Kristof Does Kafka: Times Columnist’s Very Own Trial in Beijing

Is Nicholas Kristof the new Michael Moore? This week, The New York Times columnist wrote about his attempt to obtain

Is Nicholas Kristof the new Michael Moore? This week, The New York Times columnist wrote about his attempt to obtain a permit to protest at the Olympics in Beijing and, at times, his stunt feels like a remake of Roger & Me, minus Mr. Moore’s trucker hat and blue collar crusading.

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Here’s how Mr. Kristoff sets the scene:

Following government instructions, I showed up at an office of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, found Window 12 and declared to the officer, ‘I’m here to apply to hold a protest.’
What I didn’t realize is that Public Security has arrested at least a half-dozen people who have shown up to apply for protest permits.

Writing his own Kafka-esque version of "Who’s On First," Mr. Kristof offers a sample of his conversation with the Chinese government representatives he encountered:

‘If I go through all this, then will my application at least be granted?’ I asked.
‘How can we tell?’ a policeman responded. ‘That would prejudge the process.’
‘Well, has any application ever been granted?’ I asked.
‘We can’t answer that, for that matter has no connection to this case.’

If that weren’t funny enough, there’s an accompanying video that includes a healthy dose of slapstick. Watch as Mr. Kristof pretends to fall asleep with a newspaper on his face and passes time doing jumping jacks. In the end, Mr. Kristof doesn’t get his protest permit, but he concludes that "China is changing: it is no democracy, but it’s also no longer a totalitarian state."

 

Kristof Does Kafka: Times Columnist’s Very Own Trial in Beijing