We do not prosper, but are imprisoned

Dissidents from China and Tibet have accused British police of a significant overreaction after they were arrested under public order laws and had their houses searched following peaceful protests against the visiting Chinese president, Xi Jinping.

Shao Jiang, a survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre now based in the UK, said he was shocked to be tackled by police after holding placards in front of Xi’s motorcade in London, and to learn his home had been searched and computers seized while he was in custody.

“It feels like it was when I was in China,” Shao told the Guardian. “Then, every time I was arrested the Chinese police would search my rooms and take things. It reminded me of that.”

Tibetan exile groups have also reacted with anger following the arrest of two women shortly after Shao for waving a Tibetan flag near Xi’s car. They also had their homes searched while under arrest.


I remember when I was living in Beijing in 1999, when the state’s crackdown on the Falun Gong cult was in full swing. The Falun Gong was an interesting phenomenon, a personality-led Tai Qi type physical philosophy, and at its height had around 14 million followers (it still exists and faithful practitioners have been protesting opposite the Chinese embassy in London for years). The Chinese Communist Party hated (and hates) it, ostensibly because it posed a threat to its followers’ health, extolling them to simply pray and yoga their way to health if they got sick, kind of like Jehovah’s Witnesses, and this had apparently led to deaths. On the other hand the Gong also wanted its followers to be exclusively loyal to it, and for people to think and act independently of the CCP and the state, if not actively act against the state’s directives. This was a handful of years after Tiananmen Square, and there was no way the CCP would countenance that, particularly a cult that could take over the minds not just of impressionable urban youth who could be counter-impressed with a stunning display of violence, but it was signed up to by people of all backgrounds, across the country, many being middle aged and prosperous, with no reason surely to behave in this way, the kind of people who the CCP would think should really know better … So the Party went big on them, big time, mass arrests and incarcerations and brutal re-educations by the tens of thousands.

I remember learning Tai Qi with an elderly but very lithe lady in the park near my flat in Jianguomenwai, a diplomat flat with my then girlfriend, and in this park one morning we saw a group of people standing behind a hedge near where we were practising, them looking furtive, tabbing away, and the teacher wafted us away from them, and murmured ‘Falun Gong’.

Even emails mentioning the Gong wouldn’t make it out, state censors caught and deleted them and I’d find my email account out of action for an hour or so, while one article I wrote about the FG for Salt magazine I had to change all reference to the Gong.

Most relevant to the above despicable act in London however, was one day I was in Tiananmen Square, it was a classic Beijing winter day, biting dry cold, the sky light blue overhead, grey all around the horizon, and I was there in the square with a handful of tourists and locals, all in big coats, some heads half buried by raised collars and scarves, all milling around gently on the frosty stone slabs. I was squatted down a la locals, with a couple of men next to me, when one suddenly patted his friend’s arm and nodded to look at these two women a few yards in front of us, one I remember was well dressed, she had a fine cashmere coat, into which she had reached to pull out a bright yellow scarf with characters on it, and was about to hold it high in what was a classic, very brave Falun Gong protest, but she got no further as immediately a half dozen of the milling locals – who were in fact undercover police – just set on her and her friend, a large paddy wagon slid over the frost and into the back they were piled. It all took seconds. There was a middle-aged American couple filming the whole thing and as I recovered from the shock of the speed of it all I was going to go to them and say, ‘go away now, take your film to the CNN office on Jianguomen,’ but too late, they were seized too, camera taken, film removed.

And so we see it here.



The gentrification of Herne Hill has reached an absurd height, if not scraped a new low. Olley’s fish and chip shop is now selling a bag of chips at TWO POUNDS NINETY. WTF.

And they’ve listed these CHIPS under ‘SIDES’. Wtf, ‘SIDES’? It’s a CHIP SHOP.

Just to add the icing onto their organic batter cake, they have gluten-free Mondays and Tuesdays. Yes they bastard do.

I would have taken a photo of Olley’s ludicrous price-list and opening times jobbies as hilarious proof, but I was too eager to leave, having ordered chips then unordered them on learning I’d have to remortgage just to eat. F*** it. These bloody people living around there now who are prepared to pay such prices.

Then I stopped off outside what was once the beloved Kennedy’s cooked meats, long since converted into something useless, and only then I realised how that whole sperm-shaped road had become a hive of hipsteries. Many of these establishments’ patronizers must dwell in Stradella and Winterbrook Roads, and must be behind the obscenely stupid arms race of wood burners and stockpiles of chopped log ammunition that tower ever higher in the front porch of every house, half of the trees of the North Downs to be burned in the name of being carbon fashionable.

I somewhat see the ire that might be fired  by places that sell bowls of cereal for £4, but not quite, probably doesn’t require a 200-strong horde of torch-brandishing baldies to come raze the place – or as in the event, stamp about a bit in the street and shake fists. (I mock. Really the Anarchists are not wholly wrong either, and they do go bother places like 1 Commercial Street for weeks without the mainstream media getting excited by it, which takes commendable passion. I just think going for a place selling Rice Krispies to idiots isn’t worth assaulting like Frankenstein’s Castle.)

I think Olley’s would better serve their aspirations by calling themselves ‘Olley’s Fish & Chips –  International’. The power of marketing! As that top ad space tele-sales chap I spent a week recoiling from, who used to front for ‘Hospitality and Hotel … International,’ as he stressed it, *pause* before the ‘inter-national’. Vile creature though he was, he was on £60k p.a. and that was in 1995 (well so he claimed, projecting the image of success in order to be successful).

But anything with international nailed onto to me is rendered tacky. Not unlike Labour’s ludicrous marketing ploy to sell us the idea of 24-hour pub hours, that it’d inspire ‘continental’ drinking, conjuring up the image on their flip-chart at least of lads and ladettes no longer downing a gallon of Stella 5 minutes to closing, but instead urbanely sipping from balloons of brandy leisurely into the wee hours.

Bollocks. ‘Continental’ is tacky, seedy even. Like no-one ever watched the ‘continental movies’ on BBC2 to indulge their frustrated love of French cinema, but in the hope of seeing a bit of tit and bum while everyone else had gone to bed.

Back in the day, when a bag of chips cost 30p.