Nov 25, 2009

Racial profiling by the Chinese police

I got racially profiled and harassed about a half dozen times while I was out in western China around the October first holiday. I got messed with so much that I was glad to be back in Beijing breathing the polluted air afterward.

Let me illustrate one example from the several instances that I remember. We were headed into one of the main hiking paths of the Yading nature reserve. There were a few uniform cops hanging around the entrance. Mostly, they were instructing drivers on where to park, and making sure there were no traffic jams.

Below: cops mulling about

Upon seeing my face, one of the cops walked over to us.

"Are you his tour guide?", Racist Cop says to my girlfriend, like he's inquiring about his neighbor's new poodle.

"Ask him yourself, he can speak Chinese", she says to him.

Racist Cop then asks me for my passport, which I suppose I was lucky to have been carrying. How often do you carry your passport with you when you're about to do a full day trek up a mountain? This guy probably would have given me even more guff if I hadn't had it on me.

So I pull out my passport and give it to the cop to take a look. As he's fumbling with it, I turn my back and slurp down my Coca-Cola, and talk with my girlfriend and one of our Tibetan drivers while we're waiting.

After a few minutes, I walk over to the cop, who's looking like an illiterate redneck flipping through my passport as he leans over the hood of his knockoff brand SUV. I ask, politely of course, "All set?" And he hands me back my passport.

Then I ask him, real friendly, "Just wondering, why'd you ask for my passport, and no one elses?". I know the answer of course, it's because he used racial profiling to figure out that I'm most likely not a PRC-national. For all this sloth knows, the group of fifty Asian dudes that walked in after me were from Korea or Japan, and should have had their passports inspected as well.

So the cop replies to me, "As a police officer, I have the right to examine the identification of anyone that comes here." Pretty good response, I thought to myself.

Do the police in America have the right to arbitrarily request the identification of a pedestrian?

I bet I made this police officer's day. He probably bragged to all his cop buddies about harassing the honky, and even told his countryside wife about it when he got home. I'm glad I has the chance to brighten someone's normally unexciting life.


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