Irish teachers freed in China after detention over ‘visa issues’

Women, from Kildare and Offaly, held after raid on private language school

Two Irish teachers have been freed after spending more than a week in detention in China reportedly over issues with their visas, sources in the Irish community said.

The women, from counties Kildare and Offaly, were on working visas and teaching in Beijing language schools.

The teachers have not been deported and are still in Beijing, The Irish Times understands. They were freed after an investigation into their visas.

The women apparently took on an extra job teaching in a private school, and were caught up last Saturday week when Beijing police arrested 11 people including the two Irish nationals who were working at the facility, sources said.


The teachers were well looked after during their time in detention, although Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare South Fiona O'Loughlin had expressed concern that they had not been allowed to phone their parents.

Officials from the Irish Embassy were in regular contact with prison authorities to work on the women's case.


It is understood the women had the correct visas to work as teachers, but were unaware of issues with teaching extra classes at the private school, and had taken the jobs in good faith.

As China’s middle class expands, a growing number of people want native English-language speakers for language learning and a large number of English-language teachers are employed in Chinese cities.

Many are employed by third-party agencies that earn a commission on the teachers and they often register the teachers on business or tourist visas rather than work visas, which foreigners require to legally earn money in China. These visas are issued by the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA).

Raids on language schools are quite common and foreign teachers can be detained during this raids. Normally schools are fined 10,000 yuan (€1,300) per illegal foreign worker.

Working illegally is the most common reason for foreigners being deported in China.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing