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Spies, Honeytraps, and Dissident Hunters

The Chinese Communist Party lives, breathes, and hallucinates espionage.

· 11 min read
Spies, Honeytraps, and Dissident Hunters
Christine Fang and Christine Lee.

The Chinese Communist Party has received some unexpected and unwanted attention in recent weeks, following an incident that is being dubbed “Pianogate.” The scene was London’s St Pancras train station. A group of flag-toting Chinese mainlanders approached a public pianist, instructing him not to broadcast any footage showing their faces or voices. They claimed to be filming for Chinese television nearby; they needed to protect their “image rights.” Communist Party rich kids are accustomed to getting their own way, and while these ones were civil at first, they were clearly in no mood for objections: “We will put a legal action into it [sic]. I’m sorry, this is the end of the conversation.” 

Observing their flags, the pianist (Brendan Kavanagh) grumbled that “You’re not in Communist China now, you know.” His interlocutors smugly seized their opportunity: “This is racist.” (The Party is a quick study when it comes to weaponising progressive rhetoric.) Kavanagh continued in his futile attempts to explain that they were in Britain, not in China, and as he reached out to touch one woman’s Chinese flag to illustrate the difference, her male companion roared: “Stop touching her!” He would go on to repeat the words “Don’t touch her” a further 25 times, adding, as if by way of explanation, “You are not the same age!”

The police were called, video footage went viral, and Kavanagh made talk show appearances. Memes and even remixes abounded. Perhaps surprisingly, my contacts in China tell me that the requisite kneejerk hyper-nationalist rage has been muted this time round. Instead, the shouter is widely mocked on the Chinese web. It may be that citizens watching the footage experienced only weary familiarity. The arrogance and entitlement of spoiled Party brats is a daily hazard in China.

Behind all the silliness, however, looms the spectre of CCP espionage. One of the Chinese women involved in the incident took to Twitter to provide context. “We were filming for Chinese TV, nothing to do with CCP,” she wrote. “Just a Chinese New Year Video to celebrate a Chinese new year from important figures in the Chinese community in the UK. Christine Lee was in the back with my boyfriend, but she was just accompanying.” 

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