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N. China

Captured on Elevation 203 - North China  July 1998. wpe43.jpg (234973 bytes)

In this world, there are a few places which are generally just plain evil .

There is a place on Okinawa where thousands of Okinawans and Japanese jumped off thousand foot bluffs into the ocean to their death to avoid capture by the Invading Americans in World war II. Nobody mentioned that the Japanese probably pushed the Okinawans off before they jumped!

On the Isla de Mozambique in East Africa, is a fort where thousands of Slaves were rounded up, "pacified" and shipped off to death or worse in the New World by the Portuguese in the 16oos. You can sense the suffering and the locals sense the spirits and will not go there by night.

While on a recent visit to North China, I also experienced one of the genuine evil places in the world, and paid the price.

Elevation 203 - East Collides with the West!  wpe46.jpg (124118 bytes)

Almost a century ago, 10,000 Russian soldiers suffered and died on a mountaintop called Elevation 203 on a Peninsula in North China during one of the Russian Japanese wars.. They defended a peak overlooking Dalian harbor as they pounded the invading Japanese fleet 203 meters below. 5,000 invading Japanese soldiers died in the siege. They entrenched themselves in pits called tiger trench, "lion trench" and other trenches. They humiliated the Russian Empire, went on to control the peninsula and Manchuria. The Russians are buried in a cemetery nearby, where they are described as defenders of China against the invading imperialists/

On my Sunday off, I discovered Elevation 203. Just one half hour south of the Port city of Dalian, the former German and Russian and Japanese territory. I saw the Russian cemetery, and Friendship towers so familiar to former Russian friendly countries. I hired a guide, who didn’t speak English, but spoke to me in Russian. Evidently, a lot of Russian relatives of the war heroes return to the region. They used to be a lot more welcome a few years ago, I am told. Now, few Russians visit. Now, they are just another fallen empire.

On the top of elevation 203, is a monument to the fallen war heroes. A giant shell casing about 12 foot tall on top of a statue. Russian Cyrillic characters are etched into the shell. I was told that visiting survivors come to the hill each year to etch their names in the shell.

I did not see any non Chinese visitors in the area. This should have tipped me off!

Elevation 203 is now a macabre tourist attraction. The Chinese have assembled a number of junked war implements, none looking the era. A small museum sells scraps of metal and shell casings from the battle. They sell bizarre paraphernalia including elevation 203 T-shirts with anti Japanese propaganda inscriptions in Russian and Chinese. It seems that even though every one hates the Russians, they hate the Japanese more. At least, the Russians held off the Japanese for a few decades for the region. I must admit I purchased one of those tacky T-shirts, with a silhouette of the giant shell casing on top of the hill with Elevation 203 inscribed in Chinese, Russian and English. I can’t imagine ever wearing it!

There really isn’t a lot to do at elevation 203. Inspect the shrapnel, play on the swiveling guns, throw rocks if you like or follow one of the many trails which cross cross the hilltop. One such road led to the ocean, and the beautiful beach at Elevation 0.

Somewhere between Elevation 203 and 100, there must have been a sign in Chinese warning me to stay the hell out of the area. I sure didn’t see it!

I was not aware that my stroll down the tiger trench was actually an encroachment on a "top secret Chinese Naval Base.

While perched on a rock, I was dozing off in the cool ocean air. An idiot approached me from behind and started yelling at me in Chinese. He was an ugly pockmarked, sweaty creature in a white tee shirt, khaki pants and black shoes., He flashed a plastic wallet in my face which dais on the cover: "People’s Republic of China - External Affairs Police. "Mr. Congeniality" was the last person that this country of one billion people should have chosen to deal with external people or aliens like me. After all, he spoke only Chinese, was rude and obnoxious, and was down right mean.

I did not believe the phony looking badge. And, told sweaty cop to beat it. He just yelled louder. I asked him to show me his badge, and the more I looked the more aggravated he became. The louder he yelled.

I thought I could just walk a bit down the road and he would relent. Just like in Africa, wait the idiot out. But, he was really pissed!

He just kept following.

He pointed to a beat up white van with bars on the windows. I walked the other director, and he got on the two way radio.

Soon a truck full of green uniform clad soldiers with machine guns and clubs headed down the road with sirens blaring. I became very cooperative all of a sudden, and headed into the mobile sauna paddy wagon.

We were under arrest for encroaching on a Chinese military base. We were taken to a police station in the middle of town.

The inside of the van had no door handles and the windows were blackened. I asked my friend to use his cell phone to call anyone and tell him, or her where we were. H called the e hotel and let them know. The not so helpful concierge said were on our own and that we needed to call the American embassy in Shenyang which was about 1,000 km away, on Monday. My friend called several other people. If we were to disappear, we wanted someone to have a clue.

The police station in the rural village, was a pleasant place. I was told to sit down in the ground floor in a room where the officers slept. My Chinese hosts were taken away to another part of the building. I was stored with my German travel companion.

From this moment, I was very friendly, and all smiles. Unfortunately, our Chinese hosts, did not fare as well. We were sent to interrogation room one. Our Chinese hosts, were taken upstairs, by the sweaty man and another more composed man without sweat in a white short and Chairman Mao button. He also had a big pistol sidearm, and wasn’t very nice either.

I hung out in interrogation room one with my business associate, a German national. After the first hour, I became more annoyed at the German than the guard. I got tired of hearing about the outrage, his importance, his contacts back home in the media. How everyone would pay. Finally, I told the German to shut up or else I would punch him out. And he reluctantly quit and shut up. The Chinese guards were impressed, and turned on the radio for us and played some "cat fight" music.

Upstairs, things were also going well. Evidently, our Chinese friends were in a lot of trouble. They should have known better than to lead foreigners into the no mans land.. Although there were no signs, although we were led by a local guide—the Chinese told our friends that they should have known better. After all, this was a place where thousands of Japanese had invaded almost a century ago.

Funny thing: the Chinese integrators were most interested if the "Alien Caucasians" had entered the water,. For some reason, if we would have swam, it would have been much worse. I think they believe that all westerners are infested with HIV. A Caucasian intrusion into these waters would have exposed their nations defenders to western disease!

Our Chinese friends were fined 1000 RMB between then, and were told that the police would call them back if they had any questions. This was a bad deal, and our fiends were more frightened about the prospect of being called back!

The sweaty cop., sent us into the big city of Dalian in a taxi, to go to the Police station where they dealt with Aliens. He said if we did not arrive there in one hour, that we would be arrested and detained infinitely back at his station. We said so long, and headed off and smiled and waved goodbye!

The taxi driver told us that he made a lot of money on these daily runs. Mostly with Russians. The sweaty man took the cab number and told the poor guy that he would be arrested or worse if he did not deliver us to the alien police station immediately.

The alien police station was in the middle of the city of Dalian. Everyone seemed to know where it was. On the way, our Chinese hosts made several called to friends to see what was up. They all said that they know important people. But, the reality of it was: we were in deep. If you are arrested in China, it is very difficult to be un arrested—especially when it is by the Army or Navy or whoever we were arrested by.

Inside were the more sophisticated cops of Dalian. It was Sunday, and they were in casual clothing and soccer garb. They were pissed that they had been called in on their day off on a soccer day by the army to take care of us.

The German went into his mantra of outrage, and once again I threatened him to shut up. The Alien police brought out the book, which said that in China you were not allowed to intrude on their military bases. Further more it die not matter if you know about the laws or speak Chinese or not. I once again shut up the German, and told the Officers that we understood – sir. He said that I certainly understood – perhaps more than my German friend. I told the cops that this was not my friend.

We were told that there would be a fine of about 500 RMB, or 50 US Dollars. Also, they could deport us immediately and prohibit us from ever entering China again.

He would talk to his boss next door and see what he wanted. He would put in a good word for me. The officer said that he would think about the outraged German.

It had been ten minutes, or eight hours since the initial arrest—we were free.

The main in charge, said that almost one hundred years ago, the area was attached by the Japanese, and that they were most sensitive to outsiders in the area.

He said so long. I said I hoped that we never met again!

Back at elevation 203, another group of Russian tourists scaled the hill.

The sweaty cop was cursing the beach in search of prey.

Another taxi driver headed to the alien police station.

 What did I learn from the experience:

The great drug-crazed (yet brilliant) American philosopher Hunter S. Thompson once said the secret to Survival in Las Vegas was: "Don’t piss off the locals…

To this wise advice, I add a few more:

  • Never visit anywhere a placed with a number as a name! i.e.. Area 51, Stalag 13 Section 8, etc.
  • Never follow German tourists (same goes for men with Turbans).
  • When in China, never go in the water.

I guess China is a tame place if you stay in the 5-star hotel.

It is a wonderful country of hospitable people and friendly faces.

Just breech their laws, and you certainly see another side!




Copyright 2002

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