Bao Tong on McDonald’s coffee; transsexual retired official

Qian Jinfan, octogenarian and transgender woman

The Danwei Week is a new weekly experiment: we’ll introduce five and only five English articles, blog postings or other newly published materials that we consider the essential reading about China from the last week.

Here are this week’s readings:

‘In the current system, I’d be corrupt too’: An interview with Bao Tong
On the New York Review of Books‘ website, Ian Johnson interviews Bao Tong, a 79-year-old, partially blind counter revolutionary and former senior official. They met a McDonald’s in Beijing, after secret police refused Johnson permission to enter Bao’s apartment building. Bao is a fan of the unlimited coffee refills at McDonald’s.

Man enough to be a woman at 84
Shanghaiist summarizes a Southern Metropolitan Daily story about Qian Jinfan (钱今凡), an ’84-year-old calligrapher, art critic and retired government official based in Foshan, has become China’s oldest openly transgender individual’ (pictured above).

It was not until December 2008, at the grand old age of 80, did Qian feel the time was now or never to start taking female hormones, and to dress as a woman.
Shortly after embarking on transition, she wrote to the Foshan Cultural, Radio, Television, News and Publication Bureau, where she once worked, explaining her decision. She was afraid that she would lose all her retirement benefits.
“At first, I prepared to defend myself at whatever it would cost, but then I found I had been accepted already,” said Qian. “Their tolerance towards transgenders was beyond my imagination.”

China: 23 arrested in U.S. gun scheme
The AP reported on Tuesday that 23 people had been arrested in connection with a gun trafficking ring, in a joint US-Chinese investigation that has been in operation since last August. The latest arrests took place in 16 provinces in China and resulted in the seizure of 93 weapons, multiple gun parts and more than 50,000 bullets. The arrests follow on from the detention last month in the US of three other men involved in the scheme. The US Embassy in Beijing praised the joint investigation, and stated that it might pave the way for ‘even greater law enforcement cooperation in the future.’

7-month pregnant woman forced into labor to abort unborn Baby
On ChinaSmack:

Recently, a forum post said that the Government of Zengjia Town, Zhenping County, Ankang City, Shaanxi Province illegally took a 7-month-pregnant woman into custody, and forcibly induced labor in order to abort her unborn child. The pregnant woman, Feng Jianmei from Ankang City, was unable to pay the fine of 40,000 RMB for breaking the One-Child Policy, and was illegally taken into custody by the local town government, and forced to abort her baby.

Photos of Feng lying next to the body of her aborted baby have been widely circulated on the Internet, causing outrage (e.g. see Sina Weibo and iFeng). The Chinasmack posting linked above translates some of the comments. See also Go Bo writing on MSNBC’s website: Gruesome photos put spotlight on China’s one-child policy.

Huawei, ZTE execs sentenced to ten years for corruption in Algeria
An Algerian court has convicted ZTE’s Dong Tao and Chen Zhibo, and Huawei’s Xiao Chunfa of corruption, and sentenced them to ten years in prison. The three men were tried in absentia, and accused of using bribery to try and gain advantages for their companies with the state-owned Algérie-Télécom. Huawei and ZTE have both been fined and banned from entering partnerships with state-owned companies in  Algeria for two years. Although it is highly improbable that the men would be extradited and so have to serve their sentences , this episode will do little to promote Chinese technology companies’ reputation abroad.

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