The Three Illegals, or The Crackdown on Foreigners in China|
By Wade Shepard on June 2, 2012 Vagabond Journey com
On May 15th the city of Beijing announced a 100 day crackdown on foreignresidents living in the city. Under the banner of smashing the “Three Illegals”of immigration — illegal entry, overstayed visas, and working without a permit— the police began setting up passport checkpoints in areas popular withforeigners, going into Western oriented bars to document check everyone with aforeign face, began doing door to door checks in areas where many foreignresidents reside, and, in general, began searching for foreigners who may haveviolated the terms of their immigration. A special hot-line has even been setup so that the public can report on illegal or otherwise suspicious foreigners.Other cities, such as Chengdu and Yanbian have joined the crackdown, and it’spossible that the movement may spread nation-wide.
I find nothing wrong with this, in and of itself. It’s annoying, butdocument checks of foreign looking people are common throughout the world. Theyhappen in Guatemala, they happen in Germany. When they are done in the USA thepublic cries racism, but this sentiment is not shared on a global scale. If I’min a foreign country and the police ask to see my passport I show it to them.When you go abroad you put yourself on another legal plane, and you give up afew of the rights that you may have in your home country. This is part of themodern World Travel experience, and is not something to whine about.
But how do the Chinese police know who’s a foreigner? That’s simple:foreigners are people who look like foreigners. Political correctness is anAmerican phenomenon, the rest of the world has no difficulty calling a spade aspade, a gringo a gringo, a laowai a laowai. Unless it degrades into harassmentrequesting foreigners to show their immigration documents is not a sign ofxenophobia — it’s normal police behavior the world over.
There are over 600,000 foreigners reported as living in China. That’s nearlydouble the population of Iceland. Thousands are English teachers, many arestudents, a handful are university professors, an ever growing number arechemistry/ pharmaceutical researchers, many are quality control personnel,others are business people, while a relatively large number are Africansworking in miscellaneous labor sectors. In point, there’s an entire nation ofexpats living across China. The population is so large that it’s beginning tohave an impact on broader Chinese society — 600 thousand foreigners don’t livein a country without changing it. But China’s opening up to foreign residentshas not come without ripples, and signs of age old reactionary, xenophobic, andnationalistic tendencies do rear their heads every once in a while.
My wife and some of her coworkers were called to a meeting with the policeyesterday in Taizhou. It was also Children’s Day — a Chinese holiday — and thepolice requested that my wife bring our daughter. The police showered my kidwith cake, praise, smiles, and she left with a big bag of candy. They also gavemy wife and her compatriots a talk about security. “We don’t want what happenedin Beijing to happen here,” one of the police officers said.
What happened in Beijing?This:
On the night of May 8th a young British tourist reputedly sexually assaulteda Chinese girl in the street. This video went viral on Chinese television andsocial media sites, was watched millions and millions of times, and was thespark which ignited a flame for the expression of anti-foreign sentimentswithin the country. The crackdown on illegal foreigners in Beijing started sixdays after this incident occurred, and although the government denies there isa connection, it is a very thinly veiled denial.
The ensuing reaction to this video in China and the subsequentcounter-reaction in the Western media has caused a whirlwind of hell fire on aninternational scale. On one side some Chinese netizens have vented their rageand both the British guy and at all foreigners in general — even bringing intothe fray such remote seeming topics as the Huangyan Island debate and themistreatment of Chinese workers on the railroads in 1800′s America. This videoreleased the valve on a social pressure cooker, and many Chinese people used itas an excuse to bash all foreigners living in China. The pinnacle of theseanti-foreigner rants came from an unlikely direction: Yang Rui, the host of a talkshow on China’s English language channel. Rui’s audience is almost solelyforeigners living in China, and he had this to say about them:
The Public Security Bureau wants to clean out the foreign trash: To arrestforeign thugs and protect innocent girls, they need to concentrate on thedisaster zones in [student district] Wudaokou and [drinking district] Sanlitun.Cut off the foreign snake heads. People who can’t find jobs in the U.S. andEurope come to China to grab our money, engage in human trafficking and spreaddeceitful lies to encourage emigration. Foreign spies seek out Chinese girls tomask their espionage and pretend to be tourists while compiling maps and GPSdata for Japan, Korea and the West. We kicked out that foreign @@@ and closedAl-Jazeera’s Beijing bureau. We should shut up those who demonize China andsend them packing.
It sounded like satire but the guy was serious. A whole slew of other veryagro anti-foreign statements have also surfaced in Chinese media, and “Illegalforeigners” was the top hash-tag on China’s version of Twitter for a few days.A spark had ignited a small fire in China, but instead of trying to smother itthe Western media — and governments to a small degree — have decided to fan theflames with retaliations. They have taken a relatively minor inter-culturalmedia skirmish and have made it out to be an all out “us against them” battle.
Foreigners targeted in China crackdown by CNN_International
Fox News reported that “Foreigner-bashing rises amid China’s domestic woes.”
CNN claimed that the “Mood darkens in Beijing,” and did a video segment thatfocused on an American girl named “Emily” who was crying about how she thinksChina is not going to let her renew her student visa.
The New York Times reported on how a “wave of nationalism” has swept acrossChina and how “Sentiments against foreigners have flared.”
From reading the Western media’s reporting of the fallout from the attemptedrape incident you may think that foreigners are being beaten in the streets ofChina, that we’re the target of xenophobic slurs and police harassment, butthis could not be further from the truth.