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Campaign 'about exchanges' in expats community

By Cao Yin (China Daily)

08:56, June 21, 2012

Editor's note: After the launch of Beijing's campaign against foreigners' illegal entry, stay and employment on May 15, China Daily submitted a request to follow exit-entry officers carrying out their duties in areas with a large presence of expatriates. This is the second in a series of stories on the subject.

Many Beijingers refer to a community in Wudaokou, in the northwest part of the capital, as the "United Nations".

Surrounded by educational institutions, including the prestigious Peking and Tsinghua universities, and conveniently reached by the subway network, the Huaqingjiayuan community is often the first choice for overseas students and many expatriates.

Of the nearly 10,000 residents, more than 1,300 are foreign nationals, coming from 43 countries, though the largest contingents come from South Korea and the United States.

Unlike Sanlitun, the popular bar and restaurant area, where police are largely focused on keeping track of foreign residents and maintaining order, Huaqingjiayuan's exit-entry administration service center relies more on volunteers and community partners to help with its management.

Not only can residents get free daily lessons in Korean, Chinese or English, but Wang Qi, the police officer in charge of foreign affairs, has enlisted eight foreigners to act as unofficial deputies.

"It's all about exchanges and cooperation," Wang said, as he led me to the area where the lessons are held and grabbed an application form for classes.

The 24-year-old college graduate has been in the job for just over a year, although the service station has been open since 2006.

"We have so many residents from overseas, these language exchanges are important. All the teachers are volunteers from the community," he said. Wang learned to speak English at college and is studying Korean with a couple living nearby.

"When I talk with foreigners in their own language, I feel closer to them and believe it's easier to solve disputes. Language shouldn't be an obstacle, it should be a lubricant."

As we stood chatting about the language course, on the afternoon of June 13, Oh Ji-ye, a 21-year-old Korean, came in and sat down on the sofa to wait for her Chinese tutor.

"I'm a student at Tsinghua University and have been in the city for about four years," she said. "I study Mandarin, but if my Chinese friends speak quickly I still have difficulty understanding. So I come here at least once a week to practice.

"It's a good way to improve my Chinese and learn about Chinese regulations on foreigners," she added.

After the 100-day crackdown on foreigners who illegally enter, work and stay was launched in Beijing, the number of calls to the hotline about suspected rule-breakers has risen, according to Beijing exit-entry administration.

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