tempermental!
Anyway, as the title suggests, Chengde's many tourist attractions are its temples of different Buddhist sects. The Qianlong emperor of the Ming dynasty constructed a mountain resort here, fenced off by its own little great wall and filled with pristine lakes and villa style homes. He also built many temples in Chengde to appease the different Buddhist tribes and ease integration (after subjugation one would assume). An old saying goes: "a Buddhist temple equals 50,000 troops".

Go here for more pics.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

New media player up and running

SCMP's new Brightcove media player is now up live.

And to give you a taste of it, here's my most recent vidcast about the Paralympic's volunteer guide. Jist of the story is that some of the language used to describe certain disabled groups were deemed inappropriate because of their sheer generalisation. See for yourself.