Chinese bathroom graffiti: black market

Black text in the middle: “Knockout Drops, Counterfeit Money, Firearms”

A huge amount of the graffiti on the walls of China’s bus station bathrooms is dedicated to hawking illegal goods.  The list of black market items runs long, but observe enough toilets and a trifecta of sorts will emerge, almost always written together and in the same order: knockout drops, counterfeit money, firearms.  ‘Knockout drops’ is a dictionary translation of a term that refers to anesthetics or similar pharmaceuticals; sold under the table they are often used as date rape drugs.  There are rumors they serve more sinister purposes like leaving victims in tubs full of ice with their kidneys cut out, though that world is so shady it’s difficult to separate fact from urban legend.  ‘Counterfeit money’ needs no explanation. ‘Firearms’ is straightforward, but it is not clear what range of weaponry is available. China doesn’t allow private gun ownership and the streets are generally as safe as those in other Asian countries, so whatever its scope this trade is not seriously impacting social order.

Advertisements for knockout drops, counterfeit money, and firearms are the single most common piece of graffiti in China’s bus station toilets. The six characters often are scrawled together in such a hurry that one character slurs into the next.  So consistent are promotions for these three items that one can imagine a warehouse somewhere piled high with neat stacks of pills, bills, and handguns, beside which sit rows of tattooed triad gangsters manning phone banks and waiting for the calls to roll in.

“Firearms, Drugs”

This message shows contact information for firearms as well as ‘drugs.’  While one imagines that a bathroom wall hawking all manner of illicit activities would be an ideal place for commerce in a variety of addictive substances, advertisements for generic drugs like this one are far less common than those for ‘knockout drops’.

“Counterfeit money, knockout drops, firearms, electric prods” Jiashan, Zhejiang Province

Next to a list of illegal goods one will often see multiple defaced phone numbers, usually crossed out, rubbed away, or with numbers like 1 edited to look like 7s.  Perhaps a rival is nudging out the competition and writing his own number next to the original advertisement?  If so, it seems that agents of various gangs make frequent return trips to check on their walls, since the contest often goes back and forth, as can be seen in this wall.

“Civilian Self Defense Electric Prods: Pay Cash on Delivery” Jiashan, Zhejiang Province

Apparently there is a market for police-grade weaponry like electric prods and tazers.  Though if it’s really for civilian use (and not fallen off the truck on the way to the Public Security Bureau), why is it being surreptitiously hawked on the walls of a bathroom?

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