Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Asian Eyes' China - Pick pocket

             In every country in the world there bound to be bad apples around and China is no exception. China is a very big country and the most populous one. Due to the sheer numbers of people there, one had to be very careful and never let the guard down. For this article I am putting down here some trivial lesson learnt on pick pocket in China. Hope its help someone, sometime, somewhere in China.

Video grab on pickpockets, they work in a 
gang, and tool of choice - a pair chopsticks         
         I traveled to Xiamen for work in October 2009 and stayed at Sheraton Xiamen hotel. That night I happened to watch a police documentary on pick pockets. They operate in group, using human shielding and distraction tactic and some may involved tool. Once a colleague of mine, Vivien, also visiting for work, became a victim in broad day light when she went shopping in a crowded place couple of years ago. She had her handbag that she carried on her back, a flashing neon light to crooks. Learning from her experience, I never put anything in my back pocket when I visited China. Fast forward, Rainbow, Jane, Zhang and Ina had planned to meet up for dinner after work the following day. Our dinner was at a restaurant behind my hotel so that I can just walked back after the meal. We took a bus from office and stopped at a bus stop opposite the entrance road to the restaurant. We crossed the main road using an overhead bridge. Rainbow was carrying a sling bag while Zhang, Jane and I carried our computer backpack.  As we entered the alley to the restaurant, it was quite dark, dimly lighted with yellow street light placed sparingly along the alley. In the corner of my eyes, I noticed 2 youngsters, not more than 18, walked very close together behind us, holding hands. "Weird, this may be pick pockets", I told myself, remembering the film that I watched yesterday. "I must take care of my wallet", shifting it from my back pocket to the front pocket of my Docker trouser. We continued to walk along with the youngsters at our back while Zhang had walked ahead to look for the restaurant actual location.
Pickpocket start training since small.
Watch out for men, women and kid
whose eyes scouting around.  
          Then suddenly Rainbow shouted in Chinese, "Ei, why your hand is in my bag?", holding on to one of the youngster hand that had slid into Rainbow's bag. Without thinking I lunged toward the youngster and locked my fingers, judoka's style, onto his shirt collar while my left hand held his right wrist. "Pickpocket, pickpocket, someone called Kong An (police)", Rainbow shouted out loud. A crowd started to congregate, and Jane was shouting for Zhang. "See if you lost anything?", I barked at Rainbow. The youngster that I held on pleaded to be let go and said he did not steal anything. Another youngster (I believe his gang members) came up to me and asked me to release the kid, stating the youngster did not do anything. The kid I was holding pulled out his wallet with his left hand to show it was empty. Jane asked me to release the kid but I still did not let go. Rainbow had rummaged through her bag and declared that she did not lost any thing. The kid tried to twist his way out and I nearly head butted him until Zhang came up. I thought Zhang had grabbed the youngster, but in a moment he twisted free and fled in a flash, followed by 2 or 3 other youngsters. Shaken by this incident and as soon as we got back our composure when the adrenaline subsided, we proceeded to the restaurant.
        At the restaurant, we related the incident to Ina who was waiting for us. I told everyone about the film I watched to explain why I was very alert. I added that I thought the pickpocket was targeting Jane or me because of our backpack at our back, not realizing Rainbow was the target. Rainbow mentioned that her purse and cell phone was at the bottom of her sling bag with her notebook on top, effectively blocked the pickpocket's hand from reaching the smaller items. Jane explained that she was worried that among the crowd, other pickpocket member may have knife and will use it on me. Silly me,  I never thought of the potential danger I was in then, but definitely next time, no more hero for me. Luckily no one gets hurt and I got a great story to be retold. What a night! 

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