From Foreign Friends to Foreign Felons – new law wants your foreign fingerprints

Because living in China didn’t feel uneasy enough, a new draft law currently under review will require any foreigners staying longer than 6 months in China to have their fingerprints taken by the Entry & Exit Bureau and kept on file.

China Daily: Foreigners who stay in China for more than six months will be required to give their fingerprints to local police when applying for residence certificates, according to a draft law submitted to the top legislature on Monday.

The draft law on the management of the exit and entry of personnel also empowers the ministries of public security and foreign affairs to decide if a foreigner should leave their fingerprints or other human biological characteristics when they enter China.

The proposal also stipulates that foreigners staying for longer than 180 days should apply for a residential certificate and leave their fingerprints.

Yang Huanning, vice-minister of public security, told lawmakers on Monday morning that the draft law can facilitate increasing people exchanges, while preventing those who should not come remaining outside the country.

The proposal also stipulates that foreign nationals, who own companies and delay wages to workers in China, cannot leave the country.

Foreigners suspected of illegal entry, stay and employment can be detained and investigated for 60 days at the longest if the case is complicated, according to the draft law.

I’m not at all against the government cleaning up the rather dodgy immigration system, but if time, money and energy is going to be spent to improve things, why not put some effort into making it more legitimate, friendly and fluid; rather than making foreigners feel like criminals the moment they arrive in the country. And what the hell is meant by “other human biological characteristics”… hair samples? Blood? Urine? Semen?

More at CRIEnglish.com.

Talk on From Foreign Friends to Foreign Felons – new law wants your foreign fingerprints


15 Comments
  1. The fingerprint side doesn’t bother me per say as many countries have the same policy. It’s bound to happen sooner than later!

    The other parts of the article about making these requirements dependent on the random state of mind of an untrained entry-exit officer worries me a bit more. They’re a pain in the ass as it is already!

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  3. Thousands or tens of thousands of foreign students study in China or do academic research for more than six months; this will make more students think twice about going to China if they know about it in advance, and will probably cause much consternation for those who don’t know about the law before they enter. When I ran an academic-year study abroad program it was already onerous for long-term student visa holders to be herded to facilities to do physical examinations (sometimes after having had complete and documented physicals before they left home), which turned out to be highly perfunctory and mainly for the purpose of paperwork. Adding fingerprinting to this and other procedures makes living in China, which is already challenging for many first-time visitors, all the more alienating.

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  5. I’m not sure what your beef is really about. The U.S. has been doing this for foreigners since 2002. Considering China’s challenge with illegal immigrants, I can certainly see their point. I’ve lived in China for 12 years as an ex-pat and I have no problem with this and no one else should either. It is just the changing times. I suggest, like everything else in China, you just role with the punches.

    • Profile photo of

      I suppose it’s that I’ve never been a foreign resident of the US, or any country other than China, so have never had to consider it before. Your point about rolling with the punches is sage advice, but I still feel uneasy about an apparatus that repeatedly proves itself as corrupt and mismanaged being responsible for safe-guarding my privacy and not abusing it.

      Stan Abrams did a good piece over at China Hearsay discussing this news, and he largely echos what you’ve said about it just being part of modernizing the system. He said, “fingerprints are merely another identifier, like someone’s name or DNA. A name is a general identifier, which you might share with others, while DNA or fingerprints are very specific, allowing the government to identify you specifically with a much lower rate of error.” And I get that, I do. I suppose my issue with this is my issue with signing my signature on a parcel delivery — it’s virtually never going to be for my benefit, but rather for the benefit of someone to (potentially) use against me.

      Granted, I’m not a criminal, nor do I have any concerns about my immigration status; and I have no plans for being or having either. I’ll be giving up my biometric data like a good laowai. But I don’t have to like it.

  6. ”…rather than making foreigners feel like criminals the moment they arrive in the country“

    99% of countries require this kind of data from foreign nationals. The fact that you are complaining about it means that you must be a USA, Canada or EU citizen because you belong to the very small group of nationals that can travel to MANY countries visa free or just pay for a visa upon arrival. It is about time you understand the MINIMUM we go through just to travel to all countries. Especially the minimum Chinese nationals go through as students/tourists visiting your country.

    That said nothing is more frustrating than robot like civil servants. You have all the documents they require and more and somehow the law suddenly changes OR the person in front of you asks for another document that you wouldn’t know how to get.

    Example: a police record. How the hell do you get the last 10 years worth of police records when you have resided in four different countries and you are a bi-national? (asked by Brazillian embassy in my country).

    Example: health insurance for schengen visa. I had full health insurance AXA that I bought in France for a duration of 12 months. But the French embassy in my country will only accept the insurance sold by one of their partners in my country.

    and then I don’t understand why such information (correct me if I am wrong) is not required of USA, British, French males going to Vietnam, Cambodia or Thailand making it ‘maybe’ easier to catch those that indulge in a bit of paedophelia.

    Anyway today as a Nigerian national, it is almost impossible for me to go there for more than a month.
    I say almost impossible because I happen to be a woman and not a man.

    xx Layinka

    PS. I gave urine and blood to Canada once :D

      • hmm, I didn’t know about this specific article. I know we have many Nigerian nationals stuck in Libya, Russia and Italy. I feel that if the government encouraged (financially or otherwise) our film industry (Nollywood) to produce more films educating our youths and families about the dangers of migrating illegally and life after migrating illegally things would change a bit. Apparently by 2050, Nigeria will have 700 million inhabitants, number 3 in the world.

        From that point of view I completely understand continents/countries treating us like ‘persona non grata’. We are very business minded and sometimes we crush others and it is seen as totally ok to do this. I don’t know what the future holds for those that don’t have the ‘privilege’ of a second nationality, second country of residence and so on. I know that many would stay in Nigeria if the economy, the environment was not so hostile towards the average man.

        As a new year gift, the government has decided to cancel fuel subsidy. We regularly live with power cuts and all own our generators if we can afford it. This change will expel more Nigerians from their country…

        On the positive side, I hope Nigerian prisoners will seize the opportunity to learn Chinese language and culture and law… (I know a very bad joke).

        Thanks for the article!

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  8. The guys down at the police station spend their entire workdays on this needless BS. Whatever. What’s interesting about this is that it’s still in the draft stage. It seems we’re getting alot of fear mon getting from the stuff in the draft bill for foreigners.

    Personally I think they’re having major problems with basic shit as it is in china : you don’t think trying to implement fingerprint scan isn’t going to be a massive timesuck? Oh god I can hear the screeching already. ……

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      I’m pretty sure in a legal system that works on authority, not consensus, “draft” just means “not active yet”, rather than “incomplete and being considered.” Maybe the concern is all for nothing though — I’ve got to imagine that the scanner software won’t work on Windows XP. :)

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