Irish teachers freed after 10 days detained in China over work visas
Women said to have taken extra work at private language school
Two Irish teachers have been freed from detention in Beijing, after spending 10 days in cells because of problems with their working visas.
The two women, whose identities have been withheld, were released on Tuesday following investigations into their visas and they remain in Beijing, The Irish Times reported on Wednesday.
Both women were teaching at language schools in the city, for which they hold valid working visas, but were said to have taken extra jobs at an unlicensed private school.
They were detained along with nine others, who were not identified, during a police raid on the private school on May 5.
The Irish nationals did not realise there was a visa issue with them taking on the additional work, according to the newspaper.
Foreigners found working illegally in China can be fined up to 10,000 yuan (US$1,500), but it was unclear if any fine had been imposed on the two women.
John Lyman, spokesman for the Irish embassy in Beijing, confirmed that the two Irish nationals were detained and had since been released.
“We provided support over the past week, but they have requested for privacy now and that includes us giving comment,” he said on Wednesday.
One of the women is from County Kildare, 50km west of Ireland’s capital Dublin, while the other is from County Offaly, which is 100km to the west.
The pair were well looked after during their detention but were not allowed contact with their parents, according to the newspaper. Irish embassy officials were said to be in regular contact with the prison authorities throughout their detention.
Chinese news site Baijiahao reported that the women were held in single cells.
Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade updated its travel advice for China last week, stating on its website: “The embassy strongly recommends that anyone who is considering teaching English in China should research prospective employing schools and language centres thoroughly and ensure their bona fides.”
It also asks teachers to make sure they have the correct visa to work in a Chinese school, and to check with authorities if a new visa or work permit is needed when taking up further part-time employment.
Irish citizens, not the schools they work for, are responsible for violation of visa rules, the department says.
China has become more strict on foreign workers’ visas since it set up the State Immigration Administration in March. The new administration is managed by the Ministry of Public Security and is responsible for overseeing visas for the growing number of foreigners coming to China to work.
There were more than 900,000 foreigners working on mainland China in 2016, compared to only 10,000 in the 1980s, according to official data.
The public security ministry declined to comment on the case.