The Police - Me China Red - CycleBlaze

March 27, 2021

The Police

By and large, the officers in Diantou Town were absolutely lovely. Utterly confused by the thing I needed help with, but friendly and helpful.

After my complete failure at finding the Mailuo Village Grottoes, and Tyra's failure at finding anyone who knew exactly where the Qifeng Village Grottoes were (considering that it did not occur to her to contact the government, she made some impressive progress before it became the weekend and the previous 18 months of my saying "don't you dare be working on the weekend" came back to bite me in the ass) I thought, well, I'll stop at the local government offices on my way there.

Except that 4pm on a Saturday is a terrible time to be finding anyone at local government offices.

Found someone at a different kind of community office and while he said he'd heard of the Grottoes, he didn't know where they were beyond "difficult to find" which could just have been trying to get me to go away.

After that, no one that I spoke to in Qifeng could help me, so I backtracked to the town police station with the info I had and a big, blue eyed, "if anyone would know where something is, it would be you" appeal to their egos.

Well, they didn't.

But, they knew who to ask.

And, within three phone calls they'd tracked it down for me.

While this was going on, and questions like "you came from where?", "by bicycle?", and "going where?" were being asked by people who seemed genuinely pleased to be getting a puzzle that was different from their usual line of work, there was one officer who not only spent every moment of every interaction with me trying to find something I was doing wrong, he also didn't want the others to be spending (wasting) their time on the phone calls necessary to find my 1,500 year old cave carvings, was extremely against the idea (suggested by his colleagues) that since they weren't busy right now someone could drive me there, and even rejected my attempt at an olive branch in the form of "I get these pennies drilled as souvenirs for particularly helpful people whose gift of time to me is worth more than money".

They say that some people go into uniform because they're always wanted to help society and that other people do so because they've always wanted to have power over their fellow man. Seeing his gleeful expression when he got to point out to me that the expired Residence Permit he'd just found in my passport had a Cancelled Stamp on it and the disappointed one when I turned the page to the currently valid Permit, it was kind of obvious why this particular man had chosen to become a policeman.

But even if he was a bully who wasn't being allowed to have a target, his colleagues were perfectly lovely.

On the car ride over to the temple where the Grottoes are, the conversation started with the realism of American TV shows and whether or not it's actually as violent over there as depicted in our media. This a fairly common topic of conversation and, given that I was chatting with a semi-rural police officer, a very expected one.

"Chinese media is always positive; western media rarely is. Therefore a mistake a lot of Chinese people make is assuming that if your society is X amount bad and Y amount good but is always reporting Z amounts of good that when western media is reporting bad things, we must be even worse off than we actually are."

(Which is not to say that my country doesn't have very very very serious issues with crime or social injustice, just that media depictions aren't reality.)

This then led—in a perfectly natural fashion—to him bringing up current media portrayals of what's going on in Xinjiang. For which I couldn't use my usual responses about how sometimes oral policies are as bad or worse than written ones, that leaders often turn a deliberately blind eye to what's going on, and that some cops are asshole bullies.

With the bandanna that looks nothing at all like a hijab and which was my main headgear prior to last year's Tour, I'm regularly mistaken for being Uighur. I've even been harassed (2017, near Shanghai) by police who went all sweetness and light on me when the papers they ordered me to show them turned out to be a US passport. 

So, even if I also believe that there's a lot of spin going on by people who have a vested interest in making the Han look bad for their treatment of ethnic groups other than Han, I find it very very easy to believe that bad shit is going down.

I also think, just as I didn't want to bring up bad cop examples or the intentional turning of a blind eye as people carry out casually worded requests like "won't someone rid me of this meddlesome priest" to the nice cop who was doing me a favor that—because he's a police officer—other people also have certain uncomfortable truths that they don't want to bring up to him, and that his view that nothing bad is actually happening in Xinjiang is just as spun and biased (albeit in a different direction) as the organ harvesting¹ reports in the Epoch Times.

Thankfully, the awkward conversation ended here as well arrived at the bottom of the stairs up to the modern temple which the Grottoes were supposed to be in.

I'd been warned that I might be disappointed by a lack of anything historical. That what hadn't been destroyed by the Cultural Revolution might have been gotten by helpful people updating the temple.

What I hadn't been warned of, and what hadn't even occurred to anyone, was that the temple might be locked.

¹ The core of Falun Gong accusations of organ harvesting are basically yet another iteration of blood libel against medieval Jews (or the Qcumbers with their adrenochrome accusations against the Hollywood elite). It has also, by this point, practically become a core tenet of their religion to accuse the CPC of organ harvesting and, in the absence of evidence, to make it up. While something absolutely is happening, their constant muddying of the waters makes it absolutely impossible for anyone to find out the extent. 

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