Thursday, 28 October 2010


Its been a few weeks since I last blogged, work has taken its toll and I have struggled to keep up to my once a week update. This weeks is symptomatically a couple of weeks behind, and is brought to you courtesy of another 12 hour flight with Mr Branson.

This blog is more of a infotainment piece, mainly inspired by the lack of information I found available on Google or Bing, when searching for "China Work Permit Physical Inspection", or "How to get a work permit in China", and "What does the physical inspection entail?" - I got very few usable returns, so I decided to create one myself that in a hope that it may help those poor unfortunate soles wishing to work in this god forsaken country - don't get me wrong god may have forsaken China - but to some of us its become a way of life.

To begin, I must look back - I have lived and worked in China for ever, and have never had to undergo a medical examination. Which to the majority of my compatriots is confusing, its pretty confusing to me also, I have held numerous residents permits and several work permits, in at least two provinces, each obtained without having to endure the misery or embarrassment of a medical examination. The norm. requires you to undergo the routine of a strip searched, finger up the bum cough and drop type of an entry examination (I thought). The Chinese like to put everyone through a throughly embarrassing medical examination to ensure they you do not bring any contagious diseases into their puritanical country, or at least was the answer given to me when asking the question "why?".

This is the bit that confuses and angers the majority of foreigners - how dare they think we are bringing extra diseases into a country already scorned with HIV, Hepatitis A,B and C, Rabies, Japanese Encephalitis and herpes to name but a few. Most (Well me) think it is more to do with seeing how much you catch whilst here - check them when they come in, check them when they go out scenario. A good way of gauging the interaction and 'pollution' these strange foreigners offer our population. Apparently we all have fatty livers, are overweight and exhibit a high tendency for premature death ( which is strange since we all come from countries with longer life expectancy than any province in China). Another explanation that always fits nicely, is the one that is used for countless cultural/social/regulatory indifference's exhibited by visitors to china. That is with such a large population you need to find them all something to do. This is the reason that Highway toll booths are maned (even the ones fitted with electronic tags), it takes 3 people to aid your purchase in a department store and why our gardner sits on the lawn for hours picking at the grass rather than using the lawnmower in the garage!

Anyway the reason for this post was to detail the process of examination rather than explore the reasons.

The first thing to identify is that the examination centre is in Hongqiao area (for those south of Beijing), quite easy to get to for the adventurous, an inconspicuous building you cant miss the entrance on the ground floor, met by well spoken receptionists who has seen every shape, size, nationality and deformed foreigner before. They instantly know when you haven't brought the obligatory 4 passport photos and required payment, take your number, clipboard and fill the forms in with the instructions - "DO NOT LIE", again "DO NOT LIE", although this is bollocks as I have previously said - I have obtained the required documentation twice previously without even smelling the burning plastic suppository gloves of the examination centre. still you complete the forms, before sitting in front of some surely women who converts your English into Chinese on a computer screen.

You are then ushered into a changing room - where you keep you trousers, skirts, pants on and adorn a fetching terry towelling gown sized for pigmy's and lepricorns, that barely covers your naked upper half. Hide your belongings into a locker and journey to the next office on the row of 6-8 innocuous rooms leading off the main alley. Here they will insert needles into your main blood vain, extracting 2 veils of pure Western nectar with such professionalism and panache that Dracula himself would have been proud, a jab, a suck and a plaster are the last you see of 10fl oz of bright red vampire juice.

Next the eye test, why this is such an important entry test I am not sure, but here you get the most miserable man in the world ask you to identify witch direction the capital letter E is pointing in, when asked did I have contact lenses in I playfully said "of course not" and subsequently performed brilliantly, passing with vision reserved for snippers and Kestrels. I thought my scam would have been discovered when he continued to shine a bright light in my eye to examine them, despite this he failed to notice the thin plastic dustbin lids in my eyes, which made me think that he was probably blinder than me - or just didn't care!

Next onto an examination reserved in the west for pregnant moms and drug smugglers - ultrasound, or scanning your belly with some cold gel and a strange shaped computer mouse - not sure what they are looking for but the women running it could easily play the part the wicked witch in the west. Not sure if she is trying to scan the size of your liver or read the bed sheet label beneath you, she has the bed side manner of hannibal lecture and Adolf himself would be impressed with her way of dealing with infidels.
A general examination follows, with contrastingly a man so nice he could be too nice??? He tests your blood pressure and has a good feel of your fat stomach before slapping you on the bum and wishing you all the best - the female version I am told requires a good old breast examination and search for the lost treasure of the Inca tribe - still you women will be complicated!

An X-Ray of your chest region is conducted by a couple of giggling girls - not sure if its over exposure to gamma radiation or the fact that they cant believe there luck every time they get paid to scan the insides of another dumb lowai, either way they are pleasant and don't require you to expose anything more than a smile whilst the radiation equivalent to Chernobyl drains into and out of your body.

Finally you are entertained by the electro cardiograph machine, which means being hooked up to the national grid by a couple of jump start plugs stollen from Carrefour, the equipment is akin to that used by the popular family game "operation" and requires you to clip a large grip to your ankle, one on each nipple and one in a region close to, well too close to anything. Finally you get changed back into your normal clothes and pay a bit more to have the results delivered to your home or office.

All in all it wasn't the horrendous debacle you anticipated, apart from the indignity of being pushed, prodded and shuffled from room to room the affair was tolerable, however your mind always comes back to the question why? I understand the need to control the influx of contagious diseases into a country, but since when has breast cancer or high blood pressure been contagious? There isn't a national health service like in the UK, so any required treatment wouldn't burden the state. This leaves most foreigners feeling suspicious to the real reasons behind the examination - apparently you can't fail the examination, in years gone by they would refuse a work permit to those carrying HIV, but now even this is accepted - I have been told that what ever disease or imperfection you do have is simply recorded on your work permit for all that wish to inspect it in the future - an indignity in itself I guess but as it's written in Chinese one I can, and will choose to ignore!