Beijing’s police go into training for the Olympics – with a phrasebook
In readiness for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China’s Public Security Bureau has published a phrasebook to help its policemen deal with foreigners, criminally inclined or otherwise.
Olympic Security English is a must for the well-prepared officer and a guide for those curious about the fears China harbours beneath its confident facade.
Every possibility is covered in a series of imaginary dialogues, from lost passports to petty crime to earthquakes and terrorist attacks, via a long section on synonyms for “forbidden”. In the section “How to Stop Illegal News Coverage”, a sports reporter is caught in the act of “gathering news” about Falun Gong, the banned meditation cult.
Policeman: What news are you permitted to cover?
Foreigner: The Olympic Games.
P: But Falun Gong has nothing to do with the Games.
F: What does that matter?
P: You’re a sports reporter. You should only cover the games.
F: But I’m interested in Falun Gong.
P: It’s beyond the limit of your coverage and illegal. As a foreign reporter in China you should obey China law and do nothing against your status.
F: Oh, I see. May I go now?
P: No. Come with us to the Administration Division of Entry and Exit of Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.
F: What for?
P: To clear up this matter.
As the book proceeds, athletes, reporters, tourists and, let’s face it, low-lifes attracted by the opportunities China has to offer begin to indulge in an orgy of entering prohibited areas, drink-driving and illegal parking.
A British woman called Helen is stopped driving a stolen car. “You’re violating my human rights,” she protests. “I protest. What lousy luck!”
No stereotype is left unexplored. While South Africans are arrested for drunkenness and brawling, and Britons and Canadians commit traffic offences, it is Afghans and Pakistanis who commit really serious crimes.
Not all locals are trustworthy: people staying in areas with large numbers of migrant workers – China’s despised underclass – are told to be careful.
By the end of the book, an Indian has sent a hoax anthrax packet to a friend, an illegal immigrant with whom he has had a row. In the most unusual incident, an Afghan reporter named Gul is caught burgling an American’s apartment. After a lengthy interrogation, he finally admits his true purpose.
F: I learned that an American lived in this room, so I wanted to take revenge on him.
F: Because my family was killed when the US bombed Afghanistan. I became homeless and I hate Americans.
P: We feel sympathy for your misfortune. But your behaviour to deliberately hurt an innocent American is against our law, and you disrupted our social order, especially during the Olympic Games. You caused a disturbance, and damaged the reputation of our country, so you should shoulder the criminal responsibilities.
Elsewhere, to be fair, police are preventing journalists being conned by fake taxi drivers, refusing bribes to let spectators in without tickets, and finding lost valuables.
“It’s really incredible!” says one grateful member of the public. “A lost wallet can be recovered! Only in Beijing can this be possible.”
In the book’s climax, a woman is rescued with her mother and daughter after an earthquake.
She says: Thank you for saving my life.
Policeman: That’s my job.
Woman: I can never forget those policemen that saved my life.
The book is part of China’s ambitious plans to handle Olympic visitors’ expected lack of Mandarin, which include teaching taxi drivers English and revising the often eccentric translations of public notices.
Some concepts translate very simply. If a policeman caught someone for highway robbery, he would remind them of their right to remain silent, and then say: “Are you ready to confess?”
The reply? “Yes. I’ll confess.”