John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Also, Hong Kong bans pregnant "birth tourists" from the mainland; New York City's public schools try to avoid using test words like "dinosaur" and "Christmas"; and Britain bans... something.
Welcome back to our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world (last week's edition here):
• When Bo Xilai took the position in 2007 of Communist Party chief of Chongqing, a municipality of 30 million people in southwest China, he made the streets resound with glorious music. Bo was not only top dog of the city but the Supreme Conductor, whose love for patriotic "red songs" approached the insane enthusiasm Glee actors show for Broadway ditties. All citizens were required to regularly gather in epically scaled productions where they'd sing classic party songs like “The Sun Is Most Red, Chairman Mao Is Most Dear." He even blocked off time on a local TV channel for a daily program called "The Everyday Red Song Singing," according to the Washington Times, which featured the X Factorlike talent of China belting out Communist anthems. With Bo Xilai's firing last week in the midst of a corruption scandal, Chongqing is losing much of its tunefulness. The TV show will be on weekends only and "campaign-style mass singing" is now banned. There's no doubt one song on Bo's mind right now, and it goes a little something like this....
• Also in Asia, Hong Kong is banning heavily pregnant women who fly in from mainland China to have their babies in public hospitals. Though expensive for these so called "birth tourists," delivering in Hong Kong is attractive to them because the kid instantly gets a passport and residency status. (And presumably also because dim sum is killer pregnancy food.) But the city-state is cracking down on these wong chong, or "locusts," because of a shortage of hospital beds in maternity wards; one estimate has it that 60 percent of babies born in Hong Kong in 2011 were born to women from the mainland. There also seems to be a cultural bias against visitors, as the Telegraph reports:
Uncouth mainland tourists who spit, fail to queue in orderly lines and eat messily on the subway have long been resented by locals, who in turn are seen as British-trained snobs by mainlanders.
When a mobile phone video clip of some Hong Kong commuters upbraiding a group of mainlanders for dropping noodles on the subway went "viral" on the internet recently, it prompted a Chinese university professor to lambast Hong Kongers as "bastards, thieves and dogs of British imperialists".
• The U.K. village of Fylde is banning prisoners from doing the "bin rounds." The measure is based on a bad experience the villagers had with similar bin-collecting prisoners in the 1990s, when people living at a local "bail hostel".... Uhm, what? How about this one: The U.K. towns of Frodsham and Helsby are banning ruffian Bradley Higham because he stole money from "poppy collection tins," which was especially egregious because it occurred during "Remembrance Time".... Nope, next. A serial offender named Alan Harris has been banned from every single pub in the U.K. after brawling with the owner of a "curry house." Harris had to be pinned to the floor after he went beserk because the "poppadoms were not free." There, that makes sense, right?
• Under Indonesia's new (hilariously ineffective) anti-pornography laws, women in most cities on the island nation will be forbidden to wear miniskirts. The fashion ordinance against the salacious, above-the-knee garments comes as the Indonesia government tries to divert attention away from several of its ministers getting jailed for corruption and the skyrocketing cost of fuel and other necessities. Parliamentary speaker Marzuki is doing a great job with the distraction campaign by issuing head-exploding quotes like this one: “[T]here have been a lot of rape cases and other immoral acts recently and this is because women aren't wearing appropriate clothes”. And: “You know what men are like. Provocative clothing will make them do things."
• While not banning them outright, the New York City Department of Education is asking the companies who make its tests to avoid using certain words and topics that could provoke uncomfortable feelings or just bore students. These include divorce, religion, Christmas, TV, terrorism, abuse and space aliens. The mention of birthdays is verboten because Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate them; Halloween is a no-go because it could indicate pagan beliefs; dinosaurs should be dismissed because they could offend creationist Christians. Naturally, the New York Post is all over this "exclusive" story, despite it happening about every year in NYC and being a regular schools practice. Notes CBS:
California avoids the use of the word "weed" on tests and Florida avoids the phrases that use "Hurricane" or "Wildfires," according to a statement by the New York City Department of Education.
Miniskirt photo by júbilo·haku.