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Beijing cracks down on expat community

May 16, 2012 - Casey Hynes

CHINESE police began a 100-day campaign Tuesday, May 15, to lay a legal smackdown on any foreigner living or working in the country illegally.

In an effort to crack down on the number of “illegal aliens” in the country who are working without the proper visas, have overstayed their visas or entered the country unlawfully, the police will reportedly be checking passports and residency registration documents. They’ve even enlisted the help of locals, using the Chinese microblogging service weibo to encourage people to report neighbors or colleagues known to be in the country under shady circumstances.

Appeal from police to locals to help with foreigner crackdown

This message appeared on Chinese microblogging site weibo, appealing to locals to help with the 100-day campaign to crack down on illegal foreigners. Pic: weibo.com

According to China Daily, police will target neighborhoods known to attract large numbers of foreigners, including expat enclave Sanlitun, where everyone does their late-night partying. University districts are also more likely to draw a watchful eye.

The move comes after several months of shifts in visa laws and has officially been declared a response to the number of illegal workers in China, including English teachers, housekeepers and laborers.

However, the crackdown falls close on the heels of an alleged attempted rape case that drew headlines last week. An onlooker captured a video of what appears to be a British man assaulting a Chinese woman until passersby stop him and beat him to the ground. (More on that case here)

Some bloggers hinted that this incident prompted the hardline campaign, but warnings of a crackdown were being reported before the assault incident took place. Speculation has circulated in the expat community about the motivation for the campaign, with no clear consensus. The mandate to carry one’s passport and residency documents is nothing new, it’s just not regularly enforced — until, supposedly, now.

Casual travelers to the Middle Kingdom should fare just fine as long as they have their visas in order and don’t overstay their visit. If you are planning to travel here within the next three months, however, make sure to check in with someone at your hostel or hotel about registering at the local police station upon arrival. Best to have the proper documentation on you to avoid a hassle.

An editor at The Beijinger, a popular expat magazine, offered this advice to readers:

Check the date on your visa, make sure you’ve got your housing registration form (and if you haven’t, get down to the PSB now and sort it out), and we’d also recommend carrying photocopies of the photo and visa pages from your passport, as well as a copy of your housing registration form. It’s not cool, but it will save you trouble.

Meanwhile, the voice behind the satirical Twitter account The Relevant Organs, which is jokingly billed as “China’s soft-powered vanguard, rectifying your thought since 2010,” gave a snarkier, if more humorous, response:

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