learning from mistakes…

April 6th, 2008

So there’s been a new drug raid in Sanlitun (the China Daily article Beijing Boyce links to), and this time it seems the police got it right. I think it is worth highlighting one of Boyce’s paragraphs:

My overall impression is that: 1) this raid was much more coordinated that the one last October; 2) given the numerous photographers, it was meant to send a very public message; 3) now is not the time to be acting recklessly in Beijing; and 4) it’s a good idea to have your identification papers with you.

[my emphasis added]

Yes, this probably was meant to send a message. Boyce notes that there were photographers and videographers out in force with the police, and even “Patrons outside were told they could go in, which most of them did, at which point the photographers took pictures of them sitting in the bar.” Oh dear. I would like to see the resulting pictures and captions. But send a message to who? Was this intended for domestic consumption? Or are they killing a rooster to scare us foreign monkeys into behaving ourselves? I saw nothing in The Beijing News this morning- doesn’t mean it wasn’t there, though, so I’m having another look, as well as searching Baidu and Soso news. And in both cases the first result would seem to be the relevant one.

Well, given the wealth of articles those two searches have turned up, I think we can say the message was at least as much for a domestic audience as a foreign one. My next question is “What is the message?” Well, let’s have a look at the 新华报业网 report which tops the Soso results and is first on Baidu’s list of 20 related articles.


Beijing police raid two Sanlitun drug dens, arrest 20


Last night [Friday night], the Municipal Public Security Bureau assembled a large police force and raided Phoenix Cafe and Pure Girl Bar on Sanlitun Bar Street, arrested over 20 people suspected of using and dealing drugs at the scene and confiscated large amounts of drugs including ecstasy, marijuana and [Help! I’m not a junkie! What is 麻古? Is that the “Yaba tablets” China Daily refers to? If so, what the hell is it?]. Among the more than 20 people arrested were 8 foreigners.


Recently the police had received reports that bar and cafe in question had once again become places where drugs were sold and used. The municipal Public Security Bureau immediately set up a special investigation team, undertook careful investigations, and confirmed that the two entertainment establishments Phoenix Cafe and Pure Girl Bar were drug dens where drug deals were regularly carried out.


At 10 yesterday evening, several departments of the police coordinated to raid Phoenix Cafe and Pure Girl Bar simultaneously, and over 20 law-breakers suspected of using or dealing in drugs were all arrested. Soon afterwards the police and relevant law enforcement authorities seized the two establishments and conducted preliminary investigations into those suspected of using or dealing drugs as well as the legal representatives and management of the two establishments. (reporter: An Ran)

Alright, seems like a fairly normal and reasonably balanced report. I’m just wondering: Is that “Phoenix Cafe” the “A Little High” Boyce speaks of? Yeah, I don’t go to Sanlitun often.

Now, I’m curious about the photographers and videographers Boyce mentions. For one thing, lzh loves all those law case programmes on TV, and she came back from Yanqing yesterday afternoon, so I’m half expecting to see it on TV soon. Secondly, that sentence of Boyce’s has me intrigued:

Patrons outside were told they could go in, which most of them did, at which point the photographers took pictures of them sitting in the bar.

Soso doesn’t seem to have any relevant pictures.

Nor does Baidu.

That article was attributed to 北京晚报. I wonder what I can find there. Hmm, that’s not a promising-looking page…. Try the main 京报网 page, too. Well, 晚报 has the article, but no photos. Odd.

I wonder about video…. Soso has nothing from this year.

Baidu’s even less helpful. What TV channel would be covering it?

Think I’ll try CCTV first. Nothing.

I give up.

Now, Boyce’s third point: “now is not the time to be acting recklessly in Beijing“. Absolutely, although some people still haven’t gotten the message yet. The days when foreigners got an easy ride just for being foreign are over. No passport is a “get out of jail free” card. Behave yourself, or suffer the consequences.

And his fourth point: “it’s a good idea to have your identification papers with you.” Good advice, just in case you do get caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. I generally don’t bother to carry my passport when wandering around this neighbourhood, but then the only reason for foreigners to be down this part of town is BeiGongDa, so I feel pretty safe. But I’ve started carrying my passport when I go further afield, especially if I’m going somewhere with a large foreign population and especially if it’s somewhere like Sanlitun. I don’t go looking for trouble, and these days I stick to respectable establishments, but even so, entertainment districts like Sanlitun naturally attract the less savoury elements of society and innocent people do find themselves occasionally caught up in trouble they weren’t looking for.

And why did this grab my attention? Well, given the nature and history of Sanlitun and what happened last September, I couldn’t help but be curious to see what could be seen.

Update: And the headline of this article at CRI is the kind of bollocks part of me feared would emerge, given the events of last September:

Police Nab Eight Foreigners Suspected of Drug Trafficking

Yes, eight foreigners were arrested, and over a dozen Chinese, too. The article on their Chinese site takes the more neutral tone of those linked to above. I guess the English article was killing the rooster to scare the foreign monkeys, then.

6 Responses to “learning from mistakes…”

  1. Jianjun Says:

    麻古 is said to be a transliteration from Thai. I’m not sure of it. But when I Google ‘Magu’, there seems to be some hits. ;)

  2. boyce Says:

    Thanks for the shout Chris,

    I generally take mine ID everywhere. It’s a hassle, but you just never know what’s going to happen. My thought when I was watching the raid was, “What if you’re a tourist, look in your guide book, see Sanlitun as a nightlife spot, end up spotting Pure Girl and thinking ‘that’s a cute name, maybe I should check it out,” and then a few minutes later the police show up. Low odds, to be sure, but shit happens…

    Cheers, Boyce

  3. wangbo Says:

    Jianjun, thanks. I also got plenty of hits for it on Google and Baidu, but couldn’t find an English translation. It didn’t help that nciku wasn’t working, although there’s no guarantee that would’ve helped.

    Boyce, I wasn’t thinking about the tourists, but I was thinking about precisely that kind of situation. Low odds? I don’t know, I think we’re going to see more of this kind of thing happening as the Olympics approach.

  4. Nomadz Says:

    Hi mate, it’s Frog. Long time no see !

    I usually don’t bother leaving comments (which doesn’t mean i don’t like your blog), but being as you know in the embassy circle, i thought i could give a few more details on this story, which actually almost lit up a diplomatic incident (see first page of the french embassy website).

    Among the arrested foreigners were four or five french kids, age 16 to 18. They came from the Lycée Français, which is right next to Sanlitun, and they usually hang out in Pure Girl. They weren’t actually arrested for drug related reasons, but for :
    1) Not carrying ID.
    2) Being underage in a place serving alcohol (ugh ? didn’t even know this law existed in China).

    They were put on their knees on the ground, and had their heads covered with a plastic bag (for obvious reasons, this wasn’t shawn on any of the official videos). After that, they were taken to the police station and kept until their parents could present ID. They were asked to take a urine test, and then only one guy out of five came positive, and was hence charged with drug consumption and transfered in a jail block (where he still is). Two guys first refused to take the test, and got beaten the shit out of them. Yep. With the plastic bag still on their heads. They were released the morning after and went to the international clinic to register the bruises.

    The police made no official comment, but the french embassy is considering filling a complain for abusive beating and unnecessary violence.

    Well, I just tell you the facts. Don’t misinterpret me : I fully support the “cleaning” of Sanlitun, and i also fully support the fact that foreigners should not be treated differently ; the law has to apply for everyone in the same way. Actually, the kids I talk about are bourgeois white trash, who have nothing else to do than getting high and spending their parents money, so they can forget the boredom of their (unchosen) expat lives.

    But let’s not forget this : being treated the same way as chinese citizens means that 16 years-old CAN have a plastic bag put on their head and get beaten the shit out of them. Yellow or white all the same.

    So let’s all be fracking careful about where we go and what we do, cause golden age is over for our white asses.

  5. Nomadz Says:

    PS – sorry for my english, any (funny) french bashing welcome !

  6. wangbo Says:

    Hi Frog, or Nomadz, whichever you prefer. Thanks for the info. I believe China has had that age limit for a long time, just nobody’s bothered with it until now.

    The plastic bags and the beatings were a bit excessive. I hope the embassy is successful with their complaint.

    Still, I do find it hard to sympathise. Expat brats are one of the reasons I prefer to avoid Sanlitun, and regardless of the age, they should’ve known the risks of going to Sanlitun. I guess it’s hard, though, when reality intrudes on your sense of entitlement.