The Curious Case of the Tourist Town that Doesn’t Like Tourists
Disclaimer: This article has been cut down to only include the English translated text by the original author [Marian 岳玫瑰 (我是凡一)]. The original bilingual article can be read with the link provided below.
I think most of the people who follow my WeChat Official Account are aware that I just spent the past three months on my yearly bike tour. This year was supposed to go from Haikou to Tianshui but, because of work and other reasons, I got started late; and then, because of TikTok and other reasons, I had so much fun going to out of the way places that I did a really bad job of traveling in a straight line. As a result, I only rode 3,473 kilometers and I only made it as far as Guang’an.
I had an amazing trip which I’ve written about in English on Cycleblaze. I’m still working at putting pictures from 2018’s Tour online so only go if you really want to read about my trip.
Because of the current world situation, there were a number of things which were unusual about this year’s trip. Not just little things like getting a NAT before I left Haikou or having to show my green code places either. At times, because of more stringent registration rules, it seemed like I was talking to the police every night.
For the most part though, although I found this very annoying (especially when the officer registering me had no idea how), I could completely understand why it was happening and I was happy to cooperate. There was one town, however—in southern Chongqing—where I not only couldn’t understand what was happening, I wasn’t at all happy.
First, the letter.
当事人：Marian Deborah ROSENBERG（下称其中文名字：岳玫瑰） 护照号：54******0
Arrived in town at 6:19:32
The evening of November 6th, Marian was riding her bike in Zhongshan Ancient Town (Jiangjin District, Chongqing) looking for a restaurant to eat dinner at. Suddenly, she heard someone yelling at her. She couldn’t understand a single thing he was saying and, from the tone, it was very impolite. [Because it seemed to be in the local dialect] Marian repeatedly said: “please use standard Mandarin.” but all she could understand was that he was yelling at her. At this time, a police car arrived. From a distance, the police shouted at her: “PLEASE COOPERATE AND PUT ON A MASK!” Perhaps as much as 3 minutes later, Marian was already wearing her mask, and had already given her passport and her previously prepared NAT results to them when an ambulance arrived on the scene. A medical worker wearing head-to-toe protective clothing began to rudely interrogate Marian, repeatedly asking her the same questions again and again as if she wasn’t listening to the answers which Marian was giving. With a very cold and brusque manner, while standing on the street corner, she continued to ask questions. As Zhongshan was suffering a brief power outage at this time, a huge crowd of bored locals quickly formed to watch the excitement like fairgoers at a carnival watching the monkey show.
They received a report around 6:27.
Was stopped at 6:50
Stayed there until 7:17:50
Perhaps the reason so many of the police and government were in the parking lot with me is because they were bored?
After checking over Marian’s passport, and her NAT (both the original from August and the ones which were only 9 days old at this time), and her green code, it still wasn’t enough for them. They decided Marian needed to go to the hospital with them. If a passport and a designated hospital’s test results, and a the green code are all together insufficient evidence to prove someone’s health condition, then I would like to ask what is the point of doing things in accordance with the government’s requirements? Already very tired and quite hungry, Marian began to ride her bicycle towards the local hospital. In front of her there was a police car, behind her there was an ambulance, and in this way they “delivered” Marian to the hospital. Because there was a power outage at the time, even though she was riding along the main road, there were no street lights and the flashing lights of the police car very nearly blinded Marian and made it extremely hard for her to see the road. This was extremely dangerous and she could have hurt herself. As a foreigner who was legally allowed to enter the country, shouldn’t she be treated humanely? At the very least, her personal safety should be taken into consideration!
You can see my shadow in this picture because the car behind me is following too close.
Arrived hospital 7:28
After riding the 3km to the hospital, there were 5 people in police uniforms, 3 people in medical clothing, and numerous people who seemed to be from the local government milling around outside the entrance to the hospital. However, they didn’t let Marian enter the hospital. Instead, they put a plastic stool in the driveway for her to sit on. After about an hour, they told Marian she was “free to go”. Before leaving the hospital parking lot, an apparent government worker in red high heels said to Marian “thank you for your cooperation. Is there anything we can do to help you” and Marian responded “so as to avoid having a similar kind of miscommunication, could you please call the police station in the next town and tell them I am on my way.” She responded that she would and Marian then rode to the next town to get dinner and a hotel. At the police station in the next town, the officers told her that they had not received any such phone call. What is the purpose of government departments if their staff are going to display such half-hearted, reckless, and irresponsible behavior?
I know she wanted to know when I most recently entered China but she asked “when did you come to China” and she had no right to get angry at me when I said 2002.
Left hospital 8:03:42
Dinner at 8:43pm
Riding the whole way from Hainan to Chongqing, all sorts of different Public Security Departments and local Centers for Disease Control had reason to check Marian’s information. In all that time, not one department took more than 10 minutes. And, for the most part, the staff of these departments were coming to Marian’s hotel and had no way of knowing that Marian had ridden her bicycle there. In the case of Zhongshan Ancient Town, it was very clearly obvious that Marian was riding a bicycle. For there to be so many staff present, surely it would seem as though one of them would use his or her brain and think: if China has been requiring all people who enter the country to undergo quarantine and inspection for at least 8 months now, surely a person who is riding a bicycle could not have suddenly skipped over multiple forms of inspection and magically appeared in a tourism focused town without warning? The entire process wasted 73 minutes of time and not one individual took the time to say “Sorry” to Marian. Could it be that in Zhongshan Town, the correct process for the police and CDC to jointly handle epidemic prevention work is to yell at people, to check their documents by the side of the road, to demand that they come to the hospital but not allow them to enter the hospital, and to leave them sitting outside the hospital in the cold for an hour? Where are the efficient interdepartmental linkages that are supposed to have been created post-Covid?
First, a correct plan must be made. As the economy of Zhongshan Ancient Town is based on the tourism industry, all of the departments in Zhongshan should look at the big picture; they should strive to comprehend not only their local situation but the situation around them; they should work to comprehensively improve their consciousness of good service, avoid generalizations, and abandon narrow thinking. Responding to a foreigner as if she is a virus, yelling at her, being rude to her, acting inhumane, and expressing a dehumanizing style of doing things will only serve to make the whole world look at Zhongshan Ancient Town as a joke. International and domestic tourists alike will not want to go to such a place and the further development of tourism will be impossible.
And, their response…
The People’s Government of Zhongshan Ancient Town, Jiangjin District, Chongqing’s response to the complaint emailed by Tyra Chen.
In response to your email: “Complaints about the lack of professionalism on the part of both the police and medical personnel in Zhongshan Ancient Town when it comes to conducting epidemic prevention inspections of foreigners”, we have the following response.
On the evening of November 6th, the Zhongshan Precinct House received a report that a person who was suspected of being a foreigner was riding a bicycle from the direction of the Longtang Village ridge towards Zhongshan Ancient Town. In order to meet the needs of epidemic prevention work, staff from the local police station along with relevant government employees and medical workers went to find this person in order to perform a medical check. After receiving the notice, officers from the Zhongshan Precinct House and workers from the relevant departments rushed to the scene.
From Haikou to Guang’an, I was on the road for a total of 96 days. During those 96 days, although it may be possible that locals in some other places felt the need to call the police and say that they had seen a foreigner on a bicycle, the police in other places were smart enough to tell them that a foreigner on a bicycle is not something to worry about. The one and only other time that the police specifically came looking for me anywhere other than a hotel or restaurant was deep in the mountains of Guizhou when someone correctly reported that I appeared to be in trouble.
Subsequently, civilian officers of the Zhongshan Precinct House found the foreigner in question already surrounded by members of the public outside the entrance of the old government building on the Yueliang Road ridge in Zhongshan Town. After learning of this situation, on-patrol officers rushed to the scene to determine and confirm this person’s relevant details. After checking this person’s documents and confirming her identity, medical staff from Zhongshan Hospital looked over the NAT results provided by Marian which showed that she had been tested within the past 14 days. They also checked her green code. According to the requirements of Chongqing Municipality’s normalized epidemic prevention work, it was determined that this tourist is not a member of a high risk group and the medical staff of Zhongshan Hospital clearly told her while on the scene that she did not need to go to the hospital for additional check ups.
This is what is commonly referred to as “a lie”. Not only is it a lie, it’s not even a very good lie. We are expected to believe that, while in the middle of trying to find a place to eat dinner, I decided that instead of continuing to determine which of the open restaurants I wanted to eat dinner at, I’d rather go to the local hospital and sit on a stool in their parking lot for over an hour before eventually deciding “just because I felt like it” that I wanted to get my dinner at 9pm in a town another 10km down the road.
When the ambulance was returning to the hospital, Marian made the decision to ride her bike along with a police car to the hospital. This is true. However, the Zhongshan hospital and the police car absolutely were not “delivering” Marian to the hospital. To check Marian’s green code and NAT results, there was no reason for the medical staff of the hospital to ask Marian to enter the hospital. After the medical staff of Zhongshan Hospital had finished confirming and checking Marian’s details, they told the police officers that everything was in order. As Zhongshan Town was having a power outage, the foreigner made the decision to leave Zhongshan.
Well, yes, I did say that I wasn’t going to spend the night or spend any money in Zhongshan after the way I was treated. But, I most certainly didn’t make that decision because the power was out. According to the lovely people whose restaurant I ate at once I got to Caijia Town, the power in Zhongshan rarely goes out for more than 2 or 3 hours and it was already back on.
The Zhongshan Precinct House and the local hospital strictly follow all of the Party and the central government’s requirements for epidemic prevention work. By strict control and careful implementation of all rules, it is possible to ensure that disease will not take a foothold. The entire handling process of this incident was done in a standardized and civilized manner. No one was bullied or insulted. The behavior of law enforcement was not coercive in the slightest. Everything was in accordance with the requirements of epidemic prevention work. However, this incident reflects that—in the normalization of epidemic prevention and control work—the service level for foreign tourists is not high, effective communication is not in place, and service etiquette is insufficient. We will take this as a warning, strengthen the management training of epidemic prevention and control personnel, optimize the service environment, improve service attitudes, improve service capabilities and standards, and prevent similar incidents from happening again.
The reason I’m complaining is not because this incident made me uncomfortable. I’m complaining because the complete failure of every person involved in this incident (at a 3A Tourism Site no less) to act either logically or correctly shows that, in the event of an actual problem, they would also fail to act correctly.
You can read the Original Bilingual Article here:
Author: Marian 岳玫瑰 (我是凡一)
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