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Why Does China Want Your Name?

Posted in Events

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Ronald Reagan

And though the word count varies by language, the idea remains the same.
Beginning in November, China will be undertaking its most comprehensive census ever. And this time, it will include expats/foreigners. I have already received three emails asking me what this is going to mean for those in China illegally and my response is that I do not know, but that it cannot be good. Though the questioning will be to calculate who is in China, I do not have any confidence the information recorded will not also be used for other purposes, including, potentially, removing those in the country illegally. Shanghaiist expresses similar concerns.
We will update if and when we learn more.

  • Bill Rich

    Will there be census takers knocking on doors unannounced ? Can you claim that you just happen to visit for the night ?

  • nulle

    In China, those won’t be census workers…those will be police to check everyone’s identification to residency status…
    CCP police won’t be knocking on doors…they will be knocking DOWN doors unannounced…

  • casual observer

    Hey, those foreign countries don’t want the dodgy foreigners back. China can keep them!

  • Justaguy

    I dunno, you already have to register with your local police office. Last summer when I was in Beijing I was stopped by some PSB folks while walking out of my apartment building to confirm that I was registered. It took less than 5 minutes and wasn’t all that scary an experience. I’ve always found the PSB very pleasant to deal with – even when I’ve been on the wrong side of visa regulations.
    So, sure if you’re in town illegally that might be a problem – but getting caught is already a possibility in the normal sweeps for unregistered people.
    Back when I was in Beijing in the 90s and the PSB were more harsh on people living in Beijing without hukou, my friends always had a finely honed sense of when they would start cracking down. They’d leave town, often at a moment’s notice. I would suggest anyone in China illegally get a similar sense of when to take a vacation.
    And that Reagan quote never made much sense to me. When my apartment’s been on fire, someone’s been threatening me or whatever I’ve always been pretty happy to have the government help me.

  • LoveChinaLongTime

    Oh pity to the drug dealers in Guangzhou…

  • http://www.medivisas.com/ uk visa

    Hi Dan
    I love the Ronald Reagan quote – so true.
    There was a nightclub on the King’s Road in Chelsea where the owner would end proceedings and encourage people out on to the street at the end of play by shouting: ‘I have all your money you can go now!’.
    I get the impression the Chinese government takes a similar view of things.

  • http://twofish.wordpress.com/ Twofish

    Under Chinese law, census data can’t be used for non-census purposes. Not that this necessarily means anything.
    However, undocumented aliens in China do run into the same issues as undocumented aliens in the US. On the one hand you have census workers that want an accurate count, so they promise that the data won’t be used against you. On the other hand, why should you trust them.
    In 1990, China ran into similar problems with trying to get a good count of the floating population that was in the cities semi-legally. I do remember, that I looked at the questions that the census workers ended up asking on the questionnaire, and they were very cleverly worded so that they could get the information that they wanted without requiring you to admit to something illegal (i.e. asking how many children live in this house rather than how many children you have).
    One thing that is interesting is that local officials sometimes have incentives to bias the census numbers which are unexpected. For example, in some areas it appeared that local officials did not want undocumented residents to be counted, because they were worried that if you counted undocumented residents, then they would be required to provide social services. If the census count lots of people in an area, that means that you weren’t good at meeting population control quotas which is bad for your promotions.
    http://csde.washington.edu/downloads/01-13.pdf
    I can imagine situations in which the local police would prefer if undocumented foreigners not be counted at all, because they would be worried that if it turns out that there are large numbers of undocumented foreigners in an area, that someone higher up might get upset at them.

  • Jay

    As far as I know there isn’t a special “right to illegality” so what are we (they — not me) worried about? Guessing people who don’t have the right papers to be in China are also not paying taxes and so on, it would be good if something gets done about it.
    Having said that, while I’ve got my socks in order, I’m not all that keen to get censussed, mostly because of bad experiences in so-called free countries.
    There’s a big difference between a spotty kid dropping off a bunch of forms for collecting statistics, and the kind of heavy-handed police raids that are now being conducted in places like Holland (!), where the government has decided it has the right to come and snoop through your house, literally kicking in the door if you happen to not be home. Glad I don’t live there; I’ll take China PBS thank you very much.

  • http://www.tctype.com Chinamatt

    Seeing as foreigners who are in China legally need to register with the local PSB, I wonder if the census workers will knock on doors or just use the paperwork from the PSB.

  • ed hardy

    In 1990, China ran into similar problems with trying to get a good count of the floating population that was in the cities semi-legally. I do remember, that I looked at the questions that the census workers ended up asking on the questionnaire, and they were very cleverly worded so that they could get the information that they wanted without requiring you to admit to something illegal (i.e. asking how many children live in this house rather than how many children you have).

  • Robert888

    PERSISTENT – I do not live in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. Locally, the census was very thorough. The local building complex staff knocked on my door (which I usually ignore) at least 3-4 times. Finally, they cornered me. They “helped” me fill out the form. I’m here legally, but I just don’t like being counted like cattle. The fire department knows this building complex is here, they don’t need to know my name and number. Maybe it’s because there are so many “empty” apartments all around town, the government is a bit edgy. I wonder about whether all the migrant workers in their cobbled-together abodes abutting my housing complex were counted?
    On another note, my friend’s passport expired, and the police bureau called him! This place ‘is a change’n!