My Experience in Wuhan, China

It’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us in more ways than one. And the party responsible isn’t Trump, and it isn’t the GOP. It’s the communist government controlling the People’s Republic of China, and the fact that they were not telling the whole truth about it when the pandemic first broke out in the city of Wuhan, where it was first discovered.

It’s disheartening to see that most of the Hollywood left still in bed with the authoritarian regime, especially companies like Disney, NBCUniversal, and the newly-merged ViacomCBS. It’s an investment that in some ways ended up biting them back. In fact, Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan, which was originally set to be released this past March, has been removed from the theatrical release calendar until further notice while Paramount films like A Quiet Place: Part II and Universal releases like the next installment in the Fast & Furious franchise have been pushed back to next year.

And it leads to a personal story about an experience I had on a visit to Wuhan.

The year was 2006. George W. Bush was president, American Idol (which at the time aired on the Fox network) was the year’s hottest show, the newly-revived Family Guy was exploding in popularity, and I was a fourteen year old boy transitioning into the 8th Grade. That summer, my father had taken our entire family on a business trip to southern China, which also included the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

The reason we went to Wuhan is because my dad was asked to help set up the Hospitality Management program at Wuhan University. When they wanted him to give them the money and provide the IP (intellectual property), he smelled a rat and found out later that they had an Australian college come in and they tricked them out of their money and materials. He later backed out of the program.

And rightfully so. Wuhan was not the nicest city in the world. In fact, quite the opposite; it was your typical city in a communist regime. People were poor, there were Red Army officers holding intimidating weapons, and local restaurants and markets were serving some of the weirdest food out there.

In the restaurant my father’s business partner at the time – San Francisco area restaurant owner Peter Tien (who sadly passed away of lymphoma one year later) – took my family to, my dad settled on live spiders fried in oil at the table, while my mom ate a lotus root. In both cases, this was because they were the least disgusting things on the menu, which looked like the roster at a petting zoo in a restaurant that only opened at night on a street.

But, here’s where things get scary. On our last day in Wuhan, Tien gave us a ride on a Chinese military vehicle in an attempt to impress us. At first, we were hesitant, but reluctantly accepted his offer. Next thing you know, when we were at a stoplight, we ended up being surrounded by other military vans. It was at that point when we were all told by my dad, “Head down to the floor, don’t speak, don’t make any eye contact.”

Little did I realize we were being pulled over and held at gunpoint by the Red Army. They rushed out of their vehicles and threw the door of the van we were being driven in wide open; guns drawn. One soldier was screaming right into my dad’s face in Mandarin Chinese, while he was just ignoring him and dialing Tien with the Motorola Razr he was using and telling him, “Yeah, we have a little problem here.” Another solder sat right in between me and my sister (at the time one year younger than me) in the way back – obviously investigating us too.

The reason? Military vehicles don’t usually drive on the road on Sunday mornings carrying a bunch of foreigners.

At this point, I thought we were all going to jail. But luckily, when the commander leading the raid realized they were terrorizing the family of a man working with a man who is a member of an important in China – and who grew up in Wuhan, they let us go. As we were pulling out, the commander – obviously embarrassed – laughed and saluted us. On our way to the airport, my mom said this to my dad:

Remember that deal you were going to have with Wuhan University? Not happening. And another thing, I am NOT going to China again or eating any of their Shoo Shoo. When we get back to Hong Kong, we are all going to Ruth’s Chris, and I’m going to have the BIGGEST steak of my life.

And who wouldn’t say that after such a terrifying experience? And needless to say, had it not been for our connections with a restauranteur from China, we would have been dead.

For anyone in corporate America, Hollywood, sports, or any other aspect of our culture that has decided to go woke, you can’t support social justice and continue to do business what is perhaps one of the biggest human rights violators in the world. That is the biggest contradiction out there, and I talk about this from experience as someone who actually visited Red China and thought I was about to experience those horrors myself. It’s flat-out disgraceful.

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