Posted by: Third Tone Devil | 5 August 2009

My wife the traitor

For the first time, I witnessed how the charge of hanjian (traitor) emerges in real life. The victim was my wife, who is Chinese. We were boarding a ship in China when a Chinese man tried to elbow his way ahead in the queue. I didn’t let him, and the argument became heated. Soon afterwards another man proceeded to do the same, and my wife said, in Chinese, “This is China for you.” At this point the crowd, which until than had been neutral, turned against us (mostly her): a middle-age couple began shouting abuse at her, including calling her a hanjian. Although no one would have been likely to defend queue-jumpers (Chinese obviously dislike that kind of behaviour too), if in this situation the debate escalates further and there are no guards present, the crowd could easily have been mobilised against us. The reasons for the conflict were forgotten: what mattered was only that someone criticized China, admittedly rather summarily, in front of a foreigner.


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