Fall in Shanghai

It's finally fall in Shanghai. Or rather, it's finally winter, as the city seems to have skipped from 90 degree days to 50 degree nights without a pause. My opinion of Shanghai improves with every degreee the temperature drops. The autumn street scenes are charming, with vendors selling roast yams and chestnuts, and overbundled southerners crouched into heavy woolen scarves when it's only 65 outside. On my ride to work in the morning, I stopped at the light to watch a dozen immaculately coiffed real estate agents in matching burgundy suits and white stockings stand in formation in front of their office, singing a morning song in unison, while their employer kept time. We toasted the new Beaujolais, made swanky Thanksgiving reservations, and found Christmas trees for sale at IKEA.

Well, that's the good news. Of course, where there's good news, there's bad.

"BEIJING (AP) _ Elaine Loke is shutting down her dog boutique and will spirit her golden retrievers Hippy and Bally out of Beijing to escape the city's sweeping anti-rabies campaign. Dog owners like Loke have been scrambling to hide their pets in the face of a new crackdown which allows only one dog per household and bans breeds taller than 35 centimeters (14 inches). Fears have been fueled by graphic Internet pictures and witnesses who say police are beating to death strays and dogs that run afoul of regulations.
"The clampdown, announced Nov. 6, gave owners until Thursday to comply or the dogs would be seized and the owners fined. One owner Zhu Qiao has moved three times since 2001 to find areas whereher black-and-white dog, Gou Gou, could be raised safely and within the law. 'He's part of my life, he's my friend and family," said Zhu, 30, a television producer. 'If you want to impose a law, you have to get the opinion of dog owners and experts. You can't just take them away. I can't move again. There's no option but to hide him and if he gets taken, I'll go with him.'
Another owner had his Labrador retriever taken away Wednesday because she was too big. 'She is a very amicable dog. She never barked,' said the owner, a businessman who would give only his surname Yang. 'If they don't allow me to raise her here, I will find another place. I will get her back.'
Witness accounts and photos on the Internet have shown dogs beingcaptured in nets and pummeled with wooden and metal sticks. But authorities have vowed to carry out a 'strict but civilized' campaign that police hoped would not anger dog owners, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Many owners have sent their dogs to kennels outside the city. Some are handing them over to friends and family. Joyce Wang gave one of her dogs to her sister and is keeping Ding Ding, her fox terrier, close by her side. She said she had heard that the government was offering US$25 to people who reported on rule-breaking dogowners. 'I'm scared and worried. Now I don't take him outside during the day,' Wang said. 'Even in the evening, we will take a detour if we see people in the compound we live in.'"

And so on. It has been much covered in the western media as well. More here, including the line, "But even registered dogs that have had rabies shots are said to be at risk, as police stations need to fill their weekly quotas for dog exterminations."

Happily, Shanghai does not have a history of following in Beijing's footsteps, preferring to go its own way politically and culturally most of the time. But after recent incidents in Yunnan, I must say I am a bit worried. Shanghaiist says, "Sadly, it seems we could be experiencing the third wave of the canine cull, based on this Economic Daily report (in Chinese) that says five major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Wuhan are going to address 'dog problems.'" Also, it seems online animal forums are being banned from discussing the issue on their posting boards.

Meanwhile, our apartment complex now requires us to walk our dogs between 5-8am and 6-8pm only, and only in a small designated area a few dozen feet square. We'll hunker down and await further information, as always. This follows a wake of other expat concerns involving visa problems and the police, so the general mood feels unfriendly.

Dev and I were standing on a street corner this weekend in the rain when Dev peered under the large umbrella of the Chinese woman standing next to us, caught her eye, and smiled. She quietly took three large steps away from us. Ah, Shanghai.