Last week-end I went to Hong Kong
for some fun and relaxation. Prior to this, called in at my local Public Security Bureau (PSB for short,) to apply for a new 12 month visa. Did not need one I was assured, as I had an extended visa valid for three more months. I pointed out that the twelve month visa would expire in three days. The kindly young lady said "as I had been out of the country 3 months prior to visa expiry, this automatically generated a 180 days extension. She assured me that this was correct. Have to say that this did not seem to be correct to me, but, who am I to argue with Chinese authority.
After enjoying a thoroughly terrific time on the island, returned to the Shenzhen
main land border on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon. After going through the Hong Kong
border controls with my dearly beloved girl, gaily presented my passport to Chinese border controls. Quite naturally we all get a little nervous when presented by officialdom in the guise of a burly Chinese Border policeman, he opened my passport scrutinized it carefully, looked over his glasses then glaringly told me "your visa has expired there-fore you cannot enter China". Bright red cheeks showed how embarrassed I was as two surly looking policemen walked me to an adjacent office where I was politely told to get back to Hong Kong.
Wow! There was I, with a lovely young lady who had already gone through Chinese controls and could not return. I argued and argued to no avail. Chinese inscrutability ruled the day. The police officer concerned was very friendly, keeping hold of my passport and under strict surveillance, he allowed me to go over the border and say good bye to my dearly beloved, who by this time was in floods of tears. She decided to wait for me, staying with friends in the city of Shenzen until my return, hopefully that is, with a new visa.
The border police realized that it was an honest mistake on my part and I trust, had some sympathy for the Guilin
PSB. Offered a cup of tea whilst informing me that the Chinese Embassy in Hong Kong would issue a new visa. On a Sunday? Oh yeah! I said that that was impossible. With a shrug of his shoulders they told me to walk back through the crossing to Hong Kong.
On the surface that sounded okay, until I tried it. An elderly, not smiling Chinese policeman stopped me and said "you cannot come this way, you have to go back" to which I replied in my very bad Chinese "that is all I wanted to do, but they wont let me" After a lot of argy-bargy three Chinese Border police arrived, explained the situation to the guard who then, under escort, handed me over to the Hong Kong border control. Where I was informed that I would have to join the mile long queue, just as if it were my first entry into the region.
What hassle! What a day!
After what seemed a day and a half, was processed into Hong Kong, caught a bus and rather 'hot under the collar' arrived back at the hotel that we had just left, only to be told that there were no rooms available.
Gosh! If I wasn't so tired I could have exploded. After much pleading and much to my relief a room materialized. Phew!
The next morning being Monday, went to the Embassy where I was informed that I could not apply in person, I had to make an appointment which would take a few days. "A few 'flipping' days I yelled" I tell you I very nearly had a coronary, after all of the hassle this was just one step tooooo far. After a whole hoset of loud shouting, the throwing of Chinese arms, gesticulating, threats to call the Hong Kong Police and have me locked up, a smart and very petite young lady, (who turned out to be the office manager,) appeared. She sternly told the guards to "calm down" turning to me, quietly asked my name, then said that she had received a telephone call from the Chinese Border Control, asking the embassy to show every assistance in providing a new visa. Much to the chagrin of the security guards and to my immense relief, asked me to follow her into the deeper sanctums of the embassy. Walking passed a large office where a number of serious looking girls appeared to be under siege from large mounds of visa applications we came to a solid looking fire door. She showed me into a plain, all white waiting room, with three large mirrors on the walls. I thought that three mirrors was bit of an over-kill. My imagination was beginning to run riot; peering closer at the mirrors only made it worse. Were there eyes peering at me from behind the mirrors? Was that movement that I could see? I have to say that I really felt uncomfortable. I am no James Bond, so sat on one of the chairs, picked up a Chinese magazine that lay on the table, pretending, as it were that I could read Chinese. Sitting quietly in the hushed surroundings did absolutely nothing to settle the 'butterflies' in my tummy. Imagination sometimes is a terrible thing.
After a dragging half hour had passed, (seemed like a day or two) the door opened, standing there holding my passport, complete with new visa was the same smiling young lady.
I paid the bill, Grabbed my passport with the valued visa duly stamped and with my heartfelt thanks to her, jumped into the nearest taxi and scampered back to the hotel. Collected my luggage, hardly pausing for breath, hailed a taxi and beat it back to the border. where I thanked the Chinese police for all of their help.
Smiles around, I was escorted to the border visa check by two police officers. I was the subject of many stares as they marched me straight to the front of the queue and processed in double quick time. After hand shakes and much back slapping, they waved me goodbye, I had the impression that they thought all foreigners were idiots.