By Ivan Shi
Brit Andrew Steven soliciting close to Guangzhou’s Zoo station
Andrew Steven, an Englishman who claimed he was robbed in Shenzhen, has been seen begging around the Guangzhou’s Zoo Metro station. The man, who appeared to be in his 40s, was seen sitting with his passport and a request letter at the parterre adjacent to a Subway station.
Steven told reporters that he lost all his money in a Shenzhen robbery, and was soliciting to pay for his accommodation and food. He received in total about ¥130 in donations within 6 hours.
His statement could not be validated with the British Consulate in Guangzhou, as his interview with media took place out of regular working hours for the Consulate. Steven insisted that he was not, in fact, begging:
“I’m not begging; I’m seeking assistance. I was robbed a couple days ago when I was about to leave Shenzhen for Hong Kong. My mobile, laptop, wallet and clothes were in the luggage (all gone). Luckily my passport was in the pocket.”
It is understood that Steven is a New York born Briton, and found employment at a Nanjing school after the expiration of his English teaching contract with a Hunan college. The police in Shenzhen advised him to request assistance from the Guangzhou British Consulate, arranging free accommodation for two days and a train ticket to Guangzhou for him, after he reported the robbery.
He said that he had been penniless when he arrived at Guangzhou train station:
“The Consulate said they don’t provide financial assistance. I’m waiting for Mum to wire me money through Western Union. I don’t have enough money to get through today. I’ve been here appealing for help since this afternoon.”
Steven did not speak a word of Chinese. He revealed to the paper that his Chinese request letter was prepared by an English-speaking teacher who passed by.
Mr Steven turned down the suggestion that he return to the Consulate with the journalist in tow, saying the consulate couldn’t help him in “any tangible way…they just asked me to use their Web site. I’m not going.”
He could not produce the receipt of his robbery complaint lodged with police, the business card of the Shenzhen hotel he resided, or the train ticket he commuted to Guangzhou on. The British Consulate in Guangzhou could also not be contacted for inquiry since they were out of working hours.
What to make of this trend of expats shuffling around cluelessly while broke and unable to speak the local language? Incidentally, that’s how one could describe a lot of expat lives in Shanghai, sans the part about being broke.
An American found himself in the Wuhan airport drifting about like a lost puppy in September, with nothing but an iPad to his name, eventually getting a ticket to Beijing bought for him by airport authorities.
Perhaps the native consulates and embassies of traditional expat-supplying countries should ask for bank statements from their citizens before allowing them to leave their own countries (something mainland citizens have to do when applying for foreign visas), in order to prevent these slightly embarrassing “China bails out Europe” and “China is America’s banker” microcosms from happening.