The Future of River Crab

Those clever theorists in the Peoples Bullying Party of China are at it again.  Not content to rest on their laurels, the peevishly paranoid leaders of China have written a new crime into their books: doing something that might embarrass them.  The wrinkly old guys who fear the loss of power more than anything else have adopted the 2002 movie, “Minority Report” as policy.

In the movie, police in the year 2054 know the details of who is going to commit a crime in the future, down to the date, time and location – don’t ask.  OK, well, since you do want to know, a few humans (“Pre-Cogs”) have been genetically altered so that they can see the future.  The “Precrime” squad then apprehends the pre-perpetrator before the crime is pre-committed, so to speak.  I’m sure Tom Cruise could explain it better, couch or no couch.

A Chinese person of interest, Ai Weiwei, has been getting on the nerves of the Peoples Bullying Party, and has most recently been arrested.  Why, you ask?  I’ll tell you.

The Committee for Getting Those Who Tick Us Off’s spokesman, Spun Tung Kachung, vehemently denies that Ai was arrested because “he might one day, or maybe another day, do something that might sort of seem to embarrass us, or slight us, or point out some really stupid thing we did.”

The career of Ai, born in 1957, does indeed suggest a very interesting fellow: artist, director, writer, architect, curator and social commentator.  In 2008, after the tragic earthquake struck China’s Sichuan region, much public outrage focused on corruption in the school construction business.  Sadly, many schools fell like soufflés during the earthquake, killing over 5,000 innocent school children.  When the parents who lost children protested, seeking some sort of restitution and wanting to see guilty parties punished, the parents were rebuffed, harassed, or taken into police custody, where many were beaten; the classic Chinese Peoples Bullying Party response to any and all who dare to point fingers at flaws.  Or suggest that maybe a little democracy and transparency would be good.

Ai began an investigation, and soon determined that many players were involved, including the contracting companies who performed the shoddy construction of school buildings; the local government building inspectors who looked the other way, such as down into their wallets; and the local government officials who controlled news and held umbrella responsibility for “stability and harmony” in their region.

Ai was compiling a list of the dead children, and publishing numerous articles on the earthquake scandal when his blog was shut down by authorities.  When he went to testify on behalf of fellow activist Tan Zuoren, he was beaten so severely by police that brain surgery in Germany was later required.

It gets more bizarre.  Ai, who (lucky for him) lives in Beijing, was asked by officials in Shanghai, some 665 miles away, to lend his artistic chops toward a big, flashy project.  They wanted him to design and oversee a hugely expensive, and therefore impressive, art studio.  Ai, who helped to design the Birds Nest Stadium at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, built the art studio facility, and artists had begun to move in and do what artists do.  Then mysterious, unnamed Shanghai officials ordered Ai to destroy the studio.

OK, are you getting this?  Shanghai big boys wanted to embellish their résumés and got their man to build a big, cool new art studio structure, and then, seeing the error of their ways, ordered it knocked down.  Keeping score is getting more difficult.

Ai then decided to hold a big party and concert for his artist buddies, and others in his Rolodex of academics, activists, bloggers and other supporters.  At this Shanghai Woodstock, which was to number around a thousand, the sly devil was going to serve, instead of Buffalo wings and guacamole, river crab.  Now, the Chinese word for river crab is “hexie”. As in many cases, words have multiple meanings.  In Mandarin, hexie means not only river crab but “harmonious”.   (Google’s translator played the Mandarin versions of river crab and harmonious; to my untrained ear, the former sounded like “koh shianyh” while the latter sounded like “koh shienn”.)  In China, the reference to hexie has become a hipster expression for thoughts and activities that do not toe the stability-and-harmony line.

Maybe, like the Texas Rangers baseball players and fans who hold up their hands like antlers to imitate a deer, a symbol of great speed, Chinese protesters of government policy to control stability and harmony will stick their arms out to the sides and walk sideways.

This big concert party to celebrate (or lament) the demolition of the Shanghai art studio was garnering a lot of attention.  Unwanted attention, in the eyes of the Shanghai Branch of the Peoples Bullying Party.  So Ai was arrested. But upon whose authority?  As noted above, Shanghai is a long way from Beijing, and the chain of command flowing from the former to the latter is dark, long and messy, like Chinese opera.

Perhaps a Beijing official pulled a string, pushed a button, or fiddled with a knob, but at any rate, Ai was effectively made to disappear because he might have embarrassed the government.  According to documents smuggled out of China in the body cavity of a goat, the Peoples Politburo, the ultra honchos of the Peoples Bullying Party, has drafted appropriate laws.  The timeline for someone found guilty of committing a future act embarrassing the party in, say, 2015, could be arrested in 2014, and punished in 2013.  Chinese law schools envisage a revolution in the scheduling of law school classes, with law students beginning law school in 2012, and practicing law in 2011.

No wonder Chinese written characters go from right to left.

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