Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why are drug dealers in Beijing black?

Last weekend we went out to San Li Tun, the most developed bar strip in Beijing, for some pizza and to check out the scene. It looks like a lot of fun, with good places to hang out and good food, though with prices that aren't far removed from America.

Just like the guide book said, we were approached by several African (although one had an English accent) fellows offering various wares (don't worry mom, we turned them down). This struck me as extremely odd - why aren't the drug dealers Chinese (in Dali the shitty weed is sold by old ladies)?

It's not as if poverty or lack of opportunity can explain it. For one thing, there's plenty of Chinese with no opportunities, and second, China has no immigration, so you can only get in if you have a job or you a tourist. Are these guys really on tourist visas?

There's rumours that these guys are the sons of the ambassadors or other high-level diplomats from various African nations, but I have to wonder why those people would be selling drugs as well. And does their status really give them effective immunity?

Rumour has it that the police don't really care what foreigners do as long as no Chinese are involved, and the demography of drug dealers does seem to lend credence to that. It's not as if the Chinese poice are not allowed to do racial profiling, and if they wanted to catch these guys they certainly could. Then again, perhaps these guys are safe because of their connections and the police lie in wait for their customers (who would do such a thing?).

At any rate, it just seems bizzare for there to be such a marked association between race and illicit career when all those concerned are foreigners. It's definitely there though - I saw four black people on San Li Tun that day. Three offered me drugs. The other was wearing a "Citigroup Wealth Management" hat.

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