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Useful Advice for Tourists Visiting China
Police, Crime, Sharp Practice, Not Sharp Practice

This page contains general information for Tourists, and should be read in conjunction with larger topics that have separate and dedicated pages of their own

Topics on this page include:

Sharp Practice
Not Sharp Practice


1. Dial 110 for Police assistance (999 in Hong Kong)
2. Normally Police will speak Mandarin only
3. Police are correctly known as The Public Security Bureau
4. Police Uniform is just like UK and USA = Blue shirt with a large badge on the left sleeve only, navy trousers and jacket
5. Police often carry firearms, and sometimes automatic rifles or shotguns

There are various Police Departments as in other countries, and I have found them to be courteous, helpful and efficient. The majority tend to be friendly and a bit laid-back - however they can soon become officious if the situation requires this. Show due respect and you will have no problems

The major Police Departments you will likely encounter will be conducting these duties:
A. Traffic Police. These respond to accidents and do check for speeding offences etc. They also have teams who irregularly do specific spot checks. Normally these are regarding: motorcyclists who are not wearing crash helmets, trucks being in the wrong place without permission, not wearing seat belts in the front seats, etc. Normally these rules are only enforced at the time of these arbitrary checks, and the checks themselves are usually confined to the specific operation only. Therefore if one day you are asked to wear your seat belt etc, please know there is probably a very good reason behind this
B. Point Duty for traffic and pedestrian control at crossroads
C. Walking the streets in general (Bobby on the Beat) - you can ask these for help and directions
D. Special Duty, such as protection units for Central Government Officials
E. Immigration - often plain clothes who periodically check foreigners credentials. This generally applies to foreigners who are living permanently in China. So if half a dozen uniformed Police, or two in plain clothes appear at your door one day, please know they are there to check your Passport and Visa, and see your Certificate of Temporary Residency. It is unlikely they will speak any language other than Mandarin. Checks are normally annual or biannual, although sometimes this can be more frequently, as during the recent Olympic Games.

Note: Some cities, and I am really meaning a couple of specific areas of Guangzhou here, do have a small problem with illegal immigrants. Please carry either your Passport or Certificate of Temporary Residence with you at all times, as your credentials may be checked. We understand this problem is specifically related to a minority of dark skinned people, but we cannot specify a race or culture for definite. Therefore, if your roots are from USA, the Caribbean, Africa, India, or you have a darker complexion - please ensure you always have your documents on you at all times.

China Expats does not care what colour your skin is by the way - this information is brought solely for your protection and safe-keeping


There is comparatively very little crime in China, as people are generally honourable, and punishments can be severe. Foreigners will be a lot safer than in the West, but should note the following:

1. The major crime you are vulnerable to is Bag Snatching. Perpetrators are invariably migrant workers, and this occurs mainly in crowded shops and by pillion riders on town backstreets. Thwart this by wearing a bag with shoulder strap going over your head
2. Pickpockets and opportunist thieves do exist, please take all normal and sensible precautions
3. Stealing Bandwidth from wireless internet connections is on the increase. Obviously this only applies to people who have their own, and if you do have the security and encoding increased from the easily breakable standard specifications
4. Bicycle theft is quite common, especially regarding towns and poorer areas. Even padlocked bikes can disappear.
5. Opportunist thieves will make off with any small and attractive items such as bags, wallets, cash, jewellery and especially mobile phones, laptops, etc. Do not leave these unattended ever. Contrarily, things left in hotel rooms are 99.99% safe - staff will be instantly dismissed for any complaint, even without any corroboration.

Otherwise you will probably never see any crime, it is very rare. However, Chinese are not adverse to making a quick buck, so beware of con tricks and sharp practices

Sharp Practice

Whilst these are not crimes, you may feel as if you have been 'robbed' on occasions. Some of this may be your own fault for misunderstanding the charge regarding verbal exchanges = a decimal place wrong in either direction. I will list other problems below:

Hawkers and Hasslers:

1. Anyone who approaches you on the street selling: watches, laptops, mobile phones, etc. Most of these are stolen goods. Watches are cheap copies of course
2. Motor tricycle taxi's usually refuse to give foreigners a price, and then charge 10 times a normal taxi fare. Most of these are un licenced, so call their bluff and dial the Police on 110
3. Taxi's at Airports and isolated local attractions, who refuse to charge by the meter (An offence in China), and 10 times the real fare.
4. Begging is illegal in China also. Most of these Beggars are run by gangs who's Boss drives around in the latest top spec Mercedes. Meanwhile you are plagued by young kids on city streets who may even attach themselves to your legs, whilst their controller looks on. These children are bought for this purpose. If a beggar is genuine, then they will accept things other than money, like food or cigarettes etc. If you give them money, it goes towards the Big Bosses next car or house. Be wary!
5. Hong Kong. In this city you will be plagued by Indians selling suits along Nathan Road, and by Likely Lads selling watches near The Star Ferry Terminal in Kowloon
6. If any of these cowboys grab hold of your arm, take immediate and decisive action
7. Never get talked into giving your purse or wallet to an aggressive street trader. Bye-bye!

Not Sharp Practice

The above sounds really bad when listed, but believe me when I say that these troubles are isolated incidents amongst millions, and mainly occur at major tourist venues. Being a Western person you are Number 1 Target. I will now redress the balance by listing what could be mistaken for Sharp Practices, but are in fact genuine:

1. People asking for your photograph. This can be a con trick in the West. It is genuine in China, as Chinese people really do want to have a picture of 'You'. Make their day by posing with them for group shots - it can lead to new and lasting friendships
2. Haggling a price with market traders and stall holders is normal in China. You can both drive very hard bargains. Once a price is fixed they are very honourable, and will send people for change if they don't actually have it handy
This information is as supplied by the Chinese Embassy in UK, as dated 20th June 2008, and/or other reliable sources. Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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