Our Night at the Lin’an Police Station
Our Chinese student Diana called us when we were in Lin’an Friday afternoon. The police had called her to say that they wanted more information about our missing computer, and so we were to go to the police station after dinner. I don’t know about you, but I feel nervous about being at a police station. Somehow I feel guilty and sure we must have broken some rule. And we are in China. I’d just talked to my brother Alan earlier in the day, and he had mentioned the fantastic Body exhibit of real bodies that have been preserved and shown in exhibit for at least five years. There has been speculation that the cadavers are of Chinese prisoners. As Barry and I rode by taxi to meet Diana by the front gate, I sent a text, mainly in jest, to Becky and Ryan, just in case we didn’t return from the police station.
It was after dark when we arrived. Uniformed police changing shifts streamed from the building. Smoking and talking probably about some gruesome crime, several stood in shadows at the front of the police building. Led through an eight-foot metal gate that said “no entry,” we were escorted into a windowless, concrete-block “inquiry” room with a desk and computer. One wide metal chair bolted to the floor faced the desk. I imagined it would conduct electricity very easily. None of us sat in that chair. We waited for someone to bring regular chairs before we sat down.
The investigating officer seemed competent, and he could understand English, but we were glad Diana was there to talk. After only a few minutes a second officer came in and said we might be more comfortable in another room, so we were led to the “petition room” with its large wooden conference table and wooden chairs. Officer Wong Hai Bo, whose first name means “big wave,” wanted all of Barry’s information like passport number and date of birth. Barry was the one who signed the report (with his first name and his fingerprint on each page). Diana served as witness. Her picture is even in the report. Even though I am the one employed by the school and the one with the working visa with Barry listed as the accompanying spouse, the official wanted only Barry’s information. Barry told me it was because he is better looking than I am. Diana said it is because men are the important ones in China.
The officer told us that the thief had been caught during a burglary near the Shanghai airport. He’s 20 years old and in custody. The police are trying to get the thief or his family to reimburse us for the loss of our computer. We had been thinking that the thief probably came from a family with money if the police think we can be reimbursed, but Diana says he probably comes from a poor rural family. Since our on-sale at Costco Acer computer cost us $724, which for many farmers would be an extremely lot of money, I’m thinking we will not get our money back no matter how much the thief or his family would like to do so. The thief will have a permanent criminal record and is unlikely to be able to get a good job when he does leave prison. A youthful mistake in China can have dire consequences.
Once the paperwork was finished and we were free to go, Officer Wong wanted to know how we were getting home. When we said we would need to go by taxi, he volunteered to take us to our apartment. We were delivered in the comfort of a police 4×4 to our front door. Although we don’t yet have our computer back or reimbursement for our loss, we didn’t disappear. My worry was needless.