Expats in Chinese provincial town arrested in drugs bust

Published:  16 Jul at 6 PM
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Expats in China’s Xuzhou are missing their high life as China’s crackdown on crime and corruption spreads to the provinces.

The small, eastern Chinese town of Xuzhou is set in lush countryside, ringed by mountains and dotted with lakes, and has become a hub for Western expats living the ‘60s lifestyle all over again. Drink, drugs and rock ‘n roll are the order of the day, or were until the crackdown. Only a few foreigners had arrived for jobs or study, and the town is only accessible via road or rail, with the new arrivals doing more or less whatever they wanted to. One told reporters he used to go to clubs, drinking for free and choosing which drug to buy out of a selection between cocaine, hash. ketamine, meth and fentanyl. What the locals though about expats’ behaviour wasn’t noted in media reports.

One USA-based lawyer familiar with and specialising in China said local authorities nowadays aren’t afraid to crack down on foreigners behaving badly, wherever they’re located, citing the rising tension between Western nations and China as the reason. The desire, he said, to root out and arrest illegal companies and foreigners within China’s borders is now higher than ever before, and the long arm of Chinese law is reaching all across the huge country. Just last week, a police raid took place in Xuzhou, resulting in a drugs bust and the arrest of 16 expats including four from the UK. The raid was based on an anonymous tip, with one of those arrested now under criminal detention, which normally results in a formal arrest and conviction.

Chinese courts are secretive, are fully controlled by the ruling Communist Party and are known for their 99.9 per cent rate of convictions. The remainder of the arrested expats are at present in administrative detention and are likely to spend 15 days in prison before their deportation. However, there’s still the possibility of further criminal charges being brought against them. The countrywide clampdown now includes expats on fake or expired visas and has been expanded to allow raids on offices and bars as well as forcing foreigners to provide urine and hair samples. If drugs are detected, those using are in very serious trouble, as drug-related offences have hefty penalties including death sentences for trafficking.

The local crackdown has affected the small expat community, mostly composed of English teachers along with foreign students studying medicine, mechanical engineering or Mandarin Chinese. Local expat bars are now empty, social media groups are silent and almost no-one is talking to reporters, with some fleeing after being approached. Furious parents held a meeting demanding refunds of tuition fees, with the local EF Xuzhou being blamed for hiring drug-addicted teachers. Official Chinese propaganda sources are using the raid to heighten anti-Western sentiment and promote nationalism, but pundits now believe the raids are politically motivated after Ottawa immigration arrested a Chinese expat tech executive supposedly at the request of the USA.
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