Atmosphere, I love a Party with a happy atmosphere….*

9 Nov

jiang zemin laughingHong Kong is bracing itself for an influx of bewildered mainland Chinese searching for pencil sharpeners, kitchen knives and balloons, if reports about the 18th Communist Party Congress are to be believed.

Yes, it’s the carefully choreographed, once-every-five-years PR exercise this week, and as usual in China, the Party officials are out to stage manage the event down to the last detail.

Even for an institution that’s institutionally paranoid – how else do you rule a land mass the size of China, with a population over 1 billion for more than 50 years? – the Party Congress takes paranoia to a whole new level.

First there’s the obligatory internet clamp down, which has prevented discussion about anything remotely politically sensitive, blocked several foreign media outlets’ web sites, and even interfered with VPNs – which for those in the know is the only way to circumvent the Great Firewall and access banned content.

However, this year’s affair has also given rise to some rather unusual extra precautions.

Taxi drivers in Beijing have been ordered to remove all passenger window handles and keep them firmly locked, and told to keep an eye out for anyone carrying balloons or ping pong balls.

The reason, apparently, is to prevent said items being distributed with reactionary slogans drawn on them. That, as we all know, is how the French Revolution started.

Toy airplanes have also disappeared from the shelves of Beijing stores – presumably to prevent some kind of tiny 9-11 happening to Communist Party HQ, and pigeon fanciers have been told to keep their birds locked up – this was apparently an old school, pre-internet way of sewing political dissent.

The sale of knives has, a little more understandably, been banned for the week – leaving budding chefs in need of a new Sabatier in the lurch – and the edict has been rather excessively applied to all blades, including pencil sharpeners.

Evil bastards, pencil sharpeners, I once saw a man mugged by one in Brixton…

Finally, the inappropriately named Ministry of Culture has reportedly cancelled a US amateur production of To Kill a Mockingbird. Needless to say, the group performed in Hong Kong with no adverse effect on the political stability of the region.

* Yes, this actually happened. We are all responsible.

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