The misleading media reports about "a male foreigner in Beijing being blackmailed by a Chinese woman in motor accident" led to a lot of criticism, but after it was revealed that the foreigner has no legal permit to stay in China, Chinese netiziens engaged in a heated debate on the Internet about why some foreigners who have no legal entry, no legal right to stay, or who are involved in illegal employment, are able to stay on in China.
Buy a job offer to stay in China?
Jiang Senhai, a British citizen, runs a fashion company in Beijing. He has been living and working here legally for more than 20 years, with a Chinese residence permit. To his knowledge, there are a number of foreigners who have no legal permit to stay in China.
"The foreign man who was involved the motor accident deserves any punishment he receives," says Jiang Senhai in fluent and idiomatic Beijing dialect. "Now that he is notorious, of course the police have become involved in questions about his status. Some foreigners take unscrupulous measures to get hold of a visa and prolong their stay in China."
According to The Exit and Entry Administration Law of the People's Republic of China, an alien with a China tourist visa can stay for 60 days, with a business visa up to one year, and with a working visa up to two or three years, with the possibility of renewing the visa if the applicant is eligible.
Jiang Senhai's company is qualified to hire foreigners and to apply work permits for them. As a result, some wily aliens have come to see Jiang to 'buy' a job offer, which will allow them to apply for a longer stay. Jiang refuses all their illicit requests. "In fact, they have no interest in working with me, and it would be illegal for me to sell a job offer to them."
Buy a visa from an agency?
Some foreigners also buy work permits from a visa agency, which is a new business activity that has emerged with the increasing demand from foreigners seeking opportunities in China.
These agencies offer a complete service, guaranteeing a visa. Although both sides understand that what they are doing is illegal, they are still willing to balance the risk against the profits that can be made.
Become an English teacher?
With more and more private English teaching institutions opening in China, there is a growing demand for foreign English teachers. Such schools usually offer generous pay and limited working hours, and they don't require any teaching qualification other than that the candidate should be a native English speaker. Good pay and the light workload attract lots of foreigners to become English teachers. Although these institutions cannot provide a work permit, the salary allows the teacher to travel extensively around the country.
Penalties need to be stricter
With the aim of curbing illegal entry, residence, and employment of foreigners, China's Exit-Entry Administration Law provides for punishments and sanctions.
But although offenders are subject to criminal liability and deportation, the financial penalties are not severe. Under the provisions of the exit-entry law, foreigners staying in the country illegally may be given a warning before being fined, or a 500 yuan fine levied for each day they overstay. In severe cases the fine may be as high as RMB 10,000 and individuals could face detention for a period of between 5 to 15 days, and employers may be fined RMB 10,000 for every illegal foreigner they employ up to a maximum fine of RMB 100,000. Any monetary gains that have resulted from the employment of such individuals will also be forfeit.
Jian Senhai says China should tighten up the administration of foreigners. Every country is happy to see foreign visitors whose activities comply with the local laws, but unreliable foreigners should not be made welcome.