An Inside Peek At China

<b><i>60 Minutes</b></i> Producer Karen Sughrue Shares Some Experiences From Trip

60 Minutes traveled to a remote province of China to produce a story on the growing gender imbalance in the communist nation. Producer Karen Sughrue, who traveled with correspondent Lesley Stahl and the TV crew, shares some of her experiences below in a special "Producer's Notebook."

We traveled to parts of China that tourists rarely visit. Our first stop was Jiangxi province in south-central China, a land-locked province, where the poor farmers still live as their Han Chinese ancestors did centuries ago. Jiangxi weather was unbearably humid, but at every home we passed, we were offered hot tea to drink and short stools to squat on as the woman of the house hastily swept her dirt floors and dusted off the Mao portrait on the wall.

Miles from any restaurant, we had packed energy bars to eat on the run, only to set them aside when an entire village turned out to cook us a feast, including chicken soup (complete with feet and cock's comb), green vegetables and every edible (theoretically) part of the pig. Oh, and also milk. They had been told that Americans drink milk.

Lunch had actually been ordered up by the small army of local politicians and government minders who accompanied us every step of the way. On a tight shooting schedule, we worked through lunch. Our Chinese escorts never did.

Our second stop was Yunnan province in southwest China, on the Burma/Thailand border, where the population is a mix of ethnic Chinese and non-Chinese people. We flew to a city and then drove three hours to a region where trafficking of women was rampant.

In one remote village, we caused quite a stir. Our crew consisted of some six-footers with light-colored hair, causing one elderly woman to stop dead in her tracks, stare and point as if she'd seen a ghost. We also ran across a dozen teenage Buddhist monk trainees on motorbikes, their orange robes fluttering as they sped off to avoid our cameras.

I have to give credit to the Chinese government for letting us into the country to do this story. They are well aware of 60 Minutes' reputation for tough journalism, but wanted the world to know they are trying to fix the gender imbalance problem.

Still, we waited until the day of our departure to do street interviews in Beijing without letting our minders know what we were up to. With two cameras, lights, boom mikes, and about 50 homeless migrant men crowded around a blonde woman in high heels (Lesley Stahl), it's no wonder that a "good citizen" called the police, who detained us for almost two hours, despite our producing the requisite permits. We were released in time to make our planes home.
By Karen Sughrue