Just the facts, Ming

August 7, 2008

Let’s keep reminding ourselves that, no matter how much Chinese officials polish up the place during the Olympics, China is not really a citizen-friendly nation:

Living in Beijing? The government wants to know your shoe size, blood group, political affiliation and where you get your money from, according to police in at least one corner of the security-obsessed Olympic host city.

[. . .]

Residents of the capital have got used to over-zealous police intruding into their lives. Visitors, even those who stay only one night, are expected to register at the local police station. Police sometimes call to ask why if they do not.

Compounds in the city centre have demanded even long-term residents carry special identity cards, while one restaurant owner said his staff had been warned by police not to speak to foreign customers about anything but their orders.

But the police forms seen by Reuters, which were aimed at Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japanese businessmen and foreign non-government workers, were unusually intrusive with detailed personal questions, some of which implied a criminal record.

Among some over 100 categories to be filled were “the last time of breaking the law”, date of release from prison and source of funds. The document also asked about “cultural level” — or educational background — distinguishing features, and favourite hangouts.

I’m glad police are allowed to ask people such questions in this country. I’d end up in jail just because of all the things I can no longer remember. And my shoe size is, of course, a closely guarded secrect.

(Ming is the sixth-most-common character in Chinese first names. It means “bright.”)

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