(LD - can you modify the topic to cover China ... so that we do not get a whole lot of threads on the same problem?
)China's crashing the party as police put expats in their sights
June 10, 2012
Foreigners are worried about growing hostility, writes a Special Correspondent in Shanghai.
IT WAS a Thursday, 11pm, and the parties were getting started at the nightspots popular with expatriates on Yongfu Road, in Shanghai's trendy former French Concession. Then, at upmarket bar The Apartment, the police arrived, about 50 of them. The party stalled. They blocked the exits to the four-storey colonial era building, cut the music and ordered the lights be switched on.
The raid was part of a 100-day crackdown, purportedly on foreigner visa violations, launched weeks earlier in Beijing that has left a bitter taste among many young foreigners here, and raised questions about possible political motives behind it.
A Dutch resident who witnessed the raid on The Apartment said police demanded passports from all patrons and recorded passport and visa numbers.
Those without passports or copies of identity documents or who had invalid visas were detained.
The Dutch patron, an employee of a multinational company in Shanghai who asked not to be named, says he avoided detention with a discreet bribe, the equivalent of about $47.
Others were not so lucky. "I saw at least 12 foreigners in the back of a police van,'' he said. "The door was closed and the van drove away."
Neighbouring nightclubs were also raided that night two weeks ago, but within an hour The Apartment was open again. This weekend it is advertising four nights of parties to celebrate its second anniversary.
Bar owners interviewed by The Sunday Age were reluctant to be identified, not wanting to draw attention to themselves. But one said the incident was unprecedented in his more than a decade in Shanghai's entertainment industry. Business was down on subsequent nights.
Some linked the raid to a viral video of a British man apparently committing a sexual assault on a Chinese woman in Beijing. Within 24 hours of being posted last month, the video had been viewed more than 3 million times on China's equivalent of Twitter, Sina Weibo. It attracted more than 50,000 comments, many of them distinctly anti-foreigner.
After initial bewilderment, the raid drew online anger from Shanghai expatriates.
"Suddenly the government launches a crackdown on all laowai [foreigners] like we are some sort of plague," said one online post by an expatriate in Shanghai.
The crackdown, which was announced in China's state-controlled media on May 15, officially targets foreigners living or working in China illegally.
Expat unease worsened after a xenophobic online rant by Yang Rui, a prominent TV host on CCTV 9.
Rui lauded the campaign to protect "innocent girls" from "foreign trash", "thugs" and "spies", and described recently expelled al-Jazeera English correspondent Melissa Chan as a "foreign bitch".
Rui received no official reprimand for the post, which was also published on CCTV's website.
The crackdown started in Beijing, prompting a bitter reaction from some foreigners who have lived in the city for years and see it as home.
American media worker Jacob Trent told CNN he was pulled off his bike by police who demanded his papers.
''I have been living here for a decade and yet I still get treated like - and sometimes called - a foreign barbarian,'' Trent said.
British expat David Park told CNN: ''I have noticed a change in how I am treated. It has gone from curiosity to hostility.''
The Shanghai raids were played down in the local media.
The Global Times reported a police denial of any raid and quoted a manager from The Apartment stating the club was merely visited by four officers who asked them to keep the noise down.
But The Sunday Age has established that exclusive Shanghai nightclub and restaurant M1NT, whose founder and CEO Alistair Paton is Australian, was raided two weeks before The Apartment raid. Four foreign staff and four patrons were found without documents, detained and later released once valid papers were provided.
The crackdown is taking place against a backdrop of political uncertainty.
The scandal involving the downfall of Chongqing Communist Party chief Bo Xilai, a slowing economy, rampant corruption, domestic food safety concerns and the widening gulf between rich and poor is causing unease within party ranks and the general populace.
There is a feeling among some foreigners that the visa campaign serves not only to whip up nationalist fervour, but to distract from more pressing problems.
Unlike some other Asian nations, foreign residents in China mostly apply for yearly visa extensions. Many expatriates in Shanghai consider it their home, but live under a cloud of uncertainty.
For this reason, there is reluctance among foreigners to openly discuss sensitive issues. The Australian owner of a successful Shanghai company said: "We run a legitimate business and follow the system, but things can change in an instant here."http://www.smh.com.au/world/chinas-crashing-the-party-as-police-put-expats-in-their-sights-20120609-202tb.html