What follows is an email I got from a friend of mine who is currently in Beijing. He is very well travelled in China and South East Asia and has been to China for work (in the film industry) and fun many times.
"I'm alive and well here in Beijing. Just got back from watching the US vs. China basketball at a small micro brewery pub. Nice hard rain tonight. Cooled things down for a bit. Been incredibly hot and muggy. The "fog" is pretty bad, even with all the construction shut down and more than half the cars off the road. The traffic is so light at times, it feels like a different city.
The first week has been interesting. The stabbing news is crazy. Been to that place many times. Most of the Beijing expats and foreign residents are down on the Olympics because of all the visa issues and new social restrictions. Basically, the government started enforcing mostly existing visa rules, so many of these people had to go through a lot of crap just to stay here, while many of their friends had to go home. They're also not fond of the "whitewashing" of Beijing. Clearing out the homeless, the drug dealers, the potential agitators, and the prostitutes strikes them as hypocritical. Minorities, especially Muslims, have been feeling the pinch also. They've been harassed by police and some have been told to leave, which is actually status quo here in China during big international events.
I still feel safe in Beijing. Much safer than LA as far as violent crime goes. I've been reuniting with some old friends from the movie on worked on here 7 years ago. Its been nice. I watched the opening ceremony at a couple outdoor live viewing areas, with a big TV and a huge crowd of mostly Chinese, but many westerners as well. The town just kinda stopped and watched. Taxi drivers pulled over to have a smoke and enjoy the ceremony. People came out with their little red flags and flag stickers on their cheeks. I saw more than one person tears in their eyes. Big cheers came up as the US team entered the stadium, but I'm pretty sure I heard some boos when a shot of president Bush came on the screen.
The video project has been slow going, as I really need a full time editor. The time it takes to edit could be spent shooting other things, attending Olympic events, and working my magic with the ladies. I posted a vid that I really hated, and I have a few more in the edit stage. I've also ran into some problems, which I expected. Trying to get interviews on the street can be difficult, because of the government "minders," quietly walking around the city, are always watching. We were interviewing a woman about exercises equipment at an outdoor "gym," and a woman dressed in an Olympic volunteer shirt casually walked by and gave our subject a glance, like "watch what you say!" Our subject told us these people were everywhere. Creepy. Anything even slightly controversial can be dangerous. I had both a bar owner and a Muslim musician turn down a profile because, they said, there would be nothing to say that couldn't come back to bite them. While I have not been to any events yet, I plan to attend some. The rumor is that you can get tickets to some of the less popular events pretty easily."