We can stay! After carefully reviewing the pile of evidence I submitted to make our case, the Hangzhou Public Security Bureau has decided that we probably won’t pose any harm if we all stay here for a year. There was much to consider, such as whether my landlord had paid her taxes in the last year, but apparently our most doubtful claim was that we’re all related. It would seem that white people trying to sneak other white people into China is a pervasive problem, or a very serious threat. Granted, the last time Westerners were entering China as they pleased, bad things happened: treaty ports, opium, burning down the Summer Palace, etc. But the burden of proof required to establish familial relationship was a little more difficult than we expected, and we’d expected a lot. Long story: after providing the PSB written certification from two state governments verifying the competence of the town/county clerks who issued our marriage and birth certificates, and then written certification from the US Department of State verifying the authenticity of the state government certifications, the issue was still in doubt. I mean, from the PSB official’s perspective, that “Hillary Clinton” auto-pen signature could have been photo-copied from anywhere. How to proceed?
After talking it over with another official, the two came up with a solution: go get the US Embassy to certify the documents!
“You want me to go to Beijing? That’s pretty far. Besides, the embassy staff are just employees of the State Department. They work for the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, the person who certified these documents. They’re not going to de-certify her certification.”
“Yes, but this document isn’t written in Chinese. We don’t know if it is real.”
“Can I go to the Shanghai consulate instead?”
“That’ll be okay. They should also be able to tell if it’s real.”
“Yes, they should. You just want them to provide their own certification?”
“Yes, they just need to certify it.” We looked at each other for a moment, both smiling in that awkward Chinese way, and the official, perhaps sensing the scorn building in my smile, relented with a small allowance, and in doing so stepped off whatever logical foundation had been the basis for his original position. “Their certification, it can be in English.”
So, after a taxi ride across town, a 100-mile train ride to Shanghai, a long metro ride through Shanghai, and a just-before-closing-time arrival at the consulate, I was able to have a State Department consular staff member write a hand-written note concurring with her boss’s recognizance of the validity of my civil documents. And in the end, although I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have been able to read her handwritten English any better than Secretary Clinton’s large-font, printed form letter, her little note was exactly what they wanted.