Beijing: China has kick-started a key
process to frame its first immigration law to better manage
immigrants as the world's fastest economy seeks to attract
more foreigners to boost its development.
Experts on migration have advised the government to
learn from other countries in regulating immigration, said
Zhang Jijiao, researcher with the Institute of Ethnology and
Anthropology under the China Academy of Social Sciences
Zhang said in the era of globalisation, China needed
to attract a variety of talents, investors, skilled workers,
and in particular "seagulls" -- a Chinese term for foreign
merchants who work with multinationals and must travel across
the world -- to contribute to its development.
A sounder migration policy would definitely enhance
China's appeal, Zhang said.
The Ministry of Public Security, the Beijing Law
Society, the Chinese People's Public Security University and
the CASS held a liaison meeting last year. But the discussions
had yet to result in any concrete preparations, Zhang told
state-run Xinhua news agency at a global forum on migration.
Unlike Western countries, which have special laws to
regulate the management of transnational migrants, there were
few Chinese legal instruments to regulate immigration and
"This reflects how China's transnational migration
management has long been focused on the legitimacy of entry
and exit out of economic considerations," said Zhang.
He said in the long run it is not enough "as migrants
also have other demands that need to be addressed, especially
relating to ethnic culture and customs, employment and
The first and foremost Western experiences worth
noting were the classification of transnational migrants into
different categories, such as skilled or unskilled workers,
skills migration or investor migration, and then to adopt
management rules for each category.
About 2.85 million or more than 10 percent of the
26.11 million foreigners who entered China in 2007 came for
employment, according to the Bureau of Exit and Entry
Administration of the Ministry of Public Security.
Of the nearly 5.40 lakh foreigners who lived in China
for more than six months in 2007, more than half were workers
at joint ventures and solely foreign-owned companies or their
Although the overall figures have yet to be updated,
local statistics have projected a trend of more foreigners
staying in China for longer periods, the report said.
The Shanghai government announced last December that
foreigners living in this eastern metropolis for more than six
months had risen 14.1 percent year on year to 152,100 in 2008.
In Beijing, the number was 110,000 by 2008 while in
southern Guangdong, the spearhead of China's economic reform,
the figure was 57,793 in the first half of last year.
Guangzhou even has an emerging African community.
Foreign residents will, for the first time, take part
in the national census due to begin on November 1, giving
experts and policy-makers more solid statistical support for a
reform of migration management.
Huang Xing, deputy director of the CASS Institute of
Ethnology and Anthropology, told the international conference
on "Migration in China and Asia: Experience and Policy" on
Thursday that China, which shares borders with many countries,
would lead to more and more population mobility.
"China must further adapt to the change from a source
of outbound migrants into a recipient of inbound migrants and
seize time to optimise its migration legal framework," he
Foreign expatriates have gradually increased as the
country opened to the outside world and adopted economic
reform in late 1970s.
In Beijing for instance, foreigners were mainly
confined to a radius of 20 km around Tiananmen Square until
the mid 1980s.
After fully opening to foreign tourists in 1995,
Beijing lifted restrictions on foreigners' accommodation in
2003, allowing them to choose dwelling places freely and even
to lodge in Chinese homes.
Since the Measures for the Administration of
Examination and Approval of Foreigners' Permanent Residence in
China took force in 2004, the government has granted permanent
residence to foreigners in a dozen provinces and
municipalities, including remote Qinghai in the northwest.
In Beijing, 311 foreigners had obtained permanent
residence by October 2009.
Global events, such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics and
the Shanghai World Expo and the booming Chinese economy has
added to the growing trend of more and more foreigners looking
to China for opportunities. It has brought home the need to
frame an immigration law to better manage immigrants moving to
the the country.
First Published: Sunday, May 23, 2010, 23:44