An Uncertain and Hard Trip Back to China Amid Soaring Costs and Strict Rules: Chinese Traveler

Chinese citizens working or studying abroad find it hard to return to China under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) border control measures. An employee of a Chinese state-owned company claimed that he had to pay the Chinese embassy in Egypt to guarantee his journey, on top of high airfares, quarantine expenses, testing fees, and various other costs.The CCP imposed strict inbound restrictions at its borders in March 2020 that included allowing each Chinese airline to maintain one flight on one route per week from a specific departure country. Passengers are required to stay at closed-loop quarantine hotels in the departure country before leaving, and on arrival in China, have their nucleic acid testing done at testing centers designated or recognized by the regime’s embassy, and then apply for a green health code with a negative test result to check in and board a plane. Also, the scarce flights are extremely expensive and often canceled. Chinese nationals living outside the country complain online about steep air ticket prices, repeated flight cancellations, multiple nucleic acid testing both while abroad and then in China, false positive test results, and long isolation times in China. He Bin, a China’s state-owned company employee working in Egypt, recounted the hardships that he and his colleagues experienced on their home-bound trip earlier this year. Soaring Airfares Costs, Constant Flight Cancelations, No Guarantee of Boarding He Bin (alias used for safety) told the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times in a recent interview that he and his colleagues experienced uncertainty and high airfares on their flight back to China when the rest of the world had gradually returned to normal. “The air ticket price [from Egypt to China] before the pandemic was around 4,000 yuan (about $600), but now it could be as high as 80,000 yuan ($12,000),” He Bin said in the interview. “It’s really daylight robbery!” China’s civil aviation authorities issued a notice in April 2021 about “Circuit Breaker Measures,” meaning flights will be suspended for different lengths of time depending on the number of positive cases on arrival of a single flight. Flights are thus frequently canceled on short notice. Passengers wearing protective clothing, at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris prior to boarding a China Southern Airlines flight to Guangzhou on May 12, 2020. (Eric Piermont / AFP via Getty Images) Even when a booked flight is not canceled, there is still the possibility that one cannot board the plane. He Bin said that the airline uses the positive test result as an excuse to bump passengers off the flight. “Suppose a flight’s seat capacity is 300 seats, but the airline sells 400 tickets and allows these 400 passengers with tickets to check in to a local quarantine hotel. Then they (the airline staff) claim ‘Your test result is positive’ to 100 passengers and don’t allow those 100 passengers to board the plane.” “The hotel quarantine fee, testing fee, and air ticket will not be refunded, and an additional cost of more than $1,500 if you change the air tickets for a later flight,” He Bin said. It was a true case, according to He Bin, and most of the people who received positive test results at the quarantine hotel, received negative results when they were retested at local testing centers. There is a statement, dated June 22, 2021, on the Chinese-language website of China’s embassy in Egypt, which reads: “Among the 484 passengers who had booked tickets for the two flights to China from June 13 to 19, 108 passengers were tested positive by the Cairo testing agencies. The embassy has put them in different categories according to the epidemic prevention and control regulations and policies, and has arranged a proper placement for them.” For He Bin and about 30 of his colleagues, the cost of a one-way air ticket ranged from $6,000 to over $9,000. They were not the only ones paying exorbitant ticket prices. A Chinese blogger named “German Pie” posted a video on Chinese social media about a Chinese student who left Germany for China. The student ended up buying three tickets, at prices ranging from over $1,500 to $14,000, because the first two flights were canceled and not refunded. He successfully boarded a plane with the third and the most expensive ticket. The student in the footage said that he had “run up an overdraft of three years’ income” to purchase the air ticket—the average monthly salary in his hometown in Shandong Province was about $450. Other students in the video said they waited a whole day at the airport, hoping to get a ticket back home. “It has been three years of the pandemic, and returning to China is already out of reach for most of the overseas Chinese,” the blogger German Pie wrote in the post. The Epoch Times is not able to verify these ticket prices. Other Fees On top of the airfares, He Bin and his colleagues had to pay many other fees. “Hotel quarantine fees in Egypt, expen

An Uncertain and Hard Trip Back to China Amid Soaring Costs and Strict Rules: Chinese Traveler

Chinese citizens working or studying abroad find it hard to return to China under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) border control measures. An employee of a Chinese state-owned company claimed that he had to pay the Chinese embassy in Egypt to guarantee his journey, on top of high airfares, quarantine expenses, testing fees, and various other costs.

The CCP imposed strict inbound restrictions at its borders in March 2020 that included allowing each Chinese airline to maintain one flight on one route per week from a specific departure country. Passengers are required to stay at closed-loop quarantine hotels in the departure country before leaving, and on arrival in China, have their nucleic acid testing done at testing centers designated or recognized by the regime’s embassy, and then apply for a green health code with a negative test result to check in and board a plane.

Also, the scarce flights are extremely expensive and often canceled.

Chinese nationals living outside the country complain online about steep air ticket prices, repeated flight cancellations, multiple nucleic acid testing both while abroad and then in China, false positive test results, and long isolation times in China.

He Bin, a China’s state-owned company employee working in Egypt, recounted the hardships that he and his colleagues experienced on their home-bound trip earlier this year.

Soaring Airfares Costs, Constant Flight Cancelations, No Guarantee of Boarding

He Bin (alias used for safety) told the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times in a recent interview that he and his colleagues experienced uncertainty and high airfares on their flight back to China when the rest of the world had gradually returned to normal.

“The air ticket price [from Egypt to China] before the pandemic was around 4,000 yuan (about $600), but now it could be as high as 80,000 yuan ($12,000),” He Bin said in the interview. “It’s really daylight robbery!”

China’s civil aviation authorities issued a notice in April 2021 about “Circuit Breaker Measures,” meaning flights will be suspended for different lengths of time depending on the number of positive cases on arrival of a single flight. Flights are thus frequently canceled on short notice.

China France flights
Passengers wearing protective clothing, at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris prior to boarding a China Southern Airlines flight to Guangzhou on May 12, 2020. (Eric Piermont / AFP via Getty Images)

Even when a booked flight is not canceled, there is still the possibility that one cannot board the plane.

He Bin said that the airline uses the positive test result as an excuse to bump passengers off the flight.

“Suppose a flight’s seat capacity is 300 seats, but the airline sells 400 tickets and allows these 400 passengers with tickets to check in to a local quarantine hotel. Then they (the airline staff) claim ‘Your test result is positive’ to 100 passengers and don’t allow those 100 passengers to board the plane.”

“The hotel quarantine fee, testing fee, and air ticket will not be refunded, and an additional cost of more than $1,500 if you change the air tickets for a later flight,” He Bin said.

It was a true case, according to He Bin, and most of the people who received positive test results at the quarantine hotel, received negative results when they were retested at local testing centers.

There is a statement, dated June 22, 2021, on the Chinese-language website of China’s embassy in Egypt, which reads: “Among the 484 passengers who had booked tickets for the two flights to China from June 13 to 19, 108 passengers were tested positive by the Cairo testing agencies. The embassy has put them in different categories according to the epidemic prevention and control regulations and policies, and has arranged a proper placement for them.”

For He Bin and about 30 of his colleagues, the cost of a one-way air ticket ranged from $6,000 to over $9,000. They were not the only ones paying exorbitant ticket prices.

A Chinese blogger named “German Pie” posted a video on Chinese social media about a Chinese student who left Germany for China. The student ended up buying three tickets, at prices ranging from over $1,500 to $14,000, because the first two flights were canceled and not refunded. He successfully boarded a plane with the third and the most expensive ticket.

The student in the footage said that he had “run up an overdraft of three years’ income” to purchase the air ticket—the average monthly salary in his hometown in Shandong Province was about $450.

Other students in the video said they waited a whole day at the airport, hoping to get a ticket back home.

“It has been three years of the pandemic, and returning to China is already out of reach for most of the overseas Chinese,” the blogger German Pie wrote in the post.

The Epoch Times is not able to verify these ticket prices.

Other Fees

On top of the airfares, He Bin and his colleagues had to pay many other fees.

“Hotel quarantine fees in Egypt, expenses of 14 days of isolation in China, testing fees before checking in at the hotel, a whole set of personal protective gear—protective clothing, N95 masks, goggles, gloves, foot covers—all these will add up to roughly $3,000,” He Bin said.

He Bin said that Chinese passengers and crew members were the only people wearing the protective gear in the Cairo airport and that other people looked at them like they thought they were weird.

If anything goes wrong while waiting, one has to start the process over again: take the tests required by the embassy, apply for a green health code issued by the embassy, and check into the designated hotel with the negative results and the green code, and hope to be lucky enough to board the plane.

He Bin and his colleagues were returning to China for various personal emergencies: ill parents, attend a wedding, or a wife ready to give birth to a baby. So the company found a contact in the embassy through which they paid the embassy some money to guarantee a smooth trip, He Bin said.

The Epoch Times cannot verify the guarantee fee and has reached out to the Chinese embassy in Egypt.

The Chinese embassy replied that the complaint of the people paying the embassy money as a guarantee was “not true.”

Gao Miao and Gu Xiaohua contributed to the report.

Sophia Lam

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