beijing

Getting Scammed in Beijing

After two lazy months I am trying to update my blog again more regularly. There was a time when I used to write one post each day, but it’s a really hard pace to keep for a long time. 

There’s also something that’s bothering me. A week ago I was in Beijing and I got scammed. I’m kind of ashamed of admitting that, since apparently everyone knows that Beijing is famous for its scams. So was I the only one who didn’t know? Obviously not, since these scammers find new victims each day among the naive and trusting foreign visitors. 

The funny thing about that is that I always felt totally safe in Beijing, especially in Wangfujing, Dongdan, Tiananmen Square, Jianguo Road and in the hutongs. Even in Dongzhimen in the evening I never had any problem. 

Beijing is one of the most militarised places I’ve ever visited. In Tiananmen, Wangfujing and the whole of Jianguo Road there are policemen and soldiers everywhere. Who could have imagined that in this country, with its all-powerful army and police, scammers thrived undisturbed in the city centre of the capital of the biggest Communist dictatorship on earth? 



Isn’t this the state that detains people just because they have shared a picture online, or because they have “spread rumours”? Isn’t this the state where in 1989 the army put an end to the democratic aspirations of an entire generation of students? And yet this almighty state can’t handle a bunch of swindlers. Suddenly, the police need “proofs” and “evidence”. Come on, this is the place where the CCP makes the law, and when it wants, it arrests, punishes, censors and blocks websites, and who cares about “laws”? 

But when it comes to stopping criminal activities that have been known to the authorities for years, they are, all of a sudden, powerless, weak, slow. The stern and menacing faces of the people in uniform turn into lazy, annoyed grimaces. ‘Another one of those naive laowai who got scammed,’ they seem to say, ‘there’s just nothing we can do to help you.’ 

I am writing an account of how I got scammed, but it’s getting too long, already over 10 pages, so I won’t post it here. Moreover, I can’t remember the details exactly, so I have to fill the ‘blank spots’ with my imagination. So I decided to write a kind of “short story” and upload it as an ebook. I would like people to see what shrewd and talented actors the scammers are, and what sort of psychological relationship, what an ambiguous interplay of true and simulated feelings, there is between the swindlers and their unsuspecting (and credulous) victims. 

I have been to mainland China several times. I wouldn’t like to live there because I don’t like censorship and the many restrictions on personal freedom (restrictions that are intensifying under Xi Jinping). However, I am very interested in the country and despite this annoying incident, I won’t give up returning there if I get the chance to. Nor do I feel inclined to blame the entire Chinese people because of a few bad apples. 

But one thing is sure. As a traveller, and especially as a foreigner, it is much better not to trust people. The honesty that one may take for granted in Hong Kong and Taiwan, is a point of weakness in mainland China. 
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Categories: beijing, China

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