A bird in the hand
It’s often said that life imitates art. The recent dramatic escape of human rights activist Chen Guangcheng from house arrest and on to the US embassy showed this to be true – if you can call the Shawshank Redemption art. Our favorite account this week was that of Chen’s getaway driver, a Nanjing native snappily called “Pearl,” who related the story of her interrogation by authorities. Shawshank Redemption came on the TV in the hotel room where she was being questioned, and the three investigators and two subjects sat on the bed together to watch it (hey, government payroll). Perhaps these nontraditional interrogation tactics worked: "After we finished watching the movie, I told the police officers: I want to tell you a story that is more exciting than this movie," she said, before recounting Chen's flight. It certainly had elements of Hollywood: Pearl said she had received a surprise email from a source which read: "The bird has left the cage. What do we do?" The authorities were dumbfounded by the escape, she said - how did one blind man escape the notice of 100 guards? Spoiler alert: Did you guys check behind that poster?
Hair gel without a cause
Bubble baths. Scented candles. Surprisingly aggressive Thai massages. Ritalin. Senior officials in China’s Public Security Bureau are said to have tried all these and more, but to no avail. After stress mounted over the past few weeks – screaming at pansy Foreign Ministry officials, being punk’d by human rights activists, procuring enough hairgel to permanently freeze Zhou Yongkang’s scowl – the organization finally hit out in anger at that scheming Western Arab media. Melissa Chan, a correspondent for Al Jazeera, was effectively expelled from the country. To explain why, the Foreign Ministry gave a press conference so cringeworthy – yes, worse even than Dana Carney’s epic failure this week – that we actually feel bad making fun of it. Global Times helpfully clarified that Chan did something unspeakably awful and was therefore expelled, as evidenced by the fact that she was expelled.
The Foreign Ministry then flexed those famous “soft power” muscles by telling the Philippines that it will not back down from a stand-off in the South China Sea until either everyone is dead or the islands disappear again in high tide. Some analysts call this “wagging the dog,” an attempt to distract attention from turmoil back home. China hands, however, see it for what it is: A collective bargaining exercise with Filipino maids in Hong Kong, who have been buying up the country’s entire goddamn supply of hairgel.