A ripple across the pond

We had an interesting snag in our production process. To think that events that occur on the other side of the world can impact what you do in China....

I've been working with the Discovery Channel team now for about three weeks, and today, Saturday, our last day in Dengfeng, the culmination of all our work is finally coming to fruition. I've made all the arrangements with my contacts so that their video shoot in two weeks is all arranged. Locations, characters, concepts, it's all in place. I can return to Thailand, and try to spend the next few weeks explaining to my suspicious Thai girlfriend what I've been doing in China.

The journalism visas for these guys was in process back in New York. My travel agent friend there was assisting them with this aspect of the whole production process. The invitation letter I got from Decheng was effective. All seemed to be moving ahead smoothly, without any sort of snags or issues. That is, until last night.

Decheng was a little agitated. He had received a phone call from a local Dengfeng government official, who, in turn had received a phone call from a Foreign Minister in Beijing, about these visas, and Decheng's invitation. Decheng had explained to this government official that I was a long term student of his, who had invited the Discovery Channel here to China to film a production that explored Chinese culture. Decheng was remarkably quick to put together a reasonable explanation for all of this, but I questioned his judgement when it came to invoking my name. I knew from the whole Yongxin thing in years past that the local government was not exactly ready to throw a parade for me, unless it was to a local Chinese prison. But it had turned out that the snag wasn't me.

It was Shi Guolin. In New York.

As the story evolved, I discovered that the government officials in Beijing were concerned that, because the production company originated in New York, and because the visas were being issued to journalists in New York, who, so happened to be desirous of doing a documentary in Shaolin, the documentary was going to be some sort of investigative venture that was looking into some aspect of Guolin's history. The entire embarassing event involving Hengshan's suicide and Guolin's response to it apparently was well known in Beijing. With the upcoming Olympics, and China's desire to improve its image in the world, the event apparently has raised some eyes in the Beijing government, and has apparently, from what I could observe, become a difficult issue to deal with.

What then occurred, was even more surprising. According to Decheng, after speaking with these local government officials, it appears that Guolin has yet another allegedly embarassing issue to deal with; something that has to do with a lot of money, a lot of money to the tune of approximately $350,000. It seems that some women in his area of New York are claiming that Guolin either borrowed or inappropriately managed a great deal of money that was meant for the "USA Shaolin Temple", a misnomer in my opinion. Some of these women are supposedly elderly, some of Chinese descent, and most seem to be associated with Guolin's "temple" in some fashion. From what I could make of the conversation, as it was passed onward, monies that were donated to the temple were misappropriated in some fashion. That may be a nice way of saying "stolen", which was another word which was mentioned during dinner. The entire Guolin conundrum of recent appears to be a sore spot with the Beijing government, to the point where it almost kabashed the Discovery Channel's chances of obtaining journalist visas.

As was also mentioned, this is not "new" news; apparently, it has been in some of the US Chinese newspapers.