A three-minute internet video showing a British man assaulting a Chinese woman is the likely reason behind the government ordering a 100-day crackdown, beginning Tuesday, on illegal foreigners staying and working in Beijing.
The video first shows the foreigner standing over his victim lying on a flower bed on a road divider in Beijing’s Xicheng district. The woman is heard crying for help. Then the footage shows passers-by getting together to beat up the man.
The footage led to outrage on China’s social networking sites. Though officials didn’t link the video to the crackdown on illegal immigrants – the British suspect had a valid tourist visa -- the order is being seen as a direct response to the huge outcry on the internet.
Police personnel have been instructed to roam the streets of Beijing and focus on areas popular with foreigners, for example, the popular bar street called Sanlitun, and universities where students from abroad study.
They will randomly check foreigners and ask for relevant documents like passports and residence registration documents. Failing to provide the correct documents could lead to punishment including deportation.
Beijing citizens are also being encouraged to report illegal aliens staying in their neighbourhoods.
State media quoted Government data as showing that foreigners entering and exiting the Chinese mainland in 2010 totaled 52.11 million, a 133 percent increase on 2001. The number last year was 54.12 million.
“Statistics from the Ministry of Public Security showed that more than 20,000 foreigners were found to be illegally staying in China in 2011,” Global Times newspaper said.
According to mouthpiece, China Daily, foreigners must carry passports and accommodation registration documents at all times in line with Chinese regulations.
"We will enforce the rule and make sure that every foreigner knows that," Lin Song, media officer of the Exit-Entry Administration Department of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau told state media.
Will such a crackdown prevent illegal immigration? Not everybody agrees.
“The key to solving this problem is to establish a long-term mechanism, such as an institution similar to an immigration office, rather than sporadic and temporary crackdowns that may leave a bad impression on foreigners and is not beneficial to the city's development in the long run," Zhang Xin, professor of public management, from Renmin university told state media.