Podcast #27: One Month in Chinese Jail

On this episode of the podcast I’m joined by Doug, who just emerged from nearly one month in a Chinese jail due to a visa law violation. As is the case with many China expats who’ve been in this situation, Doug believed himself to be acting in accordance with China’s regulations, until the PSB begun investigating details surrounding his Chinese study in Chengdu. Misled by the Chinese language school providing his visa, Doug regrettably walked right into trouble. Doug tells his story and offers tips for staying out of trouble and preparing for the worst.

Topics Discussed

  • The Chinese language school which provided Doug’s visa
  • Interrogation by local PSB
  • Chinese jail culture
  • Befriending cellmates
  • Illness in jail and the role of the U.S. Consulate
  • Doug’s feelings on China

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About Charlie

Having lived in Chengdu for ten years, Charlie has traveled to every corner of China and back again, calling the Yulin neighborhood of Chengdu his adopted home.

9 Responses to “Podcast #27: One Month in Chinese Jail”

  1. I’m not in the habit of listening to podcasts because they take way too much time and tend to ramble, but I’m going to bet dimes to dollars this had nothing to do with his student visa, and everything to do with Doug illegally working as an English teacher at a training school.

    In fact, I would be doubtful if Doug ever spent a day in that language school and instead just used it as a license to work. I’ve certainly known plenty of foreigners who have done exactly that, and not just in China.

  2. Charlie

    The truth of the situation is not quite as simple as you describe. Which makes sense because you evidently did not even listen to the podcast. But many, like Doug, are deceived into believing their visa is legitimate when it is not. I’d venture a guess that most foreigners in China exist within a legal grey zone, as Doug did. Unfortunately, the grey zone turns into the red zone whenever China decides to enforce the law. In the end, it is Doug’s responsibility and he acknowledges that. He is a good person for being transparent about his mistake and sharing his experience for others to learn from.

  3. Great episode. I heard about Dougs situation in Chengdu, but also there had been a lot of Chinese whispers regarding why he was in Prison. Good to hear the true story.

  4. Super interesting listening to this, particularly the points where it seems he wasn’t even provided appropriate attire for the weather, perhaps leading to his getting sick. On top of that, the lack of stimulation besides Chinese television almost makes it feel like a mental facility more than a jail…

  5. I believe Doug was arrested because of his trip to the Tibetan area of Sichuan. The regime does not welcome any expats who is interested in that politically sensitive area for any reason. Immigration document is just an excuse to get him booted from China forever.

  6. drjtrekker

    Is this the whisper, he went to a Tibetan area?
    Or doing something else in those areas?

    I agree that these areas are politically sensitive and have been for a long time, but to be arrested just traveling there?

    • Charlie

      While possible, I’m skeptical also. A lot of travelers head to that region, it feels unlikely that they are all being targeted for investigation or expulsion. It’s possible though.

  7. drjtrekker

    It seems that his “sin” was lying to the big chief? I suppose that could have been it, while the others spilled the beans from the get go?

    Either way, great talk, good warning, and good interview skills charlie.

    Now lets here the “transition to america” podcast… 🙂

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