Deported from China

By Zhang Xinyuan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/27 5:03:40

Visa problems and illegal drugs can lead to fines, jail and a humilating black stamp in your passport

Visa, drugs and improper behaviors may lead to deportation for foreigners in China. Photo: IC

An incident that happened two years ago still haunts Laurel. She got deported from China to her home country Canada.

"It was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me, I was so ashamed," the 24-year-old woman said. "I felt like a criminal."

She said it was hard for her to talk about it with anyone. Only her parents and a few very close friends know about it.

According to Sawyer Bao, a lawyer who represents foreigners in China, the most common reasons for deportation among foreigners in China, especially in big cities, are entering into China, residing and working in China illegally.

"The most common cases are working in China without a valid work visa and overstaying their visa period," Bao said.

"Most of them are doing legal jobs, like teaching or catering at a restaurant, but without a work visa."

According to a report by the Beijing News in April 2012, foreigners working in China illegally are mainly in sectors such as teaching English, housekeeping, performance and entertainment and labor-intensive industries. They come to China to study or for tourism, but work here illegally.

According to a report by Guangdong Time Weekly in May 2012, the main criminal behaviors for foreigners in China are smuggling, robbery, theft and organizing stowaways.

"As far as I know, serious criminal behaviors don't happen in big cities like Beijing often, maybe in some border cities," Bao said.

"Drug use among foreigners is another main reason they get deported."

Get a legal visa

"When you go to another country to work, get a proper work visa first. Don't take your chances," Laurel said.

When she first came to China, Laurel had just finished university and considering the job prospects weren't very good for a history major, she and many of her classmates considered going to teach English in non-English speaking countries.

"There were many job offers to go teach English somewhere for us," Laurel said.

With a recommendation from a professor's former student, Laurel got an English teaching position in a training facility in Beijing.

"I was very excited about the opportunity. It was the first time for me to get out of North America. I had only been to other parts of Canada and the US before," Laurel said.

The only problem for Laurel's adventure was that she didn't have a physical bachelor's degree yet, which is required by China to teach English.

Laurel finished all of her courses and graduated. However she would not receive the physical copy of her degree until the school's convocation, which was five months from then.

She told her future boss about her situation, and her boss said that it was fine. He said he could get her a visa because he has connections.

"I believed him because according to my little understanding of China, connections are very important," she said.

After Laurel went to Beijing, she started her teaching career.

"It was very pleasant. The kids that I taught were so smart and they adored me. I enjoyed that time a lot," Laurel recalled. "Besides, the pay was good. They paid me around 20,000 yuan ($3,000) per month."

A few months later, a group of police officers paid the school a visit as Laurel was just about to start a class. "I was told to come to the police bureau along with some other teachers with my boss," she said.

"Then I was told that I need to pay 2,000 yuan and book a flight to Canada or another country and leave Beijing immediately if I did not want to spend time in the police station, and I must not return to China for two years," Laurel said.

"I was so scared. I was young and it was my first time being so far away from home," she said. "I panicked. Another teacher from the US said that he decided to go to Thailand instead of going home, so I decided to go with him, since it was embarrassing for me to go back home after only two months."

Later, she was escorted by two policemen back to her dorm to get her belongings and go straight to the airport.

"I can still remember that shameful experience. I can still remember other passengers' curious and judgmental looks and their murmuring when they saw a young blonde girl walking with two policemen by her side," Laurel said. "I guess they must have speculated that I had done something terrible such as using drugs or working as a hooker."

"I almost wanted to shout out that I didn't do drugs and that I am not a hooker," Laurel said. "I didn't do anything terrible. After all, I broke the law by accident."

She stayed in Thailand for six months and then returned to Canada.

In recent years, China has raised the bar for foreigners to teach and work in other industries in China, requiring a university degree and teaching experience. It's becoming more difficult to get a proper work visa in China, so many foreigners choose to work and reside in China illegally, according to Bao.

A Global Times report last January found that at least 50 foreigners were rounded up by Shanghai authorities during a Christmas Eve sting operation to catch expats working illegally in the city. According to the Time Weekly report, in 2011, the national police bureau's entry and exit control administrations found over 20,000 foreigners staying in China illegally.

"Some expats came to China on tourist visas and started working in the country," Bao said. "Some expats had valid visas when they came to the country, but as their visa became overdue and they couldn't get a new one or if they forget to renew their visas, they chose to stay and hide in the country anyways."

A Chinese police deports an illegal worker from Vietnam. Photo: IC

The drug problem

An expat named Lilian shared a friend's story of being deported for drug use three months ago.

Her friend told her he smoked marijuana and one day, when he was working in his office, the police showed up and picked him up.

After it was proven that he has been buying and using marijuana, the police put him in jail for two weeks, and he had to get his friends and coworkers to get his things and either send them to the jail or his home country.

After about a week and a half, he was deported and sent home, and he has a five-year travel ban from China.

"When he was home, he posted on WeChat that he had a 'family emergency' that he had to go back home," Lilian said. "He didn't want people to know that he was deported for drugs," said Lilian. "I am sure he feels very upset because he had lived in China for over 10 years and even had a long-term girlfriend here at one point."

"Some drugs are legal in some countries, and it's common for people to use them for recreational purposes at bars and parties in some Western countries," Bao said. "So some foreigners in China either don't know that it's illegal to use any sort of drugs in China or know about the law but don't think it will result in serious consequences."

There are some other cases that cause foreigners to get deported from China. According to the official Sina Weibo by the Jinjiang district branch of Chengdu Public Security Bureau in July, a Spanish guy named David publicly had sex with a local drunk woman in public in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. He was arrested and detained for 10 days, then deported.

Another report by Legal Daily on December 2016 also reported that a foreign teacher who taught at an international school in Shanghai has been sentenced 12 years in prison and deported for sexually molesting his students.

Worrying about the future

Another friend of Lilian's who was also deported for drug use in 2016, has even greater concerns. After been deported, he contacted her a few times and expressed his fears.

"He said that he is worried about his job prospects for the future. He is worried that he would have a criminal record on his file, which would make it difficult to find a job in his home country and overseas," Lilian said.

At first it seemed as if Laurel left China unscathed but with only a minor financial lost, but it wasn't the case. Despite Laurel's fond memories of teaching in China, she has no plans to return. "I am still afraid to go back to China," Laurel said.

"I got a big black deported stamp in my passport, resulting in further questioning from immigration officials when I travel to other countries, even back to my own country," Laurel said. "They always suspected I was deported for a drug charge or prostitution."

"There are so many people around the world who just take a chance as an English teacher and dive in without a work visa. A lot of times it works out but when it doesn't, it's just bad," she said.

"I wanted to share this experience with others who are considering living abroad as a lesson of the importance of having a legal work visa."



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