Rights of An American Teacher in China

First, from VOA, we have new rules considered by China for foreign teachers “requiring them to undergo ideological training sessions and creating a new social credit rating system to monitor their conduct.”

Arrests and deportations of foreign teachers in China have soared since 2018 amid a broad crackdown on teachers without proper work visas and Beijing’s push for a more patriotic education system.

Analysts told VOA this is partly due to the deterioration of U.S.-China relations and China’s relations with other English-speaking countries. Yet parents say they are still interested in having their children learn English.

Qin Weiping, a political commentator based in the U.S., said the toughening rules have something to do with the current U.S.-China relations and the countries’ ideological differences.

“The Chinese government thinks these foreign teachers are bringing free ideas and universal values. Authorities have to prevent ideas such as color revolution or peaceful evolution that can be passed from learning English,” he said.

“Color revolution” is a term used to describe popular protest movements around the world that have swept governments out of power.

The Reuters news agency cited Nick Baker, an Australian teacher who recently left China after working for six years in international schools, as saying he was told “not to discuss the protests in Hong Kong because we were being watched by the authorities.”

He said his school was ordered to present curriculum material to local officials for review.

Foreign teachers in China have said that they are ordered not to discuss anything sensitive in the classroom, including the Tiananmen massacre, the status of Taiwan and China’s oppressive behavior in Xinjiang.

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Next, from the Beijinger:

But do a quick tour of a few expat groups, particularly international teachers in China Wechat groups and you will find something very alarming.

International teachers – usually affiliated with training centers – are reporting that they are barred from leaving their provinces, or even the cities in which their schools are located. These teachers claim that they have been coerced into signing contracts that bar them from leaving their cities or provinces under penalty of contract termination. Others say they have had their salaries arbitrarily slashed and office hours increased.

As a foreign employee in China, it can be rather difficult to know what actions by employers are sanctioned by law, and how many are fly-by-night tactics by unscrupulous employers.

….Does your company have a right to restrict your movement under penalty of termination? Yes and no.

Yes, if it is per government requirements such as a quarantine measure to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Certain companies around Beijing and across China have instituted this measure, prohibiting employees from leaving without explicit permission.

But what happens if the COVID-19 situation is under control before contracts with limited mobility clauses expire? In that case, a direction to obey the contract would be a contravention of your right of movement, and as such, you are free to challenge it, and challenging your employer’s decision to limit your movement isn’t enough to legally fire you.