A Hong Kong Story
Chris Barnes, now entering his second straight season playing in Hong Kong, reflects on the last 12 months over there. Chris is entering his seventh season, having already played in Lithuania, Portugal, Mexico, Peru, Indonesia and Canada.
What a year, What a year!!!
How would you like an opportunity to play in Hong Kong ? I remember reading this text as I was laying down in my bed watching an NBA game. Hong Kong? I asked myself. Where they made Rush Hour? Of course, I replied back. OK, they are having a 2 week 3 city tryout and only taking 3 players. It’s a new team and they are trying to win the championship.
On the final day of the tryout, I got a chance to talk to the GM of the team and he told me the breaking news. That one of the players that they choose can’t leave the country for a year and can’t play for a year. WOW! I thought to myself I can’t see my family for a year, which was even crazier because I found out I was having a baby 2 days prior. I must admit that was one of the toughest decisions I had to make.
When I landed in Hong Kong everyone showed me love from the Owner to the last man on the bench. I instantly knew this would be a great situation. So like I said, the first year I had to sit out and only practice, which was a good experience. Going against guys like James Maye and Michael Anderson really made me into a better player and leader. During that time something just didn’t sit right with James and that was the “I can’t leave for one year ” part. So he told me to ask the GM about that. We all know that when you go to other countries that it’s a MUST that you get a working visa or leave the country every 3 months. I continuously pressed the GM about this and he assured me that everything will be OK because the week I got here he processed my papers for my working visa. Hmm, little did I know what I was in for.
Summertime is here and now it’s my time to play. James and Mike had left because they won the championship and were going to play elsewhere. One day I randomly get a message from the team secretary to come into the office so we can apply for my visa. In confusion, I go to the office and tell her my visa ha already been applied for and I’m good. She replies no it’s not, we’re going to do it now. Then she asks for my passport and asks when was the last time I left Hong Kong. In March… but here it is now June. She shakes her head and said oh man you have to turn yourself in. So apparently I overstayed on my tourist visa and I will have to turn myself into immigration. Overstay isn’t that bad. The consequences would be a slap on the wrist. Yea… that’s what I thought.
We first go see a lawyer. He told me to tell them I forgot and apologize for overstaying and that the case should be in and out. We go to immigration and I turn myself in. As I’m talking with the agent, he asks if I’m here in Hong Kong working without a visa because that’s a federal offense. As soon as I was about to lie a guy walks in with 4 newspaper articles saying you’re Chris Barnes and employed by Eastern. So we have to charge you with overstay and illegal employment which results in jail time or deportation. I was there for 4 hours getting interviewed and finally they took my passport and I was told I can’t practice, take pictures or even be seen with anyone from Eastern or else I would go to jail.
For 8 months I had to go into hiding and depression set in deep. It was the worse. I had to go to court and then check in with the immigration department every month to make sure I hadn’t tried to flee the country. Christmas was even worse. It was my daughter’s first and everyone was with their family and I’m here stuck in Hong Kong watching Christmas celebrations on Facebook. Mid February was my last court hearing. Man, was I excited. They threw out the illegal employment but told me I had to go home and come back because of the overstay but I can’t get in trouble or else I would get 10 years. I didn’t hear that last part. I was like cool go home and come back before the season starts… I’m good.
I go home and come back and 3 days before the first game we were lifting weights. Me being all excited to finally play was lifting too heavy and tore my groin muscle and abductors longus. Now I had to sit out another 6 months. On top of that, my visa still wasn’t processed so I would have been sitting out anyways but was able to play in the playoffs. SMH…
What a year, What a year!!!