Wow, what commotion the recent 100-day visa-check campaign has created! Granted, it’s unnerving to be spot-checked for the legality of living here (I haven’t endured it yet myself, this time around). If you’re here legitimately and have proof, there is nothing to worry about. But it’s that overall somewhat slimy feeling of being looked at as a foreigner that can be so unsettling.
There have been a lot of postings online about the current Beijing Municipal PSB (Public Security Bureau) campaign that began on Tuesday. In an attempt to sift out any foreigners who have come here illegally, or who are living and/or working here without proper visas, police will randomly check foreigners’ credentials. Popular areas for expats including Sanlitun and university neighborhoods are expected to be targeted for random checks. Housing compounds may also be affected with police officers asking for paperwork door-to-door.
The U.S. Embassy sent out a notice to their employees/families alerting them of this requirement, for which they need to have diplomatic identity cards with them at all times (most usually do anyway). For those of us without such cards, passports are required instead, as are police registration forms for your housing.
I have always hesitated to carry my passport at all times, even though I know having proper identification with me is required. Instead, I carry photo copies of the most current papers for each of my family members. This way, it’s one less element to worry about in case of a purse snatching. Is this good enough, however, if I’m stopped for my papers? (If you know the answer to this, please post a comment below.)
News sources from China Daily to the Wall Street Journal have posted articles about this campaign, and not a single one is published without mentioning the recent arrest of a British tourist who allegedly sexually assaulted a woman before being physically assaulted himself by several Chinese men. Most sources suggest that this incredibly disturbing event was not the reason for the campaign, although the timing is questionable. There are very polarized opinions related to this situation and the subsequent campaign; some foreigners feel concern about possible backlash. With a lot of assumptions made about why foreigners might live here – many not true – people can feel threatened even by the random and simple act of checking ID.
So, for the next few months, just carry your proper identification with you, keep mindful of your belongings, and don’t fret. It’s a tiny bump, albeit an irritating one to deal with, and hopefully those who give being a foreigner a bad name will be sent back home so that we who remain here can continue enjoying our lives in our current home of Beijing.