It has been three days since the sensational title “Authorities order bars not to serve black people” written by Tom Miller showed up in the supposedly reputable South China Morning Post. I used the phrase “supposedly reputable” because I don’t read SCMP and really can’t directly comment on it. However I vaguely remember someone, in one of the many blogs/forums discussing this allegation, commented to the effect of: “It comes from the SCMP, which has a solid reputation. So I am inclined to believe this is true.” Sorry, I seriously intended to quote that comment here, but I somehow just can’t find it. It must be buried in lots of other comments either questioning SCMP’s journalism standard in this case or blaming China for all the wrongs of the universe. Nevertheless, I logically infer that SCMP must have had a solid reputation with at least some readers up until three days ago.
Meanwhile, many other media companies’ reporters were working hard to dislodge SCMP from the sole ownership of one of the most high profile stories of the year about China. Those bar owners must be dreading the ringing of their telephones nowadays if you believe this comment at Danwei just one day later:
“Four waiguoren [Note: Chinese word for foreigners] called me today asking the same question,” said the owner of Luga’s. “But I haven’t heard anything like what’s described in the article.”
Yet none of them could come up with anything and had to let SCMP keep owning the story of the year. Losers! Why couldn’t they learn from Tom Miller and come up with their own anonymous sources to generate stories as well? Just look at Tom! The day after the original story he already found another anonymous source.
“It’s [the restrictions on blacks] definitely happening. It will all happen in 24 hours.” His revelation comes after the post reported how another bar owner had been verbally warned by Public Security Bureau officers not to serve customers of Mongolian and African descent, while other bars had been ordered to sign chopped pledges to keep to curfews, not allow the illegal sale of drugs, and refuse certain customers.
Psst, Tom, it would be better if you don’t back off with a much weakened description “refuse certain customers”. Your new language makes it sound like you really only talked to just one source, and you generated that particular title the day before with only a single lead. You should have also said something like “authorities did not respond to our repeated inquires” in the first article instead of waiting until the second story to report the official’s flat out denial. By the way, the following line:
“But no one is willing to say so because we’ll all get deported … and have our business shut.”
Brilliant! Now you are safely covered from whatever others may say.
Anyway, things would have been all peachy for Tom and SCMP if Beijing Boyce, who specializes in providing “an independent consumer view of [Beijing]’s bar, drinking and wine scenes”, was one of the sources. Instead, Beijing Boyce was left behind as just a reader of the ground breaking story coming out of his home turf, Sanlitun. Apparently Beijing Boyce loved SCMP and wanted to show his support of the story. So he went personally calling, visiting and chatting with a fair number of bar owners in the area, but apparently managed to miss Tom’s sources. Undeterred, he went bar hopping in Sanlitun Saturday night to witness the rule enforcement, and only to find a scene where Blacks enjoy drinks, play pool, apparently await ban. Puzzled, Beijing Joyce could only conclude:
Apparently the policy is so secret that the police are keeping it from all but a few bar owners who can be trusted to reveal it to foreign journalists.
Strangely, someone actually decided to elevate Beijing Boyce’s total failure in backing up Tom Miller to some kind of heroic deeds in preserving world peace. As “The 463” blog puts it:
who would have thunk that a dude who writes about where to find the best whisky bar in Beijing, might contribute to taking the air out of a potential International Incident?
But I digress. Let’s come back to SCMP. Someone named “Mimi” commented in the Time’s China Blog, which reported the [still yet] “unconfirmed report”:
Has “South China Morning Post” become a tabloid newspaper? …fishy, very fishy…
Well, Mimi, I believe the answer is NO. The real tabloid newspaper does it in a much more no-nonsense manner. Take UK’s Daily Mirror for example:
Black people will be banned from going into bars in Beijing during the Olympics, it was claimed yesterday.
See! A real tabloid newspaper doesn’t bother to pretend that a source, even an anonymous one, needs to be supplied. So SCMP still has some way to go if its goal is to become one. Oh and in that case, CK Lau (i.e., editor of SCMP) could do well to learn from the master of gossiping some tricks for dramatic front page designs:
As far as giving advice goes, here is one for Mr. Tom Miller as well. Tom, when you fill up forms in the future and encounter a section that asks for your profession, please check that little box marked “manufacturing business”.
Shanghaiist also added another entry “More on the Beijing bar ban confusion” on this topic.
Errrmmm . . . Are you trying to say that the USA in some way is behind the allegation? I don’t get the title.
How much cover does the emperor have in that famous tale?
How much history does USA have?
An anonymous source is only as credible as the journalist who supplies it, and there are good reasons why someone would want to keep quiet in such a case. Still, I don’t believe this story. It is beyond my comprehension that the Beijing police would make such a dumb move. Has anyone complained to the SCMP editor-in-chief? You may remember the case of the Guardian writer who claimed to have witnessed horrific injuries being inflicted on a farmer’s rights protester by local government goons, when in fact the injuries were much less severe – I don’t think he’s going to be finding work again in a hurry.
WTF? The USA has a boatload of history. Am I completely missing something, or are you a complete idiot?
I don’t want what to say. Bad journalism on the part of Tom Miller? Yes. But I don’t know who he is and never read his articles before. He seems to be a new guy from nowhere? I will also consider SCMP editors slobby. Without solid evidence, such sweeping and sensational reporting obviously indicates a lost touch with reality.
Aren’t we a bit touchy about this?
Instead of discarding it just as a stupid rumor, you are making a big issue.
I cannot imagine best way to give the impression that there is a real problem with racism by making a big fuss out of it.
@DJ – By the way, ‘Thunk’ and ‘Whisky’ are not misspellings.
I don’t see where you are going with this. The SCMP published a bad report, we know that by now. No conspiracy here. The reason why this report has what one could call verisimilitude is the well-known fact that many ethnic groups, Africans in particular, do suffer discrimination in Beijing. That is the real issue.
Details of the story aside, I don’t see how the newspaper can be criticized for for suggesting that sources need to be protected. Unfortunately, embarrassing the authorities is a high-risk activity.
Actually, the SCMP is not the only paper to run this story. The Age newspaper in Melbourne also made these claims:
Is this independent verification or are they sharing sources? Hard to know, but from what I have heard there is little contact between journos in Beijing as they are generally too busy (especially at the moment). Anyway, there was no reference to the SCMP in the article in The Age.
If numerous Western newspapers find the “rumor” worthy of discussion… then it’s surely worthy of a little attention on our blog, don’t you think?
But how do we know that by now? Did the SCMP or any of the other major newspaper that ran Tom Miller’s article tell us? Or is it the bloggers focused on discussing this issue that’s letting us know?
I’m embarrassed to admit at this point, that I was the one that originally insisted the SCMP was a highly credible/reputable newspaper. That’s been its reputation. But this particular article is ridiculously poor… the kind of stuff even a second-rate blogger wouldn’t pump out. Protecting a source is understandable, but you’d think before printing the article, someone at the SCMP might’ve tried interviewing or speaking to the “other” bar owners that Beijing Boyce seems to have no problems coming up with.
I have to go with FOARP on this one. 🙂 I think the title is a little mysterious…
I totally disagree, SMP having published a false story is not the point, the point is how the west medias/bloggers/readers react this apparently baselss rumor, that tells you their ture interntion towards China. I used to think the west would love China to improve its humanrights record, now I know they probably pray to God everynight that China phuck it up even worsely so they can get high.
Well, what are you adding to the matter? Beijing Boyce and Shanghaiist seem to be way ahead of us. The fact that you can refute a false report about racism, doesn’t mean that there is no racism in China. Both you and I know that Africans face discrimination in Beijing, isn’t that the real issue that should be discussed? How often to we read reports in the international press about racism in China at all? Why should we be pedantic about a report that discusses a real problem, just because he didn’t do his homework?
Oh well, I was trying to a play with words connections. You know, leading to connect “credibility” with SCMP just like clothes is connected with a certain some emperor. Obviously it didn’t work. Never mind, it’s changed now.
It was taken from a common joke line, like, US has no history, Germany has no humor, … I was looking for another example to go with emperor and picked this because I thought it wasn’t offensive unlike some others in the list. US does have one of the shortest histories in comparison with non-American countries.
How about adding our voice to making sure medias, reporters, and journalism practices represented by SCMP and Tom Miller in this case can not get away with it?
Thanks for the spelling tip. I fed some words into an online dictionary and don’t know how the dictionary (or I) managed to flag those two. 🙂
I strongly suspected the Age merely just copied from SCMP without crediting it. But I then thought Daily Mirror was a much better candidate for comparison in this case.
It wasn’t your comment that I was thinking. Yours was on how SCMP should be viewed now as a “formerly reputable” newspaper. I do remember someone making a comment right along the line I wrote, but I just couldn’t dig it out anymore.
Sure, blogs are a good safety valve for bad reporting. I just hope that someday, Chinese will be blogging against unfair treatment of Africans in their country.
Absolutely. I don’t know how much direct attention Beijing Boyce has received for the story, but I suspect more than a few people are only learning about the great work he’s put together through your blog entry. I don’t think we have to defend this story.. it’s more than a little news-worthy.
I agree with you on the Age article. It looks like a collection of stories the journalist has read (including the Maggie’s story), rather than any personal research.
I thought the article on Chocolate City was a good start in helping Chinese learn about Africans living in our midst.
@DJ – ‘Thunk’ is a humorous form of the past tense of ‘thought’. As for ‘whisky’, this is how it is spelt in Scotland, ‘whiskey’ is the spelling in Ireland – I myself think that ‘whisky’ is the only real stuff and everything else is a cheap imitation, but each to his own!
And more numerous “western” media do not discuss that news at all. Given the amount of western media, you will find there whatever you want. Daily Mirror, Das Bild anyone?
I think you are paying too much attention due to your own “touchiness” and maybe other reasons more related to your non confessed… prejudices?
Any other place that news would have been discarded as absurd or laughed at.
How would a regular English media reader come to such a conclusion and “laugh at it”? It would take someone (H/T Beijing Boyce) to do some investigation work to prove it’s false and others to spread the words, wouldn’t it?
That’s a pretty interesting claim.
Given the amount of western media, can you find many articles from print newspapers that’s talking about what DJ or Beijing Boyce are reporting? Anything in the Daily Mirror or Das Bild explaining that there is good reason to be skeptical about the South China Morning Post article…?
In the mean time:
@Buxi – Any paper can get things wrong – you should judge them on how they react to proof that they were wrong. In the Guardian case they issued a correction, if SCMP is proved wrong then we shall see how they react.
The SCMP report on banning blacks is definitely a failure, brought by incompetence. But it is a failure in what? Is it a (naive) failure to find the truth and report it, or is it a failure in a cynical attempt dress up fabricated misinformation as a truth? What are the true motives behind it? This is not an isolated incident in Western report on China.
@BXBQ – I hate to break this to you, but SCMP has a strong pro-Beijing editorial line, and is based in Hong Kong.
I agree with FOARP #25. When things like this happen, give the paper a chance to explain. From what is said here, it looked like it was a poorly researched story that shouldn’t of passed mustard. If they retract the story, then the issue is over.
If they don’t, then let the hammer fall.
It seems you are singling out a newspaper using a controversial news to discredit it as a whole for some other reasons.
What is the reason?
“Given the amount of western media, can you find many articles from print newspapers that’s talking about what DJ or Beijing Boyce are reporting?”
Most of the so called “western media” do not report anything of that news at all.
By the way can you provide a definition of….. “western media”? Does it has to do with geography or with something else?
LOL, it seems like you’re intent on defending SCMP. What is the reason?
As it happens, I’ve been a subscriber to SCMP online for probably 8+ years, and a long-time loyal reader. I’ve defended it in just about every context, and regularly recommend it to others interested in a quality English-language newspaper on China.
But this story, as just about everyone seems to accept, reflects very poorly on the reputation of the newspaper. (At least based on what we know so far.) We’ll have to see if there is an explanation or retraction coming. If there isn’t… I don’t know if I’ll continue to be a subscriber.
I can’t. The first person to use the term “western media” in this entry is you. Maye you can explain it for us.
I guess I’m a little baffled. None of us has used this incident as a generic assault on the “Western media”, which you seem to be defending. But then you go as far as insisting that blaming the SCMP itself is also… wrong? inappropriate?
To be honest, I really don’t get it. You don’t have to discuss the issue if you’re uninterested… but clearly, to many others, this and the SCMP’s involvement is an interesting story.
“If numerous Western newspapers find the “rumor” worthy of discussion… ”
You seem to forget what yourself said.
I find the issue interested by the way it is treated.
rocking offkey says
What unfair treatment of Africans? Is there something systematic I’m not aware of?
As far as I know, no African is doing hard labor in China, as many Chinese do. Most Africans who works in China, legally or illegally are on tourist visa, not working permit. There are no systematic persecution targeted toward Africans. Africans enjoy no less rights in China than Chinese.
I’d say Africans get it better in China than most other countries. Same can be said for most foreigners.
S.K. Cheung says
Gosh you guys, you’ve taken a minipost with large quantities of hearsay, and now progressed to a full-on post with even larger quantities of sarcasm. Seriously, someone get the chief of Beijing police on record, and ask point blank: is there a directive for bar owners in Sanlitun not to serve black patrons during the Olympics? Get it on record, and all this speculative nonsense becomes superfluous. As it stands, must I put up with hot air for another 18 days, after which the answer becomes self-evident? If I were Beijing Boyce, I would find a black volunteer, arm him with a fistful of cash, and send him into as many bars as he physically can manage before he falls over and passes out, and see whether he gets served.
S. K. Cheung,
The biggest sarcasm is who is being brainwashed, the Chinese or Westerners? With the type of Western jornalism we have witnessed, are you still surprised that a significant proportion (more than half?) of Americans really believed that Saddam played a role in 9/11 attack on the twin towers?
Tom Miller himself admitted in his second article that police flat out replied “NO” when asked the question you suggested. Richard Spencer also reported the official denial in his article on Beijing’s crackdown on “fun”. Xinhua now has a report that also refuted this baseless charge.
So do you accept that there were clear cut official response that said “NO”?
I wonder, what is the reason for you to treat the substantial and carefully documented investigative reports from Beijing Boyce as “hearsay”? Did you read his reports? Why are you not accepting his method in exposing this charge as pure BS?
Of course it’s your choice to insist that what Beijing Boyce did is still insufficient. In that case, could you let us know your opinion of Tom Miller and SCMP in this particular case?
Seems like he did the next best thing: walked from bar to bar (with a black friend) counting bars with black patrons.
S.K. Cheung says
not sure how brainwashing has anything to do with this. Like I said before, so far it’s he said/he said, which is why I don’t find either side all that persuasive. Once Aug 8 rolls around, the proof will be in the pudding, and there’ll be no more need to speculate wrt this issue.
Not sure what you refer to with “western journalism” – SCMP is certainly not western. So is your problem western media outlets, or western journalists. To me, neither are perfect, and of course there’s room for improvement.
As for your Saddam reference, I’m not sure of what poll you speak. Are you talking today, or 2003 pre-invasion? Either way, American outlets were mistaken in their enthusiasm for the Bush party line in 2003, as recent history has shown. But it’s a stretch to suggest that, because they were wrong about Saddam in 2003, that they will forever be wrong about everything. As with all things, each story should be judged on its own merits, and to make sweeping generalizations about all Western media and all journalist is pointless.
S.K. Cheung says
the counting black patrons part works. But a black man walking in with a Chinese friend might be treated differently than if he walked in alone. So i say go for the gold, black man as volunteer, miked, hidden camera, dressed in a neutral fashion so that the discriminating feature (sorry, couldn’t resist again) is skin colour and not dress as it reflects on social status and affiliation. Then game on. And if Miller is right, that proves a sad state of affairs. But if he’s wrong, you got audio and video to prove it.
I just read an interesting article describing personal experience of being a black in China, and highly recommend everyone to take a look at http://silkrc.com/chinadialogs/2007/11/16/black-like-me-in-china/
H/T AC for bring it up in Peking Duck’s discussion thread.
By the way, it was really, er, interesting to read the explanation of a black reader who feels being referred as 黑人 (black person) is a sign of Chinese racism.
To which I found the following words from the recommended article quite relevant:
S.K. Cheung says
if Miller even quotes a police source as denying his accusation, then this discussion should be long done…and yet we’re still discussing it. Why is that?
If it’s clarification of a policy point I’m after, I’d get it from the chief, or the official police spokesperson. If the denials Miller and Spencer received were from such individuals, then end of story. If not, then it still doesn’t necessarily reflect the “official” position.
My comment of Boyce’s hearsay referred to the initial link from the minipost, which was in the order of “i spoke to a couple of people”; I haven’t read his subsequent “investigative reports”, nor have I commented on the reliability of his subsequent remarks.
I have no opinion on Miller or SCMP. Hopefully this does not reflect their best work. It seems to lack the most basic journalistic requirement of confirmation from 2 independent sources. So I don’t find this story persuasive, or their methods rigorous in this case. But it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. As I said, time will tell.
Could you comment again after first reading through Beijing Boyce’s reports. And I have a strong feeling that you didn’t read both of Tom Miller’s stories either. So please do so. I suspect that you won’t ask me why this discussion wasn’t long done.
Well I’ll give you that answer anyway: he didn’t retract!
Anyway, I simply would like to see you render informed opinions on both Beijing Boyce and Tom Miller side by side using the same criteria.
S.K. Cheung says
OK DJ, thanks for making me read more Beijing Boyce. Having said that, dude seems to have a fun life…can’t beat a job where work=bar hopping.
So I’ve read July 18 and 20th entries. He’s spoken to 5 bar owners in Sanlitun. He saw black patrons in 8 of 10 clubs he visited. And it’s still 19 days before the Olympics. First off, my standards for “substantial and carefully documented investigative reports” are a little more rigorous than that. So my conclusions are: 1. there are lots of other bars, and many other bar owners, whom Boyce hasn’t seen or interviewed about this; 2. none of this speaks to whether such an underlying policy exists. The policy might exist, but maybe word hasn’t gotten out to all the owners, or maybe they’ve heard, but decided to hell with it. Who knows? 3. Olympics haven’t started yet, so check back then.
The SCMP is subscription only, so I read the first Miller story via your link, but can’t access the second one. BTW, googling SCMP TOm Miller matches your blog as the first 2 hits, so congrats on that.
Anyhow, until Aug 8, all you’ve got is opinion and conjecture. A retraction may be in order, but good things come to those who wait…till 0808, 08/08/2008 (hey, that even rhymes).
The SCMP is a terrible newspaper- full of poorly written, poorly validated articles. I live in Hong Kong, and stopped reading it seriously years ago.
I linked to the second “report” from Tom Miller in this post. Anyway, here is the address: http://olympics.scmp.com/Article.aspx?id=1338
@DJ – I doubt most Chinese people would feel great about being called ‘yellow man’ everywhere they went, and many would be sure to find implied racism in that.
A word is a word. Whether it has positive, neutral or negative connotations is a matter of established and consistant perception from a non-trivial portion of population.
So the questions are: is the word 黑人 an established term? and has it been described by a non-trival number of people as negative or at least non-neutral? I believe the answers are clearly YES and NO in that order.
As for “yellow man”, is this a commonly accepted and practiced term? Since it is not, then an insistent usage of such an unusual term is asking for questions to be raised regarding the motive behind it.
Another way to look at it: no one should have a second thought if someone calls me a “Chinese”. But if the word “Chinaman” is used, then I probably would have some kind of reaction that is not exactly positive. What’s the difference? Well, if someone should know that a term has a strong negative perception associated with it and still choose to use it, then it becomes offensive.
So, how many would claim that 黑人 in Chinese or “black person” in English are perceived as insults?
Obviously, we know there is at least one that felt it was a derogative word. But if the number of such people is rather small, then the problem is not with the word.
Good post. In my earlier comment, I expressed some indignation at the stereotype that the U.S. has no history — something I hear way too often here in China, which to me is just an indication of unfathomable ignorance. Kudos for changing the post’s title — that you respond to criticism is something admirable, and altogether too rare in the blogsphere.
This is definitely a newsworthy story. It’s definitely beginning to look like Tom Miller is another Stephen Glass, and the SCMP should fire his ass and print a retraction.
@DJ- ‘Black person’ is not an insult, but to be addressed as it constantly (rather than, say, “him” or “that person”) is discomfiting – would you not say?
Move along folks there is nothing more to see here. Mr. Devonshire-Ellis has told us what is really going on:
A bad journalist can destroy the reputation of a good newspaper. This is the case of Tom Miller to SCMP. One single anynomous source made such a big fuss from a regional paper to world’s attention.
Well, if that London University law graduate (or did he not go to university?) who founded his company to work for the oil industry (or was he working as a trademark agent?) in 1992 (or was it 1989? Or 1991?) who has claimed to be a Scottish lawyer (although both the Scottish bar association and the Scottish law society say he is not), and who’s real name is not even Devonshire-Ellis, says something – it must be true! I believe we were talking about how reliable certain sources are . . . .
Thanks for the heads up. It’s certainly an interesting read with its topic and positions. For anyone interested, it is found here.
I didn’t know there is so much story of Mr. Devonshire-Ellis. But anyway, are there things in that article you specifically object?
Well thanks. By the way, this probably exposes an interesting mentality of mine. Since I call the US home now (and this is the 20th year), I just don’t seem to think much about joking at the US’ expense. 😉
@DJ – The fact both I and more than one friend of mine have seen CDE drinking in Sanlitun bars exactly like the ones he so haughtily describes here is objectionable enough in itself. But let’s see what else:
– The quotation from Mia Farrow were not actually said or written by her, she may or may not think that Olympics are an event “organized by mass murderers”, but she has never said it in those words – so why is he putting it in quotation marks and attributing it to her?
– The quote “look out for black people behaving suspiciously on your premises, and if necessary, ask them to leave.” gave no source, not even an anonymous one – who is he quoting?
– Transport for London have no plans to install X-ray machines in the London Underground. If they were, they would have done it back in 2005.
– The Chinese defence to accusations of supporting genocide in Darfur is not that they haven’t made arms shipments, but that the Sudanese government has agreed not to use arms shipped after the embargo in Darfur. Those with long memories will be reminded of the accusations against the British government of supplying arms to Indonesia during the war in East Timor, where the British government used a similar excuse.
All of this makes me think that he 1) doesn’t know what he is talking about, and 2) doesn’t know the first thing about how quotation is supposed to be done.
Look, quote anyone you like, but this man’s dishonesty is legendary and no-one who knows him is going to lend one shred of credence to a thing he says. In the past his website has even ripped-off stories from Economist and re-printed them without attribution (he had to take it down after receiving complaints from all over).
For an example of how he’s changed his story over the years look at the various versions of his life story on Dezan Shira’s website. Here’s his bio from 2001:
And from 2006:
And from the current website:
Oh, and I should say something else, he’s legendary for logging onto websites using a pseudonym and quoting his own articles, usually he can’t be caught, but a few websites got wise to him and no longer allow comments if they think they are coming from him. Look, I know I’m way off topic, so if you want to know more just email me at [email protected] .
The lengths to which people like you go to explain away racism and predjudice in China is an interesting topic in itself. It is as if China, to some people, is somehow exempt from basic rules of human interaction.
Language is a two way street. If I get annoyed by a word that you constantly hurl at me, you’d better listen up when I tell you stop using it. That’s how the word “Chinaman” fell out of use. Although there is nothing intrinsically derogatory in the word itself (possibly a direct translation of Zhongguoren), a sufficient number of Chinese were uncomfortable with the use of the word and asked native English speakers to stop using it. They did.
It is a simple as that. Now, if Chinese continue using word that they know many foreigners object to, such as heiren and laowai, they are sending a pretty strong message what they think of foreigners.
ATHENS, Aug. 27 2004 (Xinhuanet) — Newly crowned men’s 110m hurdles champion Liu Xiang said that his win is the pride of China, Asia and all the Chinese people aross the world.
“This is a miracle, but I believe a lot more miracles will take place in China,” he said.
“My victory has proved that athletes with yellow skin can run as fast as those with black and white skins.”
I specifically did no address all of the complaints pouring out in the Peking Duck thread. For example, I have no intention to defend some terms such as 黑鬼 (heigui) and 鬼佬 (guilao) because it is not an unreasonable claim that some (but not all) use the words in derogatory manners. I brought up the term 黑人 (heiren) precisely because I am not aware of any negative connotation to it, and found such a complaint odd. Similarly, 老外 (laowai) is a widely used and neutral term. I am simply not aware that “many foreigners object to” these two terms. Could you elaborate on that part?
By the way, I just noticed in writing this comment that when I use Microsoft pingying input method to type 黑人 and 老外, they are auto-completed as the top choices. As for 黑鬼 and 鬼佬, no such thing.
Some people frequently comment here that we (meaning the Chinese) are overly sensitive. I wonder if the same charge should be reflected towards those complaining as you described.
That’s an interesting profile you gave. I am actually quite new to the blogsphere (only since April this year, spurred by you-know-what events.) There are so many stories, claims, charges that I have no idea of.
I agree with your take here. My first reaction was: sounds like a fairly reasonable explanation; but why didn’t he either provide source(s) or just state this as a congecture?
黑人 (heiren) is a ban? So is it very insulting to say black people then? Because that’s all it’s meaning? How else do you suppose we address people of black origin? African? But what about for people not from Africa?
@DJ – Yup, and there’s no real reason why you should believe anything I say if you think it doesn’t make sense. I’m sure you’re aware the China expat scene has its fair share of strange folk, and the internet does have a tendency in bringing out the worst in people.
Holy Crap. Including this comment that’s 64 comments. Dang DJ, you got some passionate readers!
haha. You should take a look at my very first post on this site, which is on FLG. It has 241 comments and people are still going at it in the thread.
What’s interesting is that those “defending” China against claims of racism are perfectly willing to admit that there is plenty of prejudice in China when it comes to things like geographic origin, wealth, and skin color (level of tan)…. so it’s not as if we’re insisting that Chinese society is a happy color-blind Disneyland where we all hold hands and love all human beings as brothers/sisters. Far from it.
So basically you are saying that the Chinese should change their culture and language simply because of your own misunderstanding or misinterpretation? How would you feel if I go to your house and tell you to re-paint the walls because I don’t feel comfortable with the color?
Your attitude itself sounds pretty arrogant, condescending and racist to me.
How else do you suppose we address people of black origin? African? But what about for people not from Africa?
You don’t address people by their race, do you? You address people by name or title in most civilized societies, or ask a polite question how to address them. Or do you suggest that it is perfectly OK to say “Hi, oriental man! Could you tell me what time it is?”
My beef is not with the word heiren as such as much as with the compulsive need of some people to point out people’s origin or race at the mere sight of them. I don’t think that it is polite in any country to point at people and make them self-conscious of the fact that they do not belong there. That is the kind of behavior you may expect from small children, not from adults.
…and that answers your question, AC. (Thanks for the compliment by the way!) No one is asking Chinese people to change their whole culture or language or to repaint their kitchens. (That’s an odd choice of metaphor by the way.) What is being discussed here is how some people in China relate to some foreigners and the fact that many foreigners resent that. Just as much as you have a right to object to the way you are being treated abroad, you should be able to accept some criticism of the way Chinese treat foreigners.
What’s interesting is that those “defending” China against claims of racism are perfectly willing to admit that there is plenty of prejudice in China when it comes to things like geographic origin, wealth, and skin color (level of tan)…
Well I’m happy that we agree on that. I still find enormous reluctance to admit that this is a problem or that it poisons the relationship between foreigners and Chinese, and there is very little discussion about this problem.
Despite all that has been said in this discussion, the Chinese perception of foreigners is very racialized. Just to take one example. While I don’t think it would occur to a fenqing to blame all the evils of US imperialism on a Chinese-born American (whose family may have lived in the US for a century), they feel perfectly all right taking out their anger on random “white” people with US citizenship. It usually doesn’t really matter if the “white” American in question has absolutely no personal connection with some of the crimes of US imperialism; he could be a Finnish-American or a Polish-American whose parents left Europe after WWII. What matters is that he is “white” and that he hence is morally inferior by virtue of his race. The blonder his complexion, the more complicit he is perceived.
Almost as outrageous as others feeling all right to take out their anger on random people with Chinese citizenship!
I’m not exactly sure what you mean when you say people were “taking out their anger” on you. If you were physically assaulted, you should absolutely report it to the police, and I’m right there with you in demanding action. If you were told by certain individuals that “whites are racist imperialists” and that you’re therefore morally inferior… well, take a page from me, and learn to be tolerant of those who accuse everyone in your society of being racist, and correspondingly morally inferior.
I have never suggested everyone in China to be racist or morally inferior, if that’s what you mean. IAs a matter of fact, I have talked to many Chinese who are disturbed by racism in China. One of the strongest statements against Chinese racism was penned by Liu Xiaobao two or three years ago. What I do say, however, is that there is an enormous reluctance to discuss this in public, a fact that this blog give ample testimony to.
Is “black community” considered as an insult to Africa Americans ?
On this thread alone, you used the term “Chinese” pretty liberally. Go back and look over your own posts. When you say “Chinese are xxx”… isn’t that equivalent to someone walking up to you in a Chinese bar, and telling you that “whites are yyy”?
I don’t see the reluctance to address this issue on this blog. I feel like we’ve had several entries specifically on the topic, and I’m sure we’ll have more.
@Wahaha – I don’t think Hemulen is arguing that the word ‘black’ is racist (uless you’re talking about ‘黑社会’ which has nothing to do with this), what he is arguing is that anyone of non-Chinese appearance arriving in China has to get used to the fact that their race is most definitely an issue to pretty much everyone you meet. You may find it in your favour (often this is the case, and, of course, no-one is going to complain about that), but at other times you may find yourself on the receiving end of rude treatment for no other reason than the colour of your skin. For people of dark appearance the negative often outweighs the positive, and I think the majority of non-Chinese living in China would at least say if asked that they would prefer equal treatment to the locals.
I don’t know if that’s what Hemulen is arguing, but that’s a statement I’m certainly willing to agree to. I also see it as a problem.
But I think most Chinese would be amazed to hear Westerners prefer equal treatment (and many probably do not.. chinabounder comes to mind)… many Chinese are upset at what they see as broad preferential treatment towards Westerners in Chinese society. But keep repeating the message, and I hope that more Chinese come to understand (and follow) your point of view.
@Buxi – Here, once again, we come up against the problem of what is a racial identifier, what is an indicator of nationality, and what we mean when we use terms which may mean both. “White” is surely a racial term, and I think it is unreasonable to try and define characteristics common to everyone with white skin (i.e., say something like “你们老外是XXXX”. China is a nation with a diverse population, but I think it is quite reasonable to talk about national characteristics, most of the content of this blog does just that.
rocking offkey says
If you have personal stories about racism against blacks, please let us know.
Chinaman is offensive, not only because it’s not standard English, but also because it’s linked to the history of discrimination against Chinese in the U.S. Most people won’t take heiren as offensive because there was no history of discrimination against blacks associate with that word.
Likewise, blacks is slightly less PC in the US only because it’s associated with “whites”. I’m wondering if “African” will become as discriminative as “black” as time goes on. After all, most Blacks will have no connection with Africa, they are American only that their skin color is black.
Let us face it, racial discrimination is everywhere UNLESS you can speak perfect native language, otherwise you will be treated differently. Chinese are discriminated in USA too, like one owner in New York opened a restaurant called “Chink”, I was called “chinese monkey” once in KFC long time ago.
Whether people like them or not is actually depending on how those people behaves or what they do over there.
“What is being discussed here is how some people in China relate to some foreigners and the fact that many foreigners resent that. Just as much as you have a right to object to the way you are being treated abroad, you should be able to accept some criticism of the way Chinese treat foreigners.”
We are talking about language here, right? (See your own comment #58)
“Laowai” and “Hei ren” are not offensive terms in Chinese. If you don’t like it, it’s your own problem, not ours. It’s silly that some laowai insist that the term “laowai” is offensive as if they understand Chinese better than the Chinese.
I don’t know if that’s what Hemulen is arguing, but that’s a statement I’m certainly willing to agree to. I also see it as a problem.
I endorse the statement by FOARP and apologize if you feel that I’m branding all Chinese as racist, that has never been my intention.
And I’m happy that we agree that racial attitudes (or whatever you like to call it) in China are a problem.
Most people won’t take heiren as offensive because there was no history of discrimination against blacks associate with that word.
“Most people”? Most “black” people or most people who use the term? Crucial distinction.
Which is why I say “would say if asked” – most of them do, even if some don’t entirely mean it. Also, I have to say that many of the more thoughtful of the expat community recognise just how precarious their position in Chinese society is, and how easily things could change for them. Foreigners are not stupid (at least the majority are not) and most recognise that the negative treatment they receive is partly related to the positive treatment they receive – and this is the reason why they would prefer to be rid of both. The political climate does not help, of course.
Finally, the entire foreign-born population of China (including refugees etc.) only adds up to less than a third of one percent of the population of the country, so why do issues related with the expat community take up so much space on a blog that is supposed to be about the whole of China?
Hemulen, okay, thank you for the explanation. I think if you were careful to not make broad statements about “Chinese”, your observations and suggestions on Chinese society will probably be less controversial, and hopefully we’ll all benefit from it.
Rock and a hard place. Hemulen was just advocating more discussion about expat race issues. 🙂
Bottom line, this is a marketplace of ideas. Since this is a topic that gathers interest… well, we’ll end up talking about it. On the other hand, I’ve probably posted more entries on on-going political reform in China, but those issues seem to receive less interest/comments. ~shrug~
@Rocking Offkey – My understanding was that ‘Chinaman’ was viewed as offensive because 1) many of the people labelled so were actually from Korea, Japan etc., 2) The term means ‘Chinese’ (as in the country), and many of the people so labelled weren’t Chinese citizens, and 3) The way in which it was used to signify something less than a human being. Compare and contrast with other terms.
Finally, the entire foreign-born population of China (including refugees etc.) only adds up to less than a third of one percent of the population of the country, so why do issues related with the expat community take up so much space on a blog that is supposed to be about the whole of China?
You could argue the same about the Tibetans. I would say that the reason is that the way minorities are treated is a good indicator of how healthy a society is as a whole. It is about time this is being discussed…
Can you tell us how minorities are treated in China ?
@Hemulen – On the other hand, there’s about a lot of expat blogs out there, and I think the best commentary I’ve seen on this blog has been of the non-expat/non-China v. West kind – I’m not blaming you for this, as the topic of this thred is obviously related to expats living in China. But really, I found it hard enough to convince people I knew in the flesh that laowai could be an annoying phrase when it was repeated over and over at you, and when it seem to replace even your name as an appellation. How are you going to convince people on the internet of it unless they actually had to strip off their skins and don yours and see how they like every jack-ass in town giving them the “Helloooo laowai!” treatment as if it was the funniest thing around?
@Wahaha – Can you tell us how they are treated in your country of residence? Do you think it right to decide this based on how you are treated?
Are you asking about LaoWai or ethnic minority ?
Is that ture that the reason you dont like being called LaoWai is cuz Da Shan was called LaoWa ?
I agree, but given the amount of publicity this blog has received, I just think I feel that it wouldn’t do any harm to stop by and tell people what it is like being a laowai on an everyday basis. I have noticed that more and more Chinese are paying attention to this, which is encouraging.
You are like Gordon Chang,
Enjoy your hatred, whatever that is.
Joining this lively discussion late in the game, I have read with interest the arguments on this thread and it seems to me that it is simply a question of name calling and personal prejudice/ fear. That is where the distinction lies.
In Shanghai, most white folk (for lack of a better expression) are a minority but certainly not a repressed minority that have their rights denied. As in Hong Kong, due to colonial occupation, many Gwailo’s back in the day lived privileged lives where as the Chinese were the laborers, factory workers and generally people less well off. In Shanghai it is also unlikely to find a repressed Laowai and more likely to find a destitute from Sichuan coming to the big city to make their fortune selling fruit. They are the ones that are repressed and denied service and basic benefits like health coverage because they do not have a Shanghai houko.
For the Whities, the name calling is only that. a name. It should be a sticks and stones argument because no real harm is being done by labeling them.
In the case for our dark colored friends, especially in the US and South Africa, they are a phenomenon that historically have been a repressed color. I use the term color because even Indian’s (from india) are treated badly because of the color of their skin. Chinese are not only prejudice against them but are actually often afraid of them. Whether that is because of their color, their size, their mannerisms, it is a fact that sometimes our friends with darker skin are denied services even now because of the way they look, especially in places outside of major cities where the prejudice is more acute. It is for this reason that more sensitivity needs to be used for those “labels” where the name calling actually has real harm.
So for our pale friends out there complaining about being called laowai and being reminded that they are foreign, I say to you get back in you Audi, put in your iPod earbuds, stop listening to the name calling and most of all stop whining. For those “heiren” (ie Blacks in China, Blacks in the US, Indians in Hong Kong, Chinese in the US, UK, Germany, Australia – I include this because they pretty much get the same treatment) keep your voices loud and conviction strong so that eventually you will be afforded with the same level of disrespect but afforded equal services and benefits as the majority.
Wait a minute, which Chinese are you talking about? Do you mean Chinese in US and South Africa?
As for “our friends with darker skin are denied services”, I’ve never heard of such thing in mainland China. Could you please give us an example?
I don’t see anything wrong a group to be called laowai like laoWang,laoZhang or sichuanren, hunanren
I am sure people call your name after they know you and your name.
I agree with hemulun and FORAP: there is no enough open discussion in China about the prejudece against people come from different places no matter a different province or a different country. There should be more public debate inside China.
I just don’t know how to respond to your questions when you don’t seem to have read the thread properly.
So for our pale friends out there complaining about being called laowai and being reminded that they are foreign, I say to you get back in you Audi, put in your iPod earbuds, stop listening to the name calling and most of all stop whining.
Interesting. I didn’t realize I could claim my own Audio and iPod in China just because I’m “white”. Where do I turn to claim these benefits?
I speak from personal experience. I know of people who are physically intimidated by black people. They may not be actually denied service but are sales staff with practically draw straws not the serve the black customers.
In Hong Kong regardless of whether you are born in Hong Kong or not, an Indian can never get a “three star” Hong Kong ID which affords more benefits than other HK ID’s. This is a policy based entirely on race.
So I do not necessarily speak regarding the mainland but general plight of repressed minorities. My point is that whites, although may be a minority in China, are certainly not repressed and rarely have anything to complain about apart from having their feelings hurt (and being over charged). Blacks, Indians, and Chinese in “Western” countries do have a history of prejudice that goes beyond name calling and therefore greater sympathy/ understanding can be afforded when they react in a manner that can be perceived as an over-reaction to certain situations.
You had been talking about how chinese treated LaoWai, and suddenly you talk about how Han chinese treat minority CHINESE in #83,
so I asked you a quesiont in #84, maybe I should ask “Can you tell us how ethnic minorities are treated in China ?”
My reference to Audi’s and iPod’s is an attempt (obviously failed) to use satire to point out that most of the white minorities in major cities are relatively well off. Well off enough to possibly own cars and premium priced MP3 players whereas the ghettos are actually filled with out-of-town Chinese or other ethnic minorities from within China. I do however acknowledge your use of satire to rebut my comment and I commend the dryness of your humour, however lets not get into an argument about the relative value and price point of Apple products against Chinese brands as that would be an insult to the article that DJ wrote to stimulate such an entertaining discussion.
I now know why there is at least 95 posts preceding this post.
My point is that whites, although may be a minority in China, are certainly not repressed and rarely have anything to complain about apart from having their feelings hurt (and being over charged).
“White” is not an ethnicity and the moment you lump people together in categories the way you seem to do, you’re in trouble. I have talked about that at some length above, if you care to read.
That “white” dude that get jeered at on the street in Shanghai for looking Western could be a Bosnian who lost his family in the Yugoslav civil war. And that Chinese guy who passed next to him unnoticed may be a former red guard who made it big in the 80s. What do you know? You complain about racial stereotypes, but you seem to just perpetuate them.
to point out that most of the white minorities in major cities are relatively well off.
Do you know why? Only wealthy “white” people are allowed to live in China. If you’re “white” and not rich, you’ll find yourself on an airplane back home before you know it. And that “home” may be a poor eastern European country, where, incidentally Chinese business are courted by the government and are prospering. We don’t live in the colonial era anymore.
Now, the problem with racial prejudice is that the minority is either “too wealthy” and is somehow depriving the majority of their opportunities, or they are “too poor” and is sponging on the rest of the population. Oldest trick in the book.
Yup, white is not an ethnicity. Nor is black…. is it? Is a Nigerian the same ethnicity to an African-American? It’s certainly not the same as an Indian. But are North Indian the same as Southern Indians? Is a Scandinavian ethnically different from an Irishman?
For your Bosnian example makes little sense because being called a laowai doesn’t change anything. It is only when you are deprived of something others have access to that you are really being discriminated against and in China, your Bosnian is likely to get the same treatment as the Scandanvian CEO based on his appearance. He may actually be treated better at the Ritz Carlton than a Chinese would, but may be treated worse at a similar Chinese run establishment.
I feel for him but that has nothing to do with what is being discussed because that White dude is being called a Laowai…. That’s all.
The world is an unfair place and by focusing your energy on perpetuating a color blind society is unrealistic and in my personal opinion a waste of time. Understanding that these prejudices exist and developing personal ways to handle it (I feel) is not a waste of time because it will allow you to live a much happier life since there really is no way to avoid generalising blocks of people, be it based on race or otherwise. For example:
What no failing Chinese businesses in Eastern Europe?….Generalisation
All Tibetans are being treated badly?…Generalisation
Are ALL Africans facing discrimination in Beijing? … Generalisation
And the kicker
In the context of your comment #89 you are generalising that Chinese don’t understand what it feels like to be called a nasty name?
I’m not saying that your generalisations are wrong, All I am saying is that is what they are. Live with it and deal with it and be sympathetic in understanding why others react the way they do when they call you a Laowai, as I am beginning to understand why you are getting offended by being called one.
“On the other hand, I’ve probably posted more entries on on-going political reform in China, but those issues seem to receive less interest/comments.”
You know what, that’s a damn shame because that’s one of the things I think people know least about,( or at least for myself).
Being called laowai is one thing, since it might just be a casual remark. Being attacked by a thunderous “HELLO” and then being laughed at is a different thing, can tell you. Fortunately that’s been getting better in Beijing the last couple of years, unless you hang out around places where a lot of mingong gather. Still, due to lack of exposure, even old Beijingers here have strange and generalizing opinions about “foreigners”, and that is always going to be a bit of a strain (for me at least).
What is needed is exposure. It’s going to be interesting what the olympic games turn out like.
@Wahaha – I didn’t know that white people are an ethnic majority in China . . .
Just dismissing what has been said out of hand as generalizations isn’t really taking us anywhere, and a bit remarkable given the way you entered the conversation.
It is only when you are deprived of something others have access to that you are really being discriminated against
The laowai-routine is not the point of this thread and, yes, if you cared to follow the discussions on this blog it does indeed happen that you do get denied things in China or that you get openly abused just because you are a foreigner, “blacks” being considerably worse treated that “whites”. You could be denied an apartment because you are a foreigner. You can be denied service in a hotel because you are foreigner. There are numerous examples and I’m not going to reiterate that whole thread for every person who is incredulous at the idea that racism exists in China, just like elsewhere in the world. You go and look for it.
He may actually be treated better at the Ritz Carlton than a Chinese would, but may be treated worse at a similar Chinese run establishment.
I have never been able to afford a luxury hotel in China, but I know what it is like to be denied a hotel room in a perfectly decent mid-range budget hotel late in the evening, simply because I have a foreign face. I also know what it is like to be surrounded by a loud and threatening mob because I was trying to help a friend to argue about the price for a service. If you are a black person, the likelihood of that kind of treatment increases dramatically. I’m not asking for a colorblind society tomorrow morning, but I would very much like to learn your personal ways to handle these kinds of situations.
I think we started out on the wrong foot. My last post was really just to play devils advocate in that nobody is completely unprejudiced and nobody is a complete racist in most cases. 99% of people live in the grey area and Chinese are no less racist than any other nationality or ethnic group.
Accepting that racism exists to me does not mean accepting racism, but the first step is to not be one yourself as much as you can, and encourage others to do the same and if more people discuss and debate the issue then it will raise the consciousness of people in general. thats when people change the way they think. Hopefully readers watching our bitch fight will make them think a little more about how they behave and hopefully little by little, people get better at understanding other people and their differences.
We don’t disagree
” I didn’t know that white people are an ethnic majority in China ….”
Tibetans, Mongolians are Chinese, LaoWai are, … well , LaoWai…
@Wahahaha – Laowai means ‘white person’, or at least that is how it is used. I have never heard of Japanese, Koreans, Malaysians, or people of African appearance being called ‘laowai’, so I think the definition ‘foreigner’ is not really accurate. So once again, do you think it is reasonable to judge whether a country like the US displays wide-spread racial attitudes (by which I mean, will people treat you differently based on your race) based on how you yourself would be treated there? If yes, is it unreasonable for foreigners of non-Asian descent to make similar judgements about China?
Plus – are you really saying that Tibetans are not an ethnic minority in China?
@Wahahaha & FOARP
I have heard the term ‘lao wai’ referred mainly to Westernized non-Asian people (Middle Eastern, African American, European, etc). Sometimes the term is derogatory – I was called ‘lao wai’ almost every day by sneering Chinese males behind by back (usually 15-45 years old). I do not like being called this because of the derogatory nature and implied prejudice.
“I know what it is like to be denied a hotel room in a perfectly decent mid-range budget hotel late in the evening, simply because I have a foreign face. I also know what it is like to be surrounded by a loud and threatening mob because I was trying to help a friend to argue about the price for a service. If you are a black person, the likelihood of that kind of treatment increases dramatically.”
Now that is the truth – in China I have been denied services and occasionally treated rudely because I have a foreign face. When it’s late at night and you walk into an empty hotel you can see it on their faces when you know they are lying (“we are full – go away”). A number of times I ended up sleeping in bathhouses because they the normal hotels refused me services.
I never had to face a mob over a price argument but I have had to deal with plenty of rude arguments and deceptive people. That is what the expats refer to as ‘the white tax’ – being a foreigner automatically jacks up the price. However, I have noticed that a lot of Chinese people do treat black people worse than white people. When I would point this out they would simply fall back on racist stereotypes (they are savage, dishonest, etc)
I feel sorry that you felt insulted by being called “LaoWai”, Let us face it, most “LaoWai” are not residents in China, they are either Tourists or temporarily living in China, Chinese dont think they are “immigrants”. There is absolutely no insult in “LaoWai.”
Tibetans are ethnic minority in China, Han chinese consider them as part of family. LaoWai are foreigners, hence not part of family, I am sorry.
How many Chinese tourists don’t know what its likely to be surrounded by a loud and threatening mob because they were trying to help a friend argue about the price for a service…? There was an infamous case in Sanya, Hainan last year, where the Chinese tourists were actually taken into police custody for their own “protection”.
If your complaint is that you’re not treated like “one of the locals”… you’re really not. Maybe at some point when non-Chinese become more than 0.5% of the population in a cosmopolitan city like Beijing… then things will change.
But in the mean time, people will make numerous assumptions about you that they don’t make about locals. You can label this as racism if you’d like, but I think the rest of us are still going to resist the common implication that those viewing you this way are “Chinese supremacists” who “look down” on other races.
The fact that you’re getting some extra hassle is indeed because of your skin color, but it’s not because the Chinese around you think they’re better than you. Maybe it’s a minor distinction in your eyes, but it’s a major distinction in mine… and probably why this debate is still going-on in this thread.
@Wahaha – That is because there is no real way in which foreigners can become permanent residents in China other than through marriage to a Chinese citizen, and even this is not a total solution.
I do not think ‘laowai’ is that insulting a term, it might be a tad off-hand and diminutive, but it has no overwhelmingly negative meaning. At the very worst, it is a bit impolite. The problem is it becomes incredibly annoying after a while to here the same lousy routine: I’m walking along the street, a bunch of young guys walk past going the other way, one of them goes “hallo Laowai!”, they all laugh. This would happen most days. Is it terrible? No. Is it incredibly insulting? No. Is it annoying after you’ve heard it for the thousandth time? Yes.
You have no need to apologise if you have never done anything like this. I believe that making judgements based on people’s appearance is a natural human instinct which all people are prone to, the important thing is to be aware of this.
@Oldson – My own impression on people gouging you is that they automatically set their price based on how much they think you can pay – they’d probably do it to any person they thought had money. The foreigner bar on low-rate hotels is a strange one, and is mainly driven by paper work and licensing. I think most hotel owners would be quite happy to take foreigners if they were allowed – the reason why they tell you they are full is so they don’t have to tell you they cannot take a foreigner and thus risk an argument. I know just what you mean about crowd situations. The worst thing is when some guy starts taking coming after you trying to pick a fight just because of your skin colour, usually it would be because they don’t like seeing foreign men with Chinese women. These situations can easily turn into a 20-on-1 fight with you on the receiving end – some people just join in for the hell of it. Put simply: a significant minority of the Chinese population hates foreigners and would like China to be rid of them.
Not every hotel in China has the permit to serve foreign guests, you know that, right?
S.K. Cheung says
you need a “permit” to serve foreign guests? What the? And how do they make that distinction? Skin colour for starters, by the sound of things in this discussion. I’m about as foreign as they come wrt China, except for skin colour. I could pass for an HKer in Cantonese speaking parts. Do you think they’d serve me? I don’t know if it’s intentional, but that sounds like an institutionalized method for discrimination to me.
S.K. Cheung says
“The fact that you’re getting some extra hassle is indeed because of your skin color, but it’s not because the Chinese around you think they’re better than you. Maybe it’s a minor distinction in your eyes, but it’s a major distinction in mine” – I think a bystander has the luxury of making those distinctions; but if one were on the receiving end of such sentiment, I don’t think those distinctions would have much merit. And it goes back to my point early on – it is what it is, and the various reasons may serve to explain, but certainly shouldn’t serve to excuse.
Yes, absolutely. You know that as 25 years ago, there were basically zero foreigners in China? That’s not an exaggeration. And that’s also why the Olympics are significant, and something to be embraced.
Whenever someone checks into a hotel, you need to provide proof of identity (also true in Europe I believe). I’m actually not sure if that policy is still around, but if so, it becomes rather obvious at that point who a foreigner is, wouldn’t you say? And only certain establishments are given permission to serve foreigners.
FYI, after you check in, the hotel then reports to the police that you are staying at a hotel so they know where you are. If you decide to stay at a friends place you actually have to visit the police station yourself and report yourself. If they catch you without having reported your accommodation to the police they can deport you.
@SK Cheung – When I first lived in China the place you lived at still had to have that kind of certification as well, I don’t know if this rule has been dropped or it is just no longer enforced, but most foreigners use their place of work as their address in any case. The whole thing about hotel registration is basically driven by bureaucracy, and, perhaps, a desire to milk a bit more out of foreign guests. At any rate, I think the people who run cheap hotels would be happy to take foreign guests if there were allowed to. Back in 2005 I travelled around with a Chinese friend of mine and we were able to stay at hotels which were not licensed to take foreigners using her ID card, but I don’t know if that would be possible nowadays. I had a rather embarrassing turn last year when I went to attend a Nanjing friend of mine’s wedding, they are not spectacularly rich, but they had insisted on booking a hotel room for me. However, when I got there I was turned away as it was not licensed to accept foreigners. I didn’t mind this of course because it meant that I could stay at the Liu Yuan hotel on South-East university’s main campus and visit the people I know there, but it would have been a real pain in the posterior if there had been no other places available.
@Dedlam – The whole thing about registering even when you are going to be staying with friends is a total joke, and is going to piss off a whole load of people if they actually try to enforce it, not that that would bother them much of course.
@Buxi – Not here in the UK, but in some parts of mainland Europe.
Me and a friend of mine (from Shantou) went around for hours in Guangzhou to find a place to live, but most moderately-priced places didn’t accept foreigners at the time. In the end we were able to lodge at an army-owned hotel, because the police didn’t have the right to check it.
I was also kicked out from an apartment once because foreigners could only stay at their institution, or a “hotel for foreigners” (涉外宾馆).
At the time “safety” (late nineties) was always used as an official reason for these restrictions, and I believe it’s still an argument many locals believe in. Sometimes, to add insult to injury, there would be lecturing on how this showed Chinese hospitality by offering the best places to foreigners. Unfortunately these best places were often overpriced and worse quality than any Chinese would have gotten for the same price in a pure area.
Yes, it used to be true and I think it’s still the case in some state-owned hotels. They can tell if you are a foreigner by checking your ID.
Also, I believe not too long ago, ordinary Chinese can not stay in “hotel for foreigners” (涉外宾馆) either.
Tom Miller says
I too find the issue interested by the way it is treated.