Chapter Five – Passage Eight
“Okay, guys. Seriously. This isn’t working.”
Kristen leans back in her oversized beanbag chair and rubs her eyes tiredly. It’s late in the evening and we’re all exhausted. In the preceding weeks, we’d taken the liberty of special-ordering a king’s ransom-worth of office furniture to our little lounge here in Building 11. So now at least we were able to work in more relative comfort. Though it’d been necessary to convince Yu-Law that these items were “crucial” to the Uyghur suppression effort and so all of the expenses had gone blithely onto the Corporate AmEx.
Kristen flips through various charts and dashboard on her monitor; we see a projection of it all on the wall.
“Clearly, this is not what we want,” she says, frustrated.
On all the graphs, the amount of turmoil and discontent in Urumqi has only increased since we’d joined the project several weeks ago. This is bad. When you’re a data scientist and your sole value towards a project is measured only in bar graphs, there’s literally nowhere to hide. No beautiful storytelling to obscure the total lack of results or excuses to explain away the abysmal outcomes. The numbers and charts are all there, in the harsh light of day, for all to see.
We were failing.
We’d tried running an advertising campaign in the city promoting good behavior. Building on top of China’s Social Credit System, Uyghurs would be rewarded with additional food rations if they ratted out on their fellow neighbors who were planning protests. So far, no full-scale riots had exploded in the city yet, but acts of vandalism on public, government property were definitely on the rise. There was a giant banner of Xi Jinping that hung from the public court house in Urumqi which had been defaced by spray paint last weekend and other miscreants had similarly defiled one of the statues celebrating The Great Mao in Hongshan Park in Hongshancun district. So far, none of the vandalism done was irreversible, but the offenses were becoming increasingly brazen.
Despite our campaign to promise more food to good citizens, the program had generated very few leads though. The only thing we could recommend was increase the number of “peace security officers” that were on patrol. But again, that was bad optics and the last thing Yu-Law wanted. So that idea was quickly scrapped.
“The problem,” Deepak says from his table, “we don’t have someone on the inside. We need to better understand why they’re protesting in Urumqi. What they’ve unhappy about.”
“Are you suggesting we go in undercover?” Coleman looks dubious. “I don’t know, man. I think I’d kinda stick out.”
“Obviously, not you, genius.” Deepak turns to Alan. “Could you go in? Infiltrate their ranks?”
Alan shifts uncomfortably in his office swivel chair. “Me? Really?”
Asians are generally a skinny folk. For whatever reason, whether due to genetics or severe childhood malnutrition, Chinese people, were usually on the thinner, shorter side.
But Alan Chen is most definitely an exception.
Alan has a boyish face with bubbly cheeks and a short, rotund stature. This was not exactly the look of a man who had suffered the great privations of the proletariat.