French revolution

With the Olympics only four years away, Beijing is keen to have us believe that Chinese policemen do not torture and kill dissidents and members of bizarre sects. Officer Liu Wenli, for example, was very keen on finding someone to teach him French:

“Hi. Welcome to China. What can I do for you?” he greeted the 40-something man from a foreign tourist group. Unexpectedly, the man expressed displeasure at being spoken to in English. “I am French. I do not understand what you are talking about,” he replied in jerky Chinese. This was the first time Liu was left in the cold when talking with a foreigner. Later, he learned from a TV programme that the French are proud of their language and some do not wish to speak English. From that moment on, he was determined to learn French, but he found learning this new language much more difficult than he expected. There were no TV and radio programmes available for him to watch and listen. Neither could he afford the high cost of French lessons. The only thing he could do was go to bookstores and look for textbooks and tapes. Every night before he slept, he forced himself to memorize by rote vocabulary. Four months quickly passed and Liu still could not follow the basic French dialogues. One day, the frustrated Liu had an idea. Why not find a French person to teach me? That day after work, he went as usual to a restaurant near his home, where foreigners often eat. Finally, a target appeared. “I saw a middle-aged foreigner sitting alone at a table. My sixth sense told he might be French and I took a seat beside him,” Liu said. As Liu was making his order, he hummed Marseillaise trying to see if his hunch was correct.

We are unlikely to reach consensus as to whether being beaten round the head by a policeman is better or worse than having him sidle up in a bar humming patriotic songs, but I think you will agree that, although China Daily says that he is absolutely useless at catching thieves, it seems unlikely that Liu will ever be appointed to a position of responsibility at the local police training school.

Still, something needs to change, and quickly: to judge by this picture, Chinese policemen continue to be issued with extra sets of hands to avoid leaving traceable fingerprints at the scene of their crimes:


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