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American Expat Papa Duck’s Wife Anne Held by Macau Police

Readers, an extremely distressing incident involving two of our best friends, American expat Papa Duck, and his wife Anne, occurred recently. Papa D's lovely Filipina asawa was held by Macau police and had to appear before a judge. This event troubled my wife and I tremendously. Papa Duck has graciously allowed me to publish this story as a warning to other foreigners that might be planning to visit this Chinese-controlled territory. Papa Duck, Anne and The Kano


Macau is one of the two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China, the other being Hong Kong. Macau lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta across from Hong Kong to the east, bordered by Guangdong province to the north and facing the South China Sea to the east and south.

The territory's economy is heavily dependent on gambling and tourism, but also includes manufacturing (source: Wikipedia.)

With Papa Duck's permission, here's the email my American expat friend sent me:

"Hi Dave, 

How are you doing? It was crazy in Macau.  Last Saturday we took a ferry from Hong Kong to Macau.  While Anne was going through immigration and they were looking at her passport they suddenly escorted her back to an immigration office. I didn't know what was going on.

After I finished with immigration I waited for Anne.  No one would tell me what was going on. After about a half hour I asked what was going on with her. They called back to the office and next thing I know I was being escorted back to be with Anne. Anne said they accused her of being from Indonesia.

After about another half hour Anne was taken by the Judicial Police  to their offices. I had to follow in a taxi. We spent 4 hours there. They interrogated her again accusing her of being Indonesian again and receiving 35000p from a Filipino back in 2008 when she was there visiting.

They went through her purse and luggage and even asked if she had a gun. They wouldn't even tell me what was going on. After they were done with her they gave her a notice to appear in court on Monday at 9:00am.  She told them we had a flight out at 3:10pm.

So we arrived Monday at 8:15am, but they didn't call for her until about 9:25 am. She sat in an office until about 11:30am without anybody telling her anything. They then drove Anne and myself over to the Courts. They said they would expedite her to see the judge to receive clearance because her case was dropped  and we had a 3:10pm flight to catch.

After sitting in the waiting room until 5:15pm and missing our flight, so much for expediting it, they finally called her in to see the Judge. She didn't get to see the Judge. A investigator said the charges were dropped because the Statute of Limitations had expired. That lasted less than 5 minutes.

I believe they intentionally made us wait so we would miss our flight. Well that was not they end of it. The Courts said the Judicial Police may still charge her even though they dropped the charges. The Police than said they were taking Anne to the investigators office to get clearance to leave. They would not allow me to go ride with her.

So the transporting officer gave me the supposed address to me in Chinese so the taxi driver could read it. It was a false address. I went to the airport to wait for Anne. I didn't know what else to do. I didn't know where she was.

They took her to the Immigration Building to hold her, trying to find something to charge her with. They asked for money from her.

She raised a ruckus. She told them I was going to the US Consulate and Philippine Consulate and that we were going to sue them. She just generally raised hell and they than released her.

They went through her purse and stole some US dollars and Singapore dollars. She had to leave by the 18th and she can never come back there again they said.

It was after midnight before I saw her at the airport. We got a flight out at 10:15 pm on the 17th on Cebu Pacific. Thought we would have problems again when we were leaving.

The immigration at the airport had to call and verify that the papers were true. Had to wait a half hour for that. The papers they gave her were in Chinese. Like she could really read that. We finally made it back at almost 1:00 am. We were glad to be back. I guess you can't expect anything different from a country run by China."

Folks, I can't imagine what I would have done if I was in Papa Duck's shoes. But what can you do? I certainly would have gone crazy with worry. There is no American Embassy in Macau, it is combined with the US Embassy in Hong Kong. 

Papa Duck and AnnePapa Duck and Anne at Raymen Beach in Guimaras during happier days

Kudos to Anne and Randy for keeping their heads. My wife and I are so glad they made it out safely. This whole terrible incident sounds like something out of "Locked Up Abroad." Thanks to Anne and Papa Duck for letting me publish this story which I plan to forward to the US Embassy in Manila. Planning to visit Macau? I wouldn't. 

22 thoughts on “American Expat Papa Duck’s Wife Anne Held by Macau Police”

  1. WOW, is pretty much all I can think of to say!  

    I dont know PD or his wife, but I am very glad everything worked out OK, for the most part. When a person leaves his home country, this really puts in perspective, that you have no- civil liberatities any more, and you are pretty much helpless and have no-one to help you, including your own govt. who can help, but it takes much time. It really sounds, like it was a shake-down, but with the help of there court system involved in it, it sounds as though the corruption goes high-up the ladder. 

    One of the biggest part of the indignitties is that they dont even know it sounds, as to why it was even happening, as little was told to them.

    When I travel, I typically do not notify the US Dept. of State, because I always figured it wasnet necessary. From this day on, I am changing that policy for sure. I love to travel, and especially in Asia, and thats on the top of our list of things to do in a few years when we move to PI.

    On my last trip to PI early this year, I landed in Hong Kong and stayed there alone, one night and most of 2 days.( My fiance and I both went to Thailand for 10 days aslo, and I had read stories of travelers having problems there, and was slightly concerned, but thankfully, everything went great.)  It was the first time I had been there, since the British 99 year lease of it was up in 1997. It was not like the Hong Kong I remembered back in the eary 90's when I was last there. Much more development, pollution, cars and people especially, and the great shopping bargains that could be had back then were long gone also it seemed. Overall it appeared to be like I remembered, but more crowded, and the names of many places had changed since the British control had ended. For a place that wants tourism, the way Hong Kong does, this kind of thing happening to PD and his wife, does not promote it, thats for sure. I just wish their story could be widely spread, so as many people as possible, could hear about it. Any Asia news sources you could notify of their story, might help get the word out a little.

    • Bill,

      We were in Hong Kong also on our trip, along with Bangkok and Singapore.  Hong Kong is expensive like Singapore, and not nearly as clean. It is very crowded on the streets there and English is not spoken as much as i thought it would be. Bangkok people spoke more than Hong Kong.  I was really surprised how modern Bangkok was. Good rail system and cleaner than i thought it woud be, but not like Singapore. Singapore was the best, so much to do and very modern. Housing and autos are very expensive though.  You can buy good cheap food at "hawker stands" there and rail system is good and cheap and will take you to anywhere in the city.

      • Hi PapaDuck,

        Your story was kinda un-nerving, much more so for the 2 of you, I am sure.

        On my last trip to PI., I decided I would go to Hong Kong just to stay overnight, and see a little bit of it again, but didnt have time to do much while I was there, but it did seem different to me than the last time I was there, back in the 90's. English then was about as prevailent as in Japan, but where I was, most spoke it enough we could communicate at least. 

        In Thailand, we were in Bangkok and within the 150km. range of the city the entire time. We had signed up to take a 7 day tour of the area, so we got to see the usual touristy areas I guess. The Grand Palace etc. We went to the Hellfire Pass area, where all the allied prisioneers were forced to build the bridge across the Kwai river and the railroad into the mountains. I enjoyed that day of the tour the most, for me, even though it was 95-100 deg. the entire time we were in Thailand. We stayed 3 extra days, on our own, in the Lumpini district of Bangkok. The first day we got there the sky was blue, but each day after that, it got to the point where we couldnt even actually see the sun, because of all the pollution. The hotels there are very nice, and reasonably priced, I thought. Yes, I too was inpressed with with how modern it was, there is so much new construction going on there, I counted 57 large cranes, that were visible from our hotel window, I imagine there were many more, but visibility wasnt very good, the day I decided to count them. There seems to be a lot of rich people there, from all the high end cars and dealerships we saw. Came down to the lobby one morning, and there was a Ferarri Berlenatta sitting in front of the hotel. We had quite a problem with connunicating though, as it seemed no one spoke english, even the cops. We rode the skytrain and the MRT some also, and was also impressed with how clean it all was. We went to MBK mall, and stocked up on t-shirts and souveiners, at $3 ea. for good t-shirts, we bought 34, for my Fiance's family and a few for me also. Definatly want to go back there some day. Neither of us have ever been to Singapore, so that will be on the top of our list, after we move to PI hopefully in 5 years or less. 

    • Yeah Dave, STEP was what I was referring too. From now on, I will be using it, unforunatly though, I dont have the money, or time to go anywhere  in the forseable future though. Would like to come there today though,if it was possible,,miss my beautiful girl, and the Philippines also.

  2. Well I am happy they are back and safe in the Philippines. But I do have to admit, this story is pretty typical of what you will occassionally hear about what happens in the Philippines. I have heard much worse stories about what happens to foreigners in the Philippines…but I will not get into that.

    If I were PD I would contact the US Embassy in Manila and have Anne talk to the Filipino government and let them know what happened. I have no doubts China does not want this happening. They WANT tourism! Hell, one of the biggest fights of the year is coming up soon in Macau with Pacquiao and Rios, the Chinese government and tourism officials in Macau would not be pleased to see this.

    This looks like a combination of some extortion and some honest mixups at the local level. These things happen.

    God, I have no doubt this was a scary deal. While reading this article I was thinking of my fiance and me going through that…I would have been a nervous wreck. But let's not make this sound like this is typical in Macau.

    It is like my friends who hear of a foreigner having a hard time in the Philippines and saying the Philippines is bad and dangerous. Not true.

    Anyway, good article. Happy everyone is ok.

  3. I am happy that everything worked out for her. I wouldn't want that to happen to me or my wife.

    Todd, the body count for the war here in the Philippines is over 100,000 and still have 260,000 that cannot go home. The war has started up again and at the moment I cannot even leave the house. This time they are going after Americans. Tagum City is my home but it is no longer FUN.

    • Gary, I have American friends not far from where you are and they do not seem to be that concerned. My fiance lives in the province of Zamboanga Del Norte and there are plenty of Americans there and it seems there is no real concern.

      Just keep your head on a swivel and take care of yourself. Now in Zamboanga City I am sure it is real salty for foreigners.

    • I can tell you my wife's family in Zamboanga City is not having fun. Constant gun fire and explosions, they can not go to work, everything is closed, no work, no money, no food and they can't get money we have sent as the businesses are closed. My wife says they are ok, just bartering with fruit and things with the neighbors, but how long can this go on? How can this not be in the news here in USA? This weekend I only saw the incident from Kenya, no word of the Philippines? Our wonderful President will be in Manila Oct. 11 surely some international attention will come to this crisis right?

      • Dave, I did receive some good news which is my mother in law escaped Zamboanga City to be at grandmothers 75th birthday, it's a surprise for her. And Baby sister said that she may be working again but they will all go home early like at 2:00 PM. It's scary to think of her commute but perhaps it's a sign of some improvement?

  4. Wow!  What a way to pooch a trip.  Glad Anne finally got out.  PapaDuck, when ya coming back to Iloilo?


    Am registered with STEP myself.  Very easy to do and only takes a few minutes.  If you're registered you get moved onto the shortlist for help if the stuff ever hits the fan.

  5. A few items to note.  There is little or no Chinese involvement in the internal affairs of the SARs.  The folks in Hong Kong consider themselves and their governance to be much more like Taiwan than a mainland's province.  So I'd guess the odds are pretty good this whole affair was Macau SAR employees/officials making a money grab, not Beijing policy being imposed.

    Another thing is the presumption about civil liberties outside America.  There is a place inside America where you have none, too.  That's the queue at Customs and immigration.  You have zero rights until you traverse them.  Your belongings are routinely searched without a warrant.  Your possessions can be confiscated and you will have no recourse.  You cannot sue or file a criminal complaint.  The personnel at Customs have absolute power and you can deny them nothing.  If you do not cooperate you will be held indefinitely and you have no right to a lawyer.

    • Owen,

      Chinese Central Government monitors activities in Macau.  There defense and foreign affairs come under China.  Chinese citizens are required to apply for a visa to enter Macau. It's the only place in Chinese territory thats allowed to gamble.  Hong Kong has gambling boats that go outside Chinese waters.  I read an article in an Macau English newspaper while waiting to leave Macau airport. It stated the Chinese Central Government monitors the winnings of businessmen and other wealthy people so it does not corrupt the Communist Party.

      • Am good friends with an HK native/resident.  Passed along your story.  Her suspicion matches mine, but in a very oblique way.  There is mafia in Macau, in the context not of any sort of Sicilian connection, but simply of organized Chinese crime.  Her phrase apparently translates from Cantonese as "fake police" but she explained that doesn't mean they aren't formally in the police force.  It seems to be that their mafia has police connections and stealing from tourists is on the table.

        She doesn't think it's Beijing policy.  It's Macau corruption.

  6. Dave,

    This story could very well be submitted to National Geographic's show "Locked-up Abroad". It's scary and crazy. How can the authorities tell her she's Indonesian when she's carrying a Philippine passport and I'm sure her full name has first and last names unike  Indonesians where they only have one full name.


  7. My brother has had several incidents in China, I thought it's because he works for the FAA? But I guess not.. Reading this story gave me a chill! Not good.

  8. Its sad to hear Papa Duck’s experience.  Mine was similar but not nearly as bad as Papa Duck. I was making a connecting flight thru Shanghai’s Airport on my way to the US in 2008. At that time luggage transfers from international flights were not allowed, all passengers who disembarked had to retrieve their luggage and then go to the check in counter of their next flight.  Before you could proceed to baggage retrieval you had to go thru customs, this is when the nightmare begins. Or plane landed at the new terminal that was just built in Shanghai, and the signs were all in Chinese. So all those who did not speak Chinese just followed the ones on or flight who did and could direct us to follow them.  eventually  we found the customs counters and all proceeded to line up to have our passports stamped. As I am waiting in line I noticed that the Chinese customs officers were sending select people to and area behind the counter  and letting others go thru with out any questions.  When my turn came I too was told to join this group and wait for further instructions. Once I reached the group we all realize that they were just sending Americans to stand behind the counter and wait. We after 30 minutes we all started to complain about the possibility of missed flights. Finally and lady officer who spoke English came over and inspected our passports again before she let us proceed to get our luggage. Despite our asking she gave no explanation to our group. By this time I was running to get the American Airlines counter to ck my luggage. Ounce I found the AA counter I THOUGHT I WOULD BE OK…….BUT NOOOOOO .   The first few Americans checked there bags and proceeded to the gate. When I reached the counter I checked my bags and turned left and started to walk to the gate. I had only walked about 20 feet when out of the corner of my eye I see a airport security  officer running thru the airport yelling  SIR, SIR, SIR STOP!!!! STOP!!!!. Behind her was 3 more female security officers running also pointing at me!!!

                 I stopped. The airport officer told me in broken English not to move. A male officer was summoned also standing by.  The airport officer directed me to come to a side room and wait…at this point I went from angry to scared. The airport officer radioed to somebody to retrieve my just checked luggage.  In the room was 3 female officers and one male officer. The male officer left to get my luggage. When he returned he put my luggage on a table in the room and instructed me to open my luggage.  As moved to open my luggage everybody moved to the rear of the room fast as if I had a bomb!!!!!!  I started to show them what was in my luggage. The Male officer left and only the females were in the room. During a search of my luggage they came across a can of shaving cream, this made them nervous!!!  Since I don’t know Chinese and there English was not good, I had to show them by using my hand in a shaving motion on my face for them to understand what the can is used for.  All three in unison said …AHHHHH….at the point I was told I could go. I make my flight with 10 minutes to spare. However the flight was delayed another hour and 30 minutes. The shanghai airport authorities would not let the plane leave the gate. The pilot came over the PA and announced that he had begged them to let us leave but they had ignored him. I could not relax  until the plane was up in the air. Later on thinking about this I believe since im African American they may have thought I was a drug mule. I was not visiting the country just passing thru. And now not to return ever again.

    • i've never had a bad experence in the Philippines, just in China. I think with headlines of drug mules coming from the Philipines and some perhaps being Nigerians or other African nationals going thru China the Chinese tend to lump all of us together. I have been all over the Philippines and never had a problem. Needless to say i will never go back to China.. i enjoy your blog!!!

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