Tuesday, October 11, 2011

681. A Tourist Under Suspicion - Part 2

For some reasons unknown to me, on August 20, 2011, I was interviewed for 3 hours by the Hong Kong Airport Immigration Office from 6 am to 9 am. My visit was said to be "not in the national interest of Hong Kong." I had not visited Hong Kong since it became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China and that would be many years. I have no friends in Hong Kong when the Officer asked me. I was on a 4D/3N tour of Hong Kong and Macau. I just wanted to re-visit Hong Kong since the last visit as a member of the Bukit Turf Club task force to review the racing decline in Singapore. And that last visit was in 1988!

"Since the fish is in the net," I said to the Immigration Officer as I answered all his questions in a cordial manner and nearly 3 hours had passed, "Why not ask your relevant Department to interview me?"

"It is not so easy as you said," the Immigration Officer spoke to me courteously. "What offence did I commit?" I asked as the Officer persisted in advising me to by-pass Hong Kong by proceeding to Macau directly. In this situation, he would not stamp my passport as being "denied entry into Hong Kong."

"Why is my visit not in the national interest of Hong Kong?" I can't imagine me being the master spy or terrorist.

"I am sorry I can't tell you," the Officer implied that I would be sent back on the next plane to Singapore but did not say directly. "I am trying to make it easy for you by asking you to go direct to Macau."

My wife was waiting outside at the Baggage area as she usually walked fast and did not know I was detained. And 3 hours had passed so fast.

"If I accept your advice to go direct to Macau, how do I know that I would be denied entry to Macau, since Macau is also under China's control?" I asked as Macau is also a SAR of China.

"Macau's Immigration system is different from ours," the Officer implied that both SARs don't share the same data about me as a threat to the national interest of Hong Kong. However, I would not believe him.

"If I am denied entry to Hong Kong and just leave and go to Macau, I will have a black mark and will be denied entry into China."

"No," the Officer said. "I see that you had visited Hainan two years ago and had no problem."

"That was two years ago," I said.
"Things may change," the Officer said. "You may be able to visit Hong Kong another time. For today, I advise you to proceed to Macau directly from the Airport."

"Time is not on my side," I said sadly to the Officer. "I am 61 years old. "Have you spoken to your superior officer about my case?"

"Yes, I had discussed your situation with two levels above me," the Officer held his ground. "I am sorry you cannot enter Hong Kong."

"But what offence did I commit?" I asked.
"You did not commit any offence. You are more the 'victim'."
"Did somebody use my name and passport to commit a crime?" I asked.
"I am sorry I cannot reveal more to you,"

A victim of circumstances? Three hours had passed. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Each country has a right to reject tourists, no reasons need to be given. I said: "OK, ask my wife to come back to the Immigration Office and we proceed directly to Macau."

Her passport had been stamped as being permitted to enter Hong Kong. Mine was not stamped.

The Immigration Officer went to a room to speak to another person. Then he came to me and said: "You are permitted to enter Hong Kong."
I thanked him and asked that my wife be permitted to come back to the Immigration Counter.
"I am surprised that you did not get angry over this matter," the Officer said to me as a parting shot.
"Every country has a right to deny entry to tourists," I replied. "Thank you for your help."

I was sure I was videoed as there was already a written notice on the wall about being under closed-circuit television survellance of interviewees.

My wife was angry when she was brought back to the Immigration counter as she had waited at the Baggage Area for 3 hours. I quickly asked her to cool down, as a favourable situation can become disadvantageous to me if she made a lot of noise.

"Just focus on sight-seeing," the Officer advised me as we parted. I still can't figure out why he said that. Life is full of surprises. It is always best to keep cool in difficult situations.

In Singapore, I discovered that my younger brother had also been denied entry to Hong Kong 2 years ago and he just proceeded to Macau. He had not told me earlier. I wrote to the Hong Kong Immigration Officer, as advised by the Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The reply is as follows:

Our reference : L/M in CD/HQ/23 Pt. 52

Dear Dr. Sing,

Thank you for your e-mail of 6 October 2011.

Persons arriving in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are subject to immigration examination under the Immigration Ordinance, Laws of Hong Kong. Each and every case will be considered and determined on its individual merits.

The Immigration Department attaches great importance to providing a courteous and efficient service to the public. It is regretful that you have encountered inconvenience at our control point.

Thank you for bringing the matter to our attention. Proper action has been taken. Hoping that your next visit will be a pleasant one.

Yours sincerely,

Mrs HO TSE Bing-yee
for Director of Immigration

Keep cool in difficult situations so that you can analyse and argue your case constructively will at least not burn the bridges. Showing anger and being abusive to civil service officers will not get you anywhere in this world. Not being proactive to argue your case courteously when you have had not done anything wrong is also not good for you.

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