China takes steps to drive out foreigners with an illicit past

By Chen Ximeng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/12/21 15:58:39


China has increased its efforts to keep foreigners with criminal records out of the country in recent years. Photo: VCG

HR managers suggest conducting extensive background checks on candidates before letting them sign on the dotted line. Photo: VCG

Recently, the repatriation of two American fugitives from China has triggered a lot of attention on social media. 

On November 14, Chinese police handed over a male fugitive who was involved in stealing a car in the US to US law enforcement officers at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. He had fled to Shanghai on a tourist visa and worked as an English teacher since November 2009, the Xinhua News Agency reported in November.

Another "Red Notice" fugitive was also repatriated from Shanghai in October after Chinese authorities received a request to locate and provisionally arrest him. The man sexually assaulted children aged 6 to 12 in the US from 2009 to 2012 and fled to Shanghai in May, where he was captured, Xinhua reported in October.

During US President Donald Trump's recent visit to China, both sides agreed to strengthen Sino-US cooperation in law enforcement and cybersecurity and reiterated not being a haven for foreign fugitives. They agreed to have active discussions on building a long-term mechanism to cooperate in apprehending fugitives and chasing illicit money.

China has so far sent back four American fugitives to the US this year, and the US side has handed over two Chinese fugitives to China, Xinhua reported.

Recent years have seen considerably more effort being put into keeping foreigners with a criminal history out of China through more cross-border cooperation with other countries on transnational crime and stricter visa policies. Employers and HR managers also have their own ways of protecting their business from people with a criminal past, and they shared some of them with Metropolitan.

Background checks critical

Li Tao, the HR director of a multinational company with more than 20 years of work experience in human resource management, conducts an extensive background check before recruiting foreign employees.

"The candidates need to show us their notarized clean criminal records. At the same time, we use third-party companies to investigate their backgrounds, including calling their former department and HR managers to assess their abilities, work attitude, and whether they behave inappropriately at work," said Li.

Another technique Li employs is checking the candidate's income verification statement at the bank. If the candidates say they have a certain amount of work experience at a company, but  there is no record of a stable income during that time, it might be suspicious, he said.

"Social platforms are also a good channel. I like to view the LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter page of the candidates to learn about them and see their endorsements, which can partly prove their conduct, whether they are honest and their abilities," said Li.

Francis Pang, chairman of the board for Canadian International Schools of Beijing (CIS Beijing), told Metropolitan in a previous interview that CIS Beijing hires teachers only after several processes have taken place. He said the applicant is required to provide a current and valid passport, their resume, certified certificates, a minimum of three reference letters, and a current no-criminal record from their home country and the country they are currently residing in.

"The two most common sources for hiring staff are Search Associates and the New Brunswick Department of Education in Canada," said Pang.

Search Associates is an organization that vets teachers through an extensive network of professionals that check the background, references, and so on for any teacher who applies for positions advertised.

According to Pang, all the teachers or administrators must supply three or more people who will verify their teaching experience and background and those individuals must submit confidential references online. He said all the teachers hired by CIS Beijing must meet the stringent standards required in Canada.

Speaking specifically to background checks for offenses against minors, Pang said the school takes it seriously.

"All teachers considered for hiring must submit a current police report indicating that they have never been convicted of a crime against a child," he said. "Further to it, personal phone calls are made to the referees of the candidates considered for hiring. E-mails are also sent out seeking a further personal reference - a special school-based form that we use to gather further current information on each candidate."

Teaching industry the hardest hit?

Some of the foreign fugitives were found to work in the teaching industry in China.

In September, Robert Robertson, a Canadian teacher at Beijing Huijia Private School, resigned from his post after it got out that he was accused of having sex with teenage girls in Canada between 1974 and 1976 and was stripped of his teaching credentials in 2016. Robertson started teaching at Huijia in 2011, Vancouver news portal reported in August.

In April 2013, Neil Robinson, a British fugitive was arrested by Beijing police and repatriated to the UK. Robinson sexually assaulted children in the UK and went on the run in 2002. He came to Beijing and taught at an international school from 2008 to 2012 before turning himself in to Beijing police after he was exposed on social media as a fugitive sex offender. In January 2014, he was given a sentence of 12 years by a UK court for sex offenses and possession of child pornography.

There are other similar cases in Shanghai and other places in China.

Citizen whistleblowers

In 2009, Richard (pseudonym), a former teacher at a private English training school in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, suspected an American teacher of sexual misconduct involving minors and did not hesitate to act. He checked the US sex offender's registry online and found that the teacher had convictions in three states for crimes related to obscenity and child pornography. Richard reported it to the school, but was ignored. The case was finally exposed in 2013.

"[At that time,] I didn't understand why China didn't do background checks and ensure that these teachers are not pedophiles, child molesters or rapists," said Richard.

He thinks that China should make background checks on foreign teachers mandatory to keep sex offenders out of classrooms, as is the case in South Korea, Japan and Vietnam.

"China's lack of an extradition treaty with the US makes the country even more appealing to American sex offenders," he said.

"China has no extradition treaties with the US, Canada and Australia, which remains a major obstacle in combating transnational crimes," said Huang Feng, director of the Institute for International Criminal Law at Beijing Normal University. "Therefore, more bilateral cooperation is important to bring fugitives to law."

A police officer with a provincial public security department, who prefers not be named, also cautioned sole reliance on an applicant's non-criminal record.

"The fugitives might make a fake non-criminal record," the official said. "Also, an American offender might have committed a crime in a state, but there might be no record of that crime in the state he or she resides in. The information database is not shared."

Nowhere to hide

Frank (pseudonym), a foreign executive at a Chinese company, who has been living in China for more than 10 years and recently applied for a Chinese green card, thinks that China is safe, compared to some other countries.

Based on his experience of doing paperwork for jobs and applying for a Chinese green card, he believes that the background check now is very strict.

"A non-criminal record is quite reliable usually. Nowadays everyone needs a non-criminal record declaration and legalized proof of professional education. China has closed pretty much all the loopholes," said Frank.

A Chinese green card requires a non-criminal record for every country the applicant has lived in for one year or more. It is tougher than the requirement for a work permit and took him several months to get them ready, he recalled.

"China is not a preferred destination for fugitives. The public security here is probably one of the highest in the world. People in neighborhoods also keep an eye on people. Therefore, China should not be attractive to criminals," he said.

But what countries could do is proactively exchange more data on criminals and share databases. That could help, he said.

"The rules should be strictest in education. So, maybe a worldwide child molester database would be useful. Most of those people are hanging out in Southeast Asia where there are no strict checks."

Huang said the four cases this year will play an important role in facilitating deeper and broader cooperation between China and the US in hunting fugitives, which will produce more good results.

He added that the government should strengthen management of foreigners in China, for example, through information and intelligence exchange with other countries to find out whether they have a criminal history and crackdown on illegal immigration.

An official at the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA), who prefers to remain anonymous, said that there is an increasing need for foreign teachers in China.

He said the SAFEA has exercised stricter management of foreign teachers in the last two years, which has raised the cost of legally hiring foreign teachers. So, to save costs, some employers hire illegal foreign teachers.

"For the next move, the public security body should play its role in combating illegal teaching, and we should think about proper requirements for working as a foreign teacher. At the same time, we should mobilize parents and raise their awareness and knowledge of identifying legal and illegal foreign teachers."

Newspaper headline: Closing the door on criminals


blog comments powered by Disqus