China should issue working visa quota for lower skilled jobs: expert
More should be done to tackle the problem of the increasing number of foreigners illegally living and working in China, lawmakers and political advisors have said. [Special coverage]
Zhu Lieyu, a National People's Congress (NPC) deputy, believes that the country should enact stricter punishment on "sanfei" foreigners - those who commit the "three illegals" of illegally entering, staying or working in China, and to this end, he introduced a bill to tackle the illegal immigrant issue during the two sessions.
"The 'three illegals' should be listed as a crime and should attract stricter punishment. Some of these foreigners have occasionally caused trouble in civil society," Zhu told the Global Times on Tuesday, adding that his bill has taken note of Western countries' practices on the same issue.
A similar call came from the Central Committee of the China Zhi Gong Party, one of the country's eight non-Communist parties. The party suggested enhanced supervision over visa agents and improvements to the repatriation mechanism for the "three illegals."
Under the current Exit and Entry Administration Law, those who illegally enter or stay in China can face an administrative detention of up to 15 days and a maximum fine of 10,000 yuan ($1,500), while the fine can be up to 20,000 yuan for those who illegally work.
Zhu, a lawyer based in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, said that fines alone are not sufficient in stopping the "three illegals."
Guangzhou has a large number of foreigners who have illegally entered, stayed or worked, Zhu said. While those who work illegally can affect the local job market, some are even involved in criminal activities such as drug-dealing which could affect social stability, he claimed.
Guangzhou has the largest population of African immigrants in Asia, estimated at more than 200,000.
Observers say that a legal system for immigration should be set up, as immigration issues are unavoidable for a country like China that is experiencing the process of fast opening-up.
"Immigration is a new subject of national governance for China in a globalized context," said Liu Hongwu, director of the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University.
"We should first establish and improve a management system," which may help China better fit into the world, Liu said, pointing out that the country still lacks special laws and an administrative mechanism for handling immigration issues.
In addressing such issues, prejudice and discrimination must be avoided in the legislation, which should be aimed at a balance between international practices and China's national conditions as a populous developing country, Liu said.
Policies for high-end talents
The Ministry of Public Security has recently been piloting more flexible visa and immigration policies in Shanghai and Beijing in order to attract more foreigners with higher education and career backgrounds.
However, Liu Guofu, an expert on immigration law at the Beijing Institute of Technology, noted that not much attention has been paid to foreign people doing low-end jobs in China's current immigration policies.
"On one hand, stricter punishment, both administrative and criminal, is needed to solve the current problems caused by illegal immigration. On the other, the problem of the 'three illegals,' which has not been solved for a long time, shows that there is a demand for such a low-cost labor force in China," Liu Guofu said.
A national census in 2011 showed that about 600,000 foreigners were living in China. According to a report released by the Center for China and Globalization in 2015, only 7,356 foreigners had obtained a permanent residence permit between 2004 to 2013.
"With China having an increasing amount of overseas interests, the country should pay attention to not only the protection of its overseas interests but also other countries', especially developing countries' development interests in China," Liu Hongwu said.
He noted that a balance between the two should be achieved through measures, including to appropriately lower the threshold of immigration for workers in manufacturing and small business traders.
Working visas should be issued to foreign people doing low-end jobs with a limited quota and through certain approval procedures, Liu Guofu suggested.