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February 4, 2013

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Group to help expats interact with officials

EXPATS living in Shanghai soon will have more ways to have their complaints and suggestions heard and get feedback as the city's first foreign volunteer liaison group was set up over the weekend in the Pudong New Area.

The group, known informally for now as the "foreign issue volunteer group,'' is being set up by community police officers in Pudong. It has 10 expats from countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and South Korea, who will gather information about foreigners' concerns and pass them on to police.

They might be something as pedestrian as noise complaints or as complex as how immigration issues are handled, officials said.

Police can decide whether to act on them or pass them along to other departments such as the Shanghai Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau.

It's the city's latest effort to integrate foreigners into more community activities. The group also might help police explain new traffic laws or other regulations in areas where there are many foreigners living.

A Russian woman named Anna who is a member of the group said she welcomed the initiative, calling it "a better way to set up close ties and communication with city police."

She first began talking with community police when she worked at the World Expo 2010. She stayed in touch afterwards.

One police officer said the department hopes expats will make suggestions to improve their daily work. Most of the volunteers are long-time residents and are very interested in community well-being, the officer said.

In interviews with Shanghai Daily, some foreigners said they found it difficult at times to reach the right officials to express their concerns. There are 143,200 foreigners living in Shanghai, which means there is a growing need for communication across languages and cultures.

At the same time, there is a growing group of expats who can make contributions, such as Rosangela Christine Muller, a Brazilian-American who late last year was welcomed onto the management committee of an upscale, multinational housing compound in Lujiazui to help unite residents of different nationalities and bridge social gaps.

Sixty percent of the community's 1,200 residents are not Chinese.


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