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China: All shook up by the torch relay

Global Voices OlympicsIs the Olympic torch relay still going on? It is, but most people stopped paying attention to it following the devastating earthquake in Sichuan in May. However, a handful of China's top sports reporters have been following it faithfully.

One of those is Sports Illustrated China writer Guan Jun, who wrote on his Beijing Olympics blog on the Southern Weekly BSP of Benxi, one small obscure city in Northern China's Liaoning province, and how being chosen as a torch relay city shook it all up (also note the joke that's been going around lately that with all the whining people have been doing about the preparations for the Olympics, it's probably the police of China who will be far happier than anyone once everything goes back to normal):

巨大的兴奋之后,艰苦的准备工作开始了,对于这座人力、财力有限的城市而言,“举全市之力迎接火炬”的说法,并不夸张。尤其是随着火炬传递的安保压力越来越大,本溪市的安保之弦也越拉越紧,仿佛要经过这座城市的不是祥云火炬,而是敌对国的装甲车。

火炬传递线路几经斟酌,最终决定绕开所有繁华地带,安排在滨河路从体育馆到殡仪馆一段,这里不仅人少,路边的建筑都少,容易控制。

全市所有的网吧、按摩、洗浴、娱乐场所都接到通知,只能经营到晚上11点半之前。这些基本靠夜晚做生意的店家门前,很快出现了大量的变卖、转让的广告。

After the rush of excitement, the difficult preparation work began. For this city with limited people- and financial power, the saying ‘the whole city welcomes the torch together’ was no exaggeration. Particularly due to the steadily-increasing pressure to ensure the torch's safety, Benxi was set to walk along a line about to snap, as if what was about to pass through the city was not an auspicious torch but a hostile power's tanks.

Several routes for the torch relay were considered, then finally it was decided that it should avoid all busy areas, and so it was arranged to go along Binhe Rd. from the sports stadium to the funeral parlour, where not only would there be few people, but few buildings alongside the road as well, making it easy to control.

All the internet bars, massage parlours, bath houses and entertainment venues in the city received a notice that they could now only operate until 11:30 at night. Very quickly, in front of these shops which for the most part do their business in the evenings, there appeared large numbers of clearance sale and ‘buyer wanted’ advertisements.

火炬传递起点旁的鹏程园社区,有近百住户临街,他们的门最初被敲响,是因为政府要借用他们的阳台,贴上中国国旗与奥运五环并列的招贴画。几十幅整齐排列的图案,为的是展示本溪人“对奥运圣火的热情”。

敲门声不是只响这一次,而是时常响起。警察、街道干部经常要来做工作,确定房间的固定住户,登记备案,而且被告知火炬传递时的既不许家中无人,又不许开窗,不许在窗前观望、走动。作为某种精神补偿,每户会收到一个西瓜。

不仅如此,在6月下旬、7月初的两次演习和正式传递的时候,每个沿线住户家都会安排一名警察或政府工作人员入户值守,以防意外事件。

The torch relay was set to start beside Pengcheng estate, were nearly a hundred residents faced the street. It was them who were the earliest to have their doors knocked upon, because the government wanted to use their balconies to hang a Chinese flag together with a poster of the five Olympic rings. Several dozen widths of banner were placed neatly together, all to display Benxi residents’ “enthusiasm for the Olympic torch”.

The sound of doors knocking didn't only come once, but from then quite often. Police and neighborhood cadres came frequently to carry out their work, confirming the number of inhabitants, having them register, and notifying them to make sure the apartment will not be left empty during the torch relay, that they will not be permitted to open the windows then, stand at them and look out, or move past them. As emotional compensation, every home received one watermelon.

And that's not all. At the end of June/early July when two rehearsal and two practice relays were held, one police officer or government employee was arranged to stand guard in every home along the route, to prevent any accidents from occurring.

入户是一个让人为难的任务。值守人员敲一家沿线住户的房门,敲了几次都没人答应,最终他们动用某种技术手段开了门,见到的竟是屋内一双愤怒的眼睛:“你们凭什么闯进我家?”值守人员也很生气:你凭什么不配合政府的工作,难道心里有鬼?把他带走,接受审查。结果,那位拒绝合作的住户被关了几天。

另一强硬的住户运气好一些,他们大声斥责擅入民宅于法无据,值守人员自觉理亏,无奈地离开了。

一位女警察早晨4点就到了——实在是太早了。她负责“照看”的老夫妻有抵触情绪,拒绝开门。女警察就在门口站着,看外面天光渐亮。后来,老夫妻竟有些过意不去,给她拿出一只小板凳。

火炬手张学锋熟识的一位警察,任务是值守路边建筑物的屋顶。“他在上面站了一晚上,真不容易。”

这座城市的神经好像从未紧张到如此程度,一位姓王的警察告诉我:“我们都快被逼疯了。”

Going into people's homes was an embarrassing task. One of those put on guard knocked on the door of one home along the the torch relay route several times without getting a response, and in the end resorted to employing certain technical methods to get the door open, only to then find a furious pair of eyes inside the room: “What do you think you're doing breaking into my home?” The person on guard was also angry: “And what do you think you're doing obstructing government work…you sure you're not hiding something?!” So then he was taken away and investigated. In the end, that one resident who refused to cooperate got locked up for several days.

Another stubborn resident had slightly better luck, cursing them out loudly for having no legal basis to enter a residence; the would-be guard saw that they were in the wrong and had no choice but to leave.

One female police officer arrived at 4am—too early, actually. The people she was in charge of “seeing to” were an old couple who had been putting up resistance, and refusing to open the door. So the female cop just stood in the doorway, watching the sun slowly rise outside. Later, the old couple began to feel sorry for her and brought her out a small stool.

One officer that torchbearer Zhang Xuefeng is quite familiar with had the task of standing watch over the roofs of the buildings along the street. “He stood up there for an entire night, that's not an easy thing to do.”

I think this city had never been this strung out before. One police officer named Wang told me, “we're liable to crazy any minute now.”

26 comments

  • Spelunker

    The reason those Pengcheng Estate apartment tenants were not permitted to open their windows is because the Benxi government was afraid the Olympic torch relay on the street below would be bombarded by emotional watermelons.

  • cerebus

    sad, sad people. fear leads to the dark side.

  • Kai

    Is it really necessary for the Chinese government to be so insecure that they need to do this to their own people?

  • ali baba

    . Ever since the 28-July Wen An student’s riot,I started to pay regular visit to Strong Nation forum at http://www.people.com.cn,the official People’s Daily web site.Some of the posts there are very interesting,to say the least.
    Following are a fews of them.

    奥运其实和我国古代的斗鸡斗狗斗蟋蟀没什么本质的区别,都属比赛娱乐活动. ( 云间1003 08-07-29 21:12:17 ) 0字 ( 0/13/2 )

    In fact,China’s ancient fun games such as cocks fighting,dogs fighting,or crickets fighting,are of no differences to today’s olympic games,basically.They are all competition and entertainment.
    # 你好歹得把人跟鸡狗蟋蟀等区分开来嘛。看动物斗和人之间相互公平竞争,完全是两回事。 ( 刨根 08-07-29 21:16:37 ) 0字 ( 0/4/1 )

    What a comment! You should at least seperate human from chickens,dogs and crickets.To watch animals fight among each others,and to watch human compete in a fair game,are two completely different things.

    # 在我看来都一样,都是可以按钱称的。 ( 云间1003 08-07-29 21:20:16 ) 0字 ( 0/3/0

    To me it is all the same,all cost money,and can be bought with money.

    看看火炬的传递,没有半点奥运气氛,倒是文格的味道很浓,到处红色的海洋,口号不断,整个奥运都被中国人泛政治化了 ( 张邦倡三十八世 08-07-29 21:07:41 ) 0字 ( 0/49/4 )

    Just look at the torch relay,not a tiny bit of olympic atmosphere,on the contrary,it is oozeing a thick and strong smell of cultural revolution,sea of red(flags) is flooding everywhere,non-stop slogans,the whole olympic is politicalized by Chinese.

  • ali baba

    川人 translate Sichuen man, another regular blogger at boxun.com.

    北京奥运鬼气足 殉葬尸身墓中舞/川人(图)
    (博讯北京时间2008年7月31日
    坟前奥运 Olympic in front of tomb

    世界著名的马屁作家、山东省作协副主席王兆山6月6日曾发表诗词《江城子•废墟下的自述》,假冒地震遇难者的名义、侮辱死难者的人格,写出无耻之极的阿谀之词:
    World famous horse fart author,Wang chou-san,vice chairman of Shang Tung author’s association,on 6-June issued a poem he wrote 江城子 ” Self Description under the Rubble”,impersonating quake victims,insulting the human dignity of the deads, he shamelessly wrote a kiss-ass poem:

    天灾难避死何诉,
    Natural disaster unavoidable,already dead,needless to complain,
    主席唤,总理呼,

    Chairman and prime minister shouting n calling
    党疼国爱,
    The party cherishs you,the state loves you

    声声入废墟。
    All these calls of love,echo under the rubble.
    十三亿人共一哭,纵做鬼,也幸福。
    1.3 billion’s synchronized weep,
    shouldn’t you all be happy, you fortunate ghosts.

    银鹰战车救雏犊,左军叔,右警姑,
    Silver planes and armoured-cars, rescuing children,
    soilders and police-woman abundance

    民族大爱,亲历死也足。
    This grand love of the whole nation
    Once received
    is enough to die a happy death

    只盼坟前有屏幕,看奥运,同欢呼。
    Only wish for a TV in front of the tomb
    Lets watch OLYMPIC together,and cheer in unison.

    人们只要把王大作家的杰作与张大导演的杰作联系起来,便能看出北京奥运果然是一场别国绝对办不出来的坟前奥运。  
    Once you compare this classic poem by grand master Wang and the olympic masterpiece by grand director Zhang Yi-mou,you can clearly see that this “Olympic in front of tomb”,is something that no other nation can do.

    词曰:江城子 坟前奥运

    人祸经年亿民苦,
    Years after years of man-made disasters
    billions suffer in bitterness
    假共和,办奥运,
    Fake republic staging olympic,

    党欢匪爱,坟前立屏幕。
    The party is jubilant,the rascals love it
    TV screen in front of tomb.
    坑内葬品齐出土,
    All things inside grave resurface,

    僵尸跳,鬼起舞。
    Vampires jump,ghosts dance.
    争宠献媚觅钱途,
    Competing for favors
    Eager to please
    Money is the bottom line

    词兆山,导艺谋,舔痔俱一流。
    Wang’s poem,Zhang’s show
    First class ass licking
    癫狂过后又何如?
    What comes after crazy carnival?

    看怒火,照神州
    Flames of anger,in ful fury on sacred land.

  • By Tsoltim N. Shakabpa

    China is
    The People’s Republic of Terrorism
    She instills fear and terror in people
    By threatening them with imprisonment
    Torture and execution
    And imparts dread and appall among small nations
    By menacing them with the barrel of a gun
    Occupation and expansionism
    She inculcates fear and terror among big nations
    By imperiling them with her pecuniary power
    And sale of nuclear intelligence to the axis of evil
    She incites dread and appall among the world
    By endangering them with global warming,
    Toxic poisoning and extravagant oil consumption

    China is
    The People’s Republic of Terrorism
    She instills fear and terror
    By suppressing human rights
    And imparts dread and appall
    By choking freedom of speech
    She infuses fear and terror
    By crushing religious freedom
    And inculcates dread and appall
    By squelching any sign of dissent
    She drills fear and terror
    By subjugating the weak and harmless
    And incites dread and appall
    By silencing those who oppose her regime

    China is truly
    The People’s Republic of Terrorism

  • Ben

    Wouldn’t it be easier on everyone if the Olympic martial law is in place?

  • so_damn_lame

    @John Kennedy,

    It’s good to see that you still are digging up crap and spreading it all over GVO. One looked at GVO and we can see that you have single handedly turn it into JKVO.

    You definitely had been busier than most — given that most of the articles posted here are authored by you. It is kind of reminiscent of someone obsessed. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

    But do have to say that I admire your zealousness, and aside from that I really can’t make anything of the things you post and your intentions for China.

    Really, I am kind of curious as to what you see coming out all this.

  • Spelunker

    Dear John Kennedy:
    It’s an excellent contribution; providing us with insight into how the national Olympic torch relay affects the lives of common people out in the provinces. Perhaps no other major news organization sent reporters to cover the torch relay in Benxi, and we get to hear what the situation was like from ordinary Chinese citizens. I really enjoyed reading Guan Jun’s article, in both Chinese and what I assume is your English translation. Well done! Keep up the good work!
    It’s a shame that discussion so far has mostly consisted of irrelevant rubbish (ali baba and karze) and lame criticism.
    I hope to see more stories like this in August; allowing us to see the Olympics from the PRC people’s perspective.
    Best regards,
    Spelunker

  • so_damn_lame

    @spleunker

    If you can read Chinese, why don’t you go and see what kind of stuff are out in Chinese rather than waiting on our buddy JK here. Last time I check, there’s a whole world out there — much more than what’s trickled down here through Kennedy.

    Go see what’s out there and then see what our buddy JK here deems GVO-worthy.

    As for good stories in August, there will be plenty alright. But I won’t hold my breath as to whether I will see any here — especially from our buddy JK. He kind of reminds me of my neighbor with Tourette’s — most people only pay attention to him the first couple of times, then they all learn to just ignore him.

    That is, unless you are a Falun Goner like CarryAnne and our buddy ali baba up there. Did I leave Karze out? And you wonder why the quality of discussion is crappy thus far.

    As for the Olympics from the perspective of the ordinary folks in the PRC and what it means for them, Joel at China Hope Alive has an excellent article on it. Why don’t you check it out.

    http://tinyurl.com/5sw47e

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