Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I say tomato, the government says get a room


If there's anything I like better than being for something, it's being against something, so when I heard about the protest going on in Guangzhou on Sunday I immediately headed for the mainland.

You see, the Guangzhou government has deemed Cantonese a "useless" language (except, presumably, to those sixty million people that speak it) and has decided to replace all Cantonese-language television programming with Mandarin. They have, however, graciously allowed that Cantonese can still be spoken in private homes.

Chinese message boards lit up with news of this protest and, even though the organizer was arrested the night before, thousands of people showed up to sing, chant, and converse in their mother tongue. Here, chanting "Cantonese! Cantonese!":

video


The police found themselves greatly outnumbered and when they tried to make some arrests the crowd was so overwhelming that they were forced to back off. Even when they called in reinforcements, they were still exceedingly polite (for mainland police) in dispersing the crowd. Here they are right before they asked me - very nicely - to put my camera away:

video

Of course, the police may be on their best behavior because they've gotten a wee bit of criticism lately over the number of people who've "accidentally" died while in police custody from causes such as "death by drinking water", "death by picking at acne", or "death by nightmare". I didn't think to mention this to them.

And, as usual, as gweilos speaking Cantonese we were objects of fascination, delight, and multiple cameras (I'm sure photos of me are floating around hundreds of Chinese blogs):


After the rally, sweaty and righteous, we found an excellent Sichuan restaurant (verily, there seems to be no other kind) and feasted kung pao chicken, braised eggplant, japanese tofu, sichuan fries, stir-fried chilies and dry-fried long beans:


Fat and happy and riding a wave of cho die di victory, I returned to the "Venice Hotel" (more on that place later) to collapse. Another successful mainland venture.


One unrelated note: When you go to the movies or to KFC you get a big paper bucket for your popcorn or chicken. When you go to a fast-food restaurant or picnic or festival, you get paper cups for your drinks. I'm sure you've always known that these were made in China, but you didn't know exactly where. Well, today one more of life's little mysteries gets solved for you, because I found the home base. Meet "Disposable Tableware Confluence":


You will sleep well tonight, my friend.

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