“I’m sorry sir, we can’t let you fly without a visa.”
I was trying to leave Christchurch in New Zealand and return to China, via Hong Kong. It shouldn’t have been an issue. Apparently it was.
“Visa? I don’t need a visa to go to Hong Kong, I’m a British citizen.”
She looked down at her screen.
“I’m sorry sir.” I could tell she wasn’t really. “It says here that people from British Overseas Territories and the British Antarctic Territory are the only ones that can go to Hong Kong without a visa.”
I was somewhat indignant.
“Are you telling me that a native of the Falkland Islands and/or penguins can go but I can’t?”
“Listen love,” I said haughtily “I don’t need a visa, until 1997 we bloody owned Hong Kong. Look in my passport, how many Hong Kong entrance stamps are there?”
She looked. There were a lot.
“Now, how many Hong Kong visas are in there?”
She looked again. There were none.
“I’ll get the supervisor,” she said and shuffled off her slightly too high chair.
I saw her and another lady converse for a moment, they both wondered over.
“Hi I’m Jill, Sally here’s explained what’s happening. I’m afraid we can’t let you on the plane without a visa.”
I took a deep breath and tried to refrain from smashing my forehead against the counter. Once again, I explained about Britain, the Empire, the first and second Opium Wars, international treaties and even pulled out a map of the world, shaded pink to show the empire – pointing with emphasis at New Zealand. I finished with what I thought was the most compelling evidence; to wit, the entrance stamps in my passport and the lack of a visa.
“Ah well, that doesn’t prove anything” said Jill.
I looked at her stonily. “Other than the fact that I have been to Hong Kong without a visa?”
“I’ll get the manager” said Jill.
And that’s when I started to cry.