This fuckface. This fucking piece of shit is the new frog-eyed creepy rapist avatar for every foreign English teacher in China. I fucking hate him. As a reformed Catholic, I reserve vast reservoirs of contempt and genuine vitriol for authority figures who abuse their power at the expense of children. With all of my private and professional life force, I hate the bastard, hopes he gets a life sentence and dies in a Chinese prison.
For some intents and purposes, this fucko is me, now. He speaks English, I speak English. He is white, I am white. He is an experienced foreign teacher in China, and so am I. Never mind that we grew up 5,000 miles apart and one of us — the one that is not me — is an animal wanted in Britain for child rape. To many Chinese people we look the same and therefore we are the same. Once this blows up in the Chinese media, foreign teachers in China can expect to spend a lot more time in the near future explaining that they didn’t move there to molest kids. And in the classroom, they’ll have ample opportunity to second-guess themselves — am I coming across as too nice? was that high-five inappropriate?
Sleazeballs and scumbags have always been openly hiding in China’s classrooms, of course. Robinson’s case is only making the rounds because he allegedly committed his worst crime outside of this country. But if we are to salvage any glimmer of silver lining from this, hopefully China tightens its visa policy and schools begin doing real background checks (are you listening, Beijing World Youth Academy?). The current system is paperwork-heavy and low on actual verification. Rubberstampocracy at its worst. It took me five months to finally obtain a legit Z visa at my first school in Henan. Most of that was spent mailing documents back and forth between China, Denver and the visa service I was using — school contracts, government contracts, letters of invitation from the local PSB, Z-visa forms.
If I’d gone the gray-market route a lot of teachers use, I could’ve gone over almost immediately on a tourist visa, without a college degree or native fluency. After a month I’d be sent to Hong Kong with a forged BA (side note: without my knowledge or permission, my school photoshopped my college degree to obtain a residence permit for at least two totally underqualified, shitty teachers), and China would have a new “foreign expert.” At one point at my school, which is actually a pretty good training center by most Chinese standards, only two of the eight teachers actually met the requirements of being native speakers with four-year college degrees.
This is not to bash my former school or any of my colleagues; in my experience, non-native speakers are often some of the best TEFL teachers. They have an innate understanding of how they learned the language and have an easier time passing it on than a lot of the shitty native speakers who come over. But having regularly-enforced standards for foreign teachers ensures that fewer pariahs like Neil Robinson find jobs educating children.
One simple addition to the visa process from other countries, if it had been implemented in China, would have stranded Robinson back in the UK, or at least prevented him from teaching in China for five years. South Korea and Vietnam, for example, require all foreign teachers to obtain notarized government background checks in their home country in order to obtain a work visa. They also require a physical, apostilled/notarized bachelor’s degree. Someone could still force his way into the country as a sex tourist or something, but it’d be much toucher for him to find legal, long-term work there.
I don’t know if the problem lies within the foreign teacher community specifically, but I implore teachers (everyone, actually) in China to keep a look out for suspicious activity. I’m not going to write up a snarky profile of a stereotypical child molester, as it’s probably unfair and counterproductive. However, if you come across, for example, a colleague inappropriately filming 10-year-olds, or jokingly telling students he’s writing a porn novel (as Robinson reportedly did), the correct response is to alert school management, if not local authorities. It’s for the potential welfare of children, who deserve so much better.
Greg is an ESL instructor who spent two productive years teaching in China. He writes BJC’s weekly Chinagog column.
UPDATE, 4/27, 12:26 pm: Robinson is now in custody in Beijing and awaiting transfer to UK authorities.
Ed’s note, 4/28, 11:13 am: Headline amended.