25
Apr
08

Not that we’re trying to scare you or anything…

I was already worried that I may have difficulties extending my visa for the full time that I wanted to stay here, knowing that I could probably only count on early June, instead of late July. But now it sounds like foreigners are having visa requests denied left and right. Could this mean that I have to return as early as the second week of May? Even going to Hong Kong for three days, or getting a business visa, may not be enough. Well, anyway, here’s the email that Allison received today from her program, warning Fulbrighters to be careful here in China. Carrefour, by the way, is the closest thing to a Wal-Mart or a supermarket near where I live. Yes, Wal-Mart is here in Beijing, but hell if I know where it is. I shop Carrefour all the time, because it’s only two blocks from my apartment. And here I was thinking this is a great opportunity to shop there even more often…

Dear China Fulbrighters,

As you all probably know, recent events in China and abroad have created a very tense situation with regard to many Chinese citizens’ attitudes toward foreigners – particularly Western Europeans and Americans. A grassroots campaign encouraging a boycott of the French-owned supermarket chain Carrefour is currently underway, and has resulted in dramatic protests outside Carrefour outlets in different cities. A few days ago, an American volunteer teacher was targeted by protestors as he left a Carrefour outlet – here is a link to one of the more thorough stories reporting on this incident:

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jMNGhV6BnbqFht8T9Tstkb9HHLegD907O5AG0

We wanted to bring this incident to your attention as a reminder that during such tense periods in China it is important to consider all your actions carefully and be sensitive to the possible ramifications of even the most innocent behavior. You cannot predict how people might react to you, so do your best to avoid any situations where a confrontation might develop. For the time being, it is best to avoid places that are or might become the target of grassroots protests. If you encounter such protests or demonstrations in the course of your daily life, get away from them as soon as possible. Do whatever you can to minimize the risk that you might become the target of protestors’ actions.

If you are ever in a situation where you feel your safety is threatened, please contact the Embassy or the nearest Consulate immediately at the following numbers:

· U.S. Embassy Beijing: tel. 86-10-6532-3431

· U.S. Consulate General Chengdu: tel. 86-28-8558-3992

· U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou: tel. 86-20-8518-7605

· U.S. Consulate General Shanghai: tel. 86-21-3217-4650

· U.S. Consulate General Shenyang: tel. 86-24-2322-1198

You may wish to save these numbers to your cell phone address book for easy access, along with the IIE Beijing Office number (listed in my signature below).

Finally, if you have not done so already please take a moment to register with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate closest to you. This can be done on-line, and will ensure that you will be provided with up-to-date information about any emerging security issues in your region of China.

https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/home.asp.

In case of difficulties registering online, please contact the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

You can also access all recent travel advisories and other important notices for China on the Embassy website here (new travel advisories are automatically sent to those who are registered with the Embassy/Consulates):

http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/acs_notices.html

Take care and let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Update: I was just in the process of posting this, when I found this update from the Shanghaiist blog. The American may not have been as injured as badly as the original story suggested, but as the Shanghaiist says, it’s probably still worth exercising caution if we encounter angry mobs. I’m still going to go to Carrefour, maybe on May Day, when the biggest protests are planned. If I’m lucky, the boycott will reduce the typically huge lines and over-crowding at Carrefour, and I’ll be able to shop quickly and in peace. But if I see a protest or a mob… well, I’ll just have to use my best judgment.

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