Passport

'The Blacklist' Has a Lot to Learn About China's One-Child Policy

Chinese Internet users have a message for the screenwriters of The Blacklist: You've got a lot to learn about our country.

The third episode of The Blacklist, a new NBC television drama in which the FBI and a former fugitive team up to fight terrorism, features a villain named Wujing, a Chinese spy who kills CIA operatives. The hunt for Wujing sparks a discussion among FBI agents about his background as the second child in a Chinese family. Because of China's one-child policy, one of the agents claims, Wujing was cast out from his home and became "invisible" to his family.

China's one-child policy is restrictive, but not as draconian as The Blacklist depicts. Some Chinese are not limited to one child: Exceptions for minorities, rural residents, and others mean that a significant portion of China's population is allowed to have at least two children. "If all second children had to be sent away, China would lose at least half of its population," remarked one user of Weibo, China's version of Twitter. When those who are subject to the one-child policy violate it, enforcement can be brutal, but it is also uneven. Many families find a way around the law, paying an administrative fee to get authorities off their backs.

Even in areas where the policy is strictly enforced, the vast majority of Chinese who have a second child are far more likely to pull strings, pay fees, and suffer punishments than cast out their children. Many parents choose to violate the policy if they have a daughter first, in hopes that their second child will be male. "Those who have additional children do it to get a boy!" One Weibo user wrote, "Why would they throw [Wujing] out?" Children born in violation of the one-child policy suffer more from administrative disadvantages than from shunning -- it is sometimes more difficult for them to obtain the household registration permits that are required for schooling or health care.

The Blacklist's mischaracterization of the one-child policy has drawn mockery in China, where pirated, subtitled editions of many U.S. television shows enjoy broad followings. Weibo user @syrinxoy mused, "All of a sudden my little brother and sister seem really mysterious." For some, Wujing's story inspired envy: "After I saw this," wrote one, "I really wished I had been a second child." Other users joked that if Wujing's back story were true, there was at least a silver lining. "Under the one-child policy," wrote @Mr_Faceless, "There are so many unregistered children, we'll never lack for spies." Another user chimed in: "China's rural areas are full of potential special agents."

The first episode of The Blacklist, which aired Sept. 23, has already received a combined 6.5 million views on Youku, QQ TV, and Sohu TV, popular YouTube-like sites in China. Weibo users complained that the show's third episode was pulled from video sites, perhaps due to its perceived anti-China bias. But some Weibo users found that the Wujing plotline showcased common ground between Chinese and Americans. User @IFYOUAREFREE wrote, "We often think that it's difficult to understand the United States. It looks like it's even harder to get China."

Screenshot of The Blacklist via Sina Weibo

Passport

Thai Police Are Shocked, Shocked After Rihanna Exposes Their Country's Sex Shows

Over the weekend, Thai police on the resort island of Phuket detained the owner of the sex show bar Rihanna has suddenly made famous. The arrest came after the pop star shared with her 32 million Twitter followers some of the more graphic details of a recent show she attended. "Either I was phuck wasted lastnight, or I saw a Thai woman pull a live bird,2 turtles,razors,shoot darts and ping pong, all out of her pu$$y," she wrote last month. The bar owner now faces charges of obscenity and operating an entertainment venue without a permit.

While Phuket police have used the episode to showcase their commitment to cracking down on the less savory aspects of the island's tourism industry, Thailand's "ping pong shows" have long been implicitly condoned by Thai officials. Local police reportedly permit the shows in exchange for cuts of the bars' profits.

Weerawit Kurasombat, president of the area's Patong Entertainment Business Association, acknowledged that corruption buttresses Phuket's sex entertainment industry. "It is possible for these ping-pong bar shows to continue because police are paid under the table to allow it to happen," Weerawit told the Phuket Gazette in September. "Officers refuse to take action against them because of the money they are paid."

Ping-pong shows are a staple attraction of Thailand's notorious sex entertainment industry. As part of the show, women and girls use their pelvic muscles to shoot a range of projectiles (not just ping-pong balls, as Rihanna can attest) from their vaginal cavity. These women are often trafficked or implicitly forced into sex entertainment due to economic circumstance, and the Pulitizer Center has documented the harsh working conditions within the industry. "The show where Tiew performs costs 200-300 Thai Baht (USD $6-9) per guest," the organization noted in 2009. "Tiew arrives at work at 6 P.M. and leaves at daybreak. She stamps a time card when she arrives and is penalized 5 Thai Baht (USD $0.14) for every minute she is late. Each month, Tiew receives two nights of vacation and, if she doesn't miss any additional nights, she earns 6000 Thai Baht (USD $181). The salary is more than Tiew has ever made in her life and, given her illiteracy, is probably more she can make anywhere else."

Despite official bans on these sex shows, the practice is largely permitted -- not only due to corruption but because, let's face it, there are lots of American (and German! and Australian!) tourists willing to pay to see it. And Thailand's graft problem isn't specific to the sex industry. On Sunday, for instance, Surin Pitsuwan, a former ASEAN secretary-general and Thai foreign minister, warned of the billions the country has lost in foreign investment as a result of corruption. Thailand ranked 88th out of 176 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index.

But while Thai authorities may not be phased by the concerns of the nation's business elite, the crushing exposure of viral social media is another story. "[T]his time it's bigger," Phuket district police chief Weera Kerdsirimongkon told the Associated Press, "because a celebrity like Rihanna posted the picture, and there were more than 200,000 'likes' from around the world." Weera was actually referring to a separate incident last month in which two touts in Phuket were arrested after Rihanna Instagrammed a selfie with an endangered primate. But it could equally apply to her astonished reaction to Thailand's sex shows (her initial post on what she witnessed was retweeted nearly 19,000 times).

The lesson, among others: Don't hang out with Rihanna.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images