By JONAS WHALE
SAINT PAUL (China Daily Show) – A Minnesota family returned to the US yesterday after enduring a ten-hour quarantine, during which all five were allegedly forced to watch the English-language channel CCTV-9 without pause.
But reports indicated the family’s ordeal could fetch hundred of thousands of dollars in media deals, after officials at the Guinness Book of Records confirmed that the viewing marathon broke all previous known records.
The Beard family nightmare began last Wednesday, according to patriarch Nathan Beard, 46, speaking at a brief press conference organized by legal representatives.
“We were wandering through the conference room at our Marriott Chongqing hotel when my wife began sneezing. She has a dust allergy and I don’t think anyone had cleaned the place for weeks,” Beard told reporters.
Within minutes of the sneezing outbreak, hotel staff had quarantined the family, apparently under the belief that they were potential avian-flu sufferers.
“‘You have the bird sick, so sorry,’” one of them allegedly said.
“After about an hour, two members of staff wearing surgical masks came in with a tray of sandwiches, turned the television onto CCTV-9 and left. They were very polite but refused to answer our questions,” Beard explained.
“After they left, we heard numerous sounds that indicated locks, chains and filing cabinets were being piled up outside the door to prevent our escape,” Beard recalled. “But worse was still to come – we realized that they’d also taken the remote and the TV controls were out of reach.
“After about ten minutes, they started broadcasting Dialogue and Tian Wei’s face appeared on the screen. It was at that point that I began to panic.”
Beard’s voice quavered as he went onto describe a scarcely-believable schedule of televisual banality, that included the same piece of news footage about a bombing in Yemen broadcast six times within a single hour and an advert for the Port of Dandong which Beard described as being “like a zombie. That sucker wouldn’t die.”
Following a Chinese-language programme presented by Canadian TV personality, and alleged visa-dodger, Mark Roswell, aka Dashan, Beard claims his wife Sheryl, 39, begun complaining of a headache.
Three hours into the scheduled programming, 29-year-old son Phillip’s eyeballs “rolled back inside his skull and he began convulsing.”
Medical experts have repeatedly warned foreigners in the past of the dangers of excessive CCTV-watching, with symptoms including “frothing at the mouth, finger-pointing, unnatural optimism about the Shanghai Expo and the unshakeable conviction that the world outside China’s borders is borderline anarchy,” according to NYU psychology professor Ebert Wai.
Sheryl and Jessica Beard, both seven, are said to be in a stable condition in a psychiatric hospital.
And in an unexpectedly positive development to the case, Guinness officials have let it be known they wish to verify the Beards’ claims.
The previous record for watching the state media channel uninterrupted is three hours, held by Maine State Hospital for the Mentally Disturbed resident Ellis MacBain, 43.
Chongqing hotel staff yesterday refused to comment on the allegations. “We have never spoken to the Beards and we are not even hotel,” said Marriott representative Li Hu.