Politics in the Airport

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.



A very big thanks to the consulate’s general services office, who came with their tools and freed my whiskey.


Note that the seal is broken and the bottle isn’t quite full, due to a small celebration/quality check.



Chinese whiskey torture

Because Shenyang is a “hardship post”, foreign service officers that are posted here have what is called a consumables allowance. It means that we can order food from various warehouses, and although we have to pay for the food, we don’t have to pay the shipping costs to get it here.

I put in a consumables order a few weeks ago. Part of it came today: the good part. China has a very heavy import tariffs on alcohol: over 48%. That makes all alcohol very expensive here in China.

I have been missing my Irish whiskey ever since I got here. The first part of my consumables shipment was a case of whiskey. It arrived today, and was delivered directly to my apartment. However, it did not come in a very user-friendly packing case. It is in a wooden crate, with a steel strap holding it all together. It is sitting in my apartment, I have no tools to open it, and I feel like it is laughing at me.


Not funny, guys. Not funny at all.