Tuesday, 13 August 2019

The hat lady and her important husband: A China tale

This was too good not to share. It’s a short story but an interesting one for people who are curious about China and how the public sphere works there. Most people will know about the strict controls the Communist Party imposes on online service providers such as social media and news websites, but the public sphere, as this story shows, can function effectively merely given active participation by ordinary people.

The story unfolded in Chongqing, a populous administrative area next-door to Sichuan in central China. On the day in question an expensive, red Porsche driven by a woman wearing a hat and sunglasses hit an undistinguished sedan driven by a man. The resulting encounter between the two people was captured in a video that was widely shared.

The woman and the man got out of their cars and the woman walked up to the man and slapped him across the face. People watching the events unfold were surprised by this tactic but they were even more surprised when the man slapped the woman across the face in return, causing her hat and sunglasses to fly off. She slumped back onto her car. The woman went on to declare, in a voice audible to people in the gathering crowd, “It was my fault, but you can’t arrest me!” In the end the police arrived.

Intrigued, some of the people who saw the video investigated the woman’s identity and found out that she was the wife of the most-senior officer at a local police command. In the face of the woman’s hubris the outcry from people using social media was so intense that her husband’s organisation became alarmed and embarrassed, and he was compelled to resign from his position. A surprising twist was added to the saga when the man whose car had been hit by the sports car publicly apologised for causing trouble.

The first picture, above, is from the video that was taken on the day of the slap. The second photo, below, was unearthed by a citizen intent on finding out more about the Chongqing hat lady.

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