Bad habits make tourists tempting targets
Published: Nov 12, 2013 10:58 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

On November 2, a Chinese citizen was murdered and robbed in Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius. On November 4, the local Chinese embassy issued a safety notice to Chinese citizens, saying that there had been quite a number of robbery cases targeting Chinese tourists recently, and that tourists, companies and all Chinese citizens in Mauritius should be on high alert and pay attention to both their property and personal safety.  

I was quite shocked to hear the news as I had just returned from a trip to Africa, including Mauritius. The island enjoys a reputation as a safe, fast developing tourist destination, and my colleagues and I found it safe and relaxing.

But the truth is that it isn't the malevolence of locals so much as the naivety of Chinese that makes us vulnerable abroad.

A digital single-lens reflex camera and a backpack are the standard equipment of a Chinese tourist. But it marks us an ideal robbery target, as Chinese tourists always have cash on them and at the same time, the camera can also be sold at a good price. It can be really dangerous for a foreign tourist to shuttle between scenic spots making conspicuous shutter clicks.

A professor in Johannesburg told us that local people like him only bring credit cards and very little cash with them. Even if they were robbed, the reward is always limited, so the muggers wouldn't bother to target them.

Chinese tourists, however, can always excite muggers with their fat wallets. The professor even joked that robbing one Chinese is worth more than robbing 10 local Africans.

Chinese tourists also like to wear valuable jewels that attract robbers' attention. Local people wear jewels too, but most of them are purely ornamental and not worth much. Chinese tourists should get used to leaving their bling in a safe place rather than risking losing everything.

Some Chinese businessmen in South Africa told us that they are used to doing businesses with bags of cash. In their eyes, it's too troublesome to deposit the money in a bank account and to wait in long lines to withdraw it when they need it.

One businessman from East China's Fujian Province said that he was once robbed after a day's business on his way from his shop stall to the parking lot. He lost about $20,000. But he still prefers to deal in cash with his suppliers and customers.

One has to wonder whether the real motivation isn't convenience, but to dodge taxes. I have to say if I were a robber, I would have no better target than businessmen like him.

At the same time, quite a number of Chinese families like to keep money and jewelry at home, so burglars most probably won't return with empty hands if they break into a Chinese residence.

It's obviously a vicious circle. The bad habits are like cracks on an egg that attract flies. We must bitterly conclude that if Chinese don't change their habits, they can place themselves in severe danger when traveling in less safe places.

Or perhaps they can take special measures. During our Kenyan interview trip, before we went to the famous Dandora junkyard in Nairobi, we had learned that it's very common for tourists to be robbed or even murdered because the security situation is very bad there.

Our friends in Nairobi accompanied us to the junkyard to do the interview. Two Kenyan armed policemen with AK47 rifles came with us. We conducted our interview successfully and learned firsthand about the life of people working on the site.

On our way back, our Kenyan friends told us that they had found weapons among the interviewees. We were lucky to come back safe and sound with their help.

Netizens joke that if you are not robbed in Africa, your African trip isn't complete.

My colleagues and I proved lucky, as we had a safe and pleasant trip in Africa, but returned with many dangerous stories.

The author is an editor with the Global Times. fengyu@globaltimes.com.cn