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Life's a gamble........................
I went to Macau at the weekend with some friends who were over from the UK. For those of you who may be a little unfamiliar with the geography of southern China, Macau is another ex-colonial enclave attached to the 'rump' of China about 1 hour by hydrofoil from Hong Kong.
Macau is an ex-Portuguese possession which was handed back to China in 1999 after some 400 years. Unlike Hong Kong, which has resolutely destroyed every meaningful reminder of it's 150 odd years of colonial history under a depressingly mediocre layer of concrete, steel and glass (mainly concrete however), Macau has managed to retain enough of it's heritage to make a trip there very interesting. It's a place which is alive with a sense of itself, whilst Hong Kong, at least in terms of it's architecture and cultural investment, has always been far more keen to chase the almighty dollar than retain any sense of tradition and history. Posterity is a dirty word here, an inconvenience to the Beijing-friendly politicians and property developers who form the cartels and quango's here.
Still, Macau has it's kitsch, and nothing is more spectaculary kitsch than the Casino Lisboa. A monument to the 70's, it's moorish charms have looked a little tattered and worn next to the recent arrival of the big boys from Vegas. The Lisboa has been the jewel in the crown of a certain Sir Stanley Ho. Local Billionaire who made his fortune by transforming Macau into the Vegas of the east with a host of small scale Casino's that targeted the nouveau-riche from Hong Kong and the mainland, he has seen his protectorate threatened by Steve Wynn and the boys behind the MGM grand and the Venetian who are fully intent on breaking his monopoly with a shattering permanence.
He's nothing if not capable our Stanley however and his emergence from decades of smug complacency was signalled by the construction of the new Lisboa and the refurbishment of the old Casino Lisboa. The new Lisboa looks as if it'll be another shamefully opulent architectural nonsense, whilst the old lisboa benefitted from new bathrooms, new decor, free mini-bars and the largest flat screen TV's that can be reasonably conceived.
And it was on one of these ridiculously large flat screen TV's that I happened to be watching (Whilst waiting for my wife to finish powdering her nose in the mosaic-clad black and gold bathroom which had a shower that needed a degree in electronics just to turn on) BBC world. BBC world is the infuriatingly tedious version of BBC news that overseas viewers get in lieu of the full strength version back in the UK. It does however have the occasional report of real importance and it was one such that I just happened to tune into the beginning of.
The report itself was one of those reports from China that immediately prompts you to ask "How the hell did they film this and then get it out of China?". You see, the BBC itself is banned from the mainland for telling the truth, or if not the truth, at least a version of it that differs from the official line which is pretty much all the Chinese themselves get.
It detailed the industry which is China's penal system and that portion which deals with the imposition and fulfilment of the death penalty. The death penalty in China is responsible for killing between 5'000 and 10'000 people a year(Estimates very widely. Amnesty International probably have as good an idea as any). Crimes which carry the death penalty are numerous and include the more traditional crimes such as murder but also the more disquieting ones such as treason (A very fluid concept in China. Disagreement with party officials can lead to a treason charge), corruption, fraud, embezzlement, Tax evasion, drug smuggling and so on.
The penalty and the crimes which lead to it apart, one of the more unsettling aspects of the report was when it touched upon the methods used by China's police force in investigating crime, including that which leads to the death penalty. Police forces in China, especially in rural area's are fond of taking the odd short cut when it comes to investigations. Torture is routinely used to coerce confessions out of hapless suspects. Sleep deprivation and beatings are their favourite modes of operation. Problem is of course that most evidence in capital crime cases in China comes from confessions, evidence itself is seen to be of lesser importance. This has caused some real disquiet amongst human rights groups.
The BBC furnished their report with an interview from a man whose case I had heard of about 4 months previously here in Hong Kong. A man from a rural community in some god-forsaken part of China , he'd been convicted of murdering his wife. The problem was that not only did he deny it, but the police couldn't furnish a body. He'd been convicted on the strength of a confession that had been beaten out of him. He was lucky though because the death penalty on this occasion had been deferred in favour of solitary confinement.
He'd spent nine years in solitary by the time his wife turned up alive and well in a village in the same province, now married to a different man.
How lucky is that, I hear you ask?
Well, very lucky, because more often than not ,the death penalty isn't deferred and it's carried out in cases just as dubious as that poor sods.
And this is where the industrial part comes in. What happens after the condemned have had their sentences carried out, is that their body parts are sold onto the international body parts market without the knowledge of their nearest and dearest. Officially of course this is denied, but it's often done on behalf of provincial or prison governors for their own enrichment. Profiteering through judicial murder.
So, I thought as I reclined with Tsing Tao in hand, you gamble with more than money in China and you don't have to be in a casino to do it.
Re: Life's a gamble........................So, I thought as I reclined with Tsing Tao in hand, you gamble with more than money in China and you don't have to be in a casino to do it.
And this is where the industrial part comes in. What happens after the condemned have had their sentences carried out, is that their body parts are sold onto the international body parts market without the knowledge of their nearest and dearest. Officially of course this is denied, but it's often done on behalf of provincial or prison governors for their own enrichment. Profiteering through judicial murder.JUST WIN ONE FOR THE FANS
"HIT HARD, HIT FAST, AND HIT OFTEN"Adm. William "Bull" Halsey