An interesting method of interrogation. Rather than abide by the “good-cop-bad-cop” concept that has become popular in movies, TV and pop culture as taken a turn towards tea over in China.
While normally, tea is looked at as a relaxing drink, causing elation and even improvements in health, when a person in China says that they are getting a “tea talk” or are being “forced to drink tea,” it is a highly negative experience.
What is more interesting is that these tea talks, per Global Voices Advocacy, “have become so common that Chinese netizens, in particular those who are active and influential, regard it as part of everyday life.”
People are called for tea talks for various reasons. Perhaps it is for a person’s political posts on the internet. Maybe you shared something that shouldn’t have been shared or shared information the wrong way. Maybe you even signed an online petition. Whatever the reason, the police in China can pick up the phone and request a cup of tea in order to make sure that you as a political leader are behaving in what they deem a “responsible” manner.
The police sometimes ask for the sources of the political dissenters’ information during these talks. If the dissenter does not comply, (s)he can be held for spreading rumors or causing a public disorder. Other times, these tea talks can serve as more of a warning, letting the opinionated know that they are being watched. Even worse, some dissenters report that “the tea was really bitter.”
Global Voices Advocacy summarized opinion leader’s Wu Gan‘s advice on how to deal with the tea talks, quoted below:
“1. Don’t be afraid and don’t be angry.
2. Only talk about yourself. Try your best not to provide information about others.
3. Tell the police that you believe in what you have done and that you are prepared to face the consequences.
4. Don’t take their questions personally.
5. Don’t humiliate or criticize them during or after the tea talk.
6. Don’t trust them and don’t assume that you’ll be able to persuade them to take your side.
7. If you don’t want to engage with them, you may consider signing the guarantee document. [This document certifies a citizen's promise to follow police instructions, which might stipulate that they may not blog about certain topics or discuss politics online. This document is not legally binding, so you do not have to abide by what you have signed.]
8. If you want to minimize risk, avoid getting involved in local incidents. Pay attention to other provinces as you are outside their jurisdiction. [Internal security police usually operate at the provincial level. The standard procedure for carrying out cross-border operations has to go through the local police unit, which requires a lot of paper work.]
9. They may try to put pressure on your friends, family, or employer. Try to tell your social circle about it and get their support for your cause.”
Thankfully, I must say, I’ve never had to face such pressures as a “tea talk” and I pray I never will. It’s just amazing how something so sinister can begin with the sentence, “Let’s have some tea.”