Arrests of foreign English teachers surge by tenfold in China

Massive spike in arrests of English teachers reported in China this year

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(Stock photo by flickr user David Schroeter)

(Stock photo by flickr user David Schroeter)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The number of arrests and deportations of foreign English teachers has exploded by as much as tenfold this year as Beijing began launching a crackdown to create a "cleaner" and more "patriotic" education system.

Four law firms told Reuters that the number of foreign teachers seeking their services has increased by between four and tenfold. Schools and teachers are saying that the number of arrests and temporary detentions for minor offenses are skyrocketing.

According to an internal notice sent on June 27 and revealed to Reuters, Education First (EF) has seen a sharp spike in the number of its teachers being detained in China for alleged crimes such as fighting, drugs, and cyber security breaches. The company, which is based in Lucerne, Switzerland, has 300 schools in 50 cities in China.

The notice pointed out that EF employees had been "picked up" by police at home, work, bars, and nightclubs for questioning and drug testing. The notice added that the firm had received warnings from embassies about an increase in the number of arrests of foreign nationals in China.

An EF spokesperson declined to comment on the content of the notice, saying only that the company "values our close collaboration with the Chinese authorities." The company representative added that EF "regularly reminds staff of important regulatory and compliance policies."

An international school in Beijing and an educational institution in Shanghai confirmed with the news service that the number of arrests of foreign teachers has risen sharply. In 2017, there were about 400,000 foreign citizens working in the education sector in China.

Particularly sobering is the fact that Chinese authorities have developed a new method to detect drug use by examining the hair follicles of foreign teachers. Tests on hair can now detect the use of Marijuana by as much as three months in the past.

Increased tensions between Western countries and China and a campaign launched by the communist country in September of last year to remove foreign influences from eductation appear to be factors influencing the new hardline stance toward foreign teachers. Reuters cited a Seattle-based lawyer as saying that officials are trying to appease the Chinese Communist Party's anti-Western agenda and that "The risks of going to China to teach far outweigh the rewards."