British Woman’s Foreign Nationality Protects Chinese Husband

Joanne and Xushuai.
Shandong young man Xu Shuai and his English wife

From QQ:

English Woman Who Married Shandong Man Encounters Forced Demolition, Relies on Foreign Nationality to Protect Husband


One day in 2011, Xu Shuai’s father received a land acquisition phone call from the district committee, 700 yuan of compensation for each mu [a Chinese unit of area = 1/15 of a hectare or 1/6 of an acre]. Xu’s father cherished his family’s first-class fertile farmland, [so he] haggled over the price: Each mu of land could earn 1,500-3,000 yuan in pure profit each year, so 1,500 yuan per mu would be better.

The request was denied. The other side left a message: Their land would be taken in 3 days, and if they refused to give up their land at that time, they would be arrested.

Xu’s father had a heart condition, and became afraid. He discussed with his son: We don’t have any connections, let’s just give up the land.

Xu Shuai began to complain. He called the city mayor’s hotline, the Public Security Bureau, the Land and Resources Bureau, but all their replies were the same: They say they’ll arrest you, do you have any proof? They say they’ll confiscate your land, but have they done so? “No, not yet, they say ‘in 3 days’.” “Then call us then.”

The only “proactive” reaction he got from his complaints was from Baidu Tieba. Xu Shuai wrote: “I’ve already called and told my wife: Stay and live well in London, England, don’t come back, raise our child, and find a good man to remarry. I’m already tired of living, so the day they forcibly take my land, I’ll fight with my life…”

At the time, because they had no “Certificate for Having A Baby”, they were worried their child would not get a hukou after being born, so Xu Shuai’s wife Joanne [Margaret Noble] returned to England to give birth. However, their status as an international family and Xu Shuai’s characterization [of the situation] as a life and death struggle attracted attention, and some foreign media called for interviews, resulting in the town leaders to hurriedly placate him: Stop making a fuss, the land requisition can wait for a while, we won’t take it for now.

“Suddenly I felt like the sun was shining, felt that there was still had a bit of hope in this social system, that it wasn’t that dark/black.” The other side yielding left Xu Shuai feeling embarrassed: “I think that land developer isn’t bad, having built a road for our village. I think development is a good thing, attracting businesses and money to develop the economy, improving the conditions of our village as well as providing jobs for our villagers. I’m a man of the modern age, my head isn’t stubborn [clinging to the past]. I said to my father, let’s sign it, because although the land acquisition is illegal, the advantages are bigger than the disadvantages…”

Still at 700 yuan per mu, Xu Shuai’s land was expropriated. The bonus was that Joanne no longer complains “there’s mud as soon as I step out the door”, but the cost was “your family is now on the blacklist, be careful in the future”. Xu Shuai’s classmate who worked at the village committee reminded him as thus.

Xu Shuai and British wife Joanne Margaret Nobel making dumplings.
Weifang city Fangzi district Dongwangsong village young man Xu Shuai married a Western wife! This is unprecedented in their village. 2010 March, this brown hair, blue-eyed young woman from London has already lived in the village for several months. Joanne experienced China’s many diverse interpersonal relationships and etiquette. [Photo: QQ]

One year after the land acquisition dispute, Xu Shuai’s grandfather wanted to build a house on his old house’s foundation. To make sure everything was done properly, they submitted to the village an application for building construction, and paid the 200 yuan fee. Xu Shuai says, the village’s response at the time was: The land is yours anyway, go ahead and build it.

However, when the house construction was half-way through, “some people came from the town and held my grandfather down, then demolished the house in front of him.” The people who came said this land had already been resold to others. The new owners were a mother and her daughter, who at the scene quarrelled with Xu Shuai and his family. During that time, Joanne was pregnant with their second child, and the other party verbally insulted her, which made Xu Shuai very angry, “was it easy for my wife to marry thousands of miles away from England into a village in Shandong, China? Can’t eat well, can’t dress well, and when in this village she suffers this insult and looks to me for help, am I not supposed to do something? So at the time I slapped that person twice, kicked her waist, and the (left) thigh, I kicked a few times.” At the time, 110 [police] had already arrived, they grabbed Xu Shuai, and the other party quickly left.

Xu Shuai’s grandfather coughed blood at the scene. Through examination, he had cancer, and from that point on became too sick to get out of bed, passing away two months later. Before he died, his grandfather only had 200 yuan left which he left to Xu Shuai, to buy things for the great-grandchild he wouldn’t have the chance to meet. After he said that, he coughed a blood all over the bed, and died.

Five days after the death of his grandfather, Xu Shuai’s son was born.


Xu Shuai felt upset over involving his grandfather and causing him to die before his time, while his own problems also became more and more complicated. 4 days after the conflict at the scene of the house construction, Xu Shuai received a call from the police saying the woman whose waist he kicked had been determined to have a torn ligament, which is considered a minor wound, and “you are suspected of committing a crime.”

On the 8th day after the birth of his son, the more Xu Shuai thought of it, the rawer he felt about it. Taking his wife along with him, carrying his children, he went to the Letters and Visits Bureau of Weifang City.

“I told them the whole thing. But guess what (the Letters and Visits Bureau) said? [They said] since you’re so capable, you can just go to the British Embassy.”

Xu Shuai and his British wife Joanne Margaret Noble sit at home with their two children on May 2 in Weifang, Shandong Province.
Xu Shuai and his British wife Joanne Margaret Noble sit at home with their two children on May 2 in Weifang, Shandong Province. Photo: Lin Meilian

That night when they returned from making the petition, Xu Shuai’s family was beaten by a group of unknown people. Both parents were injured, and he was knocked unconscious by an electric baton. Nobody touched Joanne, she screamed and cried holding the children in her arms.

“We called the police. Guess what 110 said? ‘Xu Shuai, don’t seek trouble when there is none, you still have a minor injury case that hasn’t been settled yet.’… They arrived at the scene, what did they say? ‘We can’t listen to your side of the story. You say someone attacked you, but what proof do you have?’”

In the end, Xu Shuai signed the case-closed document—“internal dispute between fellow villagers”.


As early as when Joanne was insulted at the scene of the forced demolition, she had raised calling the British Embassy, but was stopped by Xu Shuai. As a result of “causing minor injury” and “[being] suspected of committing a crime”, Xu Shuai unexpectedly received a call from the British Embassy instead, informing him that someone complained about him committing crimes, requesting the British government to take Joanne and her two children away, and have him serve a prison sentence. Joanne explained the situation of that day’s conflict to the embassy, and the British Embassy expressed that they would pay close attention to their citizens’ safety in China.

Afterwards, the British Consul came to Xu’s home for a home visit, leaders from the city, district, and town also crowded into their home. Xu’s family was so scared that they barely said anything. Joanne said that she couldn’t get used to the life here, that she wanted to go back. But ultimately she postponed returning to her country with the reason that she “was already nearly 8 months pregnant, and it’d be inconvenient for the airline to receive” her.

“Because my wife isn’t stupid, she knows after she leaves, I’ll definitely be arrested,” said Xu Shuai.

The petitioning visit on Qingming Festival forced the town leaders to promise that they would, within their powers, “suppress” Xu Shuai’s case. After Xu Shuai returned home, he received an notice saying that the prosecutor’s office has, as a result of the case in which he caused minor injury to another, filed charges.


As for the [option of ] emigrating abroad, Xu Shuai too has repeatedly investigated it, but today’s requirements are too high, and it’s impossible to hope to resolve his village problems through a normal emigration. And as for extreme measures such as running into the embassy seeking refuge, even if achieved, it would mean being hated by his clan/people, family, and friends for the rest of his life. He worries what if one day his elder sister’s children want to apply to be civil servants? Won’t they be rejected the moment they go through their political background check?

“I hope to still leave a good impression for the next generation, that our country is good, that our country is a society with rule of law. I hope the next generation will not repeat my mistakes. What I’ve suffered is enough. I hope my next generation, as well as the next generation of my family members, will all love this country, and be proud of being Chinese.”

Joanne and two villagers.
The village’s old women say this foreign wife is so beautiful, only they don’t understand what she says. (photographed by Xu Yanchun)

Comments from QQ:

腾讯网友 幽幽蓝冰:

Dreams are beautiful, but reality is cruel. Face it, bro, flee when you have the chance.

腾讯辽宁省网友 沙漠孤舟:

Seems like the government still cares a bit about how it looks, and restrained itself a lot in front of [Xu Shuai’s] foreign wife, but sooner or later they’ll show their true colors. For the sake of the children, I hope Xu Shuai will plan ahead, as circumstances forces one to leave one’s home, and the one who should be ashamed ought to be the local government. Law, justice, harmony, these beautiful words seem to be drifting further and further away from us…

腾讯网友 屌丝中年GY:

I don’t recommend seeking help at the embassy neither. Once you go down this road, there’s no turning back, and once you’re there, you’re just a political refugee, and how to provide for yourself will even be a problem when you go to a foreign land. But with reality so cruel, you go elsewhere and you’re a 2nd class citizen, and if you stay here in your own home, you’re just a cheap citizen. What to choose is truly really tough.

腾讯网友 惶恐:

What a kind and down-to-earth commoner at the bottom of Chinese society. He is patriotic, he’s a true descendant of the Yellow Emperor [Han Chinese]! But, what has the country given him? What has the government given him?

腾讯网友 肖申克的救赎: (responding to above)

99% of the Chinese people are patriotic. But the country only loves the other 1% of its population.

腾讯网友 /;!禽癫大剩:

I have a dream, to forever live in Xinwen Lianbo, where all the children can afford to go to school, where all the poor people can afford to see a doctor, where the common people live in low-rent houses that cost 77 yuan each month, their salaries rise 11% each year, and the employment rate for college graduates is 99%. I have a dream: To forever live in Xinwen Lianbo, where the price of commodities doesn’t go up, where there are no traffic jams, where the environment is improving, where the criminals will always caught. If one day I’m old and have nowhere to go, please bury me into Xinwen Lianbo.

腾讯网友 ?方向:

Now you know who’s more powerful, right? This is a Chinese-style tragedy. The Heavenly Kingdom, this is exactly how difficult the ordinary common people’s lives are. Open your eyes and see.

腾讯北京市网友 笨不点:

When a foreign woman wants to marry a Chinese man, she should many one with money and power, otherwise she’ll just suffer along with him in China.

腾讯网友 神舞: (responding to above)

How many foreign women do you think marry only for money like Chinese women do? They truly [marry for] freedom, dreams, and love!

腾讯哈尔滨市网友 汐王Y太:

I finally understand why when foreign powers were carving up China the Chinese people didn’t resist.

腾讯济南市网友 Symbol:

[This article has] Incisively and vividly depicted today’s China and Chinese rural society. People should plead for justice instead of discussing this individual case.


Written by Peter Barefoot

Peter is a born and raised Chengdunese who enjoys drinking with all his friends.


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