If you haven't been to China for a while, you forget the powerlessness that comes with arbitrariness and the lack of precise, logically understandable information and enforceable rules.

As soon as you get closer to the land, the memory returns.

Anyone flying from Hong Kong to Beijing not only needs a PCR test, but also has to be at the airport six hours beforehand to take another corona test.

Friederike Böge

Political correspondent for China, North Korea and Mongolia.

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After that, be prepared for the airline refusing to take you.

The valid residence visa is not valid for entry from Hong Kong, claims the woman at the counter and refers to the border authorities in Beijing.

After an hour of negotiation and persuasion by an employee of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the visa is valid after all.

In Corona times, Beijing wants Germans to only enter from Germany and French only from France.

China wants to limit the number of people entering the country.

Since there are hardly any direct flights from Europe to China, you have to be creative.

The neighborhood committee decides

After entry, the hotel quarantine follows.

To our great relief we had read that the Chinese capital had relaxed the quarantine requirements for people entering the country from abroad.

Travelers residing in Beijing should be allowed to spend half of their 14-day quarantine at home.

That would save costs and nerves.

It should be a signal of goodwill to foreign investors.

That's the theory.

The practice looks different.

Upon arrival at the hotel, the fee for the entire fortnight will be collected.

Questions about the new rule are answered with a shrug.

"Are you sure your neighborhood committee will let them come back?" they ask.

"Do you have a good relationship with your neighborhood?" The shortened quarantine only applies to those "who meet the conditions," it says tautologically.

What are the conditions?

No Answer.

The only thing that is clear is that the neighborhood committee will decide.

The committees are the lowest organizational unit of the Communist Party.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, they have gained tremendous influence.

In our case, the permit is not granted.

First, the buck is passed back and forth between different departments for a while.

They all declare each other responsible.

If you call the same office several times, you will get different excuses from different employees.

In the end, it is said that home quarantine is not possible because the apartments in the house in question are connected to each other via the gas line.

Apparently nobody wants to be responsible for a foreigner possibly bringing the virus into the house after seven days of isolation and nine corona tests.

Understandably: in the event of an outbreak, there is a risk of a career break.