China: Catch 22 With Chinese Characteristics (Part Five)

Shenzhen Travel Advisory

Facebook provides a life-line to the world – even in a Facebook free zone – thanks to a no nonsense, low-tech model that manages to over-ride the Great Firewall of China despite having no special apps and no special software.

An inexpensive Nokia comes to the rescue thanks to its ability to penetrate the Great Firewall of China.

After being refused exit by customs at the Luohu border crossing in Shenzhen, China, I head back to the police station. On my way, I stop at Luohu Commercial City and get a charger for my mobile phone.

Re-assured that my power won’t run out, I post the following plea on Facebook:

“I am in Shenzhen, my passport has been stolen, and customs won’t let me cross the border into Hong Kong. Will someone please contact the U.S. Consulate, inform them of my situation, and seek their advice?”

The fact I can do this negates that old saying, “You get what you pay for.”

In case you didn’t know, Facebook is banned in China. There are ways around this – usually special software or some kind of app, but I’ve got neither.

For reasons that I don’t understand, my no nonsense Nokia – about as cheap a model as you can get – overrides the Great Firewall of China and gives me a lifeline to the outside world.

China Travel Service

My second stop is the China Travel Service, which the police had suggested I stop at in case I run into any difficulties at customs.

Unfortunately, they didn’t give me an exact address. They didn’t even tell me what building it was in – just that it was “next to customs”.

I finally figure out that it is in the Shenzhen Train Station, but even that doesn’t help much. I still have considerable difficulty finding the place, making several trips up and down stairways and along long corridors only to discover that I’m right back where I started.

After several false starts, I locate it. I am given a small piece of paper with the address of an office that I should go to to report my missing passport. Unfortunately, it is closed today because it’s Saturday. I don’t know yet that it will also be closed on Monday because it is a national holiday.

But this raises an important question: why wasn’t I given this address at customs  in the first place and why wasn’t I given it by the police?

By the time I get back to the police station, I am fit to be tied. While discussing my predicament with the duty officer, I discover that someone has answered my plea on Facebook.

United States Consulate General

My friend has already called not only the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong, she has also contacted the Hong Kong Immigration Department. Both say that there is nothing I can do until Tuesday because Monday is a public holiday.

She gives me an emergency number to call. I ask to borrow the phone. I dial the number and am spliced through to the US Consulate General in Guangzhou.

The man answering the phone is expecting my call. One of the first things he says is, “We cannot provide financial aid.”

“That won’t be necessary,” I say. “Fortunately my credit card wasn’t stolen.”

I am told that there is nothing I can do until Tuesday, but that a temporary replacement passport can usually be issued the same day.

The visa application, however, usually takes 3 days to a week.

It’s only day 2, and my unexpected Chinese “adventure” appears to be just starting.


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