Expat portal eChinacities brings our attention to a recent posting on Weibo describing a foreign (reportedly American) beggar who frequents buses in Changsha.
The netizen said that around 09:00 on May 6, the foreigner, who was riding on the No. 402 bus, held a placard which read in Chinese “help, my wallet has been stolen, please lend me 20 RMB.” Assuming he was just some guy down on his luck, surrounding passengers were quick to give him some spare change. However, at 16:00 on the same day, the foreigner reappeared on the same bus brandishing the same placard.
According to employees on the No. 402 bus, the foreigner frequently rides the route and started begging last year.
One commenter at eChinacities claims to know the man and described his unfortunate circumstances:
This person is [redacted] from the US. He’s been living in Changsha for ~5 years. An English teacher at first, later diagnosed with HIV which spiraled him into financial ruin. That girlfriend, which he considered and called “老婆” was not infact legally his partner and took off with a lot of apartment inventory on that day – I believe this nailed his coffin. He began begging in the winter of 2010. He will usually tell you (foreigners) in English that someone stole his wallet/he’d lost his wallet (which is, unconsciously true – if you consider what his ‘girlfriend’ did to him years ago.. but, that’s the thing.. it was *years ago* – the guy suffers emotional trauma) and ask for sums no greater than 20 or 50 RMB. If you are Chinese, he’ll have the sentence pre-typed on his cellphone and on a white card. He lives at 车站中路 and makes it to Hong Kong on long-haul 99rmb trains to get visas. This guy basically needs to be in a country with mental facilities and perhaps some form of terminal care for HIV positive. My name is [redacted] and I’ve known him up until 2011.
According to the US embassy website, the state department can offer limited assistance to destitute citizens in returning to America:
In certain cases, the U.S. Embassy may be able to help a destitute American return home. However, applicants must meet strict criteria in order to qualify for a loan, and will not be permitted to leave the U.S. again until they repay the full amount of their loan. Assistance will not be provided to pay existing debts.
I’ve contacted the consulate in Shanghai to seek further information what exactly the criteria is and will update this post accordingly.
Anyone with information, whether about the beggar or assistance that is available to US citizens in such circumstances, can contact me at [email protected].
In 2011, an American who found himself stranded in Hubei airport was flown at local government expense to Beijing so he could avail himself of embassy services.
In January 2012, an English teacher diagnosed with Parkinson’s was stunned when colleagues and students chipped in to help her with her medical fees.