A South China Morning Post story (reg. required) yesterday made a claim that:
Bar owners near the Workers' Stadium in central Beijing say they have been forced by Public Security Bureau officials to sign pledges agreeing not to let black people enter their premises.
"Uniformed Public Security Bureau officers came into the bar recently and told me not to serve black people or Mongolians," said the co-owner of a western-style bar, who asked not to be named.
I've never been to Asia -- let alone the Beijing club scene -- so I really have no qualification to speak to the truth of the charges. But, my guess is that while when there is smoke, there is some fire. However, it's also entirely possible that a reporter could have blurred the actions of a few overly-proactive officers with official policy.
But, the realities of the SCMP story isn't the point of this post. Rather, it's the reaction inside of China by bloggers and blog commentator that have, within hours, effectively "crowd sourced" the charge and countered it with their own research and perspectives. (And, granted, I'm obviously limited to English language posts). Check out this one. And, here's one blogger who writes exclusively on the Beijing bar scene:
A second update on the South China Morning Post story that claims Beijing is “secretly” trying to ban blacks and Mongolians from bars during the Olympics.
I hit some Sanlitun bars last night and made some phone calls today, and this is what I found:
- An owner said police met with Sanlitun bar reps and told them to monitor black patrons. He said the police told the reps that drug dealers are predominantly black in the area. He said the police did not ask bar owners to ban blacks.
- Several Sanlitun area bar owners said they had not been told by police to ban blacks or Mongolians.
- I also spoke to several people in the restaurant business and they told me they have not heard of police telling city eateries to ban people.
- Most interesting, two people working at one bar had different perspectives on the terminology used by the police. One said the police used “black” in reference to skin color; while the other said it was used in terms of bad elements (the Chinese character for “black” is part of a phrase used to describe criminals).
Bloggers/commentators have called out the credibility of the SCMP story and have underscored how educated, tech savvy folks inside of China are probably the country's most credible counterweights to Western media (and Icelandic singers) that are perceived as blowing internal issues out of proportion in the lead up to the Olympics. I mean, who would have thunk that a dude who writes about where to find the best whisky bar in Beijing, might contribute to taking the air out of a potential International Incident?
This naturally presents the question of whether the powers that be within China will reward this unprompted support and begin to loosen controls on social networking tools and services (i.e., YouTube, Facebook, 56.com, etc.). I'm reminded of when Thailand temporarily banned YouTube because of one negative video about their and, by doing so, effectively took down reams of homemade and heartfelt propaganda about their great leader.
Of course, odd policy considerations about social media aren't limited to Asia. MediaShift wrote yesterday of one EU Parliament member (from the supposedly ultra-tech savvy country of Estonia) who wants to create a blogger registry...
...in an article on the European Parliament’s website, the intentions behind Mikko’s recommendations became clear:
Ms. Mikko told us “the blogosphere has so far been a haven of good intentions and relatively honest dealing. However, with blogs becoming commonplace, less principled people will want to use them.”
Mikko goes on:
We do not see bloggers as a threat. They are in position, however, to considerably pollute cyberspace. We already have too much spam, misinformation and malicious intent in cyberspace…I think the public is still very trusting towards blogs, it is still seen as sincere. And it should remain sincere. For that we need a quality mark, a disclosure of who is really writing and why.
The conclusion to be drawn from the report recommendations and Mikko’s later comments is that legislation should be put in place to identify bloggers and the “quality” of their writing lest they be used to harm cyberspace.