4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Broadens your horizons, 17 May 2008
"Chinese Whispers" broadens your horizons: not by whisking you off to some far flung place but by opening your eyes to Britain. It exposes the terror our society inflicts on those people who desperately turn to us for a better life. It tells a story of Britain through the eyes of "illegal" workers and Hsiao-Hung Pai, an ex-Guardian reporter.
Hsiao-Hung, who has been classed as equal enough to live in Britain legally, has documented the lives of those immigrants we class as sub-human, sub-Britain and therefore "illegal". The resulting stories show the injustice, near slavery, extreme poverty and cruelty that would be classed as human rights violations worthy of war if they happened anywhere but Britain.
Hsiao-Hung worked undercover in massage parlours, factories and on farms as an "illegal" worker. She recorded the exploitation and abuse that followed. An "illegal" who she lived with in Norfolk said: "The first few nights I was just crying in bed. Working like a machine, getting bullied by the agency people, the factory supervisors, coming home every day just to sleep and get ready for the next day's work... It's like being a robot. I ask myself, what will all this bring?"
It sounds like the maltreatment of a time long gone in Europe or the experiences of a worker in a less "developed" country than today's left-wing Britain. In fact, this is the story of a man who's sought refuge in our rich, "civilised" country, paid a heavy penalty to get here, and works to support our economy suffering back-breaking pain and finally gets nothing from us Brits except exploitation.
The book shows the life, dignity and resilience of the people who we classify using the dehumanising term: "illegal" and it forces us to remember that the "illegals" are illegal second and human first.
It is a relief and a pleasure to read a book that refuses to bow to the majority rule that economic considerations take precedence. Instead the author treats humans as primary and economics as secondary.
This way of working fosters a depth of feeling and understanding that news reporting aims to cut out of each of us.