Beijing Backpacking, Day 14: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

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DESPITE THE PERCEPTIONS foreigners have of the Great Firewall of China, things get around pretty quickly. Especially if you’re in the middle of the part of Beijing known for its global brands and expatriate bars. There is an endless array of gimmicks and pop culture references in the Sanlitun area that make their way to social media – the gaudy ‘beauty box’ being one – that regardless of how manufactured it may be, there always seems to be something going on.

So why are these crowds clustering to take snaps of just another clothing store on just another night? They were doing this two days ago too, as I was walking past on my way home. Overnight, nothing out of the ordinary becomes the subject of the must-have selfie.

It turns out that this particular store is the centre of a scandal involving a young couple and one of the fitting rooms – no prizes for guessing exactly what. But it went viral quickly, to the point where it provoked a reaction from the Party and local authorities. But if a scandal happened somewhere else in the world, I wouldn’t exactly imagine hoards of locals rushing to get their picture taken in front of the … scene of the crime, so to speak. Especially selfies. And especially not with their kids, which we saw several examples of. Just goes to show the differences between the public and the private in China as opposed to the rest of the world.

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