The Sichuan earthquake last year highlighted both the best and the worst of China. The public outpouring of support, the relatively transparent way in which the government exposed the severity of the damage and allowed press access … well, let’s revise that to say "originally" allowed press access. At the same time, not all the support that poured into Sichuan was productive. Some of it was downright ghoulish. Some of the crowds of "volunteers" pouring into demolished towns seemed more interested in spectating than helping; they had not bothered to bring water and became burdens on the communities they settled on. Nattily-spandexed mountain bikers cruised around with enormous cameras. The government put a stop to that, which was laudable, even if it was done more to restrict press access than to slow "disaster tourism". But now that everything has been made presentable again, tourists are once again allowed to visit the disaster zones, which have become particularly popular during national holidays. Let’s hope they are going to mourn, not celebrate.
In other ghoulish news, brick kiln slavery is back, apparently. After a swathe of arrests in 2007, police have exposed a factory in Anhui that was using 32 mentally handicapped persons to work in a brick kiln factory for free. Technically, less than free – they were beaten if they refused. Apparently the workers were "purchased" from a taxi driver in Shandong, who had picked the people off of the street.