public safety in china

Olympics 2008

When traveling or living in a new country, one is always worried about the public safety and security. We will share with you our view and opinion of the public safety and order situation in China.

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China Police
China's Police are known as 'Kong-Ann' or Public Security. This is a name often associated with the political police unit of China during the turbulent periods between 1950s-1970s. Even the uniform donned by the 'Kong-Ann' looked more like the olive green often associated with the para-military rather than the light blue or dark blue favored by most Police around the world.

Today, the Police in China has changed to a smarter blue uniform and is more often known as 'Jing Cha' or Police rather than 'Kong-Ann' anymore.

Public Safety and Security
China has one of the lowest capital crime rate in the world. It is generally safe to walk the streets at night and cases of outright robbery or theft is still pretty uncommon.

However, petty crime such as pick pocketing is common especially in cities which sees plenty of tourists such as Xian and Beijing or cities with large flow of migrants from poorer regions such as Guangzhou. In these cities, it is important to watch your wallet and purses especially in crowded places such as train and bus stations, shopping malls and tourist sites.

Another area to watch out for are con artistes and cheats. Again, this is common in cities flooded with tourists and migrants and may be uncommon in other cities not associated with tourist trade.

Con artistes comes in all forms. They may approach you off the streets and offer to bring you to places for cheap shopping or may offer to exchange local currency for US dollars at a better rate. Often, these con artistes work in gangs and it is often to your detriment if you follow them to a shop or make a deal with them. Always avoid any approaches in the streets with extreme caution.

In case of crime
In the rare event that you meet with crime or has been cheated, make it a point to report to the Police. Get the hotel reception to help you contact the Police.

Chinese Police had a reputation previously for being lethargic in their reponse to crime reporting especially when dealing with foreigners who do not speak Chinese. However, in recent years and with the urgency to spruce up China's image in view of the coming Olympic Games, it is more likely that the Police are keen to pay attention to your complaints. Most Police Department in the larger cities are likely to have a English speaking person who will be able to translate your complaint. Do not be surprised if your complaints are attended to speedily.

One area of common misunderstanding is that many buildings and shops in China engaged private security guards. Many of these guards wear uniform very similarly to the Police. There has been many instances when tourists had approached these security guards for help and had recieved little or no assistance. If in doubt to the identity of these guards, ask anyone in the street for help in contacting the Police. Most common person in the street will be glad to help.

Common crime prevention tips.
If you are a foreigner, you sticked out like a sore thumb! You just can't melt into the crowd:-)

And in the eyes of petty thieves, a foreigner equates to US dollars and that means a lot of money. Always keep your wallet and valuable close to you and avoid flashing jewelleries or money. Weak your backpack to the front instead of to the back. Move in a group whenever possible.

The Chinese are still curious about foreigners; esspecially in the inner cities. (Foreigners or LaoWai are not a novelty in the big cities anymore; despite what some travel books may claim otherwise). Friendly as these Chinese may be, the common people are unlikely to swarm around you and offer to make friends or pass on special shopping tips to you. Language is still a problem.

Hence, take any group of Chinese that comes up to you and seem to be particularly friendly with a pinch of suspicion especially in touristy areas.

For more information about Chinese business culture and etiquette, check out this interesting China Book. Or email us for further information.