Monday, March 29, 2010
Yup, Still in China
There I was at the airport, standing on one side of the security checkpoint, watching as my sister and her daughter checked in on the other side. I was focused on her, but semi-aware of my surroundings nonetheless. As I waited, I watched two uniformed police officers make their way past the check point. With them was a regular guy, and I vaguely wondered if he was a plainclothes officer: he had the build and the haircut, and while he didn’t have a badge, they let him pass right through the check point.
I continued watching my sister, but still I noticed that a very few people were making their way out of the security checkpoint with small luggage trolleys. It seemed odd, because the arrivals section was on a different floor of the airport. But whatever.
Then I saw a guy pushing a small trolley toward the security checkpoint, on his way out, with one small pink bag. “Pink?” I wondered, but before I could think much more than that, the two police officers and plainclothes man came sprinting back to the security checkpoint and stopped him.
He turned to face them. They said something, he responded, and one of the policemen whacked him in the head with an open palm. He didn’t flinch, didn’t wince – just shifted position and continued talking to them as if it was the most ordinary thing to be whacked in the head by a policeman. A moment later, another man and a woman tried to pass by, but they were stopped, too. They looked just like ordinary passengers, dressed in regular street clothes, the woman in a comfy sweatshirt and little black keds. The woman said something to the police officer. She was only about ten feet away, but I couldn’t hear a thing. She didn’t look upset, just a little confused. But then the police officer started knocking her around a bit, too, sticking his finger in her chest and pushing her backwards. She didn’t react, either.
The two police officers led the first man away. He went quietly: to anyone who hadn’t witnessed the exchange, you would’ve thought they were just showing him the exit or something. When a third police officer tried to lead the woman away, she raised her voice, briefly, and tried to brush his arm away. But he got right up in her face and she gave up, resigned, I suppose, to whatever her fate was going to be. She and her travelling companion walked away with the third police officer, again toward the exit.
The whole incident took three minutes, tops. I stood there, troubled, wondering what I had just witnessed.
On the other side of the gate, just beyond where this had all transpired, my sister finished up at the check-in counter and waved her goodbyes. I waved back. People all around me carried on with the business of coming and going.
I wonder what happened to those people.