At the airport, on my way to Hong Kong for the holiday weekend, the airline check-in counter had multiple lines. An airline employee called out that the different lines were for domestic and international passengers.
This posed a problem for me. Is Hong Kong an international or domestic destination? Before Hong Kong was returned to Chinese control in 1997, it was a British colony for over 100 years. When it was British colony, of course, Hong Kong would have been an international destination for passengers from China. In addition, after Hong Kong was returned to China, China made it a special autonomous region. As a point of national sovereignty, Hong Kong is undoubtedly part of China.
But is Hong Kong a part of China for airline travel purposes?
Not able to get an answer from the airline employee, I shouted out to the counter clerk: “Is Hong Kong an international or domestic destination?”
Usually, airports are very noisy and chaotic places. However, as soon as I shouted out that question, it suddenly became as quiet as a church. The airline employees behind the counter froze in place. The people in line with me fell silent. Nobody said a word. It’s as if they were afraid of the question.
Honestly, it was really not a political question, I just wanted to know which line I was supposed to be in.
After several seconds of awkward silence, someone, a passenger, not an airline employee, called out: “domestic.”
As soon as he said that, it was like somebody released the “pause” button on life, and activity around me resumed.
So today I learned that in China, even getting on an airplane involves navigating through political minefields.