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Foreigners to be faced with a question of identity

By Cui Jia, He Na and Peng Yining (China Daily)

08:13, May 29, 2012

Sanlitun, in Beijing, is a popular destination for foreigners. (China Daily/Wang Jing)

Mike Jones took his passport and rental contract to Shuangjing police station in Beijing's Chaoyang district on Sunday.

The 26-year-old US citizen, who has been in China since 2008, had not felt the need to register with the police before a 100-day crackdown was launched on May 15 to combat what’s become known as the "three illegals". This refers to foreigners who have entered illegally, overstayed their visa or been employed without obtaining a work permit.

The freelance documentary producer returned from Los Angeles on Saturday and said "turning himself in" was the first thing he did.

"I heard about the crackdown when I was in the US and then remembered that I hadn't registered with the local police, as required after moving to my new apartment. I really don't want to get into trouble," he said. "I know when the Chinese authorities use the term 'crackdown', they mean business."

At a counter with a sign reading "Temporary residence registration for foreigners", a policewoman took Jones' passport and checked that his visa was in order. She then entered his passport details and current address into the computer and printed out a police registration card within five minutes.

"Make sure you carry the card and your passport with you at all times for routine stop-and-checks," she said, handing over the card. "Also, you can show the card to the taxi driver to take you home when you’re drunk." She wasn't joking.

The policewoman said Shuangjing police station issues a large number of police registration cards. The area is popular with foreigners for two reasons: It is in close proximity to the central business district and also the apartments are relatively modern. "I hear that the number of foreigners registered with Nanhu police station near the Wangjing area is the highest in Beijing and the majority of them come from the Republic of Korea," she added, explaining that locals often refer to the area as "Korean Town".

Citizens of the ROK, the US, Canada, Russia and Japan were the top five nationalities involved in "three illegal" cases in 2011, according to the exit-entry administration of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.

More than 20,000 "three illegal" foreigners were dealt with nationwide last year, according to Yang Huanning, vice-minister of public security.

However, the crackdown has provoked controversy within Beijing's expatriate community and the overwhelming reaction has been one of concern.

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Leave your comment3 comments

  1. Name

swh at 2012-05-29180.158.18.*
China has progressed so much in the last 30 years, why can't foreigners who are here on a long term basis e.g. 6 months or more be given a card that identify the foreigner and can be easily carried around with them ? Imagine what is it like having to carry your passport with you for months and or years ? I have been doing this for more than 10 years while working in China.
Canada at 2012-05-2970.36.49.*
Good to see Yang Rui was not fired.
Harald at 2012-05-29101.5.220.*
I feel China is mixing two issues: foreigners teaching English with a tourist visa are illegal, but not a danger to anyone. But drunk foreigners harassing others (no matter if Chinese of foreigner gets harassed) is unacceptable. I agree the police sometimes is afraid to punish foreigners, but also foreigners often lack respect towards Chinese authorities. This should be changed with strong determination. China is probably the safest country in the world. To uphold this, the authorities, bar owners, hostel staff etc. must be more strict towards foreigners' misbehavings.

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