Excerpted from his new book Apologies to My Censor: The High and Low Adventures of a Foreigner in China, in Salon Magazine, journalist Mitch Moxley grimly describes his travels to Erlian and to Macau where he interviewed local prostitutes who had been trafficked from Mongolia. While detailing the encounters he has with prostitutes, Moxley, who pursued this story after he was let go from his reporting job when Asia Weekly magazine folded, also reflects on the difficulties of life as a freelance writer:
Her name was Alimaa. She was twenty-three. She told us she worked late the night before and was exhausted today. Two years earlier, in Ulaanbaatar, she and a friend were recruited by two men to work at a karaoke bar in Beijing. When she arrived in the Chinese capital, her recruiters told her she had to work as a prostitute. They made it clear she didn’t have a choice.
“They took us to different rooms in a hotel and showed us Chinese girls who had been raped,” she said as Esso translated and I wrote in my notebook. “They said, ‘Take a look, this is what will happen if you don’t do this.’ ”
I took notes furiously, trying to capture all the details. This is exactly what we needed for our story, and we were getting it in the first interview. There is a certain numbness a journalist gets when reporting a story like this. You’re transcribing horrors into your notebook, but not really processing it; it’s like a surgeon desensitized to blood. I could hear Alimaa’s story, but I couldn’t feel it. Later, I would feel terrible for her and others like her, but for now I was focused on one thing: getting the story.[Source]