Elite Chinese schools should stop hiring foreign fugitives

By Manav Keeling Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/12 19:23:41

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Chinese social media is buzzing over allegations by a Shanghainese woman who claims that her former English teacher at her alma mater university here was in fact a notorious American fugitive who has been on the lam for the past 14 years for the brutal murder of his wife and the sexual molestation of a little girl.

Daniel William Hiers, an ex-cop from South Carolina, made the US Marshals "most-wanted" list in 2004. The now-45-year-old handsome blonde, who has a resemblance to actor Matt Damon, was featured on CNN and the TV show "America's Most Wanted" for his heinous crimes.

The student, surnamed Wang, wrote on Weibo that Hiers taught at her Shanghai university but was known as the campus playboy for pursuing and dating his female students. Wang's allegations sparked uproar, not just about how Chinese immigration authorities could overlook a most-wanted foreign fugitive, but why a Chinese university would allow such a sexually aggressive foreigner to continue working on campus despite his reputation.

Sadly, this is not the first time that a foreign criminal or a "sex-pat" managed to bypass Chinese immigration authorities in order to teach here. In 2017, Robert John Robertson was forced to resign from a prestigious private Beijing high school after it was discovered that the 66-year-old had been previously banned from teaching in Canada for raping teenage girls, according to the South China Morning Post.

Also in 2017, high school English teacher James Mikkelson from the US was fired by one of Shanghai's most elite private high schools after many of his female students signed a petition accusing him of sexual misconduct. Further uproar ensued after it was disclosed that the school's administrators refused to take his victims' accusations seriously. Only after the petition went viral was Mikkelson dismissed.

In 2013, British fugitive Neil Robinson, 46, was caught by Beijing police after several years on the run for child sex crimes back in his home country. He was found working as an English teacher at an exclusive international school in Beijing. Also in 2013, a 63-year-old American teacher twice convicted for child pornography was caught by Chinese authorities while teaching in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province.

These are just the foreign fugitives and pedophiles who have been caught or made the news - imagine how many others are out there right now teaching English to the sons and daughters of China! It is absolutely sickening, and every parent - Chinese and expat alike - should be very concerned about the lack of criminal background checks and deficient supervision of foreign teachers, especially at elite private schools and first-tier universities here.

There's a long-running joke on China expat forums that the more exclusive and expensive the school, the easier it is to get a teaching job. This is because while Chinese public schools must apply for work visas for their foreign staff through official government channels, which require criminal background checks, elite private schools in first-tier cities like Shanghai and Beijing often find loopholes or other indirect ways to obtain work visas.

In December 2017, a Global Times article titled "China takes steps to drive out foreigners with an illicit past" reported that "recent years have seen considerably more effort being put into keeping foreigners with a criminal history out of China through cross-border cooperation with other countries on transnational crime and stricter visa policies."

However, according to the same article, China has no extradition treaties with the US, Canada or Australia, which remains a major obstacle in combating transnational crimes. Therefore, more bilateral cooperation is needed to bring foreign fugitives to justice.

But the first step must come from the schools themselves, many who are often desperate to fill open teaching positions before the start of a new semester, which compels them to bypass proper procedures and paperwork that would filter out foreign fugitives. Only then will China be less appealing to psychopaths, perverts, pedophiles and predators as a place where they can make some easy money while on the lam.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Posted in: TWOCENTS

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