Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Aria: Annoying China

Reading the news these days really makes me wonder how much of the Beijing I got acquainted with last summer will change. The International Herald Tribune's article “New Rules for Expats in China” (4/23/08) reports on the recent law changes for foreigners in China and stories of law enforcement. The duration of stay offered by a tourist or student visa is more volatile, and the motley of rules that foreigners had been able to circumvent seems to be slowly enforced as the Chinese government and police react to “lewd” behavior and recreational drug use.
For one, China seems to discriminate people from countries that have protested along the Olympic torch relay. A French café owner in Beijing, complying with the rapid change in visa law despite the short notice by the government, cannot get a new visa. Complaining for a reason, the policeman responded, “It’s because you’re French.” A Swiss and a German planned to travel to China together. The Swiss tourist got a visa for thirty days. The German got one that lasted five days. They canceled the trip. Businessmen who travel liberally from Hong Kong to China are not pestered by visas that they never had to bother with. I haven’t read anything about an American tortured by the bureaucracy of the visa, but I’m worried.
Interestingly, the Chinese government denies any change to visa regulation. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu says, “The Chinese people will welcome foreign friends in a warm, enthusiastic and open-minded way.”
Why now? Why does the Chinese government decide to enforce so many laws on foreigners before a ceremony that they hope will attract foreigners? I can understand that Beijing wants to clean up its nightlife scene of all that it deems to be hedonistic excess, but won’t these sorts of restrictions only create regrettable repercussions? By setting up obstacles for us to boggle through just to get into the country, China is only ruining its reputation in our minds.
I’m already annoyed by all the housing issues I’m facing. Tsinghua University is reluctant to offer the Inter-University Program any sort of on-campus housing, so I may have to negotiate with local landlords to rent an apartment for a year. On the bright side, it’ll be an adventure on its own, but I’m also reading emails from the housing assistant at my program that landlord will be especially conniving to rob “foreign suckers” who cannot effectively bargain. Should I take this as a call to study some vocabulary on renting? IUP has already sent out their 学生租房手册. I almost deleted it, but it seems it’s my guide for my first two weeks in Beijing. Beautiful.

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