Posts tagged: China

Key Learnings – SG Immigration No U-Turn Policy – Travellers Take Note!

By , March 31, 2012 8:42 pm

Source: Aussie Pete Legacy Blog

icalogo01As a partner to MICA (ministry of communications and the arts) to promote Singapore to foreigners and locals alike, as a great place to work, live, study and play, I find it unfortunate and disappointing to write the following article.

As the saying goes – “We are never too old to learn”… after 7-years living in Singapore, I learned something new a few weekends ago… the policy that is known as a ‘U-turn’ within the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority. Boy oh boy, did this cause my family and I some grief. 🙁

nouturn01Firstly, I want to make it completely clear that I have no qualms or complaints about the policies, rules, regulations or laws with respect to Singapore Immigration. In fact, I have always been (and continue to be) a proponent of the laws set forth… the last thing we would ever do as a PR family, would be to try and break or bend any regulations (this doesn’t mean I fully understand the reasoning behind certain policies).

Here’s the background… my wife’s ageing, retired parents have come to Singapore to spend time with their grandchildren, who were both born here in Singapore. Prior to departure from Shanghai a few weeks ago, they applied through the appropriate channels and received a multiple entry tourist visa to Singapore, valid for 12-months – at time of application and as a part of the process, they were required to submit a copy of their flight details and itinerary indicating the time and date of their return flight to China.

We were obviously aware before their vacation, that the social visit pass that would be endorsed in their passports upon arrival should allow them to stay for 30-days. Given that it was also their desire to visit surrounding areas (Malaysia and Indonesia), they ensured that they also attained any necessary further visas for travel (eg. single entry visa to Malaysia). Taking into consideration all of the above, I contacted ICA to determine whether or not an application for extension of social visit pass (short term) or an application for long-term social visit pass would be required – to date, I have still not had a response to this query.

batamferrymapSo here’s what happened… my in-laws decided that for their first trip to surrounding areas, they would like to visit the Indonesian island of Batam (just around 40-minute ferry ride from the terminal at Tanah Merah and to the south of Singapore). We booked in for a 2D/1N stay at the Turi Beach Resort, packed up the kids and all six of us checked in at the ferry terminal early on Saturday morning.

Knowing full well that my in-laws had a valid multiple entry visa to Singapore and Indonesia would issue a visa upon arrival, I made sure that we carried all associated paperwork (including air tickets back to China that they used when applying for their SG visas) with us to avoid any unnecessary delays or concerns over the travel plans and my in-laws’ intentions around their stay in Singapore.

Given that we would be leaving the shores of Singapore through immigration and returning again later the following day, my assumption was that my in-laws would be ‘stamped out’ and then a new social visit pass would be chopped in their passport when we arrived back on shore.

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Herein lies the lesson!! I know, I know… ASSUME = ASS, U and ME… for any person travelling out of Singapore and returning within 5-days, it is considered by immigration officers as a ‘U-Turn’ and is not the appropriate process to follow when renewing or extending the social visit pass.

As mentioned in my opening comments, I have absolutely no problems with the rules. My main issue is that we had never been made aware of this ‘U-Turn’ policy. Even after reaching out to ICA and receiving no response, we had been completely transparent with our intentions and had no underlying motives or hidden agendas around the grandparents of my children visiting and staying with us for vacation. We carried with us all original documentation – visas, itineraries, airline tickets, etc, etc.

My secondary issue – and my biggest concern – was the treatment that my ageing mother-in-law received at the hands of a particular angry lady at the border when we were exiting Singapore. I still have no idea who she was or what her position is (although I am assuming some kind of supervisory role), as I had asked for her name and designation, which she refused to provide me.

bully01The incident left my mother-in-law short of breath, shaking uncontrollably and on the verge of fainting. This ICA officer threatened that there was a chance that she could be sent back to China within 24-hours upon her return to Singapore. This, regardless of the fact that she was in possession of a valid multiple-entry visa and supporting documents, and the more personal and sensitive situation, that she was travelling with her family – her husband, also travelling under the exact same circumstances who had been cleared by the same officer just minutes before with no concern, her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren (all Singapore permanent residents). The bullying tactics should never have occurred in this situation, in my opinion.

I clearly understand that the Immigration officers have a very important job to do, and they are doing an excellent job of protecting our borders. However, when it comes to dealing with law-abiding people who are doing nothing but enjoying time with their families and have clearly done everything possible to offer transparency and follow all the rules and laws, there should definitely be some form of decorum, respect, or even downright good-nature. I was trying to discuss the situation with the officer (supervisor?) to explain what we were doing and that we had already reached out to ICA. She was clearly not listening to me and was intent on being arrogant and wielding her authority – to the point that it made this elderly traveler (my wife’s mother) extremely distressed… it’s important to note that the dialog and threats of 24-hour return to China (not sure if it’s considered ‘deportation’?) was not immediately understood as the entire discussion was in English language, of which my mother-in-law has very little understanding… this just added to her distress.

This all occurred before we even boarded the ferry to Batam – not an ideal way to begin a vacation right?

Determined not to let the departure incident ruin our vacation, we still did our best to enjoy the fun in the sun

Determined not to let the departure incident ruin our vacation, we still did our best to enjoy the fun in the sun

So the question remains, dear readers…. What happened when we returned to Singapore?? I‘m glad you asked!! 🙂

Thankfully, we were served by a much more considerate and understanding young guy in immigration who was pleasant and explained clearly the U-Turn policy.

When we approached the counter, another immigration officer who had witnessed the incident the day before, advised the guy that served us to check for this ‘U-Turn’ for my wife’s parents. Our counter was very quickly attended by another ‘supervisor’ to oversee the interaction. Once again, this lady was extremely professional and courteous in her manner… she supported the officer’s explanation that in and out of Singapore within 24-hours is not considered appropriate process to extend a short term social visit (minimum of 3-days out of the country is required – which I’ve later discovered is incorrect… the required length of time out of SG is 5 days), and if my in-laws wished to extend in the future, it should be done through the ICA head office (the same office which previously – seemingly – ignored my enquiry on this matter).

I am extremely grateful to the officer and his supervisor who attended to us upon our return. They were very approachable and understanding and resolved the situation kindly and amicably… the rude, arrogant lady from the previous day could take some lessons from their attitude and demeanor. Like I said, I know that she was doing her job and I am thankful for ICA keeping Singapore safe, but scaring the hell out of elderly people visiting their grandchildren who were born and living in Singapore using intimidation tactics is unacceptable in my books.

So there you go – after much searching, I have not found any information on the ICA website about this U-Turn policy, nor can I find any documentation to state that such practice is unacceptable (even though we were clearly completely transparent about our intentions, up to and including trying to seek information directly from ICA in advance). I did however, learn that by applying through the X-tend online short-term social visit portal, it does state that five days is required out of the country for ICA not to consider the departure as an extension to the current visit.

questionmarkIn conclusion, I have a few ‘rhetorical’ questions (not actually looking for answers – just wondering, really):

1 – Should ICA make it clear to all visitors (on their visitors section of their website) about the U-Turn policy?

2 – Why would a multiple-entry visa to Singapore be issued to travelers in the above situation?

3 – Why is there a separate process outside of visa issuance for short-term social visit pass (that is, when I receive a multiple entry visa for travel to China, the rules are very simple and clear – it is a condition of the visa that I can stay for a maximum of 30-days at any one time – regardless of how often I travel in and out of China on this visa – no separate visit pass is required)?

4 – Given that it is at the discretion of the officer serving you at the border how long he or she should endorse your passport for the social visit visa, should there be some kind of transparency to the public around how such determination would be made (as opposed to intimidating departing travelers just because maybe the officer in question might be having a bad day)?

5 – I am aware of travel packages to Singapore out of China, which include 1 or 2 day visits to surrounding areas. How do these travel agents get around the U-Turn policy, I wonder?

6 – Should the determination on extension of visit visas include some assessment of the family status and intentions of the visitors – that is, some kind of case-by-case compassion analysis?

More fun in the sun on Batam Island

More fun in the sun on Batam Island

A serious thank you again to the Immigration and Checkpoints of Authority of Singapore (ICA). Ultimately and overall, they are doing a fantastic job and deserve the full respect of all Singaporeans, PRs and Visitors.

Update: after application via ICA’s online X-tend website, extension of the short term visit passes has been rejected (with no right to reply or appeals process) and my in-laws have paid the financial and emotional penalty of changing their flights and will be departing Singapore next week.

To view all of the Batam photos in this series, click here!

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Amazing World… Amazing Pictures!

By , December 23, 2011 12:00 am

My good ol’ mate, Ralphie, in Melbourne has done it again. He always seems to get his hands on some of the most remarkable stuff and never fails to share with me on email.

In this edition, some of the most amazing pictures that you will ever see… ENJOY!!

ASIDE: Wishing a Blessed and Merry Christmas and a Safe and Prosperous New Year to Ralph and his family… have a beer for me mate.

The world’s highest chained carousel, located in Vienna, the height of 117 metres:

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Thor’s Well – “the gates of the dungeon.” CapePerpetua, Oregon. At moderate tide and strong surf, flowing water creates a fantastic landscape:

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Emerald Lake in the crater of an extinct volcano. Tongariro National Park – NewZealand:

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Restaurant on a cliff on the east coast of Zanzibar. Depending on the tide the restaurant can be reached both on foot and by boat:

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Office of Selgas Cano in Madrid:

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Desert with Phacelia (Scorpion Weed). Flowering once in several years:

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Balloons in Cappadocia:

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Dubai. The view from the skyscraper BurjKhalifa. The height of buildings is 828m (163 floors):

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And this is the view down:

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These trees grow in the forest near Gryfino, Poland. The cause of the curvature is unknown:

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The border between Belgium and the Netherlands in a cafe:

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Twice a year in the Gulf of Mexico rays migrate. About 10 thousand stingrays swim from the Yucatan Peninsula to Florida in the spring and back in the fall:

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In the resort town of Skagen you can watch an amazing natural phenomenon. This city is the northernmost point of Denmark, where the Baltic and North Seas meet. The two opposing tides in this place can not merge because they have different densities:

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In the Chinese province of Shandong is a bridge across the Gulf of Jiaozhou. The bridge length over 36 km is calculated for eight car lanes, and is the longest sea bridge in the world:

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Day and night. The monument in Kaunas, Lithuania:

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An unusual tunnel in California’s Sequoia National Park:

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This statue, created by Bruno Catalano, is located in France:

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Family Photo:

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The longest traffic jam in the world recorded in China. Its length is 260 kilometres:

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Paris computer games store. In fact, the floor is absolutely flat:

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Marcus Levine – slaughtering an artist in the literal sense. He creates his paintings by nailing a white wooden panel. At his latest series of paintings exhibited in a gallery in London, Marcus has spent more than 50,000 pieces of iron:

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In the city of Buford (USA) lives just one person. He works as a janitor and as a Mayor:

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Autumn Camouflage:

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Haus Rizzi – Germany:

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Lena Pillars. Russia, the Lena River:

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Banpo Bridge in Seoul, South Korea:

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Favelas of Brazil. The boundary between wealth and poverty:

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Lost paradise in the Indian Ocean. Isle of Lamu:

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Balcony of floor 103 in Chicago

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From the outside it looks like:

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View of the sunset from inside the wave:

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This is a unique geological phenomenon known as Danxia landform. These phenomena can be observed in several places in China. This example is located in Zhangye, Province of Gansu. The color is the result of an accumulation for millions of years of red sandstone and other rocks:

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In northwestern Montana, USA. The water is so transparent that it seems that this is a quite shallow lake. In fact, it’s very deep:

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Airport in the Maldives is located on an artificial island in the middle of the Indian Ocean:

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Lighthouse guard in Mare, France must be one of the most courageous people on the planet! Not everyone will have a smoke in such weather, and in such a place!:

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Photo of storm in Montana, USA, 2010:

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Skyscraper-Crescent Crescent Moon Tower (Dubai):

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Heavy fog in Sydney, which enveloped the whole city:

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The river above the river: Magdeburg Water Bridge, Germany:

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Morning Glory – kind of clouds observed in the Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia:

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Gibraltar Airport is one of the most extraordinary airports in the world:

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Source: Aussie Pete Legacy Blog

Man Lives After Being Shot In The Head – And Didn’t Even Know!

By , May 2, 2011 11:36 pm

bullet01Wang Tian Qing, a farmer from Zhangjiakouin city in northern China’s Hebei province has been suffering from epilepsy for more than twenty years.

Back in 1988, Wang was knocked unconscious on his way home by what he thought was a blow to the head… “I thought I’d been hit by a slingshot… I saw a man standing on a hill and thought he’d hit me”.

After waking up in hospital, Wang was given a course of anti-inflammatories and sent home. Not long after, he started having epileptic seizures – which grew worse over the next twenty-three years.

WangTianqing

Recently, Wang visited the hospital for treatment for his epileptic seizures, and doctors were amazed to discover (through a CAT scan) a two-centimetre rusted bullet embedded in his head.

According to Neurosurgeon, Wang Zhi Ming, the survival rate for being shot in the head would usually be one in several thousand – but in Wang Tian Qing’s case, the bullet missed his brain’s main veins and did not injure his brainstem.

WTH!!!!???

[youtube LAYjACOVWL4]

Man vs Wild OR Aussie Pete vs Shanghainese Food

By , February 9, 2011 8:30 pm

Bear GryllsThis is an article to make even the infamous Bear Grylls envious!

OK, so at least the star of the hit Discovery Channel show has more courage than me – he eats his exotic dishes raw (and even still alive) most of the time.

Now I’m not talking about your every day food that can be found anywhere in most parts of Asia – such as fish head soup, chickens feet or pigs trotters – whenever I’m in Shanghai, I often find myself outdone by my wife when it comes to how much my stomach (and mind) can handle (and she’s not very happy that I’m ‘making fun’ of the local food – but really, I’m not… I truly am envious!!)

For my ‘western’ readers, perhaps now might be a good time to look away if you’ve yet to eat dinner tonight.

The following are pictures I’ve taken of a few examples of the dishes that have been served to me over recent days here in China.

Let’s begin with something that I’d already previously had the pleasure of partaking in (once in Taiwan)… the well-known and recognised ‘ducks tongue’:

Ducks Tongue

Next – and maybe not that exotic to many – ‘spicy frog‘… for those connoisseurs of European food, I’m not talking about your expensive delicasy that is frogs legs… this is the real thing – the whole frog in all of it’s glory!:

Spicy Frog

We’ve all eaten our share of prawns… but quite frankly, I prefer mine cooked and not still twitching:

Raw Prawns

The thing that I was so impressed about when we were served this deep-fried snake, was the very skillful way they carefully sliced then rolled the skin to form parts of the side ‘salad’ (the black and white striped slivers in this picture):

Deep Fried Snake

OK – so maybe we were not really asked to eat a cow’s head… but I was intrigued to see our beef served up on a platter that was the real skull of a once-live bovid:

Cow Skull

Last but not least – we didn’t actually eat this, but it is a common belief in many parts of China, that young children when they are ready to start weaning on to solid foods should first be given a very small sip of soup made from the stock of a goose head – this is said to help if the baby should fall down as they start toddling… it is believed that extra strength will be given to the neck to avoid the baby hitting their head – so this dish was especially for Casey… Jaime also had a sip of the same when he was ready to start weaning:

Goose Head

2011 CNY – Another Year of the Pig?

By , February 3, 2011 9:35 pm

CNY Portrait

Of course, everybody knows that we are now in the Year of the Rabbit… but if you take note of what I’ve been eating over the last week in Shanghai, you would be forgiven for thinking that I should be back in 2007… the Year of the Pig (because I’ve been gorging myself like an absolute swine)!!

Year of the RabbitI’m putting any weight gain down to the slower metabolism due to the cold weather up here north of the equator… the day we arrived it was -3C with a little snow. Although I do know that the activities we partake in during the festive season are probably large contributors to the shift in belly circumference… here in China during Lunar New Year, it’s nothing but Eat… Play… Sleep… Eat… Play… Sleep (*repeat*) 🙁

Anyway, just for a quick update on the activities so far, here are a few of the highlights:

1. Dinner with the immediate family

[Click here for the full gallery from the evening]

[And Here for Part 2]

CNY Family Dinner

CNY Family Dinner

2. Official Studio Photo Shoot for the two boys

[Click here for the full gallery from Casey’s Photo Shoot]

Casey Photo Shoot

[Click here for the full gallery from Jaime’s Photo Shoot]

Jaime Photo Shoot

3. Sammi’s (First) 2011 Birthday Dinner – Another much larger one planned tomorrow lunch and dinner with extended family

[Click here for the full gallery from Sammi’s First Birthday Dinner]

Sammi First Birthday Dinner

Sammi First Birthday Dinner

4. Bringing in the New Year and Wishing for Longevity and Prosperity through Fire Works

[Click here for the full gallery from CNY Eve Fireworks]

CNY Fireworks

CNY Fireworks

So there you go (for now)… stay tuned for more updates!!

‘Fetishists’ Paying Chinese Girls To Crush Innocent Bunnies On Video (Warning: Extremely Graphic)

By , November 26, 2010 1:20 am

I often embed videos in my articles, because it makes for a more entertaining and interactive post.

crushrabbit02But I am so sickened by what I’ve just watched online, there is no way I would subject my readers to make the association of my blog to the sickos that are paying young Chinese girls between 200 and 400 yuan (S$40 to S$80) to crush small rabbits to death.

Known as “crush fetishists”, the people who have uploaded these very graphic videos have taken a hammering from Chinese netizens (after a ‘human flesh’ search discovered the identity and located one of the girls from one of the scenes in the video).

In a country where internet censorship rules the day, I am bewildered as to why the sites and all of the embedded videos are still available online to the 420 million web users in China. In the series of videos, several smiling and young attractive girls can be seen first cuddling and playing with small bunnies… then moving onto crushing them and giggling all the way like young schoolgirls.

crushrabbit03There is a scene where a young woman puts a bunny on the table, covers it with a sheet of glass and then sits on it for close to a minute. When she’s finished, she lifts the glass up to show bunny corpse – with blood oozing out of its its nose.

In another scene, one of the girls crushes one of the helpless animals under her high heel shoes.

According to China Radio International, the identified girl, is Huang Xiaoxiao. She is quoted as saying that she had been paid to appear in several videos – payments range from 100 yuan for crushing fruit, 200-300 yuan for “other small animals” and as much as 400 yuan for rabbits.

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Apparently these kind of animal crush videos are sold to fetishists who get some kind of sexual satisfaction from watching them. (WTH – How?) According to the US-based Humane Society, there is a bill to ban such videos ready to be voted into law in the United States, where many of the customers buying the sick DVDs reside.

The website that started all the commotion is extremely popular and often controversial. Let me warn you right now, the following links contain very, very graphic material and not for the squeamish… I consider myself pretty immune to many things, but these images and videos have left some scars that will take a while to heal, let me tell you.

Link to all the graphic detail at ChinaSmack

Link to Mop

After a little bit more research, I soon discovered that this is actually not something new. Read on…

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According to a very detailed background on the ‘crush fetish’ groups (source: China Smack):

“Many Mop netizens and even more netizens would believe this is an isolated incident, would believe that the girls in the video have psychological problems. Actually, this is not so, because behind these girls is an entire interest group, an interest group known as “crushfetish”, and all of them, including the other girls that appeared in the video, are members of abusing to death little animals. Their reason for making videos of abusing and killing animals is to make enormous profit, by making their videos into compact discs [CDs/DVDs], and exporting them. As with the the videos of a middle-aged woman abusing cats, abusing rabbits, abusing dogs that appeared online before, she is just one member only.

After the video and information about the woman abusing and killing rabbits were made public, at 3pm today, a netizen shared everything he knew about the profiteering group/organization that abuses and kills animals to make videos, having infiltrated this cruel group for have a year. However, due to high security within the group, he was unable to make much progress for a long time. After a lot of asking around, he obtained this group’s chat records and content and photos, as well as many of this group’s videos involving the abuse and killing of animals.

In relevant chat records, a person called “天堂之音-老R” made a comment regarding opinions about the video that appeared at the time in March involving a woman abusing various animals. He said: Those who like CF [Crush Fetish] are not people who like violence and murder as is commonly propagated, but rather an extension of SM [sadomasochism], a level, a desire to be trampled to death by a female, giving one’s life to her…and those who [are proponents] for legislation against animal abuse and killing, [they] should ask themselves if they are vegetarians.”

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