Red carpet for China’s fat cats

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

26 October 2013


British Treasury chief George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson were in Beijing this month touting for Chinese investment in Britain and, to that end, easing visa restrictions on Chinese business people – as well as high-end tourists – wanting to visit the United Kingdom.

At precisely the same time in London, the UK Border Agency was raiding businesses in Chinatown in order to hunt down and deport clandestine Chinese immigrants working illegally.

Mixed messages? You bet.

On 22 October 2013 London’s Chinese community had had enough and took to the streets in protest at the 13 raids mounted by the border agency in recent months.

Lawrence Cheng, secretary general of the London Chinatown Association, which organized the demonstration in Gerrard Street, is quoted – in the 23 October edition of the London Guardian – as saying that the raids had damaged business.

“These raids are very disruptive, putting owners in a shutdown situation,” he said. “Procedures are not being followed. People are being pushed around.”

Mei Lee, who works as a manager in the area, is reported as saying that the raids had made the Chinese community furious. “It is just racist,” she said. “You have Boris Johnson in China trying to woo China and in Chinatown they are trying to throw people out. It is outrageous.”

Restaurant owner Yip Fai Liu is quoted as saying that a serious labour shortage in London’s Chinatown was being exacerbated by the raids.

The Guardian also publishes a riposte by the border agency defending the raids: “Businesses must carry out the correct checks on the staff they employ. Illegal working is not a victimless crime. It defrauds the taxpayer, undercuts honest employers and cheats legitimate jobseekers out of employment opportunities.”


Fair enough. The UK Border Agency makes a fair point. One might add that illegal workers themselves are often exploited by unscrupulous employers who threaten to expose them to the authorities if they complain about rock-bottom pay or  atrocious working conditions.

However, there is undoubtedly a whiff of double standards in the UK stance.

The fact of the matter is that what the British government and the London mayor want is not poor Chinese immigrants desperate for a job. These people, if they can track them down, they will deport lickety-split.

It is another story when it comes to high-rolling tourists and deep-pocketed Chinese tycoons who want to invest in Britain. These people the UK government welcomes with open arms. “You want to stay in London, Sir? No problem. We shall take care of all the formalities.”

Difficult to know how this not-so-subtle double message will play in China.


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.








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