Foreigners assist police in south China
Updated: 2012-08-17 19:50
NANNING - Michael Axel, a baker from Israel, moonlights as a police assistant in scenic Yangshuo county to help local police solve disputes involving foreigners.
"Yangshuo is a quiet and beautiful county where I live with my Chinese wife. I feel I should do my part in making it a better place for foreign visitors," Axel said.
Axel and another 15 foreigners are members of the Yangshuo Policing International Volunteers Group, which was set up in February 2011 in south China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
Yangshuo, located in northeast Guangxi, is known for its breathtaking scenery and diverse cultural appeal, as it is home to 10 different ethnic minorities. The area's numerous ethnic festivals often bring an influx of visitors, many of whom are from other countries.
However, with language barriers and a lack of knowledge regarding Chinese rules and regulations, some foreigners encounter difficulties when visiting the county, some of which result in disputes.
In November 2010, a young man from Australia rode a motorcycle through the streets of Yangshuo without a Chinese driver's license. When traffic police stopped him, both sides ended up in a stalemate for half an hour until the police solicited the help of a British man to help explain local traffic regulations to the Australian.
Incidents like this led county police to form the volunteer group to help them handle incidents involving foreign visitors.
Axel and his fellow volunteers work part-time to help local police with minor law enforcement issues involving foreigners, as well as help foreign visitors process their visas, register at hotels and provide travel advice.
Ronaldo, a hotel owner in Yangshuo who comes from the Netherlands, has been living in the county for almost a decade.
"I'd lived here for such a long time that many of the policemen knew me well. So when they wanted to set up the volunteer group, they approached me," Ronaldo said.
"Since many foreign tourists don't speak Chinese or English, our volunteers speak many languages, such as French, Russian and Dutch. Plus, as long-time residents here, we also know the local culture," Ronaldo said.
All the volunteers wear the same uniform, hats and badges and meet once a week to review the week's cases. They also go on patrol with local police and distribute safety guides, both in Chinese and English, to foreign visitors.
Wim, a tourist from the Netherlands visiting the county, said he'd never seen Chinese police working with foreigners before.
"I find this arrangement very effective, as it is always nice to talk with my own countrymen on the foreign soil," Wim said.
Although many tourists like to see the foreign volunteers, there have also been those who don't appreciate them.
One group of volunteers ran into trouble on Yangshuo's West Street, which is reserved for pedestrian traffic only. The volunteers stopped several Chinese tourists who were riding their bikes on the street, only to find themselves embroiled in an argument, as the tourists believed the volunteers had no business stopping them. The argument was not solved until a Chinese policeman came along to defused the situation.
However, incidents like this have only stoked the volunteers' enthusiasm.
"Disputes are inevitable, but seeing our efforts to maintain order and help the majority of tourists to better enjoy their time here is a very rewarding experience," said volunteer Roland.