(This post is going to be heavy, but don’t let it scare you. As you can see above, even Chinese officials are stoked to hang out with visitors.)
In the spirit of full disclosure, the descriptions of the events and situations below are super watered down versions. Politics, economics, history, and culture play roles in current events that I still can’t understand completely.
Falun Gong –
This is by far the most serious subject to avoid. Falun Gong was started in the 90s as a yoga/meditation business, but quickly grew into a spiritual organization. Falun Gong had the support of the government when they were just teaching physical health and happiness. However, when a spiritual aspect was added and the group gained popularity, the government withdrew it’s approval. Despite the withdrawal of government sanction, the group’s membership grew into tens of thousands. Technically Communism is the only religion approved for practice in China, so this new “cult” posed a huge threat by teaching emotional freedom and other illogical ideology. It was at this point Chinese officials began persecuting the group members in order to irradiate their ways of thinking. It’s not spoken of, but there are labor and re-indoctrination camps dedicated to the detention and reform of Falun Gong members. I’m not going to get into what goes on in these camps. Talking and asking questions about any religion, especially Falun Gong, should be strictly avoided. Don’t even google it or email about it while you’re on Chinese soil.
Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Tibet –
The situation for all three of these territories is vaguely similar. During the Qing Dynasty China owned a huge chunk of Asia. As seen in the maps below. Through war and political dissension, they lost some ground, that they are still trying to reclaim. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, and many islands in the South China sea were once part of China. They’re still Chinese territory as far as the current government is concerned.
Qing Dynasty Map –
Current Map of China –
Hong Kong was the property of Britain for about 150 years. During that time Hong Kong was transformed from a fishing island to one of the biggest international hubs in Asia. English and Cantonese were taught in school while Mandarin became the official language of Mainland China. Democracy was taught and implemented. So Hong Kong has it’s own legal system, which allows freedom of speech and assembly. In 1997, Hong Kong was turned back over to Mainland Chinese control. As you might imagine, there has been a significant amount of conflict since that time. In the past few years there have been peace protests and riots conducted mostly by college students. Per the turnover agreement, China can’t do much to stop the riots, but that still doesn’t mean they have to listen to the will of the people. It’s a good topic to avoid.
Internet Censoring –
I’m sure that most Chinese nationals are aware that their internet, and all media really, is censored, but you shouldn’t bring it up. This is another good reason to stay off your VPN in public.