Chinese draft law on foreigners triggers violent debate

"Save the Nation - NO" to a law that makes it easy for foreigners to obtain long-term residence permits in China. The poster tells foreigners to use existing legislation.
"Save the Nation - NO" to a law that makes it easy for foreigners to obtain long-term residence permits in China. The poster tells foreigners to use existing legislation. Weibo screengrab

A new draft law that could make it easier for foreigners to gain permanent residency in China has stirred up a torrent of xenophobia online. The proposal, released by the justice ministry last week, has been gathering billions of views and a flood of angry posts on social media, targeting Africans in particular.


"China's forty years of family planning policy does not make it a place for foreign trash to soar," wrote one user on the Twitter-like platform Weibo, referring to the one-child birth limit China imposed between 1980 and 2016.

The person went on to use racist language against black people, saying: "Our common Chinese ancestry will not be tainted by Africans."

Some Weibo-users posted videos of black people apparently committing crimes in China, while a campaign to encourage Chinese women to date Chinese men, under the hashtag "China girl", had 240 million views as of Thursday afternoon.

Expand global influence

The Chinese Ministry of Justice issued the draft “Regulations on Long-term Residence for Foreigners” on 27 February.

The draft bill comes at a time when China is seeking to expand its global influence and attract foreign exchange and investment – and in a period that foreign governments have evacuated thousands of their residents from China after the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Since 2013, when China’s President Xi Jinping launched the massive Belt and Road infrastructure investment project, Beijing has funded thousands of lucrative scholarships for students from both developing and developed countries.

Currently, foreigners can get a long-term residence permit that has to be renewed every year.

"Save the nation"

Preceding the discussion on Weibo, the management of the website posted a discussion “guideline,” saying that the public can “log onto the website of the Justice Ministry” to make “comments and suggestions” until 27 March.

But the public has instead used the Weibo platform to launch a barrage of hostile comments.

“Save the nation,” reads a poster published by a user who calls himself Xixikajiang. “Staunchly oppose the 'Regulations,' let them go through the existing laws!”

Another widely-shared post on Weibo read: "China is not an immigrant country."

A hashtag related to the law has gained more than 4.8 billion views.

Permanent residency

The law, which is also discussed on popular tv shows, proposes allowing foreigners' dependents to apply simultaneously for permanent residency, as well as relaxing education and salary requirements, and seems to have triggered a nationwide discussion familiar in many western countries.

“Can the spouses and children of migrants coming from other provinces to work in the city use our social security system?” asks one Weibo user, referring to the millions of Chinese laborers who leave the provinces to find jobs in the coastal regions – often in return for low pay and without any insurance against illness or unemployment.

One video, discussing several “quality levels” of foreigners (a top level that brings in technological know-how, a mid level of workers that don’t contribute much, and the lowest level of “criminals and the lazy,” was quickly deleted.


Another post expresses fear that the regulations will invite people from “the most backward capitalist society” who practice “semifeudal and semicolonial capitalism” to “aggressively plunder” the country's wealth” and “accumulate other assets”.

The discussion touches upon raw nerves, long exploited by Beijing’s propaganda machine when Hong Kong was still a British colony, and China was suffering “150 years of humiliation” by foreign invaders.

“Only Chinese can have long-term residency in China,” writes one user. “Foreigners: no way!”

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