China: Catch 22 With Chinese Characteristics (Part Four)

Shenzhen Travel Advisory

You finally find a police station to report your stolen passport. Will the police  be as unhelpful and unpleasant as the customs officials at the border cross point? You cross your fingers and hope for a better outcome.

Customs officials at the Luohu border cross point in Shenzhen, China, are not only  unsympathetic to the plight of someone whose passport has been stolen, their attitude is condescending and borderline rude. 

After withdrawing as much cash as I can, I decide to try my luck checking into a hotel. I start with a three star hotel I stayed at several times a few years ago. But during the check-in process, they ask to see my passport.

I show them my Hong Kong ID, but they say they need to see my passport. When I say it was stolen, and I need a place to stay until I can get a replacement, they tell me I should report the loss at the nearest police station. They tell me there is one just down the street.

I head down the tree-lined street past elegant shops and a few cafes to the police station. I walk inside and explain that my passport has been either lost or stolen.

I am asked a few questions and given a form to fill out. They stamp it and say that with this form and my Hong Kong ID, I should be allowed to return to Hong Kong.

Unlike the staff at customs, who were arrogant, condescending, and borderline rude, the police at the police station seem  helpful.

I’m feeling really upbeat as walk out of the police station and head back to the border. However …

Borderline Hostile

When I get to customs and show my HKID and the letter from the police, however, the same woman that spoke to me last night is summonsed, and she is even ruder than she was the night before. She is borderline hostile.

“Weren’t you already here last night?” she barks. “Didn’t I tell you that you can’t leave China without a passport?”

“I went to the police station and was told that with this document I would be allowed to leave China,,” I said.

“Well you were told wrong, ” she snarls. “You can’t leave the country without a passport.”

I ask where I am supposed to stay without a passport and how I am supposed to travel to Guangzhou to apply for a new one without a passport.

“I can’t do either without a passport,” I say.

“That’s YOUR problem!” she replies with a snide look on her face.

I say I’d like to speak to someone more senior. She takes me to a nearby office, whispers something to the woman, and I am told the exact same thing.

No one offers me any advice on where I am supposed to go or what I am supposed to do.

Comment and Analysis

I find it extraordinary that there is no police kiosk at a high traffic border cross point such as Luohu/Lowu.

I find it extraordinary that customs officials at such a high traffic border cross point don’t have a piece of paper with information on what to do and where to go when something like this happens.

An address of the nearest police station or whatever government office I am supposed to report to would be nice. How about a phone number?

SURELY I am NOT the first person this has ever happened to. Comparing notes with others I get the idea that it happens all the time. Why aren’t procedures in place?

Make It Happen!

Shenzhen is a modern city with all manner of accommodation, from luxurious 5 star resorts to modest dormitories to a capsule hotel with capsules renting for just over US$10 a night.

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