Saturday, July 14, 2007

I was detained in China

Have you experienced having been detained in a foreign land?
That is the worst nightmare one can ever expereience.
It is horror enough to be detained in your own country.
It is doubly horrific to be detained in another country, in a communist country at that!
I experienced detention in China in may last visit.
I was in the company of my wife and son and some cousins.
Horrified as I was, my companions were more troubled.
My detention lasted for about fifteen minutes.
It was as if time stood still.
This is what happened:
I was lining up at the Hong kong border ready to cross to China.
When I gave my passport to the China immigration personnel, he gave me stern look, and then without a word, left his seat.
I saw him talk to another uniformed person who I surmised was his supervisor.
The supervisor then took my passport and went to a room.
At that time, tension filled not only my whole body, but also among my companions.
A little later, the Chinese immigration authority, who did not know a single English, gestured that I proceed to one cubicle.
It was a cubicle that was empty with only a chair.
There I sat for about fifteen minutes, all by myself.
My companions could see me from a distance.
None of Chinese guards knew an English word.
Then a horrible thought came to me: China is not a good place to be detained.
Fortunately, the supervisor came back, and went to me, gave me back my passport, compared the picture in my passport with my physical appearance. Without any explanation as to why I was held in their cubicle, the China immigration guard processed my passport, and then allowed me to enter Shenzen.
At that time, I no longer wanted to proceed to China.
I have never been detained my entire life.
And my first time in detention, albeit brief, was in a foreign land. Sa China pa.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I know that it was a very terrible ordeal, but there was actually no cause for alarm.

The officials in the Shenzhen - Hong Kong border are rightfully very cautious, especially to foreigners. About five years ago, China had a lot of foreigners using fake passports getting past their security. As a result, the Chinese government asked immigration officials to be very cautious.

I have been traveling in and out of China for some years now and have often passed through the Shenzhen - HK border. I saw a lot of people, especially foreigners and HK residents (they need a special permit to enter the mainland) get the same treatment you did, but they all turned out okay.

A friend told me that immigration officials are very cautious if:

1) there is a significant change in the picture compared to the actual face (e.g. picture has mustache, bald, or long hair);

2) the picture was taken some years ago or the user gained or lost a significant amount of weight since the picture was taken; and

3) you're using the old Phil passport with the different shade of color.

Anyway, don't let the incident discourage you in visiting China again. The Country has a lot of interesting sites and the more you visit, the more you'll realize that all those things the press are saying about the Country is a bunch of b.s.