Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On Patrol

I've just come back home from an interesting evening out.

After work I went to my gym for a swim, which is in a hotel.

And at the lobby was a man guarding a newly installed metal detector for people to walk through, and an X-ray baggage machine with two computer monitors.

I was just at the hotel the other day so this is very new. There are rumours that people who are not guests at hotels will not be allowed in. It sounds extreme, but anything is possible in China. Does this mean I won't be able to go to the gym?

After my swim I took a cab to meet up with some friends at Sanlitun, the bar district. When the cab reached a red light, some police officers with white gloves armed with a hand-held device approached private cars. The drivers rolled down their windows and the police politely saluted them and asked them to breathe into the device, lips not even touching it.

While it's great to check on drunk drivers, it was only 8:30 in the evening. I joked to the taxi driver that only now are people going to bars to drink. They should be checking at round 10:30, 11pm. He laughed.

I got to the place, The Tree Restaurant, which is known for its thin-crust pizzas. As were eating and chatting, a troupe of police officers, again with white gloves strolled into the restaurant. Staff didn't say anything as the officers wandered around the establishment and the started asking random people -- foreigners -- to show their passports.

It seemed like only one police officer could speak good English, as the others remained silent and wandered or watched him conduct the checks. I couldn't hear what the officer was asking, but perhaps to get the expats to write down their names and then he called a number to check on their status.

He was perhaps checking their visas to make sure they hadn't expired.

After the English-speaking officer checked three people, the group left.

No one was hauled away, but the exercise was enough to instill some fear in people.

Welcome to Beijing... until the Olympics are over, life will be like this.

1 comment:

ks said...

all these i have experienced lately. in new york there are metal detectors in every big buildings, e.g. empire state, the met museum etc. in australia my driver brother has been stopped and count 1 2 3 4 into a breath analyser. and in both jerusalem abd bethehem we have been spot checked and questioned. glad to know china is quick to learn all from the foreign devils.