Beijing Pledges To "Clean Out" Illegal Foreigners
We will be arriving in Beijing in the middle of a 100-day campaign to identify foreigners who have overstayed their visas, do not have residence permits, or are working inappropriately on tourist visas. Read on below, or click here for the original article...
Beijing has launched a 100-day campaign to “clean out” foreigners living or working illegally in the city amid a fervent online debate over the behavior, both good and bad, of outsiders in China.
The campaign, which kicked off on Tuesday and will run through the end of August, was announced in state media as well as on Peaceful Beijing, the official Beijing Public Security Bureau account on popular Twitter-like microblogging site Sina Weibo.
According the Peaceful Beijing notice (in Chinese), the city’s police will employ “checks of key neighborhoods, regular crackdowns in key places and strict examination of visa applications” in an effort to identify foreigners who have either entered the country illegally or are living or working in the city without the proper visas.
Underneath the notice, the Beijing PSB pasted an image of the “strike hard” fist typically associated with Chinese public crackdown campaigns, along with the number for a hotline residents can call to report suspicious foreigners.
The Beijing Public Security Bureau didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The state-run Xinhua news agency said Beijing has about 120,000 foreign residents.
The clean-up campaign arrives in the midst of a heated discussion among Chinese social media users about the way foreigners comport themselves in the country. Last week, the stories of two foreigners – one an American who bought French fries for a homeless woman in the city of Nanjing, the other a Brazilian man who was badly beaten by a trio of thieves after trying to stop a woman from having her bag pickpocketed in Dongguan – spread quickly online as Chinese Internet users engaged in a round of soul-searching over the belief that Good Samaritans in China are in relatively short supply.
A similar discussion took place late last year after a foreign tourist, 34-year-old Uruguayan Maria Fernanda, jumped into Hangzhou’s West Lake to save a drowning woman as dozens of Chinese onlookers stood idly by.
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke, noted online in China for carrying his own backpack and attempting to buy coffee with a coupon, has continued to build on his popularity in China, most recently by deigning to kneel when talking to a nine-year-old girl in Shanghai.
But much of that goodwill has been erased in recent days thanks to the wide circulation online of a video that appears to show a foreigner caught in the middle of sexually assaulting a Chinese woman. In the video, uploaded on Wednesday and viewed more than 10 million times on Chinese video site Youku (warning: disturbing content), the foreigner is pulled away from the woman, scuffles briefly with a Chinese man and is later shown lying motionless in the street, where he is hit and kicked again before police arrive.
In a notice later posted on Sina Weibo, Beijing police said the foreigner in the video, a Briton traveling in China on a tourist visa, had “acted indecently” toward the woman after drinking and had been detained pending an investigation. Sina Weibo users subsequently flooded the post with comments, many of which accused the police of trying to soft-pedal the incident.
It’s unclear whether the incident is related to the crackdown. But the announcement of the campaign nevertheless prompted an outpouring of anti-foreigner vitriol on social media on Tuesday, propelling “illegal foreigners” into the top 10 list of trending topics on Sina Weibo.
“I raise both hands and both feet in support of clearing out illegal foreigners: Send that foreign trash rolling back to where they belong,” wrote a Sina Weibo user posting under the handle Wenfeng Qingluo, one of many who complained that the China had become a destination for people with poor prospects in their home countries.
Others made an explicit connection between the clean-up campaign and the Briton in the video, with many posting screenshots of the suspect standing over the woman.
To be sure, there were some skeptical voices, including one user posting under the name Big Two Hundred, who quipped that as soon as illegal foreigners are chased out, “there will be more opportunities for Chinese thugs.”
Still, the majority of commenters appeared to be behind the campaign, with some suggesting the sweep be extended to include Uighurs, a Muslim minority from China’s northwest, and others dragging in China’s territorial spat with the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal – a topic much in the headlines lately.
“Beijing has started cleaning out illegal foreigners,” wrote Wang Tao, general manger of Beijing-based consulting firm Capital View Research. “Will Filipinos be the first to be cleaned out?”
China has long been a relatively easy place for foreigners to live and work, with a small but robust industry built around finding loopholes in the visa application process for those without the proper paperwork. That, combined with the country’s huge demand for English teachers, has turned the country into a haven of sorts for those unable to find work back home.
Beijing has conducted one city-wide sweep of illegal foreigners before, just ahead of the 2008 Olympics. Prior to that, Beijing police have been known to crack down on a district level.
“The online reaction is a little scary, but what the police are doing isn’t particularly new,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, founder of the Chinese media-tracking website Danwei and a resident of Beijing since 1995, adding that he thought the crackdown was most likely a response to the controversy over the video.
“I do think the free pass we’ve had in past years to misbehave has been taken away, but I don’t think this necessarily reflects any general rise in anti-foreigner sentiment,” he said.
A report in the state-run English-language China Daily said police will stop foreigners to make sure they are complying with regulations that require them to carry their passports and residential registration documents at all times. “We will enforce the rule and make sure every foreigner knows that,” Jin Song, the police officer in charge of the campaign told the China Daily.
Police plan to focus their efforts on areas popular with foreigners, including the Sanlitun bar district and Haidian, where many of the city’s universities are located, the report said.
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