At least once a month, I get an email from an English teacher in China wanting to start a language consulting business or school in China. I have a form response that summarizes what it will likely take and likely cost for them to do so legally. Virtually none of them had any idea of the difficulties and costs in starting such businesses.
My law firm represents a good number of existing international schools in China and we are right now working on at least double the number of legal issues as usual for them. Today I saw a Shanghaiist post on “issues” being faced by Shanghai Rego International School. The post entitled, “Shanghai Rego International School now facing forced relocation,” details how the school is being forced to move as its facility is being taken over for a public school:
However an official surnamed Hua with the district’s Education Bureau said there were no safety issues but said the school probably will have to relocate because the bureau has decided not to lease land and facilities to it anymore.
Hua said the bureau signed a 10-year contract with the school in 2003 for its renting of the facilities, which will expire in January 2013. He said the facilities were built at that time to be a public school, but the area was not sufficiently populated to need such a school. The bureau instead leased the facility to the international school.
“But now a growing number of local residents living in the area are having trouble finding a school for their children, so we have decided that the facilities will be taken back when the contract ends and will be used as a public school,” said Hua.
He said the decision was made and announced with no possible alternatives, and the Shanghai Education Commission is now talking with the school over relocation issues.
Because we are right now in the midst of so much work for international schools in China, I hesitate to discuss even broadly the sorts of issues these schools face. But suffice it to say that international schools in China are more subject to the whim of governmental authorities than most foreign businesses and I am starting to think that the whims are shifting. I am hearing all sorts of explanations for this shift, ranging from the value of land to a concerted desire to make it tougher on foreigners staying in China.
What are you seeing out there with respect to the international schools in your area? Are Shanghai Rego’s issues a one-off or just one more sign of a broader trend?