How Chinese secret police talk about their jobs when they think the camera isn't rolling

When a Sky News reporter broadcasting live from Tiananmen Square mentioned the 1989 protests, Chinese secret police swooped down on his and hustled him and his cameraman into the back of a van, and kidnapped them to a distant park where they were polite but Orwellian in their explanation for their deeds (they didn't realize he was still broadcasting, and thought it was all going to disc or tape whence it could be scrubbed):

At this point, the police do something Orwellian in its brilliance. An officer who speaks English informs Stone that they have to stop filming because they don’t have official permission. Stone disagrees, saying that they sought and received permission to film in Tiananmen Square. But the officer counters that they’re not in Tiananmen anymore. They’re in a park where the police have brought Stone against his will, and he doesn’t have permission to record in that park, so regrettably the police have no choice but to insist the camera be switched off. Who could have possibly foreseen that little complication?

The officer then takes the Orwellianism to the next level by explaining that Stone and his team are neither being detained nor are they free to go. They can do whatever they like, except that they must go sit in an empty classroom and wait for some unnamed officials to show up.

This reminds me of nothing so much as the DHS checkpoint officials who won't tell you if you're being detained, won't tell you if you're legally required to answer their questions about your citizenship, but also won't let you go.

Video: Chinese police detain British reporter, unaware he’s broadcasting live throughout [Max Fisher/Washington Post]

(via Reddit)


    1. This was amazing… But well… we have to look the other way if we want cheap trinkets.

  1. The title of this article is inaccurate. Who are the secret police? The ones in uniform? And they certainly knew that the cameras were rolling, that’s what most of the discussion was about. The reporter states that he didn’t believe the police don’t know that the broadcast was going out live, but there’s no reason to believe they don’t know that based on anything said by the police in the video. I also assume that the use of the word “detain” was just a language ambiguity. I think the officer was trying to say that they were not under arrest.

    The police camera person was an interesting Scientology-esque tactic.

    1. The police camera person is a standard tactic in protests too. The cops will have a bunch of people going through the crowd with cameras, making sure to get clear views of the faces of as many people as possible.

    2. they certainly knew that the cameras were rolling

      You should read the post closer.  Here, I’ll repeat it for you:

      they didn’t realize he was still broadcasting, and thought it was all going to disc or tape whence it could be scrubbed

      1. I was commenting on the misleading title.  I also pointed out that there is no reason to believe that didn’t think that it was going out live, other than the reporter’s conjecture. You ignored that in your haste to be condescending. Here, I’ll repeat it for you:

        The reporter states that he didn’t believe the police don’t know that the broadcast was going out live, but there’s no reason to believe they don’t know that based on anything said by the police in the video. 

        1. I was commenting on the misleading title.

          Yes, I know you were.  And, I showed you what you should have read just underneath it.

          pahool, what’s your point, anyway?  To prove how amazingly pedantic you are?
          Meanwhile, the greater point of this post seems lost on you while you focus like a laser on trite semantics and your own, pedantic navel-gazing.

           Boingboing:  Critical thinking skills may apply.

          1. Sorry, I won’t keep my opinions to myself because you say so.  If you hate it so much, try ignoring this part of the thread. I know I’m going to do so. Problem solved. ^_^

          2. Good, I can feel your anger. I am defenseless. Take your weapon. Strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey towards the dark side will be complete! 

          3. Good, I can feel your anger.

            Nah, you’re mistaking anger for boredom.  I think you’re the only one enjoying your trite, semantic arguments at this point.

            Meanwhile, bye.

          4. Yay, let’s put words in my mouth and see if that sticks instead of focusing on the point of this post on Orwellianism.

            Got any more trite, semantic arguments to bore us all to death with?

          5. Now who is being pedantic? You may not have posted those exact words but you have spent a lot of time demanding others to stop questioning your preferred interpretation of the event.

            And what is this “us” business? If anything, you appear be arguing with almost everyone else.

    3. There doesn’t seem to be a standard nomenclature for police state operatives. The political police on any regime are deeply concerned with any activity that might threaten their jobs- it’s tantamount to treason, one might say. The soviet commissar doesn’t have an exact counterpart here in the US, as long as the FBI is able to tag Quakers or any other inconvenient group with the terrorist label.(think of those pesky National Security Letters for that matter)

      I’m no dictionary, but here’s my take:  The secret police are not called that because their existence is a secret. Their job is to police, protect, and maintain official secrets. The transit police, the military police, railroad detectives- they all have their beat to walk. If what happened in 1989 is considered a state secret, a cop who stops you from talking about it is called a secret policeman. 

  2. At 2:05 does the Chinese guy say “I want to talk to you a little bitch”?

    Heh, made me laugh.

  3. Ummm where are the secret police and at what point are they talking about their jobs when they think the camera isn’t rolling?

    They are all clearly uninformed and they all clearly know the camera is rolling the entire time.

        1. Quit projecting. I read the title and then (unlike you) I kept reading.  Please explain to me how it was “hasty” of me to read more thoroughly than you did?


  4. Not to defend the Chinese police here, but: try filming your detention in a police van in the US, and see how that goes…

  5. So, uh, I’m really not seeing what that reporter says he’s seeing. First of all, at least one of those police officers speaks pretty good English, and they aren’t idiots, so I’m pretty sure when he wanders around, making himself the center of attention and repeatedly saying “hahahaha they think this is recording to tape, but it’s actually live!” (in a universally rude fashion, by the way), the joke is on him. As far as I can tell, they just don’t have a reason to correct him, because it’s hilarious to laugh at a foreigner with a superiority complex, and because he isn’t causing any trouble. I’m sure if he _was_ causing trouble, they would stop indulging him and the camera would be turned off pretty quickly.

  6. Cory, can we get a correction (on the front page, not after the fold)? Yes, this isn’t good, but that just means it’s even more important to be as accurate as possible.

    1. Do you really want to have a trite, semantic argument over the term “distant”?

      Sounds excitingly pedantic.

      1. She’s actually right… Tiananmen Square is RIGHT next to the big picture of Mao, which is on the wall of the Forbidden City.  There are all kinds of government buildings around, too, and jails and barracks, I’m sure.  SO… the least controversial, easiest staging area for “further stuff” is going to be a room along the inside of the wall, which is where the security detail lives and works.  They have a section of the Forbidden City that they play basketball in, have their offices, etc.  Having been there, this really was pretty benign, as far as incidents like this go.  It’s being made out to be a lot more than it is.  The stuff China is doing on the Internet or to Tibet is far greater news.  This wasn’t even a small potato.  It was a nothing, IMO.

        1. She’s actually right… Tiananmen Square is RIGHT next to the big picture of Mao, which is on the wall of the Forbidden City.

          I don’t think you’re getting my point.  Does that somehow take away from the Orwellian issues that are the POINT of this post?

          I really like Cory’s post, but the trite, beside-the-point, semantic nitpicking that’s infesting this thread are really a boring shame.

          1. Sure, it’s nitpicking.  And yes, China, Burma, North Korea and a bunch of other places are positively Orwellian.  But I am just trying to paint a picture of what it’s like there, in Tiananmen and the Forbidden City, because I was just there.  I think that the incident is pretty benign as far as incidents like these go.  On my personal awjt scale, it registers only about a 2.

          2. i think you might mean exceedingly pedantic, not excitingly pedantic, unless stuff like this knocks your socks off, in which case, pass.

            the point is, what’s described as a distant park, is anything but — and i don’t know why anyone would object to things being made clearer.

            your description of my point as trite, argumentative and pedantic is ridiculous. see? two can play at that game.

          3. two can play at that game.

            Sorry, but you just played yourself. Still, no one cares how “distant” they were. The point of the post had very little to do with it.

            What was interesting and Orwellian was the fact they were taken to a park (no matter how “distant” it was) against their will and were then told they weren’t allowed to record in the park they were taken to.

            But, you seem more focused on… the distance?

            like awjt says, the incident seems, to anyone who has lived there as i have, as very benign.

            Oh, I see, this incident didn’t matter anyway because you once lived in China (which has to do with what?) and worse things have happened there. Or were you just looking for an excuse to tell me you lived in China? Haha…

            Got any more navel gazing for us?

            I’ve seen people murdered in the streets in my travels, yet I’m still interested in hearing about these so-called “benign”, Orwellian police tactics especially as we’re seeing more and more of it here in the USA…. crazy me. I’m more interested in that than nitpicking the distance these people were taken to, sorry.

          4. i think you might mean exceedingly pedantic, not excitingly pedantic,

            No, I meant excitingly; It was sarcasm.

            no, i don’t like ad hominem attacks, especially ones with a limited, repetative vocabulary.

            It’s spelled “repetitive” and they weren’t technically “ad hominem” attacks; But that might be beside your point, huh?


          5. clarifying a point says nothing about the post in general — it’s clarifying a point. all the rest was your own estimation of what i thought of it. 

            as for the entire post, i don’t know why these guys were picked up — no one in this post does, unless there’s been an update somewhere — but i know the chinese are morbidly afraid of people reporting on tian an men, and they don’t do communication very well, in their own ranks (the right hand usually doesn’t know what the left’s up to), or with foreigners. this looks like one huge mis-communication and a failure of translation. it does not seem to me to be ‘orwellian’.

            my mentioning that i lived there — on my second pass over this thread and as an afterthought — was not my main point, but it’s entirely relevant to the conversation, as i’ve seen frustrating and frightening behavior in china, and am in a position to have some experience in how they (mis) manage situations.

            “no one cares how “distant” they were’
            i didn’t know you spoke for everyone… sorry, i don’t do reverence.

  7. It seems that the Chinese officials in charge are not yet familiar with the Streisand Effect. Of course, once they connect the dots, that will no longer be searchable on their internet like the protests of 1989. 

  8. I heard the Chinese policeman say, “You are not being detained [arrested] but you are not free to go on FILMING…”  If they put their cameras away and walked away, they most likely wouldn’t have been stopped.  Not forcefully, anyways.  It was more intimidation than anything, was my read on it.   But not like you wanna test that theory out in China.

    What I took from it is that they don’t want people engaged in any form of discussion of history while IN the square.  Simplest way to deal with a small and nonconfrontational group: whisk them away to a nearby place, which just happened to be next door.  (A large group would have to be surrounded and beaten…)

    I also took it that the police couldn’t get in touch with the park person that fast – probably he or she was busy or even at home because it was after dark then.  So they just wanted the skynet people to wait patiently, and didn’t want trouble, just wanted them to stay there a while, like children. Which is hard, if you are not used to being told what to do by foreign police!  And if you’re a bit of a blowhard and somewhat arrogant about your reporting.  Anyways.

    The police just want control, and they have it.  To quote Game of Thrones, “Power is power.” 

  9. So Cory stuck the word “secret”.  Now Cory please show us the point in the video where they don’t know they are being filmed?  The entire title is 100% wrong, wait I take that back as far as I can tell they are Chinese.  The rest of the title is fiction though.

    1. Speaking of “stuck”… Dude…  get OVER it.  Why are you trying to derail the POINT of this post?

      Do you even GET IT?

    2. Anybody who read the article clearly knows what’s going on. I think grumpy cat has some competition on the net now.

  10. The way things are going, I expect America to be like this in less than 5 years. Essentially becoming the law, rather than enforcing it…

    Who would have thought Judge Dredd could a real thing…

          1.  Whichever you prefer.  I say, let’s beat this dead horse, then EAT it, like they do in London.

  11. “Orwellian in its brilliance”… That phrase may come to haunt me now. As with the TSA stops, they are assuming they will not be challenged in this. As long as you ‘respect their authoritay’ (read in cartman’s voice) then you’ll do as they imply, without them having to say it.

    I fell for that trick once, during the WTO protests. I hope to never be startled into compliance again.

  12. oh brilliant. you have permission to film in one place so they kidnap you and drop you off in another where you dont have permission. thats a new one. brilliant.

  13. now we’re going to drive you ’round a bunch of crime scenes, we’ll get out of the car just long enough for the officers at the scene of the crime to see you and take note, then it’s off to the next incriminating liaison!

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