I have been wanting to write about the class structure here. Not about the peasants and migrant workers but about the privileged elite who flaunt their flouting of the laws: the police (off-duty), the military, government officials, and party officials. I have written about the traffic here and the lack of enforcement on even basic laws, but the people with the special white plates do whatever they choose with impunity. Drive the wrong way, drive on the sidewalk, park the wrong way, park on the sidewalk, run red lights…it doesn’t matter because they will not receive any penalties. There has been an obvious police presence and I have seen parking tickets being given by actual police officers, not humble parking officers, but the special people are still excluded from this.
Today Richard and I were walking to a nearby restaurant for lunch. We saw one person receiving a ticket. Just up the street from this car sat another one, facing the wrong way on this one way street, and without any license plates. This is another thing you see a lot of: unregistered vehicles and, no doubt, drivers without licenses. The officer rode his motorcycle up to the car. The driver rolled down his window and did the FBI badge flip. I saw a picture ID and the window rolled back up.
A car here is a sign of prestige and power, and those white plates, or the ability to drive around without one at all, are another badge of honour. It reminds me of the scene in A Tale of Two Cities when the French nobleman runs over a peasant child and gets angry. These guys could do with a history lesson.