Traffic-Violating Expats Used by Police to Teach Chinese “Awareness of the Law”

Charles Liu |Jun 14, 2017 1:00 pm |14 comments| 4109 reads

In China, many traffic regulations are broken by both expats and locals alike.And yet, even though Chinese media has shown a preference forfocusing onthe former, this is done in order toinfluencethe latter.

The most recently documentedcase of trafficpolice cracking down on foreign nationals occurred on Monday inJinan, Shandongwhena local traffic cop stoppedan expat motoristfor running a red light. And as seen onthe videouploaded online, the police officer rose to the occasionby using English to rebuke the expat.

Praised by Chinese news for his eloquence, traffic constable Zhao Jianpeng told the offending expat “You against traffic law,” as well as “Make our city a better place; make our big China a better place.”

But Monday wasn’t the only time that Chinese traffic police were seen standing up to careless expat drivers.

Just this past May, the police were seen cracking down on a traffic-violating expatin Beijing(shown above). With several photographersin the background, a traffic police officer brusquely commandedan expat motorcyclist during a traffic stop. Although no English was spoken, the police officer put the expat in his place by sayingin Chinese, “We speak Chinese here!”

Over in Shanghai last year, local traffic police waged a traffic safety campaignthat had been especiallytough on expats, but its mostfamous incident was earlier in2014. Dubbed by the Chinese media as”the most-fluent English-speaking police officer ever,” a Shanghai cop was seen boldlyconfronting two expats who had crossed against a red light, rejecting their”color-blind” explanation (shown below).

With green cards being in such short supply, expats only make up a small proportion of the Chinese public; and with traffic violations so common in China, those committed by expats are mathematically insignificant. So why is there such an emphasis on expats when they do something wrong in China?

VeteranChina expatsmay accept this to be the unfairway things are for “guests of China,” but there’s a specific reason for this.

Although the Jinan traffic constable eventually let the expat traffic violator go without any charges or citations, the police officer is distinctly reported by Chinese news as having “educated” the expat,signifying that violators have an “ignorance” of the law – onethatconstrains China’s law enforcement from doing its job.

As “laowai,” expats are treatedas being wholly different from locals, and this “awareness of the law” is one of the those differences between East and West. What this essentially means is that when a Chinese person crosses against a red light, it’s because he doesn’t know better,but when an expat (originating from anywhere outside China) commits the same infraction, more blame can be assigned because they ought to know.

However factual, that’s quite a big generalization to make. But instead of sourcing this opinion to an anonymously-made online comment or even to Chinese news media who runstoriesabout the difference between expats and Chinese at traffic lights, we’ll take the wordof none other than Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun.

In January of last year, Wang was explaining how society requires theframework of law in order to make compliance part of people’s everyday habits when he dropped thefollowing quote:

Everybody says that foreigners have a high awareness of the law, but the same person that wouldn’t normally cross against a red light does just that when in China. This is because the environment of our society’s rule of law causes people’s behavior to change.

With the Mayor of Beijing admitting that his city can be a bad influence on newcomers, it’s clear that the trend of cracking down on expats for traffic violations is done with the purpose to”educate” the Chinese public. If police are tough on expats with a high “law awareness,” so too will they be similarly tough on ordinary Chinese, who are encouraged to better obey the law.

Whatever expats think of themselvesas individuals in China, theyhave much more worth as a symbolwith education value.

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