Sometimes it's good to cogitate on who we are, and where we live. 1. Despite the new veneer of individual freedom, China remains a police state, with the state interfering with and controlling the lives of its subjects to a degree most Westerners would find it hard to tolerate - as indeed many of the Chinese do. This should not affect foreigners much, however, as the state on the whole takes a hands-off approach to visitors - they are anxious that you have a good time rather than come away with a bad impression of the country. Indeed, Chinese who commit crimes against foreigners are treated much more harshly than if their victims had been native. The police, known as the Public Security Bureau or PSB (gong'an ju in Chinese), are recognizable by their blue uniforms and caps, though there are a lot more around than you might at first think, as plenty are undercover. They have much wider powers than most Western police forces, including establishing the guilt of criminals - trials are used only for deciding the sentence of the accused (though this is changing and China now has the beginnings of an independent judiciary). If the culprit is deemed to show proper remorse, this will result in a more lenient sentence. Laws are harsh, with execution - a bullet in the back of the head - the penalty for a wide range of serious crimes, from corruption to rape. Crime and safety in China - China Visa Service 2. When China reopened to tourists in 1979, Chan convinced his daughter, Peggy, then eighteen, a pilgrimage back to her roots .She sat in the swaying railcar, Walkman clamped to her ears, listening to Bruce Springsteen as the rural farms slipped by. After Guiyang, she ate some fruit, which gave her diarrhea. Most of the afternoon, she spent in the railcars toilet, a hole opened to the tracks. One attack came on so quickly, she almost didnt make it, a desperate dash during which the stereo fell to the floor. With no time to stop, she left the Walkman behind, and when she returned, it was gone. Sign language and faltering Cantonese apprised the ticket-taker of her plight. He joined Peggy in a search of the train. Two cars forward they found the amazed thief, a senile old man in peasants rags stroking his dangling mustache. Wide-eyed, he sat bolt upright, for all to see, marveling at The Bosss Born to Run. The ticket-taker ripped the Walkman from his ears. The train pulled into the next station as Peggy returned to her seat. No doubt the old man had heard the Walkman playing on the floor, and unable to find its owner had toyed it with curiosity. Smiling, Peggy decided to find him and let him listen for a while. Her thoughts were interrupted by a tapping on the window. The old man stood shaking on the platform outside, flanked by members of the Gong An Ju. The Public Security cops wore green with peaked army caps, yellow headbands distinguishing hem from the Red Army. One cop stepped back as the other drew his gun. Peggy screamed No! as the old man was shot through the head. Blood spattered the window, then the cop waved, pleased to be of service to Chinas new friends. From the novel Ripper, by Jack Slade, 1994. God bless America. Let's hope we can keep it thus.