In the most recent incident involving tourists behaving badly in Yunnan, a woman was detained by police in Tengchong after physically assaulting a shop clerk. While reportedly only a minor offense, the case is yet another in a summer with an already long list of people — both domestically and abroad — who have gone to sometimes comical and horrendous lengths after not getting their way.
The August 12 episode in Yunnan involved a 32 year-old woman from Beijing surnamed Lu, who was arrested while shopping for souvenirs in the western part of the province. She was there to buy imported jade, a popular diversion for visitors due to Tengchong's close proximity to the Chinese border with Myanmar.
During a group trip to a jade emporium, Lu, along with others on the same tour, was asked not to film inside the store. When she continued, a guide asked Lu once again to stop taking video with her cell phone, at which point the angered tourist slapped the guide in the face and then bit a store employee who attempted to intervene.
Lu was arrested after mall security and local police officers watched a surveillance video of the incident. Lu admitted guilt and signed a confession during an ensuing investigation, submitting to three days of police detention for her actions. Surprisingly, the slapped tour guide visited the local jail and begged officers to release Lu, arguing that the scuffle was more embarrassing than harmful.
The authorities, however, were unmoved, saying the three-day sentence was the lightest punishment allowed under the law. The police department also issued a statement regarding the case, which read in part, relevant law enforcement personnel must "combat the illegal activities of arrogant tourists while safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of tour guides and other travelers."
Scuffles such as the one in Tengchong are not uncommon in Yunnan, but many similar offenders have gotten off with far lighter punishments than Lu. The days of leniency may be coming to an end though, as only ten months ago the province became the first in China to establish a police force dedicated to protecting tourists, guide companies and the employees at popular destinations from one another.
At a time when traveling for leisure by Chinese both in and outside of the country has skyrocketed to record levels, domestic and international destinations are feeling the effects. Due to the country's increasingly horrible reputation for producing bad tourists, the Chinese government created a travel blacklist in 2015 called the 'Interim Tourist Uncivilized Behavior Record'. Under the provisions of the law, those whose behavior catches the attention of Beijing can be barred from further travel.
It is doubtful Lu's slaphappy attitude will land her on the blacklist. But Yunnan is in the process of ramping up a province-wide campaign to further exploit what are often referred to as its "plentiful tourism resources", and the government may be in the mood for sending messages to other possible miscreants. Some sort of change is necessary locally and nationally. International news coverage of such events — including this week's story of a Chinese traveler in Kenya stabbing a woman to death over dinner seating arrangements — is giving China a black eye with embarrassment.
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