Li Jie is suing the Chaoyang Industry and Commerce Bureau, angry that the CICB has undermined his business by denying him a permit to sell bags of air to consumers. (Not "air bags," just "bags of air.") Li pointed out that this was not just any air, it was "special air from special places." At the heart of Li’s business plan was the idea of selling "World Cup air" collected in Germany to soccer fans who might be unable to make the trip. Fans could hang the green plastic air bag around their necks and breathe in that World Cup air while watching the matches on television.
It’s good to have the Chinese back in the capitalist system, isn’t it?
The stodgy old CICB denied Li’s permit application on the grounds that "special air from special places" did not fit any of the recognized "industrial categories." Li sued, and earlier this week he breathed the special air of Chaoyang District No. 3 Court. Li argued that the CICB had unfairly denied him the right to sell World Cup air, which also puts his plans to sell 2008 Olympic air in some jeopardy, and so he complained that the bureau had robbed him of a "once-every-four-years" sales opportunity. (You see, once the event is over, the air moves on and is no longer special in any way.)
This is a major blow because the Li air business is virtually unlimited in scope, it appears. "The ‘special air from special places’ I am talking about," he told the court, "includes the Olympics, Tiananmen Square, Mount Everest . . . the moon, a pigsty, a horse paddock, a sheep pen — even Chaoyang District No. 3 Court." You may object that the moon, at least, has no air, special or otherwise, but Li knows what he’s talking about. As he told the court, he is chief executive of the Lunar Embassy to China and has extensive land holdings on the Moon, so he would know whether there’s air or not, don’t you think?
As further proof, Li presented the court with a primary-school text book containing the story "Little Fox Sells Air," about a fox who sells air in a polluted city. "A textbook could not possibly advocate breaking the law, could it?" he asked the court. Can’t argue with that. Whatever it says in a primary-school text book — as long as it doesn’t teach we are descended from monkeys, of course — must not only be true but also legally binding.
I say, let the man sell, although I personally will not be ordering any bags of special pigsty air.