“Shit, it’s the police. The CHINESE police. Are we going to get arrested?”
There are moments when travelling when you are more than just a little bit scared; especially when it comes to the law or more specifically, the law in a communist country and the police in Shanghai.
It started out as one of those random nights, as is normally the case when on the road. My French buddy and I met a guy from New Zealand in our hostel and we decided to make the most of our last night in Shanghai. We had no definite plan but our new Kiwi friend had previously met a bunch of his fellow men in Beijing and was due to catch up with them here.
As a result we were all invited to a gathering at the apartment of one of the said friends and so we stocked up on the spirit and mixer and wandered aimlessly around the residential area near the Jing’an Temple metro stop for 40 minutes before finally reaching the very random rendezvous.
It was a house gathering like any other; chatter, laughs, good times. Except no one out of our group of 10 really knew each other that well, which made it all the more interesting. It wasn’t at all a crazy, raucous party, just a crazy little hangout.
Until we all realised that two heavy-set policeman, complete with helmet attire and very serious faces, had entered the living room along with the apartment building’s security guard. Their fierce nature made it clear they were not at all happy about something.
We stopped dead in our tracks wondering what the hell was going on, looking at each other in the hope that at least one of us would know the answer. Are there drinking rules in China we didn’t know about? Are we going to be arrested in China for being too drunk? Oh.dear.god.
Why they were wearing police helmets like they were ready for a raid I’ll never know, but I’ve never seen police so intent on telling people to be quiet with such force. You could say we sobered up almost instantly. China is not the place where you want to be in trouble.
With that, alongside our endless apologies, we promised to leave the apartment and take the party elsewhere. From their pointing gestures it appeared the people downstairs had made a complaint about the noise and rather than a. knock and talk to us or b. call the security guard to come and sort the situation, they informed those a lot higher up instead.
What proceeded was around five minutes of “shhhhhhh” sounds from them and us in return. When a language barrier is heavily lacking, you naturally resort to a back to basics form of communication.
Sure the police would be called back home too, except it would usually be the last resort or if the situation was extreme. But here in China it appears that the intention to inform on others seems to be easy and normal. Which is fair enough – we are all different and have to respect the different cultures we find ourselves in. It certainly taught us Westerners a lesson that’s for sure.
But all’s well that ends well and we made sure we said our apologies to the security guard on the way out who looked just as scared as us about the situation. I’m sure he wasn’t expecting to have to deal with two crazy police officers either. Maybe he was in just as much trouble too.
We gave him hugs and hand-shakes and he tried to kiss us, touch our bums and give us cigarettes… and that was just the start of our crazy night on the town, when we got there.