The following is one of many stories in recent months concerning foreign nationals working illegally, or vilified as serious criminals for seemingly minor matters.
After ricocheting from subject of sympathy to target of vitriol by millions of Chinese Internet users who had seen photographs of him hitting a woman pedestrian with his scooter, a foreign resident of Beijing has been detained, fined and now faces deportation. It was just the latest case of the whirlwind rush to judgment and a tendency to stake out extremes frequently seen in Chinese cyberspace.
On Dec. 3, Chinese across the country were riveted by the images online that showed a Chinese woman in a long black coat clinging to a scooter and seemingly arguing with a young foreigner, whose nationality and age have not been disclosed, in the streets of Beijing.
“This young foreign fellow tried to help her when she fell down, but she claimed he knocked her down and wouldn’t let go until the foreigner paid her 1,800 renminbi” — about $300 — “in ‘medical fees’,” read the description accompanying the photos. The event seemed to conform to a familiar narrative in China, in which a person feigns a crippling injury in order to squeeze money out of an innocent passerby or even someone who has offered help. Soon the web was awash in comments condemning the woman.
“She brings disgrace to our nation”, said one. “Is money worth losing face for our entire nation in front of a foreigner?” asked another.
But within hours, public opinion reversed itself after the woman told her version of the story to newspapers and the police released surveillance footage. The footage showed the foreigner speeding on his scooter toward the pedestrian crossing and knocking the woman down, according to the Beijing Times.
Making matters worse for the foreigner’s case, a video shot by a passerby with a mobile phone was posted online that showed the man swearing at the woman in fluent Chinese for about three minutes. He was also seen trying to physically remove her from his scooter before bystanders pulled him away from her.
Editor’s Note: Police initially concluded that no crimes had been committed, and finalised the matter with a relatively small “fine.” It was only after a huge public condemnation of the woman and Chinese society, and huge public support for the expat, that Chinese authorities decided an example needed to be made. It was then that the new “evidence” appeared, and multiple charges were laid.
From the surveillance video, it is impossible to identify whether the rider was the man in question or not. Both rider and passenger are wearing helmets, which is unheard of in China. The video suddenly and mysteriously appeared after support for the foreigner was growing. It is also clear from the videos and medical reports that the woman was not seriously injured.
The woman, later identified as a Ms. Li, said in a videotaped interview with the Beijing News that she almost “blacked out” from the impact. The interview was viewed more than one million times. “I have been a successful business woman my whole life. Why would I want to con 1,800 renminbi out of you?” she says, addressing the absent foreigner, while showing reporters photos of her injuries and medical report. She then bursts into tears and says, “I’m definitely pressing charges!”
By the end of the day, the Beijing police had announced that not only had the foreigner knocked the woman down, but that he was riding the scooter without a license and the scooter had no license plate.
On Wednesday, the police said that the foreigner and his father were both “illegally employed” in Beijing, and would be deported to their home countries, but not before serving 5 and 14 days respectively in detention, and paying fines of 5,000 and 10,000 renminbi. The company that employed them was fined 20,000 renminbi.
“We are happy to see him go,” read one comment online.
The photographer who posted the first set of photos and text made a public apology to Ms. Li via the Beijing Times. “I beg the forgiveness of Ms. Li, the netizens and everyone who was hurt by this incident.”
Editor’s Note: While the surveillance video is questionable, and the reaction of the expat was understandable, this story highlights the risks of working illegally in China, if that was indeed the case. China no longer just fines expats and sends them on their way. They are fined, jailed, deported and banned from China for at least ten years. Even if one believes the charges are unfair, there is no realistic avenue of appeal against police decisions in such matters.
The Editor of China Daily Mail supports China in its campaign against illegal workers.Source: New York Times – Foreigner Faces Deportation Over Scooter Incident