Tighter visa controls likely for foreigners working in Guangdong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 January, 2010, 12:00am

Guangdong will tighten 'management and control' of foreigners living in the province after an unprecedented protest by African people in Guangzhou last year.

Delivering a work report at the opening session of the Guangdong people's congress yesterday, Governor Huang Huahua said authorities would strengthen and improve social management this year to control foreigners.

Wang Zhongxing, a professor at Sun Yat Sen University's criminal law institute as well as an adviser to the Guangdong provincial government, believes it is the first time the local people's congress has looked at control of foreigners.

He says it was triggered by a protest of more than 200 angry Africans who besieged a police station last July demanding an explanation over the death of a Nigerian who jumped from a building in Guangzhou while fleeing a police visa inspection.

The protest, believed to be the first by a group of foreigners anywhere on the mainland, highlighted the city's sizeable African community making a living there legally and illegally.

Wang said: 'The crux of the issue is that everyone, no matter Chinese or foreigners, will have to comply with local laws. The mainland government has been lenient towards people who overstayed their visa terms, but this has to change.'

Wang said the Asian Games, to be held in Guangzhou in November, could provide a good opportunity for the government to round up a growing number of illegal immigrants and overstayers, a problem he says has long been underestimated.

Businessmen from Uganda and Congo said yesterday they had not noticed a significant change in getting visas to the mainland. But it is a different story for a 29-year-old Nigerian who has lived in Guangzhou for four years buying jewellery and saffron to sell back home.

Peter, who did not want to give his full name for fear of sabotaging his next visa application, said it was easy for him to get a business visa from 2006 to 2008. 'All you needed was business information, bank details and an invitation letter from China and I got a visa that allowed me to stay throughout the year,' he said.

Things changed after the protest.

'To get a visa now is more than hell,' he said.

In November, he put in an application for a business visa back home as usual but received only a six-month visa that required him to go home every month during that period in order for it to last.

He said many fellow businessmen and friends who used to do business could not join him now, because their visa applications had been denied without explanation.

'I know Nigerian people are overstaying here, but who has the money to fly back home every month to renew their visas? I travel a lot and have chatted with many other Africans. I think Nigerians are being targeted selectively.'