By Michael Ardaiolo
China state-owned media is once again reporting a crackdown on foreigners who live, work and travel the country without the proper credentials. This story began to make significant rounds on China Daily and its affiliates at the end of last year with the introduction of a new law that creates more administrative departments that would collect and store biometric data for improved organization. It would also enhance the tracking of arrival and departure from the country by foreigners and Chinese citizens.
The addition of yet more cripplingly complicated bureaucracies in a state inundated with easy-to-corrupt bureaucracies aside, the new law has now been submitted for its second reading.
Speaking from the podium for China on Wednesday was Vice Minister of Public Security Yang Huanning. His report specifically cited housekeeping, labor-intensive industries and, yes, language training as the culprits subject to the nearing crackdown. He also called out foreign embassies and consulates for their inefficiency in verifying identities. Most ominously, he mentioned the creation of “repatriation homes” being devised to house foreigners caught illegally living or working in the country.
In the same report given to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, Yang also offered a few carrots to join the sticks: a higher quota of green cards, “talent introduction” visas to attract international brains and a consideration of “extending the applicable scope for duty-free and multiple-entry visas.”
In 2011, China dealt with 20,000 cases involving foreigners in the “three illegalities”: illegal entry, illegal residence and illegal employment. The number of foreigners in China has increased by 10 percent every year since 2000. Many of these people enter with the L (tourist), F (business) or X (student) visa and either outstay their durations or live in a different capacity.
For foreigners in Shanghai, the “visa run” might be old news, but narratives are now popping up in international newspapers.
To end on a more positive note, Yin Weimin, Minister of Human Resources and Social Security, also recently announced the introduction of policies that would improve social insurance, taxation, medical services, education for children and academic funding for foreigners.