Foreigners to Face Stricter Regulations

The South China Morning Post reports that the National People’s Congress Standing Committee is drafting a law that would, among other things, tighten visa restrictions by halving the minimum stay for foreigners working in China:

It was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress yesterday following concerns over the behaviour of some expatriates that has led to a rise in anti-foreigner sentiment. Zhang Bailin, deputy director of the NPC Law Committee, said the change was proposed as some foreigners only came for short-term jobs.

The draft law also proposes fines of up to 10,000 yuan (HK$12,200) for companies that offer foreigners illegal invitation letters. The companies will also be asked to cover the cost of deporting the foreigners.

The draft law was proposed to tackle concerns about foreigners who have entered the mainland illegally, or who have overstayed or worked illegally on the mainland.

“By shortening the period a foreigner can stay in China, it is easier for the authorities to control foreigners here,” said Ong Yew-kim, a visiting professor at China University of Political Science and Law. “It will be easier for the authorities to send foreigners they don’t like out of the country.”

After protests in Guangzhou last week over the death of an African man involved in a bicycle-taxi fare dispute, The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos writes that the issue of immigration is as real in China as it is back in the United States:

There was more to this than a taxi-fare dispute. The Africans in Guangzhou constitute perhaps the single largest foreign enclave in China and thus have been a kind of test-case for China’s handling of foreign aspirants ever since the community popped up a decade or so ago. I wrote about that neighborhood in the magazine in 2009; at the time, the Africans complained that they were subject to intense scrutiny, and were frequently jailed and deported for immigration violations. Recently, China embarked on a “hundred-day crackdown” against those working and staying in the country illegally, and people are now advised to carry a passport in case of random checks. The issue will only grow in coming years, as more and more foreigners seek to settle in China for more than a few months or years. Chinese officials are now reviewing the nation’s first-ever immigration law, which will determine what kinds of workers can stay, for how long, and for what kinds of jobs. (Among the details one hopes do not pass: a plan to collect “biological data,” whatever that means, to keep track of new arrivals.)

But the tensions in the Nigerian community, and the “hundred-day crackdown,” should not obscure the fact that, in many ways, China is a promising place to be for a foreigner who arrives in search of education or opportunity. With some exceptions, visas are plentiful, unemployment is low, and it’s arguably easier to be an American working illegally in China than in Europe. China has no Tea Party arguing that these people are taking anything away from Chinese job-seekers, and Chinese policymakers are acutely aware of the value that foreign ideas pose to stimulating innovation. They are unlikely to do anything that closes off that pathway of new ideas.

Curiously, China’s late arrival to the question of immigration may be to its advantage: if China can follow the learning curve on immigration as fast as it has on other things, and begin to provide university and employment opportunities to the best minds from around the world, it just may take a page from our history and become a destination for talented young aspirants who once imagined that they would make their lives in the United States. If America won’t have them, China just might.

Osnos also has a piece on last week’s episode of This American Life, in which he examines the expat life and China’s perception of foreigners. See also recent CDT coverage of foreigners in China, including a recent “clean-up” campaign initiated in Beijing to weed out those foreigners visiting, living or working in the city illegally.

June 27, 2012 11:12 PM
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