Thursday, August 26, 2010


"I recognize that I disobeyed the laws of this country by failing to register within 24 hours of moving. In the future I will make a greater effort to abide by the law."

That is the sum of my self-criticism which I was forced to write recently at the police station. Writing a self-criticism is a rite of passage in China, right up there with getting your bike stolen, and getting sick from street food.

The reason for my punishment was that every time you move to a new location in China, you have to go to the local police station and tell them that you've moved. Erik went the day before me to register our family (6 days late), and also had to sign a self-criticism. His was because he had left the country in July and didn't re-register in our previous district. The police officer saw that he had neglected to do so and told him, "We have records on the computer that show when you leave the country, so we will know if you don't do this," which begs the question, "If you have it on your computer, why do I need to come tell you?" But that's a question best left unasked, as there will be no satisfying answer.

Erik had forgotten a few documents (our rent agreement, and the owner's ID) so I had to go back to present these. The woman showed me Erik's self-criticism, and gave me my own to write. I tried to get out of it by telling the woman that I did not leave the country in July, only my husband did. She told me it was because I hadn't personally come to register the day before, and I pointed out that previously when we registered in our old district, only one of us had to go. Then she asked me, "But when did you move up here? Did you come here within 24 hours?"


I admitted that I hadn't, and vainly explained that moving is a busy process, especially with small children. She concurred, but was unmoved. I was sorely tempted to go overboard with my apology. I was writing in English (thankfully - I've had friends have to write it in Chinese) but wasn't sure if they would recognize the sarcasm and make me write another self-criticism as penance for my insincere self-criticism, so I refrained. In the end, she didn't even glance at what I wrote.

A strange form of punishment, but I think it will work for me. I felt like an 8 year old having to write lines, "I will not fail to register within 24 hours." Well done, China.

1 comment:

Miranda said...

That is hilarious!