The latest mystery in Shanghai, complete with sliding bookshelves, secret passageways and contraband goods, is this: Why are all the popular DVDs and CDs missing from this city’s shops?
But it’s a mystery easily solved. In China, embarrassments are usually hidden from sight when the world comes visiting, and that is what has happened to a large supply of bootleg DVDs and CDs as Shanghai prepares for the World Expo, which is expected to attract 70 million visitors.
A few weeks ago, government inspectors fanned out across the city and ordered shops selling pirated music and movies to stash away their illegal goods during the expo, a six-month extravaganza that opens May 1.
But shop owners found a novel way to comply — they simply chopped their stores in half.
In a remarkable display of uniformity, nearly every DVD shop in central Shanghai has built a partition that divides the store into two sections: one that sells legal DVDs (often films no one is interested in buying), and a hidden one that sells the illegal titles that everyone wants — Hollywood blockbusters like "Avatar" (for a dollar), Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and even Lady Gaga’s latest CD "The Fame."
I guess the fact that China now considers rampant, out-in-the-open piracy an "embarrassment" is a sign of progress...