Although it’s been policy to require foreigners to register residency with their local PSB for a long time now, it’s probably only this year that the policy has grown some teeth, and the police have actually become insistent about enforcing it. Just last week I found big white posters on the bulletin board by the gate of my apartment, and also on the doors to our units, marked with our police cartoon friend Jingjing (not to be confused with the Olympic panda mascot, whose name is spelled the same), giving us a friendly reminder to register at the local station for a temporary residence permit within 24 hours of the start of our stay. And though personally so far I’ve been spared the intrusion, over the past several months I’ve been hearing stories from friends of friends who have had the police go door to door through their apartments asking to see foreigners’ registration and fining those without.
But what I just discovered, to my shock and awe, is that the PSB actually have our pictures in digital files on their network. The other day, one of my housemates finally decided to transfer his registration from his old apartment to our place, and when he presented the rental lease to the policeman behind the desk, the policeman asked who his housemates were, and swiveled his monitor around to show him our files, complete with headshots.
I had heard that the PSB had networked their system a couple years back, but I had no idea that they scanned in our visa application photos! I had assumed Chinese visa applications just got filed away to grow dust in some central storage, only to be retreived in extremely grave cases of political disobedience. I am at once impressed and creeped out. Anyhow, just something to consider when formulating white lies for upcoming visits to the PSB.