June 04, 2010

Old Lady Goes Undercover as Garbage Collector to Investigate Illegal Cybercafés

I thought the elder deserves an award for accomplishing "what the Administration for Industry and Commerce has always failed (or is unwilling) to do."

Translation: 七旬老太扮破烂王暗查黑网吧 绘王八地图送工商

The map

Around 9AM on April 28, an old woman came to the office of Li Fuxiang (李福湘), director of Hebi Administration for Industry and Commerce.

The 72 year old elder's surname is Huang. She left home village 10 year ago to be with her only daughter in Hebi (鹤壁). Because both daughter and son-in-law regularly conduct business in Anyang (安阳), Mrs. Huang and her husband are in charge of caring for the 11 year old grandson Xiaohui (alias) while the couple is away. Xiaohui used to be an excellent student.

Things became strange around middle of March. Xiaohui started to return home late, and his pockets were filled with "rigid cards." When questioned, the normally well-behaved child appeared impatient and even swore. On March 18th, Mrs. Huang learned from the teachers that her grandson lately was often absent-minded in class.

What happened? The old lady felt very perplexed.

Old Mr. Huang has trouble walking due to his leg disability. Old Mrs. Huang decided to do some investigation alone.

On the afternoon of March 19th, Mrs. Huang surreptitiously followed Xiaohui who had just left school. He and two classmates went to an unmarked store instead of taking the usual route home. Mrs Huang was stopped at the door and could not go in. She then questioned her grandson's buddies, but the children were tight-lipped. After a week of persistent stalking, she was shocked to find out that Xiaohui had become addicted to internet gaming under classmates' influence. Mrs. Huang felt awful but knew that without concrete evidence the government would not interfere. She decided to gather direct evidence.

She learned from neighbors that legitimate cybercafés do not entertain children customers. Only illegal cybercafés let them in. The elder now had a special mission: guard the route that the children must take, and secretly follow them until she finds the "target." A few trips later she found the destinations but was not allowed to enter. Thus she had no specific proof that these were illegal.

On one such trip, an empty beverage bottle inspired Mrs. Huang. Starting from end of March, she began walking the streets with a plastic bag half-filled with empty bottles. Unlike other garbage collectors, she specifically asked for and lingered around places that had cybercafés. Under the pretext of garbage collection, she was able to go in any suspicious buildings and verify the nature of the equipment inside.

To mark these targets, the illiterate old lady uses her grandson's red crayon to draw little turtles on the walls outside, because little turtle (小王八, note it is also used as a cuss word in China) is an homonym to cybercafé (网吧). After several phone conversations with her daughter, Mrs. Huang ascertained that 6 of the 16 marked buildings were illicit.

The elder said that these illegal cybercafés are typically hidden. Some pretend to be something else, some are housed in private domiciles, and some lack any disguises.

Mrs. Huang's daughter told the reporter that because she is illiterate, the old lady had to draw the "fruits" of her labor, so that these sites can be easily sought out in the future. This map is the one and only artwork that she has ever completed.

In this map, the reporter saw that all illegal cybercafés are denoted by turtles, of which there are 6. The street names and landmark buildings are also represented by symbols and icons. To show Xinghe Avenue, she drew a 5 point star (wujiaoxing), a river (he), and a street. Mount Song Street is shown as a pine (songshu) bonsai, the profile of a mountain, and a house. The produce market is displayed as chilies and carrots.

Around 4:30 PM on April 28th, the reporter observed law enforcement personnel from the Qibing branch of Hebi Administration for Industry and Commerce in action. Under direct deployment orders from Li Fuxiang, 12 officers organized themselves into 3 teams and searched the internet cafés identified by Mrs. Huang's map.

3 hours later, the officers seized more than 80 computers and issued notices of deadline to receive punishment. The facilities were temporarily confiscated.

Li Guang, director of Qibin branch, expressed the administration's appreciation for Mrs. Huang's magnanimous action. They will deal with the café owners according to law, further purify the internet market, and with diligent effort provide a safer and healthier environment to the children.

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