Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Coming to my census

There have been colourful 'big character' banners all over Beijing for the past few weeks exhorting us to cooperate fully in an upcoming population census. Most of these banners are bilingual, so it would appear that we foreigners are to be included.

However, no dates were mentioned. Since the major worldwide census effort takes place in the '01 year of each decade, I had been assuming that this was not going to bother us until next year. But no - it seems that China is starting early, conducting its census NOW.

This fills me - and most of us foreigners living here, I would imagine - with considerable trepidation. Just how much information will the census-takers be asking for? Will this lead to bothersome checks into our nominal employers (those 'kind' people who help us get our visas) or our tax records? Will it become a pretext for 'spot fines'?

Of course, seeking to avoid or obstruct the census is the height of civic irresponsibility, a reckless and profoundly unharmonious kind of act. "Harmony," many of the banners remind us, "is essential to the harmonious society." Quite so. (The Chinese don't seem to be troubled by the notion that tautology might be a bad thing.)

So, I wouldn't want to be guilty of such antisocial behaviour myself, nor to incite others to such acts of defiance.

Well, yes I would.

In fact, my friend Nigel the barman nicely summed up the attitude of most foreigners (and most Chinese too, I suspect) the other day, when he declared with his usual refreshing forthrightness:
F**k the census!"

(Hmm, could be a band name?)

Since the Chinese authorities have almost certainly not assigned any significant amount of manpower to the census-taking effort, and since the whole process is supposed to be completed within just one month (and we're already half-way through that period, with most of us having not seen hide nor hair of a census-taker), I think it should be relatively easy to avoid the attentions of these prying government busybodies. I gather they are mostly coming around in the mornings - when everyone's at work. Now that I am drinking again, I'm going to be out almost every evening as well. And if they come knocking at my door when I happen to be in, I'll probably just ignore them.


Tony said...

Yes, but don't you realise, Froog, that if you opt out of the census you will be classified as a non-person who may be arrested and exiled to Gansu or Guizhou for no other reason?

The Weeble said...

"Harmony," many of the banners remind us, "is essential to the harmonious society."

Hey, if it's a tautology, it's a tautology. What can one do?

I've no problem with the census in principle, and would quite happily answer the door if they ever did come around. So far I only know one person, Chinese or foreign, who's actually gotten a visit (or at least a visit while home) from any census-takers, though, and apparently it wasn't even a proper visit -- it was some kind of pre-visit visit.

JES said...

Hey, if it's a tautology, it's a tautology.

I am not sure why, but that strikes me as a a perfect T-shirt slogan. Baffle the hell out of some readers, y'know, and double the rest over with laughter.

Froog said...

Tony, foreigners are 'non-people' anyway.

I think there's slightly less chance of banishment, deportation, or beating with telephone directories if I'm a 'non-person' who doesn't 'exist'.

Here's to civic disobedience, Weebs!

The whole exercise seems superfluous anyway, since almost everyone is "registered" with their local police station anyway. Are they going to try to get people to offer up further 'personal information' like "Exercise regime: Falun Gong" or "Political affiliation: Democracy Party"?