What China's Talking About Today: Deporting the Much-Despised 'Illegals'

Beijing police promise to crack down on crime by foreigners in the capital city.

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A photo of Al Jazeera correspondent Melissa Chan at their China bureau office, in Beijing. (Reuters)

Beijing police are planning to crack down on illegal activity by foreigners living in the capital, according to an announcement yesterday. A more rigorous review of visa applications is one of several measures aimed at addressing what are termed the "three illegals:" Illegal immigrants, illegal Beijing residents, and illegal workers.

There are some 200 thousand foreigners in Beijing -- tourists and residents -- on any given day, according to Beijing Daily. British Beijing resident and author of popular Chinese current events blog Sinocism Bill Bishop suggested that foreign residents of Beijing "make sure [they] carry passports with [them] at all times."

The measures come after a highly publicized incident in which a British national on a tourism visa sexually assaulted a Chinese woman on a street near Tiananmen Square. Bystanders saved the victim and beat up the assailant. A video of the incident went viral on Sina Weibo, where micro-bloggers demanded that foreign criminals be deported.

Chinese nationals who suspect foreign nationals of illegal activity were encouraged to call a Beijing police hotline (01064038685) in a message on Sina Weibo, where over 100,000 micro-bloggers have commented on the crackdown.

The trend sparked commentary that at times verges on xenophobia or even misogyny.

"There are already too many Chinese men for each women. If you continue to let foreign devils - Yang Gui Zi -- violate [Chinese women], there will be more and more Chinese bachelors," wrote user DongziZaiChenshi.

"This should have happened a long time ago. Many of them come to coerce China's little girls," wrote user Little Pig's Heartbroken Without Scars.

Sinocism's Bishop explained that the crackdown is a "long overdue" measure to address otherwise unchecked illegal activity in Beijing's expatriate community.  

Still, it is unclear what kinds of illegal activity and business Beijing authorities will address. Vague legal terminology could also result in a crackdown on expatriates engaged in lawful fields.

Earlier this month, long-running Al Jazeera China correspondent Melissa K. Chan, a U.S. national, announced that her journalism visa had not been renewed after her coverage of Chinese "black jails," where she reported that local authorities illegally disappear troublemakers. Chan expressed to international media outlets that she had broken no laws in her coverage of sensitive subjects in China.

Presented by

Massoud Hayoun is a digital-news producer for Al Jazeera America.

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