Thursday, March 28, 2013


SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Reading the following article might make you want to smack your forehead whilst saying “Oh my God oh my God”, especially if you or someone you know has been hurt in a car accident.


Seat belts are:

a) An indispensable life-saving device
b) Required by law to be worn
c) Those dangly things hanging near people in cars
d) A pain in the arse

Here in China, where the motor car famously arrived sometime yesterday afternoon, most drivers, or people who've been inside a car, might answer “all of the above”. Except of course for a and b.

Those westerners among us of a certain age might remember a time – for me it was the early 70s - when wearing seatbelts was optional. So was smoking during pregnancy, and driving around drunk.

Then, after people kept dying, tons of research was carried out, education campaigns started up, laws were passed, etc etc.

Now there are cars that won’t start unless the seatbelt is clicked. Or, more commonly, when seatbelts aren’t fastened there’s a persistent beeping noise emitted until they are.

As everyone in China knows, that beeping sound can get on your nerves. If only there was some way to make it stop?

Sicne most Chinese people appear to be allergic to seatbelts, many drivers simply fasten the belt first and then sit on top of it. But now there’s a product on the market which not only kills off the beep, but can look stylish too. And you can buy them on web shopping monster Tao Bao for less than a buck.

Here it is - the Beep-away! Banish annoying beeps
and outsmart car manufacturing safety geeks by
simply clicking in these!

Guaranteed to ensure a comfortable ride -
and a smooth, unencumbered passage through
your front windscreen - regardless of what
car you drive!

Now in 'lady bling' - for that extra snazzy
flaunting of road rules.

I know what I'd like to do to those funstoppers down at
the auto factory! Eh?!

This one's even more useful than most,
although, to be fair, it would be annoying
to have that beep going off for the time it
takes to open your beer. Yes, or even Coke.

Or how about something like this, so your child will be
less bored whilst wandering around your moving car,
leaning out the window, et cetera?

Or, better still ...

The 'mini' child restraint!
Yours for only 48 US cents each!

(Ed's note: For the love of Mao. It's hard to
know where to start with this one. But surely
the reason to buy a child restraint is to restrain
a child, no? Oh and let's not forget ...

To be fair, in China seat belts aren't that much of a nuisance, especially in taxis. This is because most drivers simply remove the back seat, stuff the belt contrivances down out of sight, and replace the seat over the top of them. This saves people from having to sit on the hard lumpy bits. You can insist on getting the driver to pull up the seat belts so you can use them. But he will get annoyed. And possibly laugh at your western "scaredy cat" ways.

Official statistics say around 70,000 people are killed on China's roads each year. It's a fair bet - in fact, mountains of research call it "an absolute certainty" - that many of these could be prevented by seatbelts.

But if you aren't a fan of these seat belt hoodwinkers, fear not. There are other ways around the problem of people trying to save your life.

Also available on Tao Bao ...

... the "Up Yours Copper" T-shirt.
 The sales pitch on Tao Bao says
"It's essential for male

Or with this clever get-up, you can fool
police into thinking nobody is driving
your car, so that noone gets fined!

No, that last one was a joke. It's a very clever Hallowe'en costume found on the web (though yes, it possibly too is unsafe as it looks like he's not wearing his seat belt).

*  *  *

Elsewhere in the prickle-laden field of Chinese road safety, debate has been occurring on social media about people outside of - and about to be hit by - cars. Otherwise known as pedestrians.

For reasons yet to become obvious, people appear to be growing worried about what the Chinese themselves call "Chinese-style street crossing". This is despite the fact this issue appears to be very clearly covered by rule of China's Road Laws: "You can all just do what you want".

First a 'tweet' on China's version of Twitter, Weibo, sparked a lively debate on the issue. Now various city governments are trying to crack down on the problem with on-the-spot fines.

And they're off!

Here's a photo from the China Daily
of people attempting to cross a road
in the city of Taiyuan (Motto: We're
the Most Polluted City in the World
According to Various Studies!)
Why they had to go all the way to
Taiyuan to get a photo like this is
not clear.
Like those funny white lines on the
ground, the colourful lights seem to
there mostly for decoration.

Pedestrian fatalities in China are 18 times higher per 100,000 motorised vehicles, than in the United States, according to Ni Ying, who did her doctoral thesis on the dangers of Chinese crossroads.

Ni, a member of Tongji University's School of Transportation Engineering, told Xinhua News Agency, the shocking figure was due to "high rates of pedestrian non-compliance and low rates of driver-yielding behaviour", which is an academic's way of saying "the bleeding obvious". You really don't need to do a thesis to reach those conclusions. A few minutes of walking around a Chinese city - and a few near-death experiences based on expecting cars or pedestrians to stop on certain occasions - should do the trick.

And Dr Ni was only talking about what happens at crossings. There's no mention of the fact most Chinese people also love walking along a road, not just across it.

Walking on roads is a pastime which appears to be held dear to the hearts of most Chinese as something of an inalienable right, despite the fact there's a perfectly good footpath a couple of metres away.

Once, in frustration and despair, I begged my Chinese teacher for an explanation as to why pedestrians here wander happily about roadways, seemingly without any concern for life or limb. She explained it was because any time a pedestrian is hit by a vehicle, it is automatically deemed the driver's fault. Pedestrians thus assume drivers will definitely want to avoid them, because hitting one can be a lot of trouble. So can living in wheelchair, mind you, but each to their own.

Dr Ni's team studied how long Chinese pedestrians could tolerate being kept waiting for lights to change colour before attempting to cross a road, and concluded there was a link between this and jaywalking.

According to the China Daily, their study found the Chinese to be "very patient", saying they would wait up to 90 seconds on average for the light to change.

The study also found documentary evidence of the Tooth Fairy, and concluded that the world would "definitely" end last December.

* And that's all for a few weeks folks as it's holiday time once more! This time, schools break up for the Ching Ming, or 'Tomb Sweeping" festival, which is more of a hoot than it sounds. Back on April 15!

Sunday, March 24, 2013


(Hello. Here's my award-winning piece from That's Beijing and its sister magazines in Shanghai and Guangzhou this month. What can I say? I love giving myself awards).

WHEN it’s dark and I’m asleep, they come.

They open the door, drop down, hug the floor, and silently, below the eye-line, advance toward our bed. Before I can act, they take what they want and are gone. It happens most weekends in our Beijing apartment.

What can I do? Our kids love iPads.

When we bought them, my wife Stef and I became concerned about the girls’ dependence on them. So we put lock codes on them. Then, to make the kids leave me to sleep, I would unlock them and hand them over. Then I just told them the codes. I’m still getting around to changing them. They now, at seven and six, also know their way round our desktop computer almost as well as I do.

To say Lani and Evie are addicted to computer games is over-stating it, but it has caused friction. One recent morning, when meant to be dressing for school, Evie spoke to me in a way I never spoke to my parents aged six.

“Daddy!” she said, “I have to finish this mission or I can’t get a new moshling!”

I don’t know what was most disturbing: Evie barking at me, or that I understood what she was talking about. Moshi Monsters, an online pet monster thing, is to kids today what yo-yos, marbles, and all those wholesome things were to me. Nowadays, if a webpage gets shut down or – heaven forbid – the internet is slow, I love telling the girls how when I were a lad all I had to play with was a hoop and a stick. And how one year for Christmas I was given a length of string. And that I was so poor I couldn’t even pay attention!

A picture of me from my childhood as it appears in my
forthcoming memoir - The Year My Stick Broke.

And here's my wife. I used to dream of a hoop like that.

OK, all of that is not all that true of course, but I love seeing the girls' little mouths drop agape in horror. And then they get back to Fruit Ninja.

We as parents aren’t against computer games. At first I was concerned. I love a good boardgame. It felt more real to actually hold a little Monopoly piece or Scrabble tile. But I realised playing these games on an iPad was no less interactive family time. These days I tap a virtual button to hear music rather than take out a big black vinyl disc and put it on a turntable, lift the needle arm across, etc. It doesn’t make the music less real, or enjoyable.

I now realise our kids’ generation lives in an age when they can access some wonderfully creative, stimulating worlds. Ours do it with books and computers. With the right games, computers can help children as they help humankind.

Accepting this was still a big leap for me. I grew up in rural Australia in the 1970s. Our town owned one computer game – an upright version of “Pong” which dazzled the pants off us the one or two times a year we got to play it.

When computer games got going in earnest my parents believed they were designed not by some geeks in California but by Satan. I didn’t get to play Space Invaders until a trip to Brisbane in 1980. Even then, I thought the object was to shoot in between those columns of advancing things. I didn’t know they were hostile. In fact I didn’t know what they were. I will say at least that my method seemed to demand more skill than actually hitting them.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t touch computer games for 20 more years. Then, my London flatmates bought a Playstation. The rest is a history of thrills, drinking, and big bags under the eyes.

The original, and possibly not the best - Pong. Anyone
who has ever played it will forever remember the sound.
Our kids are far more willing to believe the Santa Claus
story than to believe that this game swept the world.

I hear that in the big cities they had this - colour!

My idea of what a good game of Space
Invaders looked like - at the finish. I can
still remember the pub where my dad took
me to lunch when I first saw this, how my
Coke with ice tasted, and even the
orientation of the table-like machine
(south-west to north-west). Then I never
touched the things again for 20 years.

Before children, my wife and I were keen gamers. She’d grown up in Sydney with its big city vices, like TV stations that started before 4pm, and, of course, video games.

She’d done the hard yards, mind you. She’d “played”, erm, “games” comprising text alone. You answered questions, then more text came up: “You are now in a room with a door. Do you want to open the door? Y/N?” Woo hoo!

Alas my doctor wife and I enjoyed different games. Though she’d worked in emergency rooms, she couldn’t stand the stress of taking a penalty against me in a World Cup final. This was disappointing, but it at least brought conclusive proof of the axiom: “Football isn’t about life and death – it’s far more important than that”.

She did get me into Metal Gear Solid, where you’re a commando. When she brought me in to help, even I knew it was weird she had been too scared to acquire any guns. These she also found too stressful. Instead, when the enemy came, she hit the “hide in cardboard box” option. I might be dumb, but I knew a cardboard box was no match for an Uzi.

I became my sweetheart’s crazed, Tarantino-style killer. She’d do the intelligent, or boring, bits – like pondering the clues and deducing where things were as we stormed an oil rig. Then when she’d need some killing done she’d pass the controls over to me and watch me enact hammer time. She loved this alpha side of me. That is until one night when I decided to see what would happen if I finally shot one of these pesky seagulls with a sniper rifle. (A lot of blood, feathers, and a wife recoiling in horror. Somehow my killing scores of human guards had not affected her at all. I should, however, admit that the seagull was unarmed).

Fruit Ninja - a slightly weird idea in that all this fruit is
thrown into the air in order to be sliced up with slashes
of one's finger. Still I guess it's better for the kids
than, say, Candy Ninja. Or Heroin Ninja.

Metal Gear Solid - seen here with my wife's favourite
form of, err, attack.

Actually, scrap that. This is my wife's favourite - in a
cardboard box, scurrying away, the big wuss.

But there are many out there who like it. This is the latest
version of Metal Gear Solid, which has different varieties
of cardboard box, including one that looks like an army
tank. Of course you'd have to wonder what a pristine
cardboard box is doing in a corn field, and why Volvo got
into tank design. Thankfully, if there's one thing I learned from
playing this game it's that the enemy soldiers are incredibly,
incredibly stupid.

Lovely. Just lovely. This is what my kids get to experience
on the iPad. Mind you, it's probably no worse than what I
used to watch for hours on end on TV - cartoon characters
beating the living daylights out of each other, often with
large wooden clubs.

With kids, many games are inappropriate. My sister-in-law once casually mentioned she’d bought her nine-year-old Grand Theft Auto, and asked what I thought. I said she’d have no problem with it, as long as she had no problem with her son stealing cars, killing the occupants, curb-crawling for prostitutes, copulating with them before killing them too. The poor little thing was pretty soon traumatised! My nephew wasn’t pleased either, since his game was returned to the store.

Our kids don’t play violent games. And obviously too much gaming is dangerous. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only one or two hours a day for computer games/TV. (Risks include obesity, attention deficit, irregular sleep, Zombies-in-the-Garden Syndrome, etc). All this enlightened thinking contrasts sharply with my childhood, when we would usually only be allowed to watch TV for about eight hours a day, though that figure could rise on weekends.

Games do help equip kids for the computer age, and can help with responsibility, such as having to “feed” avatar pets (less smelly than real pets!). Granted, they might not be so good for time management. And it’s funny how all games boast of helping “problem solving”. If a typical problem for you is finding a rickety tower inhabited by pigs in your backyard, with only a slingshot and some birds to deal with it, then maybe this is valid.

But as with everything, balance is the key. My kids know that if I don’t get as much game time as them, I will vehemently voice my displeasure. And then I will eat their brains.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013



Here’s a REAL story, brought to my attention by a fanatical reader, from the Yangzhou Daily newspaper in Jiangsu province, near Shanghai, from Tuesday, March 12.

扬州一男尸手脚被绑缚沉河中 警方称溺水自杀
2013-03-12 14:03:12 来源:扬州网

[提要]  市、区两级警方立即启动命案处置预案,迅速抽调侦技人员赶赴现场,经勘查检验死者系溺水自杀身亡。被打捞上岸的男尸身穿棕色外套,戴白色手套,手脚被绑缚,身上还拴着一块窨井盖。但警方通过现场勘查、尸体检验等措施,现已排除他杀可能,确定死者系溺水自杀身亡。
  原标题:新城河昨打捞起一男尸手脚被绑缚 警方排除他杀可能
  中国网・滨海高新讯 昨天下午,位于望月桥附近的新城河中发现一具男尸。市、区两级警方立即启动命案处置预案,迅速抽调侦技人员赶赴现场,经勘查检验死者系溺水自杀身亡。

Ah. OK. It might be better if I put it in English.

It says, and I am not making this up, because you couldn't ...

YANGZHOU, March 12, 2013 – Yesterday afternoon in the New City River, near the Full Moon Bridge, a male body was found.

The City Police and the District Police immediately started an investigation and sent police to the scene, where they checked the dead person and concluded it was a drowning suicide.

The body was dressed in a brown coat with white gloves on its hands. Its hands and feet were tied, and there was a manhole cover tied to the body.

Onlookers were of the opinion the death was a murder. But police, through a field survey and inspection of the body, concluded it was a suicide.

At present, identification of the body has confirmed the man was a 30-year-old with the surname of Chen, who was from Lianzhou City, Guangdong province.

Police have already contacted his family. The reason for his suicide is still under investigation.



Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ...

Aaaaahm ...

Look, I'm not off CSI or anything. I wasn't there. Far be it from me to jump to conclusions.

But ... it's just that ... it's sort of ... I just think ...

I have at least watched the odd cop show, so while this is tricky, I'll try to piece it together.

The poor man's last moments hardly bear thinking about. As if he wasn't in a bad enough way to be contemplating taking his own life, he's really made it hard for himself, hasn't he? He's earned this suicide.

But you're left wondering what he did first: Tie his feet together? Or attach the manhole cover to his person? But I think it's a safe bet to say he tied his hands together last, using his teeth to pull the knot. The Chinese are clever with tying knots. But, aw gee, how can we be sure?

And did he do all this and then 'pogo' or wriggle up the bridge, before raising one last effort to get himself over the railing and off? Or did he carry his rope and manhole cover up the bridge, and then tie himself up?

And were the gloves there to conceal something else? Maybe that he'd pulled his fingernails out first?

Police work is tough, so we may never know. Perhaps he was trying one of those daring 'magician' escapes as seen on TV. Then again, they all carry warnings that those guys are trained professionals and that this sort of endeavour should not be tried at home, so maybe not.

Maybe the most significant aspect of the case is that the man's body was discovered 1300km (850 miles) away from some possibly inquisitive relatives in Lianzhou. So perhaps his greatest mistake was being found too far from home. Or else too close to lunchtime.

One thing's for sure, as the last paragraph suggests, the constabulary will leave no stone unturned in its quest to investigate why this one man among 1.3 billion decided to senselessly end his own life.

Yangzhou's chief of police, yesterday.

*  *  *


China's border police have also been busy, as this poster I found in the international department of our local post office relates.

I'm pretty sure it translates as this:



On October 13, 2010, Beijing airport customs officials
apprehended a slightly-built Caucasian male in his
mid-to-late 30s, after receiving information that his trousers
had some heroin in them. In accordance with the promulgated
statutes and by-laws of the People's Republic of China,
this is bad. In fact, it's illegal!


The man was detained and placed in a
chair with a lap belt across it, so he couldn't
get away. Then he was made to be quiet and
wait in the background whilst checks were
carried out on the offending menswear implement.


Trouble threatened to break out when the man became agitated
and attempted to snatch the trousers out of the officers' hands,
saying: "Give me back my trousers. They're mine! They're mine!"
The officers replied: "Not yet."
Acting in accordance with the Customs Act of 1991, the
officers then took a decision to move further away, in order
that the man couldn't reach. They also informed him that
under the sovereign law of the People's Republic of China,
which brooks no foreign interference, they were entitled to
hold the pants for longer.


After some time, the man agreed to write a confession,
and to hold it up while posing for a photograph with
the officers, which said: "I should not have had heroin in
my trousers and I won't do it again." The man then had
the pants returned to his possession along with a number
of "personal valuables" contained in a security belt he liked
to conceal under his shirt. He was then allowed to proceed
with his holiday as the case was now closed.

(ED's note: It seems, since I posted this, there's been a bit of confusion. Just so noone's in any doubt, the top bit about the body in the river and what police thought of it, was real. All too real. It's a real story from the Yanghou Daily, which I reproduced in Chinese, then had translater by a professional. The bottom bit - it's a real poster, but the words have been interpreted, rather than translated, by the author.)

Monday, March 18, 2013


Not in a “let’s manipulate the currency and not care what anyone thinks” kind of way. I mean what’s happening on the street and in the homes of Middle Kingdomians this minute.

As in previous instalments about peering in on the world’s most inscrutable people, the issue is beauty. Specifically – what is being done by Chinese women who seemingly have far far too much time of their hands and a bit of disposable income. In this case, they’re really proving just how disposable it is.

Chinese women, famously, are unwrinkly. They don’t have lines on their face. Not for the first 55 years at least. After that they’ve been known to crease up like those potato chip bags we used to put in the oven as kids. But early on, no.

It’s because – and I’m dabbling in dark art of science here, but it’s true - of the level of naturally occurring collagen in their systems. Indian women have the most, eastern-Asian women are close behind. For one reason or another, white women missed out a bit when the collagen was being dished out.

So what do you give a girl who’s got everything? Perhaps something she doesn’t have - like lines on her face!

I’m not entirely sure how to say this, but a new trend in cosmetic surgery here is to actually get facial lines added in. Not wrinkles as such. That would be silly wouldn’t it? No, it’s to do with the eyes again.

Surgery to have Asian eyes ‘westernised’ – made bigger and cut up to produce a double, rather than single, eyelid - is nothing new. But a new move is to add in those features we in the west have long held up as a symbol of beauty for centuries – bags under the eyes.

Yes, Chinese women – following an innovation started in the regional home of plastic surgery, South Korea – are actually asking doctors to surgically give them bags under the eyes.

OK, bags might be stretching it. They’re not after huge big change purses under their peepers. But a small but growing number are having little crescent-shaped baglets put in.

These are called wo can, which is pronounced wor csan with some sort of tone or other. This translates as a “lying-down silk worm”, which sounds very cute.

And that’s the idea. For it would do no good to have a surgeon give you full-blown eye bags, known as yan dai. (Eyes are yan jing, and a bag is a daizi. Which reminds me - kangaroos are called dai shu here. Shu means rat. So my own majestic and noble national animal is called “the rat with a bag”.)

No, yan dai just look terrible, apparently. This is a shame, because I have some beauties. I’d thought for a minute I’d found a place that understood me, where my eye bags and I could roam free, avoiding persecution, being welcomed, lauded and lusted-after. But bags like mine just make me look sleepy, according to a Chinese web analysis of the subject.

Little silk-worm like bags, however, are hot. I assumed this must be because they added a bit of gravitas to the average Chinese woman, who often struggles to look older than 14 due to reasons identified as “collagen” and “fluffy toy collection”.

But no – it’s to ramp up the cute factor. It is said that baglets make faces look younger, with more child-like cuteness.

For around 7,000 yuan women can get these new and foxy facial features. That’s around $US1,100 – a hefty sum to get bags added under your eyes.

This website has brought you news of some oddball surgical procedures which have become popular among Chinese women who don’t really need them – such as having their cheek bones put under an angle-grinder and/or their jaw muscles atrophied to effect a thinner face.

But added-in eye baglets (bagatelles? baguettes?) possibly takes the cake.

Before ...

After ...
It's hard work looking this tired.

There are a few different ways to achieve this look, including Botox. Women can have a little botulinum toxin injected under the eyes to puff them up.

But if you love eyebags enough, you can go for more permanent options. The Baidu Jingyan news and lifestyle website says surgeons can insert a five-to-seven millimetre thick sliver of artificial skin under the skin beneath the eyelashes. Or they can use tissue taken from elsewhere in the body, or even Gore-Tex.

The procedure usually takes half an hour. After “one or two weeks” to recover, the client can head out on the town with confidence booming thanks to her new facial accessories.

“People think if you have wo can it helps you attract members of the opposite sex,” said a report on the procedure on “The eye looks like it has a special charm.

Wo can is easily added to big eyes, or eyes that protrude a little. It makes people look warm and kind. The look is different from yan dai, which makes people think you are tired.”

I had thought the bags were designed to give a jaundiced,
world-weary look. Instead this woman shows they don't
affect her ability to look like a naive little girl by giving
the peace sign in photos.

Stick a needle in my eye ...
This woman is going the Botox way.

This was how she went in. Nothing
special about those eyes, right?

Et voila! Attractive to the opposite

Here she is - delighted with the results.

And here's how she
posts on a chat forum.
If only she could
make herself look
more girly ...

"Doctor - are there any dangers?"

"Oooooh shit yeah!"

Here's a Botox procedure which didn't go so well.
Oh for those bee-stung eyes.

Another range of shots from a catalogue featuring
this season's must-have bags.

And another kind of eye-bag I found on
google. Only precious few women can
pull this look off.

All hail the king! This is
legendary Australian racehorse
trainer Bart Cummings.
He has the Big Three:
a quiff to die for, the most
famous eyebrows in the land,
and bags you might find under
the saddles of his horses.

American actor Phillip Baker Hall. I really respect and
admire this guy, for reasons which are about to become obvious.

The author's own baggage check.
1. A little bit cute.
(They're open, honest).
2. Bit cuter.
3. Cuter still.
4. MAX CUTENESS! Just look
at the character people.

So what do you think? Tired of not having enough baggage under your eyes? Just save up a little over a grand, come to China and get on top of that problem straight away!

(Ed’s note: I’d love to link you to other cosmetic surgery wonders detailed on The Tiger Father, but owing to technical hitches concerning China’s loathing of google and its blogging platforms, it seems I can not. However, going to the search box to the right and keying in “What are the Chinese up to now?” should do it.)

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Two years ago, in one of the high points of journalism history, the Rockhampton Bulletin newspaper in Queensland, Australia, published an apocalyptic story suggesting their proud city was about to be swamped by dead pigs.

And no small number but 30,000 of them! Imagine the sight. It would be like Armageddon, only a lot smellier.

The story came during a severe flood in the district, after a reporter interviewed a piggery owner who said floodwaters had carried an amount of his livestock away.

Presumably the interview was conducted by telephone. And presumably the piggery owner had a thick rural Queensland accent. (For those unfamiliar, due to the large number of flies buzzing around, rural men in Australia are the only humans in history to have mastered the art of speaking with their mouth entirely closed).

It shows how laid-back Queenslanders are when you consider the paper only thought to put this story of the piggy Armageddon on page 11.

In any event, two days later, they published this.

Surely it was one of the great mid-heard quotes of all time, right up there with Jimi Hendrix’s “’scuse me while I kiss this guy”, and Bob Dylan’s “the ants are my friends”.

But now, in a bleak and dismal example of life in China imitating people's apocalyptic visions elsewhere -- here in the Middle Kingdom IT'S REALLY HAPPENING, PEOPLE!


It's not quite the 30,000 pigs of Rockhampton legend. But 6,600 dead swine in your river is probably more than sufficient.

As various news agencies have reported, the gruesome tragedy is continuing to unfold in the Huangpu River.

Not only is that no small number of pigs, it's not just any river. It's this one:

Probably the most famous China tourist shot outside
of Beijing. The Huangpu winds through Shanghai, with
its magnificent colonial buildings on one side, and the
Lost In Space tower on the other.

The trouble started when, in a shock twist for China, there was a food scandal relating to unsafe practices which meant people were getting sick.

This is not to be confused with this pork product scandal we knew and loved as the Glow-in-the-Dark Pork Scandal ...

... in which pork was pumped full of something or other,
which made it last longer, and made people able to read
off its light.

And it's not to be confused with this one ...

Happy as a pig with two snouts. In fact, I don't
think this was a scandal. This pig was just a freak
of nature, like basketballer Yao Ming. It just popped
up on the internet one day. Although, come to think
of it, probably something weird was going on.

No, the Huangpu River scandal is an entirely different scandal. It is thought the pigs have been killed and dumped in the river upstream from Shanghai in neighbouring Zhejiang province. This is possibly linked to the fact that last week 46 people were sent to jail for producing unsafe pork from diseased pigs.

So these aren't just pigs that were slaughtered and dumped in the river and are causing fears because they are dead. They were carrying diseases in the first place.

Fortunately, people are scooping them up before they hit the Shanghai tourist strip, which would be bad.

Unfortunately, Shanghai draws a lot of its drinking water from the same river.

Ewww! Actually, they don't look too bad here.

OK now they're looking a bit bad. And smelly.

The Deadliest Catch.

An Apocalyptic vision of pigs in a river.

A much cuter vision of pigs in a river.

In another surprising development, government types are not exactly saying this is anything major to worry about.

In fact, better than that, China's Civil Affairs Minister Li Liguo held a press conference on Wednesday at China's big political meeting, the National People's Congress, where he consummately pretended nothing was happening.

In a master class of a politician avoiding a sticky subject, Li was asked by a reporter about dead pigs and responded by talking about an entirely different topic - the choices of funeral services for people.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post said a reporter asked Li if the pigs were being dumped in the river because this was cheaper than incineration.

He responded thus: “There are two types of funeral services; the basic funeral service and the selective funeral service. The former includes body transportation, preservation, cremation and the placing of ashes, at a price which the government sets."

He rabbited on: "The overall cost is reasonable…the service is aimed at providing low-income groups with access to funeral services."

As journalists looked at each with one raised eyebrow while twirling a finger around their temple, Li completed the press conference without a mention of pigs.

Li Liguo: "I never promised you a rose garden - of
accountability and transparent government".

Li is said by insiders to be "one step away" from coming out and saying a few thousand pig carcasses in your drinking water supply is "probably good for you".

The Shanghai government has said the city will monitor water quality and test for viruses including porcine circovirus. Just what it will do then is not clear, but if you live in Shanghai, head down to the shop and buy some bottled water. NOW Goddamnit! Or better still, head down to China's main stock exchange, which is also in Shanghai, and buy some shares in those bottled water companies that had been the subject of increasing scepticism as to their true worth ... until dead pigs started coming down the river.

*  *  *

In other news, this happened ...

Several cartoon and computer game characters recently staged a protest in Beijing to demand better working conditions. In a sign of the changing face of China's workplace relations scene, the quintet picketed outside the Ministry of Labour for several hours. Their log of claims included demands that they stop being fired out of slingshots, that people cease and desist dropping anvils on their heads, etc. A union spokesman said Donald Duck also threatened a series of wildcat strikes unless he was finally given a pair of trousers.

Five Chinese migrant workers in Beijing recently staged a protest about unpaid wages by dressing up as cartoon characters.

That's one angry bird.

It was the blackest day in cartoon character industrial unrest since this one:

In 2008, workers at Disneyland proved it really
wasn't the happiest place on earth by protesting
over pay and conditions. Police were eventually
sent in to break up the demonstration, with hundreds
of little kids in tears as Snow White was, for the
first time in her fable history, handcuffed and read
her rights.

"There'll be no Neverland where you're going matey-boy!"

(Ed's note: The five Chinese characters were actually migrant workers who - in a novel approach avoiding a lengthy industrial court process - wanted to go viral on the internet to highlight their claim for unpaid wages. It is believed they still won't get them.)