Friday afternoon, June 4th, I had some spare time after a morning filled with calls and I decided to walk up to Tian’anmen square which is around the corner from where my apartment is. I had already noticed that there was increased security around Tian’anmen square and the forbidden city since I arrived the Wednesday before. I figured it had to do with the upcoming 100-year celebration of the communist party and I didn’t think much of it.
In my mind this was a quick visit, and I didn’t bother to bring my passport. In general, I don’t like to travel with my passport because I don’t want to lose it. Instead, I bring my passport card around and bluff my way in. It is an official id, but it has a different number than my regular passport, so it doesn’t match up with the official records. Like usual, using my passport card worked for the first security checkpoint into Tian’anmen square. By the 2nd security check, it got more complicated, and they asked for my regular passport. I do carry photos of that around on my phone, so I showed them that as well. After a few checks they let me through.
I then proceeded to the next line. After 20min or so a police officer walked up to me and asked me for my id. I was the only foreigner in the line, which I assumed was why I was picked, and I showed her my passport card. She left and then returned with a few of her colleagues, and they pulled me out of the queue and checked my id’s again. This time I showed them my passport card and the pictures on my phone of my regular passport. They started asking me questions about my business in China, where I worked, etc. etc. The person in charge also went to his phone app, logged in through facial recognition and right on his phone he had access to my entire file, all in Chinese but I could clearly see the picture I had submitted for my visa application. He took pictures of all the id’s I used and added those to the file. All the time he was saying that there wasn’t a problem, which didn’t make me feel any better. Eventually, he was satisfied that I was only planning to visit Tian’anmen square for selfies and I was allowed to get back into the queue.
The next id check was easy, they accepted my passport picture on my phone. By now I had wised up and decided that I shouldn’t confuse them with multiple id’s, especially one that isn’t registered with them. After an hour wait, I got to the last and final check point. They needed a scan of my passport, and a picture of my passport didn’t work. I tried but no avail. This is where they sent me back.
I didn’t protest, although I did see a Chinese person in front of me carrying a picture of his id card on his phone and he was let in. While waiting in the queue and checking the news I realized what day it was. Boy, had I been naïve. I picked the worst possible day to visit Tian’anmen square as the only foreigner in the queue and, to add insult to injury, without proper identification. No wonder security was so tight. I will try again next week when things are quieter and bring my real passport this time.