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Social Issues

Living On The Streets Of China

This is a personal experience. In 2003, I lived a year in China. I was teaching English, as well as researching homelessness. Which later proved ironic, as I became one of China’s homeless.

A corrupt immigration police officer claimed my visa had expired, and took my passport from me. This is in violation of international law, but apparently China doesn’t subscribe to international conventions. I was told I must pay A$1,000 to get my passport back. I was given 48 hours to get the money, or I would be jailed.

Now there’s a funny thing in China. Without a passport, I couldn’t get into my hotel room. I couldn’t get money out of the bank. I couldn’t travel on buses or trains out of the city I was in (Guangzhou).

Oh. And there’s nowhere I knew of that I could go to for help. I tried the Australian consulate, but they didn’t want to know about it. I was on my own, they said.

I had met with several foreigners from different countries, who had all told me similar things had happened to them. I had also talked to many of the local Chinese homeless. As far as I could determine, there are no real welfare organisations in most parts of China.

Certainly, I had no idea where to go to find help. There was no Red Cross, Salvation Army, Wesley Mission or any of the numerous charity organisations we take for granted in Australia. Once you ae in that sort of predicament, you are more or less on your own.

Luckily, I was only in this predicament for six weeks, before getting out of China into Thailand, then back to Australia (with more help from the US consulate then from the Australian consulate). But it was still long enough to get a real taste of what it is like to be on the streets in foreign countries.

Now maybe I was wrong. Maybe there are organisations that provide help, but nobody in the country seemed to know for sure. If anybody knows,  it would be good to find out where are they, when so many people are looking for them.

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.


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