May 10, 2012|
Apart from the US Embassy sheltering blind dissident lawyer Chen Guangcheng in Beijing, the torch of the Statue of Liberty lights up other dark corners across the territory of China.
With Uncle Sam’s compliments, 24-hour McDonald’s restaurants in Mong Kok and TST have been offering free lodging to mainland Chinese tourists. Chinese shoppers, mostly middle-aged women, were found sprawling on their long benches, with their bags piled up as pillows, snoring comfortably in the air-conditioned restaurants at 4am after the long Labor Day vacation. Waiters and managers were unperturbed by the scene of spread-out limbs and gaping mouths glittering with spittle. Free use of toilets was also included in the overnight package. Even with these extra labor costs, a full meal at McDonald’s still costs an average of HK$23, compared with more than double at any Chinese-owned chain restaurants like Cafe de Coral or Fairwood. I am impressed.
Given that a local Hong Kong hotel charges an average of HK$1,500 per night and is often fully booked, I too would have taken McDonald’s unwritten outlay of generosity if I were one of those shopping bag-packers from China. Just grab a cup of coffee from the counter for less than HK$10, take a seat in the corner and lie down, saving a few nights’ hotel budget for another Prada handbag. Had they been employed by any Chinese property owner, shopkeepers would have woken you up and told you to get lost, and greeted the uninvited lodgers with a round of baton-strikes from security.But McDonald’s staff could very well have sought advice from fast food giant’s headquarters in Illinois and been told to treat any homeless Chinese with utmost generosity since Chen’s misery was broadcast across the US on CNN.
Free asylum seems to be on offer for any politically or commercially disadvantaged Chinese person from the US government as well as McDonald’s, whether you are a corrupt police chief with a pile of for-your-eyes-only documents seeking to disclose an intriguing case of the murder of a British adulterer by the wife of someone very important, a blind dissident persecuted by the police, a Ferrari-driving Chinese princeling escaped from Harvard or a budget traveler who wants to make the most out of a shopping trip to Hong Kong.
This is a vital piece of information for any Chinese person: whether you are wielding a gun or chased by some other Chinese person with a gun, wearing spectacles or sunglasses, with money or no money, there is always an open door nearby at an American institution in case of an emergency—even if you don’t have an American passport. Would sleepers at McDonald’s please be reminded not to abuse Americans’ hospitality by remembering to flush the toilet after use? The staff would then be more than happy to lead the way to the LV shop on Canton Road the next morning, just like Gary Locke, the US ambassador, took Chen’s hand and escorted him to the hospital.
Chip Tsao is a best-selling author, columnist and a former producer for the BBC. His columns have also appeared in Apple Daily, Next Magazine and CUP Magazine, among others.