The Quarantine Blues

The ever-flowing Tsingtao beer was supposed to loosen our tongues. We had been detained while covering peasant riots in the coastal province of Zhejiang, where farmers are terrified that patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, are being quarantined in their midst. Naturally, we didn't want to hand over our notebooks to the irate security officials who could arrest those we'd spoken to for illegally fraternizing with foreign journalists. After a couple hours of unsuccessful interrogation, the local cops changed their tactic: they would forcibly invite us to attend a banquet thrown on our behalf. The copious alcohol was apparently...

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