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  • Writer's pictureTom

Inside a Chinese Prison!

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

From the guards in their COVID space suits to the loudspeakers and cameras on every corridor, everything suggests that this is not the place to be disobedient. OK, I might not really be inside a chinese prison but this government quarantine hotel certainly seems like one.

The routine starts sometime between 06.30 and 07.00 with an early wake up call for the daily PCR test. Waiting outside the hotel room door is a fully gowned medical technical who takes two swabs in the mouth and nose. One goes so far up my nose I think it will come out of my ears! Then, there is just enough time to shower and get dressed before breakfast arrives.

Chinese 'prison' food
Chinese 'prison' food

Not the best meal. I usually manage the hard boiled egg, spring roll and a piece of cake. The rest is inedible. Fortunately the other two meals are significantly better.

I watched Steve Mcqueen (as Papillon) survive solitary confinement with strict regimes, pacing his cell and doing exercises. So that is exactly how I start each day. The room is around ten metres from door to window so five hundred 'lengths' should equate to the morning walk with the dog. I follow this with my poor attempts at the few yoga positions I know and cannot execute properly.

Although there is internet, and with wechat I can communicate with friends here, I have no communication channel to home. Censureship is far worse that I remember from the last time I was here pre-Covid. There is no Whatsapp, Telegram, Signal, Skype, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google (or Youtube), BBC, Netflix or any of the UK or US mainstream newspapers. Fortunately SkyfallRTW is still an approved website (although perhaps not after this post!). I did find the Manchester Evening News website. Maybe the censurers cannot understand the accent!

It is easy to tell when the next shipment of inmates is arriving. The loudspeakers in each corridor start barking instructions in unison, explaining (in chinese) what you can (very little) and cannot (quite a lot) do. The instructions last around three minutes but are repeated continually for the half hour it takes to get the inmates off the bus, scanned, tagged and led to their cells (sorry rooms). This palaver breaks the relative calm roughly twice a day.

View from the window
View from the window

Our 'welcome pack' includes a thermometer (we take our own temperature and report it twice per day), wipes, a handful of facemasks and.... well that is it. Yesterday we were issued with medical supplements and told to take a dose after lunch and dinner. This is to build up resistance to Covid. I asked what was in them. "It is a secret", came the reply. I have decided to rely on my adapted Pfizer booster jab instead. So more stuff to put down the toilet.

Looking on the bright side, going seven days without alcohol, coffee or treats of any description should have some positive effect on my weight!

Survival here revolves around Wechat. All the government health declaration certificates operate via Wechat and your phone. It has an excellent translater, either for text which you receive, conversation through the microphone, or from scanned documents. Nobody here speaks any english so it is essential. Should someone come to the door the first request is to 'friend' them. And then communicate via wechat messages (the translator works both ways). I say works. The english output is more 'pidgeon-english'. But with a bit of thought and imagination you can get the gist.

My quarantine finishes on Friday evening. At that time the health certificate on my phone from this city (Hangzhou) , which is currently grey, should magically turn green. I also need to get a paper document from the medical staff. Armed with these two precious items I should be able to get to the airport and board a flight to Wuhan (my destination). There, I will again be quarantined but only until another PCR test is completed and I have shown the quarantine certificate. Hopefully, at that point, the Wuhan Health certificate should turn green. In total I will have taken 14 PCR tests and been travelling since early on the 19th October. And these are the 'relaxed' Covid regulations.

To end on a positive note, I have been chatting to the people I will be visiting and I am soooo looking forward to my welcome party! And, in two weeks time, we will be back on Skyfall in Lanzarote.

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