Reporter versus security guard
As a reporter, my relationship with the Baoan, the Chinese security guards, is complicated. I used to have a secret crush of admiration for their tireless service to the public, so I started to “flirt” with them when I was a student in Shanghai. Every morning, I exchanged a few words with the Baoan at my university campus to practice my Chinese.
Baoan are ubiquitous in China. There is one in every bus, at the entrance of parks, public squares and streets, neighborhoods, and companies. The Baoan’s duty is to protect citizens’ safety, but they do much more than that. They chat with the auntie whose husband passed away. They point you in the right direction and help you find a parking lot. They even settle public quarrels. Most of them are standing, all day, every day. I do respect them. The Baoan used to respect me, too, until one day, I became a reporter.
On my first day as an intern at the Global Times Metropolitan Shanghai, the managing editor sent me straight into the streets, equipped with a camera, a microphone, and a group of colleagues. The office was located near Jing’an Temple, a beautiful spot, with a small park on the opposite side of the street. This is where we wanted to conduct our interviews. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world to finally realize my dream! But only a few minutes passed until uncle Baoan had spotted us.
“You can’t film here,” he said. “It’s our guideline.”
At this moment, my secret crush with the Baoan came to an abrupt end and a new relationship started, where they were the predator, and I was the prey. It was only the first round of reporter versus Baoan. Soon, I was to learn ways to outsmart them, but more often than not, they would catch me and win the battle. My colleague and I once accidently stepped onto the campus of the largest Chinese search-engine in Beijing’s tech park Zhongguancun. When we saw the huge hunk of a Baoan running towards us, we ran too while I was hiding the memory card with the footage in my bra. They caught us eventually and asked me to hand over the memory card or they would call the police. If our boss hadn’t sent us a stamped letter of approval last minute, I would have probably seen a Chinese jail from the inside.
Man, I would probably die to be able take a look at a textbook from Baoan school. The golden rule, on page one, written in red letters, must be “Baoan’s natural enemy are reporters. When you see a reporter, chase them down, and escort them out. Make sure that your area of responsibility is always safe, clean, and reporterfree.”
My colleagues would go undercover, using their mobile phones to film. We would learn to smile sweetly and beg the Baoan to let us finish one interview. We learned the hiding spots and Baoan-free zones. Metro Shanghai even managed to form a symbiotic relationship with the security guard at Jing’an park, who eventually let them do their job. What a sweet exception!
Until we become friends again, dear Baoan, let’s see who wins next time at “reporter versus Baoan,” round 4,305.