Lhasa Tibet #3: Wrestling Freak
How to deal with a hung-over Chinese PSB cop asshole: Wrestle the prick!
The full story:
Our final visas were originally to expire yesterday, so last week on Thursday we booked our 2-day trip to the Nepali border in a Landcruiser. We were to leave early Saturday morning and arrive at the border Sunday, at least an hour before it closed at 6PM. We paid a deposit and signed a short contract with the organizer. We then prepared to leave by, amongst other things, having an amazing goodbye party together with our Tibetan university-student friends, one of their families and many neighbors - and with lots and lots of dumplings and cold beer.
Then came Friday and news from Organizer (a really nice, but totally inept Tibetan guy) that our ride had fallen through. We then spent most of the next 2 days following him around town, sitting and waiting for him at our hotel and talking to him on the phone over and over again as he searched for another car to get us to the border in time. Well, he couldn't find one and neither could the 3 other trip organizers we talked to. There were a couple of Landcruisers leaving for the border, but their drivers didn't have permits to transport foreigners and since there are a number of police road blocks on the way it didn't sound like a great idea. So, we found ourselves in a real jam. There was a ride leaving Sunday morning, but that'd get us to the border a day late and the fine for over-staying your visa is 500 yuan per day! That's 500 watermelons in Turpan! That's 10,000 cloves of garlic in Kashgar!! That's 5,000 "jiao" for beggars on the streets here in Lhasa!
We didn't want to pay 500 yuan each, so we decided to try and get an emergency extension from the PSB (Public Security Bureau). The PSB can be terrible all over China and its occupied territories, especially in Xinjiang, but Tibet is where they're at their worst (or, for them, their best): extremely strict, vicious (to the Tibetans) and very paranoid. And they're right to be paranoid - their job is to try and control all secessionist thoughts and almost all Tibetans have them... and almost all foreigners sympathize. Anyhow, we were told that it's close to impossible to get a tourist visa extension in Lhasa (unless you're part of a tour group), but "close to impossible" isn't the same as "impossible", so we decided to give it a try. Saturday afternoon we went together with Organizer to the PSB office to explain our situation and to plead (just like James Brown) "please, please, please". The Tibetan PSB man behind the desk could speak good English and seemed quite reasonable, but he told us that he had no power to grant visa extensions and that we'd have to go to their other office, which was already closed for the day. He called the other office and we were told to be there the next morning at 9AM.
And so at 9AM yesterday morning (the final day of our visas) we arrived at the other PSB office to find both the gate and doors chained shut. Great! A caretaker guy eventually let us in and then went out back to the police dormitory, presumably to wake up the cop who was supposed to be working from 9AM. At 10 o:clock a clearly hung-over cop with his hair and clothes in a mess finally showed up and told us (yelled at us) to go away. We found out later that this idiot was, in fact, the second in command for this office. And forget about the moron in the Aksu PSB, this guy's power had obviously gone right to his head and made him nearly (may I use George W's favorite word?) "evil". He almost made the guy in Aksu look humble and polite. We tried to explain our situation, but he wouldn't listen to a word from us or from Organizer (who, let's not forget, had gotten us into all of this mess in the first place). This cop was Chinese and he treated (Tibetan) Organizer with total contempt: yelling and sneering at him and waving him away like a dog. To be fair, he didn't treat us much better. He never stopped shouting once and no one else was yelling (yet!). He kept telling us to go to the other PSB office and we kept trying to explain that we'd already been there and that we'd been told to come to this office. He obviously couldn't care less.
Finally, we gave up trying to talk to someone who wouldn't listen to a word we were saying. We decided to go back to the other office as he was yelling and commanding us to do. It seemed pointless, but we had no other real option. There's a big board in the lobby of all PSB offices with the photos, names and numbers of all the cops at that station. And so, before returning to the other office, we decided to write down this freak's name and number. That's when we saw that he was the #2 cop at the station and THE head person in-charge of foreigners - the fool couldn't speak a word of English!
When Freak saw us writing his name down he got scared, which was a funny and bizarre thing to see after all this power-tripping shit. He must have thought we were going to report him. He ripped the paper away from Son and tore it up. But we have every right to write his name down, so we wrote it down again and then tried to leave. Next, and probably not the smartest thing I've ever done, I found myself wrestling with the prick trying to get out the door. I told him to "Fuck right off!" too, but since he couldn't speak a word of English he didn't seem to mind. We finally made it out the door (with his name and number) and that's when Freak started yelling at another foreigner who had just shown up.
We got to the other PSB office and re-explained our situation to the nice reasonable cop who could speak English. He said he couldn't issue any extensions himself, but he'd call his boss. He called and we waited and then a few minutes later, you guessed it, The Freak showed up in a nice suit and was (almost) a totally different person - no more yelling, except when he first arrived and screamed at Organizer to leave. After many questions about our situation (with the nice guy translating), and seeing our receipt from Chengdu for our flight and permits, he agreed to give us a 5-day extension. So back we went to his office and 2 hours later we actually had our extensions in hand.
And so that's the whole story. Using a different organizer, we've now found a Landcruiser to take us to the border. We leave tomorrow. I hope! If something goes wrong at least we've got a couple of extra days this time. And, of course, we now know how to deal with Freak.
So there you have it. If you ever have any trouble with a hung-over power-trippin' PSB asshole in Lhasa just try a bit of wrestling and make sure to tell him to "Fuck right off!" After that everything should be just fine (as long as you're not a Chinese citizen).
Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Monday, October 7th, 2002
And for a purely political rant about China's repression of the Tibetan people, check out my Tibetan Freedom Rant from March 2008.
And for other travel stories click here MikesAndDislikes Travel: Home