I've come across some pretty bonkers bureaucracy in my time but this
morning has become the all time unassailable winner.
Now I don't know if this is official Chinese policy or a whim of the
Gansu Police or just some arbitrary bit of annoyance dreamed up by an
individual officer but I swear this is true.
I have to get a new picture for next year's residency permit; a
standard passport-sized photograph. So far, so mundane.
So I went to the photographic shop to get them.
They took pictures. I waited. When I asked I was told that they have
to email them directly to the police department to be checked against
last year's pictures.
Word came back. They were rejected.
We took more pictures with the same result, then more pictures with
the same result.
It seems that the pictures have to be both
a) New pictures, not copies of last year's pictures and
b) EXACTLY IDENTICAL to last year's pictures.
By identical I mean that they must have the same background. I must
have my hair exactly the same, my facial expression exactly the same,
the angle of my head exactly the same. I MUST BE WEARING THE SAME
It's nuts. I don't even know what shirt I was wearing last year. I had
to go because I was due at school and then return after class. In the
meantime the shop had found the file copy of last year when,
apparently I wore a light shirt and a dark jacket. They lent me a dark
jacket (several sizes too small. Posed me in the chair until they were
satisfied that I looked like last year and took more pictures.
Ten minutes later they were accepted.
This is the craziest procedure I have ever come across. Even by
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