A few weeks ago, my daughter joined a new school where she boards from Monday to Friday. On her first weekend home, she discussed her disgruntlement at a number of seemingly arbitrary rules for boarders, and although she agreed that the rules did not massively affect her, so she would likely be able to follow them, she still questioned the ‘why’?
The discussion became more and more heated as her dad explained that sometimes in life there are rules that don’t make any sense, but we still have to follow them. She continuously disagreed and questioned ‘why’, adding that if a rule does not make sense, if it discriminates against a certain group of people, isn’t it our job to question and try to change the rule. I sat silently listening to their discussion, feeling a sense of pride that, at 15, she felt confident enough to challenge and instigate needed change.
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Her dad got more frustrated and brought in current affairs in certain, overseas countries – people who refuse to wear face masks or social distance because ‘what right do others have to tell them what to do’. My daughter immediately responded that there is a reason for wearing face masks and social distancing. You’re both protecting yourself and others so this rule is not arbitrary and she had no problem with rules like this and agreed that those challenging them were those who likely just challenged everything. Argumentative and oppositional for the sake of it.
As the discussion went on, my daughter looked at me and said ‘are you really going to not say anything? You have taught me my whole life to question the world. To better understand the world and stand up for myself and others when I feel that something is wrong.’ Her plea for support was real and I asked my husband what he thought about women standing up for the right of education. If our grandmothers did not stand up for this right and did not challenge the then ‘norms’, would our daughter have the right to the education that she receives today? As a Montessorian who has raised my children with the Montessori principles, this is something so incredibly true to my heart. Dr. Montessori was the first female physician in Italy. She fought for her right to study medicine and underwent terrible resistance from society as a result. But she persevered, and, like so many of the other women at the time, she helped forge a new path for the women of today.
Fast forward a few weeks. Yesterday, we decided to book a hotel for a few nights in a neighbouring mountain resort during the National Day break. I logged onto Ctrip and made the booking, but just after I pressed ‘pay’ I saw a note saying that the room was only available for Mainland Chinese guests. I’ve lived in China for 22 years, and I’m fully aware that some, smaller hotels do not have the connection to the local PSB to be able to register foreign guests. That’s why we had chosen a larger hotel, 5 star and with room rates at 1500+ RMB per night. (长泰唐宋花仙谷度假山庄) My husband called the hotel and asked about this note and was told that foreigners were not allowed to stay during this ‘sensitive period of Coronavirus’. My husband explained that I have not left China since my last entry date (which is stamped on my passport) of January 4th 2020. They said ‘sorry, those are the rules. We do not make the rules, they come from the local PSB.’
My husband put down the phone and said, ‘you can’t go’. I looked at him and a thought about my daughter and what we had discussed a few weeks ago. This rule didn’t make sense. I have not left China in 9+ months. I have not been to any ‘high-risk’ areas. I live with my husband and children who would all be allowed to go to the hotel as they are Chinese citizens and, I, just because I’m a ‘foreigner’ would be discriminated against. I asked him if he thought this rule was OK? He said ‘no’ and immediately knew what I meant. He called the local, Chengtai PSB who confirmed there was, indeed, a rule that said foreigners were not allowed to reside in the hotels due to coronavirus. However, after explaining that I have not left China, adding that, shouldn’t the rule be ‘Anyone (regardless of nationality) who has travelled from outside of China in the past 14 days/month/3 months’ as opposed to ‘Foreigners. Full Stop.’ The officer who took the call agreed, and said, as long as my paperwork (entrance stamp, health code) can prove that I have not left the country, there will be no problem.
We called the hotel back and explained the conversation with the PSB. They still said no!
A few minutes later, Ctrip called and said that, if the party that were travelling to the hotel included a ‘foreigner’ we would not be allowed to stay.
I was furious! What century are we living in? What is the logic behind this rule? So Chinese who have travelled from overseas, posing a much greater risk than I, who has stayed in China throughout the whole Coronavirus pandemic, would be allowed to stay, but, just because I’m a foreigner, I was being refused?
I argued that Ctrip, as an International platform, should not be condoning this arbitrary, nonsensical rule. They answered, ‘Sorry’, I would receive a 200RMB voucher as an apology. They also told me that a different hotel in the area had said that as long as I show them all of my paperwork, I can stay there. My answer: of course I’ll present my paperwork! I know that this is a sensitive period and I am not a renegade who challenges reasonable policies! But, we wanted the room with a mountain view in a family-friendly resort. Thank you to the hotel (长泰金叶大酒店）that saw through the nonsense of the rules and who were willing to work with the local PSB to make sure I was not discriminated against.
Through all of this, I thought about what would happen if a Chinese person (or any other nationality) was refused entry into a hotel in a different country, purely on the grounds of their nationality. What would the reaction be? The whole world would take to social media, condemning the establishment! IT’S JUST NOT OK!
I have lived and worked in China for more than 22 years. I speak fluent Chinese. My family is Chinese and, I am a huge fan of China and Chinese people. But, this kind of discrimination is archaic, ridiculous and really, very disappointing! Ctrip, hotels, and local authorities, please think before putting this kind of energy into society! Please understand why rules and policies are in place and fight to change them if they are wrong!
So, our family is now looking for a new resort that will house us for the National Day holidays. Somewhere close-by, because, we are followers of the rules and want to make sure we are not putting anyone at risk!
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