Foreigners face visa scrutiny in Beijing

Updated: 2012-05-15 03:23

By Cao Yin and Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

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100-day campaign will focus on illegal entry and employment

Popular Beijing spots for foreigners, such as Sanlitun and university areas, will be targeted by police in a fresh drive against visitors who commit crimes, outstay their visas or gain illegal employment, authorities said on Monday.

The 100-day campaign will start on Tuesday, according to the public security bureau.

Wang Wenjie, a spokesman for the bureau, dismissed any suggestion that the move is linked to the arrest last week of a British tourist suspected of indecently assaulting a Chinese woman.

The man, who has not been identified by Beijing police but was confirmed as a tourist with a valid visa, was detained in Xuanwumen Dajie, in Xicheng district, on May 8 at about 11 pm after a confrontation with several men that was caught on camera and broadcast on the Web.

The campaign is aimed at tackling the illegal employment of foreigners, overstaying and illegal entry.

These are "major problems", said Lin Song, the police officer in charge of the campaign who works for the bureau‘s section overseeing exit and entry into the country.

Foreigners must carry passports and accommodation registration documents at all times in line with Chinese regulations. "We will enforce the rule and make sure that every foreigner knows that,‘‘ Lin told China Daily.

"We‘ll check passports and accommodation registrations in areas where foreigners gather in the capital."

Among the locations he mentioned specifically were Sanlitun, an area popular for its shops, bars and restaurants in Chaoyang district, and universities in Haidian district.

Lin also said authorities had asked police across the city to publicize this to foreign residents by publishing notices in communities and engaging in face-to-face conversations.

Police have already posted information about the campaign in Korean in Wangjing, Chaoyang district, where about 40,000 foreigners, mostly Korean, live, Lin said.

They have also asked colleges in Haidian to inform foreign students of the campaign.

"In the meantime, we‘ll invest more police officers to do more checks in hotels, at embassies and at customs checkpoints," he added.

News about the campaign received a mixed response among Sina Weibo micro-bloggers on Tuesday. Some Chinese and foreign users hailed it as a positive step, while others raised concerns that it may cause animosity among law-abiding expatriates.

Officials in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, have confirmed that a similar campaign will be rolled out there soon.

A spokesman for the public security bureau in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, declined to comment on whether the city will follow suit, while his counterparts in Shanghai were unavailable for comment as of Tuesday night.

Beijing, second only to Shanghai in terms of the number of foreigners with residency permits, was home to almost 120,000 foreigners at the end of 2011.

The capital has reported 13,000 cases of illegal entry, overstaying and illegal employment concerning foreigners from more than one hundred countries since 2008, according to exit-entry statistics.

Although 80 percent of foreigners identified as illegally residing in China do not initially intend to do so, according to recent statistics from the Ministry of Public Security, "the issue still needs attention," he said.

"Some foreigners, whose visas expired, couldn‘t afford tickets back to their countries and were afraid to find normal jobs in China. Instead, they committed crimes," he said.

A hotline will allow residents to give tip-offs to the police, he added.

Chengdu, the largest sub-provincial metropolis and provincial capital of Sichuan, said it will launch a similar plan by the end of this year, Wang Lin, deputy director of Chengdu exit and entry administration bureau, confirmed.

Yang Huanning, vice-minister of public security, told lawmakers at the legislature‘s bimonthly session that foreigners who work without an authorized permit in China are mostly language teachers, performers, and domestic helpers, while most illegal entrants come from neighboring countries.

The number of foreigners who stayed for at least six months rose to 600,000 in 2011 from fewer than 20,000 in 1980, he said.

But due to a lack of repatriation centers and language barriers it has been difficult to crack down, he said.

Yang Lin, an attorney at Ying Ke Law Firm who specializes in cases involving foreigners, suggested police distribute brochures highlighting relevant Chinese regulations for foreigners in different languages at the airport.

"After all, many foreigners have no knowledge about local laws and regulations and police should tackle the problem at source," she added.

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Zheng Caixiong in Guangzhou contributed to this story.