Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Connections

The sage Ed Halter—with whom I crossed paths no less than three times this week!—made this connection yesterday, between two Chinese stories. Here's one:

One of China's newest factories operates here in the basement of an old warehouse. Posters of World of Warcraft and Magic Land hang above a corps of young people glued to their computer screens, pounding away at their keyboards in the latest hustle for money.

Workers have strict quotas and are supervised by bosses who equip them with computers, software and Internet connections to thrash online trolls, gnomes and ogres.

The people working at this clandestine locale are "gold farmers." Every day, in 12-hour shifts, they "play" computer games by killing onscreen monsters and winning battles, harvesting artificial gold coins and other virtual goods as rewards that, as it turns out, can be transformed into real cash.

That is because, from Seoul to San Francisco, affluent online gamers who lack the time and patience to work their way up to the higher levels of gamedom are willing to pay the young Chinese here to play the early rounds for them.

"For 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, my colleagues and I are killing monsters," said a 23-year-old gamer who works here in this makeshift factory and goes by the online code name Wandering. "I make about $250 a month, which is pretty good compared with the other jobs I've had. And I can play games all day."

and here's the other :

Residents of a fishing village near Hong Kong said Friday that as many as 20 people were killed by the paramilitary police this week, in an unusually violent clash that marked an escalation in the widespread social protests roiling the Chinese countryside. Villagers said as many as 50 other residents remained unaccounted for since the shootings on Tuesday.

It was the largest known use of force by security personnel against citizens since the killings around Tiananmen Square in 1989. That death toll is still unknown, but is estimated to have been in the hundreds.

The violence near Hong Kong began after dark on Tuesday evening in the town of Dongzhou, when the police opened fire on crowds to put down a demonstration over plans for a power plant. Terrified residents said their hamlet has been occupied since then by thousands of security officers, who have blocked off all access roads and were arresting residents who have tried to leave the area in the wake of the heavily armed assault.


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