It was the kind of sign that humiliated Chinese during the semi-colonial era before 1949. Signs in foreign-run concession areas would sometimes say: “No Dogs and Chinese allowed.”
Those days are long over. China is a proud nation, with much to be proud of.
But there are certain places that continue to be restricted for Chinese. And I happen to be smack dab in the middle of one. Our office is in what is called the Qijiayuan Diplomatic Compound. It no longer is just for diplomats. While there are some diplomatic missions here, any foreigner with some currency can rent, I believe, and Chinese employees or family members are welcome. At the gates, People’s Armed Police guards stand smartly at attention. They often stop Chinese and ask for identity cards to see if they indeed have jobs here or are part of families residing here.
All this is a long wind-up to say my office assistant, Fan Di, arrived in tears this morning. She’d been stopped at the gate, apparently rather rudely, and it got her dander up. So she refused to pull out her identity card. She told the guard he’d seen her enter countless times and why was he harassing her? So I asked her to write up her impressions. That's her in the photo below, by the way. Here's what she wrote:
There were two soldiers standing there this morning. As usual, I was rushing directly to the doorway of our building when suddenly one of the two soldiers stopped me with his arm.
"Show me your card," he said.
"I work in this building," I replied confidently, hinting that I should be recognized since I have worked in this building for more than half a year and I was sure that I didn't look like someone who came here for the first time.
"This is an embassy and anyone should show their card if they want to get in," the soldier said.
"Oh really?" I questioned. "Why do you never ask for cards from foreigners?"
"Because this is a FOREIGN compound," he emphasized most arrogantly.
Okay, had he not said such words, I would have shown him the card. But this is not the first time that I heard such words spoken from their mouths. What he said irritated me and I decided that I would never show it to them. Do foreigners have priority in the foreign compounds? Is it logical?
"How do you know that I'm not a foreigner?" I asked.
"I should check your card before I know whether or not you are a foreigner," he said.
"I'm not giving you my card," I said. "I would give you my card if you checked everybody. But you don’t. Now I'm late for work and I'm going in."
Maybe the soldier had never seen a Chinese girl as tough as me. He was obviously angry and stretched out his arms to block me. When I was managing to get out of his control, the other soldier, who never said anything before, now came to help his comrade. He also stopped me with his arms. They were forcing their arms against me really hard.
"Let us try and see whether you can get in (without my permission)," shouted the first one as if he had great power superior to mine. The stalemate lasted for half a minute and finally I broke free.
As I was running to the doorway, that guard still couldn't stop shouting: "I'll remember you. You wait and see!"
During the whole process, another two guards were just standing there 10 meters away, laughing.
As I got into the elevator, tears just came from my eyes. I was angry not only because I was treated unfairly, but also I have experienced how some Chinese still make foreigners seem superior, and I felt pity for the guards. I think the other soldier must know that I work here. He still watched his companion give me trouble. They treat any foreigner better than their compatriots. The only standard they judge people is by the color of their skin. Should this be the way that they are educated? Don't they understand there might be more Chinese who work in the foreign compound and should be respected for who they are? AND, what are they here for? Supervising Chinese? In that way, they can even smile to a foreign terrorist!
At noon, I told another office worker about this and she asked why I didn't speak English to them to avoid trouble. Why should I? I don't want to pretend that I am a foreigner. I've never felt as a Chinese that I’m lower than a foreigner. I am just who I am.