Crime in China (alternative title I Call Bullshit!)

Slate used to run a great series entitled the "bogus trend story of the week", and this entry will be in that vain. Looked at in a different way, this could be viewed as classic China-bashing and piling on, as it came out on Monday when China was definitely in the news, but for something a little more important and even more negative.

The title of the story says it all, Foreigners Grapple With Crime in China. Events in Xian a few weeks ago weren't exactly positive, but circumstances were brought to a quick ending with no injury to the foreigners involved. The article leads with that incident, certainly a scary situation, but an incredibly unusual one.

It then goes on to state: "But anecdotal evidence suggests foreigners are increasingly targeted, as a booming economy erodes old taboos and some Chinese grow bolder." It's always wonderful to be able to hide behind "anecdotal" evidence, but because its only anecdotal, its impossible to use to establish a trend.

Go on you say? The author follows with some of that "anecdotal" evidence: "In cosmopolitan Shanghai in recent months, a foreigner had a knife put to his throat and his money taken. Another was tricked into paying up to $1,000 for a $7 taxi ride. Four thugs surrounded an English boxing star, Ricky Hatton, and stole his $8,000 Rolex." The knife incident in Shanghai can be counted, but the guy who was "tricked", I simply can't understand and rarely have sympathy for and while its a scam and embarrassing for China, whether its criminal is another matters. With all the play that has been given to the 2 recent scam incidents on Nanjing Rd, I'm really shocked that there has been no coverage anywhere else of this $1,000 for a $7 taxi ride.

As for the Hatton incident, it has me really shocked that 4 thieves could overwhelm a world champion boxer, I could see it being possible after he was beaten to a pulp by Money May, but this wasn't the case. In fact, while a search of English sources turns up no hits other than the author's story, Chinese sources (and they are only bbs') put the event in August 2006. Since when is almost 2 years ago "recent months"? I wonder how "recent" the other 2 incidents were.

The author follows all that fear mongering up with "Shanghai and Beijing are still safer than most foreign cities of their size. Punishments for crimes against foreigners are heavier, police-linked neighborhood watch groups are highly vigilant, and Chinese can't own guns." Probably the first logical thing she wrote in the article. If they are so safe, why are foreigners "grappling" with crime (sorry, I linked to the IHT version which uses a better headline, but I used the AP headline, the AP version (headline is the only difference) can be found here)?

Despite how safe these cities are, probably far safer than any major city in the US, the writer still claims that "The U.S. government now warns Americans against muggings, beatings and even carjackings, especially in the nightlife and shopping districts of large cities." Umm, they do? Where? A quick look through the State Department website shows no travel warnings or alerts for China in the past 6 months, with the glaring exception of the one issued for that certain region in western China, though that was issued 2 days before the article came out and has nothing to do with crime.

I'm not going to go through the rest of the article as it is just more babble and "anecdotal" evidence, but finally, mercifully the article comes to a conclusion with:

Consulates warn people to beware of Chinese who invite foreigners to a teahouse,
ostensibly to practice their English, then present them with a huge bill and
sometimes threaten violence.

Such crimes are a byproduct of a freewheeling economy and more mobile society. "The ability of control in China now is a lot less than it was," Broadfoot said.

But he added, "Gee, on the security side, I'd rather have the Olympics in Beijing than in L.A. Though both cities will get you with pollution."

Ahh, the teahouse scam which has been around since foreigners have been coming to China. I think Marco Polo fell for one of those even, but since they've been around for so long, it's also virtually impossible to come to China without knowing to be careful of people who come up to you at tourist spots speaking English and claiming to be "art students." Finally, the conclusion says it all, Chinese cities are some of the safest in the world for foreigners and while crime exists, what's the point of this story, coming over a week after the Xian incident, the only recent newsworthy China foreigner crime story? I hate being a conspiracy theorist, but this looks to be another example of kicking China when its down. The story is already cold, why couldn't it have waited another week? As for a "rising trend"? Yeah, right...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your article. I have to say there have been a lot of glorfications and anecdotes. However, there is a dark reality to it. And yeah, in place of missing statistics I'll give you two more anecdotes. In this past month alone I have been 1) assaulted once mildly, two kicks to my side, unprovoked because I am dark skinned apparently. I couldn't retaliate as I was surrounded by 20 guys, 2) An attempted assault another time, a young man swung a full bottle of whiskey at my head, because I was too busy to join him at his table and drink with him. I disarmed him. And there was another incident, that I am not going to detail.

Maybe it's coincidence, but this last month has made me rethink about just how secure foreigners are here in China.