Archive for June 13th, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A few Thoughts about the 100-Days Crackdown on Foreigners in China

“China’s crackdown on foreigners raises specter of xenophobia”, read the title of a weekly column by CNN columnist Jaime A. FlorCruz  on June 4. First thing that FlorCruz does is that he quotes his wife, who, like him, lives in Beijing:

“Does this mean I must now carry my passport everyday?” my wife Ana wondered aloud with a mix of bemusement and exasperation.

Umm… does this mean that she hasn’t done so in the past?

CCTV-9 host Yang Rui‘s Weibo comments on the 100-days campaign (scheduled to continue until the end of August)  is quoted. Then come an old China hand’s warnings about how ugly xenophobia can be, with examples from China in the 1970s.

On June 7, Shanghai police raided a party at Yongfu Road and took at least twelve foreigners away on a police van, according to an eyewitness.

That, to be clear, is a very unpleasant experience. But if the police acted on a sound legal basis, it isn’t wrong. The question if xenophobia [is] rearing its head again is inappropriate in context with the current campaign. Xenophobia has never ceased – but the desire to make sure that foreigners who stay in China are doing so legally is basically natural, and legitimate.

The problem with much of the recent international coverage on Beijing’s campaign is that it sheds an uncanny light on what is, basically, any country’s (including China’s) legitimate concern. This kind of coverage also trivializes genuine human-rights violations.

This is where names need to be rectified. It does feel uneasy to be arrested in China. It feels much more uneasy that to get arrested in ones own country, or in a foreign country where you can expect that rule of law will apply. But these are questions foreigners in China might have asked themselves much earlier – say, before they first arrived in China.

If people get exasperated – see first paragraph – because they might be expected to carry their passport whenever they go out, their feelings seem to suggest that have taken too many things in China for granted. In Germany, a country which is – correctly, I believe – considered a lawful country, I have to carry either a passport or an ID card anytime. [See erlian‘s comment, #3 – JR] If I don’t – that’s how I understand the relevant law -, the police are free to arrest me for 24 hours before a judge decides on my case. And I am a German citizen, not a foreigner.

When foreigners are forced to leave China, and the authorities do not provide an explanation, this would be something foreigners might draw conclusions from. They may ask themselves if it makes sense to bet on a future in or with China. There was no reason to force Melissa Chan to leave the country, for example. But no country can be expected to tolerate foreigners who want to stay there without having done the necessary paperwork.

It’s time to either come up with cases where Chinese authorities are seriously fucking the 100-days campaign up – or to become reasonable.

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