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Hull teacher held in Chinese jail for 'not being a friend of the country' | Hull Daily Mail

A supply teacher from Hull is relieved to be back home after being held in a Beijing jail for "not being a friend of China".

Bobby Silby, 32, was initially stopped at Beijing Airport while catching a connecting flight back to the UK after a family holiday in the Philippines.

He ended up being held for ten days in a detention centre cell, sharing it with up to 15 other people.

Mr Silby, a former chairman of Hull Labour Party, said the experience was both surreal and frightening.

Watch: Mr Silby recalls his experiences in a Chinese jail

He believes he was a victim of the Chinese authorities trying to clampdown on free speech after previously living and working the country for six years and subsequently criticising the ruling Communist Party on social media and in radio interviews back in the UK.

"Luckily my wife and daughter were flying back separately but my flight was via Beijing Airport," he said. "I only had an hour and five minutes to catch my connecting flight but was pulled aside at a security check by two guards.

"To my amazement, they seemed to know everything about me, including my wife's name, my four-year-old daughter's name and what I had been posting about China on Facebook.

"I've heard from other people who have experienced the same thing that this is known as a 'shake down'.

"The idea is that they make you miss your flight and generally disrupt your travel arrangements."

When Mr Silby asked them what was going on, he said they told him "it was because I was not being a friend of China."

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He said: "I had about 40 minutes left to find my flight so I started to walk away and they chased after me, knocking over a computer which they then accused me of breaking.

"I was taken to a police station where I was held for 18 hours without being told anything.

"Bizarrely, they hadn't taken my mobile phone off me so I filmed some video from inside the station and posted it on Facebook."

The video would later help friends back in the UK pin-point where he was and alert the British Embassy in Beijing.

"I was eventually told I was being sent for ten days in administrative detention.

"That turned out to be a room probably 30ft by 15ft with 16 people in it.

"There were no beds, just a shelf along one wall, one toilet which you had to squat over and a basic shower cubicle at one end.

"We got three meals a day, usually boiled cabbage, and were allowed out every three or four days for a short walk in an outside yard."

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Mr Silby said his fellow inmates ranged from fellow international travellers to Chinese accused of associating with prostitutes and not having a driving licence.

"There was even one guy in there for not having a proper welding licence.

"Every morning we had to watch propaganda films saying what a great harmonious society the Communist Party had created in China.

"In the afternoons, they screened really terrible films, usually with Nicholas Cage in them. It was weird."

With his mobile phone confiscated, his Facebook video led to pressure being exerted by several Labour MPs, including Hull North MP Diana Johnson.

Mr Silby, of Sanderson Close, was released after ten days but not officially deported.

"They just took me to the airport and dropped me off. It was surreal."

Now back home, he has no immediate plans to return to the country where he once worked as a university teacher.

"When I lived there you learned to keep your head down.

"After this, I want people to know what it's really like in China. It's not a normal country despite the Chinese trying to portray it that way.

"They make a great effort to sanitise their own image but it is a very abnormal country."

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