The Nanfang / Blog


No work permit, no protection: proposed law could mean tough times for laowai

Posted: 08/13/2012 4:06 pm

It’s no secret that many foreigners working in China are doing so illegally.  It’s even easier for those in the PRD to work on a tourist visa because renewing that visa requires only a quick afternoon journey to Hong Kong and back.

But if being an undocumented worker was living on the edge before, it could get even worse. The Supreme People’s Court has drafted a law which would remove any labour protection given to foreign workers — even if they have a contract.  The draft is now being considered by a group of judges and other professionals for their feedback.

It could be argued that many foreign workers don’t have much protection as it is, considering the difficulty of navigating the labyrinth of China’s legal system.  But if this law passes, foreigners would have zero recourse if something were to go wrong in the workplace. That has some lawyers concerned, according to the China Daily:

He Li, a labor lawyer, said he was concerned by the proposal since some foreigners do not have work permits because companies are reluctant to go to the trouble of doing the necessary paperwork.

Liu said there are administrative regulations for these employers, although the draft law itself does not deal with companies failing to apply for permits.

Wang Wenjie, who works in the human resources department at a Shanghai company, said the policy will probably affect foreigners working in small-scale companies as larger companies will have the resources to do the paperwork.

An English teacher from Russia working in Beijing admits she does not have a work permit because of the bureaucracy.

The 33-year-old said procedures to obtain a work permit are complicated and the permit is tied to one particular employer. This makes it a drawn-out affair if she changes employer.

The Russian, who requested anonymity, has been teaching English at the school for four years.

“I took the risk of changing my life path to come to China, I have paid taxes, why are my rights not protected by laws?” she asked.

In any country, it’s always wise to do things above board — perhaps even more so in China, where there is little legal recourse for anybody who finds themselves on the wrong side of the law.

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