Woken up by my roommate’s phone this morning, I realised that her dad got robbed in Foshan, China. Apparently, this is not your regular bum-and-rob or snatch-thief robbery. Not only was it done in daylight, it was done in the open, in front of everyone, at a packed and crowded place.

It was raining and her parents were walking in the shelter when her dad got pinned down by more than a few persons, who forcefully removed his wallet before making their run for it. It amazes me on how they can escape in such a crowded location. More importantly, I am amazed at the audacity of them pinning down a tourist in their coutry and robbing him in broad daylight.

While pickpocketing and snatch thefts are well-known and common in China, this is the first time that I have heard of such execution. They were not walking in some dark alleys, mind you, but in the open where people are amassed. Perhaps too many people, I guess.

This brings to light the social-economical status of China. From a personal observation, China is going through what Singapore went through – where the rate of social maturity is not catching up with the rate of economic growth. Singaporeans speak of the lack of social grace but this is gradually improving with increasing social-mindedness. I am quite sure that if you got pinned down at Orchard Road today, chances are someone *may* just help you. But from what I learnt of the robbery in China, everyone either gawked or moved on as it’s none of their business.

Very typical Chinese mentality – not minding in other people’s business.

I am not sure if the robbers are armed, and I am definitely alarmed. Could this be a result of not being able to address all the social issues in a fast-growing economy? Does the recent China stockmarket hype have a role to play in this?

Looking into the recent China stockmarket hype 

In the midst of a fast growing market and efforts from the China government to curb speculation on the stockmarket, it would be of little surprise that many people would want to jump onto the bandwagon before the market cools off. In addition, I have heard of instances where people sold off their house to speculate on the market from the proceeds of the sale. Because of recent market growth correction, and the inability of the speculators to hold on to their stakes, many have sold of their shares at a lost. This entire stockmarket hype could have given rise to 2 possibly scenarios:

  1. People who are not on the bandwagon of speculating in the stockmarket would not want to miss a piece of the big pie; and if they do not have enough money, they would need to get some quickly – and the quickest way? Rob.
  2. People who have lost substantial amount in the stockmarket and are driven to poverty. To get back some amount of “survival money”, they rob.

Of course, they likelihood of someone robbing you just to speculate in the stockmarket may sound preposterous, but this is said baring in mind that the stockmarket to the Chinese are no better than a legalized gambling den.

At the end of the day, the obvious reason is undoubtedly because the robbers want your money. They could have been doing so for the past donkey years and this is just another target for them. What I am more worried is if these robberies have greatly increased because of the expeditious growth of the China ecnonomy.

Moving on

At the end of the day, a robbery is a robbery is a robbery. The gong1 an1 (inland security) is working on this matter now, but I doubt it’s the first time that someone has been robbed in this manner. Back in Singapore, we quickly called the banks to cancel the credit and ATM cards. Yes, we know that the ATM cards are useless unless they have the PINs, but you can never be too sure. With iPhone and iPhone clones being launched on the same day, you need very little imagination on what they can do to your card or how they can circumvent the PIN.

For now, I am making additional plans to protect myself (read: travel insurance and stun-guns) on my unplanned trip to Shen Zhen soon. They will probably have to strip me first to get my money I don’t think I will be bringing out too much cash nor stashing it somewhere in the socks. Just remember that it’s not like Singapore, where it’s relatively safer. Sometimes, such incidents make you rethink about your options of moving overseas for good.

Update: More robberies here (or here if link is down). slkf also commented elsewhere that with a modern China and modern citizens, eventually people will at least call the gong1 an1 when someone gets robbed. My toes are laughing. Right. No so modern now as yet, if you ask me.

Ed: Apparently all the operators at the bank call centres are engaged “at the moment”. Did everyone just got robbed yesterday after their pre-GST-hike shopping?

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