I guess this comparison was inevitable. America’s smartest pundit notes that China has been stopping foreigners and asking for their “papers” for years, and even suggests my state might consider bringing in Chinese police to offer sensitivity training to their Arizona counterparts, and tips on how to limit potential abuse of their new, scary powers.
Here’s the point of comparison between the impending Arizona situation and China: it’s no fun knowing — as citizen and foreigner alike know in China, and as Hispanic-looking people in Arizona soon will — that you can be asked to show proof of your legality at an official’s whim. But if it’s sobering to think that the closest analogy to a new U.S. legal situation is daily life in Communist China, we should also look on the bright side. With some notable and serious exceptions, I typically did not see Chinese police asking for papers on a whim. Usually something had to happen first. Maybe soon the Chinese State Security apparatus can travel to Arizona and give lectures to local police and sheriffs. They can explain how to avoid going crazy with a new power that so invites abuse. “Civil Liberties: Learning from China” can be the name of the course.
Fallows notes how the Chinese police rarely abuse their “papers, please” powers, but I’m not convinced we’ll see the same restraint here. In China, the police – at least in the big cities – know to tread cautiously when dealing with foreigners, as it can lead to messy and embarrassing situations, especially now that every foreigner in China writes a blog. In Arizona, Latinos, especially those with neither the wealth nor political clout to raise hell, are in a far more vulnerable position. Fair or not, foreigners enjoy special privileges in China. The same cannot be said of the Latinos in Arizona.
Link via ESWN.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.