Crime in China - What to avoid to stay safe!

While pickpockets can prove the bane of travelers everywhere, it‘s especially rampant in China, where the crowded conditions and cultural tendency to disregard personal space make it an easier crime to commit.

Petty crime in public areas in China

Transportation stations attract these criminals, often at the ticket booth, as do overnight train cars and Trans-Siberian express lines.

Tourist attractions, Beijing International Airport, expat bars at night and street markets are other hotspots for theft.

Yuyuan Garden, a major tourist and shopping area in Shanghai, can draw out thieves, said one unlucky traveler who got his camera lens stolen.

Others noted either triumphant or thwarted attempts to get at their cameras in the Bund and a bus station in Shanghai.

Guangzhou, Xian and Guiyang are more noted for pickpocketing, says Lonely Planet.

These petty crimes seem to rise in February during Chinese New Year, and on rare occasions, they can turn serious, with reports surfacing every now and again of violence or even murder committed against tourists.

(Alleged pickpockets in action. Either that, or they are just good samaritans helping a guy down the stairs.)

Packs of pickpockets - protect yourself in China

One expat living in China notes that pickpockets frequently operate as packs by having one member distract you while another steals your wallet or purse.

A rule of caution when traveling anywhere applies doubly in China - don‘t leave anything valuable in your back pockets. He recommends getting loud with a potential pickpocket to attract attention and, hopefully, the police.

Thieves in China also like bustling restaurants, so keep your bag on your lap.

Passport safety in China

One particularly tricky issue is that you must carry your passport with you at all times when you travel China, as foreigners are subject to random checks.This also means that your passport has a greater likelihood of getting stolen.

Make sure that you store your passport and any other relevant paperwork in front pockets or in a bag or pack secured at the front of your body.

The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office reports that theft of British passports in particular has increased in big cities. Make sure you take a copy of your passport just in case.

Aggressive beggars in China

Also common all over are beggars, who can be aggressive and will sometimes follow you for a block or more even when you disregard them.

Beijing‘s Silk Alley is known for beggars since it has such a high concentration of tourists shopping, as is the back end of the Forbidden City.

More beggars roam from Xi Dan to the third ring.

If a beggar or homeless person asks for money at a restaurant or crowded public place like a park, the staff or police will often intervene quite aggressively. One recent traveler to Shanghai recalled a police officer pushing a beggar away when he asked for money in popular Peoples Park and a waiter at a restaurant on the Bund doing likewise with another vagrant.

Child exploitation in China

Some beggars use their own or possibly kidnapped children to up the emotional appeal. Child begging is a problem in China, and many suspect the country‘s high rate of missing children is tied to this arena.

The children can be as pushy as the adults, and giving money to one innocent will often draw out a pack of additional kids hoping to collect.

Some people have reported seeing adults hidden behind a corner or in an alleyway taking the money you‘ve just given to the adorable child.

If these appeals do wear you down or you ascertain that the person begging is actually in need and unable to work, ¥1 is usually a sufficient donation.

Others say waving away a beggar or haggler, big or small, is the best approach. You can also say "Bu Yao," which means "Go away."

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  • liya said

    Literal translation of "Bu Yao": Do not want.

    (Also, saying the words sharply and sternly will help most Western-tongued folk pronounce them more accurately.)

  • Ian said

    I don't give money to beggars. I give food or water. That way you are helping them but not enabling drug/alcohol use or if they are part of a begging ring where all of the money has to be passed back to their handler.

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