Beijing police hit the streets searching for illegal foreigners

BEIJING police made good on the government’s recent promise to crack down on foreigners living and working illegally in Beijing, disturbing revelers’ good times on weekend nights to check passports and registration photos. Text messages circulated among some ex-pats and reporters tweeted that police were out demanding to see identification in the Sanlitun neighborhood Saturday night. Sanlitun is a go-to nightlife spot in Beijing, particularly among laowai, or foreigners.

Police in Sanlitun

Police check foreigners' identification in Sanlitun, a popular neighborhood among ex-pats in Beijing. Pic: Sina weibo

The government announced a 100-day campaign against “illegal aliens” two weeks ago, and all foreigners are now being advised to carry with them their passports and registration documents in case they are stopped and questioned.

CNN reported that during a live music show, the performance was stopped so that the manager could advise the crowd to stay inside the venue. The reason? Police were outside threatening to take anyone who did not have their passports and registration on them to the local police station.

In addition to being an inconvenience, the idea of carrying around their passport at all times has been derided by some foreigners, saying that the risk of losing their passports is not worth bringing it out to the bars with them. Nonetheless, it is advisable to carry copies of passport, visa and registration documents at the very least, to minimize potential hassle.

The official line is that China’s attitude toward foreigners remains friendly, so long as their legal status is on the up-and-up. However, foreigners have been grumbling about what sometimes feels like an increasingly hostile sentiment in a city that has in recent years been quite comfortable and convenient for laowai.

CCTV reporter Yang Rui drew mixed reactions for a heated anti-foreigner rant he made on his Sina Weibo account, the popular microblogging platform in China. Discussion about the Rui incident by Chinese netizens on the popular site ChinaSmack give a somewhat chilling — if telling — view of what some Chinese think of foreigners in their country.