Disputes involving foreigners in China viewed millions of times online

Amateur videos of disputes between foreigners and Beijing residents have been spreading on the Internet like wildfire this past week. Online and in the street, tensions are boiling over.


A taxi driver punches a foreigner in Beijing. Screen grab from the video below. 



Amateur videos of disputes between foreigners and Beijing residents have been spreading on the Internet like wildfire this past week. Online, and in the street, tensions are boiling over.


The most recent video, posted online on December 7, shows a fight between a foreign visitor and taxi drivers on a street in Beijing. It has already been viewed more than 1.3 million times.


In this video, a foreign man getting out of a taxi is grabbed by two taxi drivers and repeatedly hit. As the man cries “help me” to passers-by, people in the crowd cry out “foreigner, foreigner”, also shouting that “he doesn’t want to pay” and that the driver should “call the police”.



Local media reported that the foreigner was detained by the police for five days, fined 5,000 yuan, and that he would be expulsed from China.


According to our Observers in China, who spotted this video early on, the scene was probably filmed several months ago, as the people in the clip are wearing summer attire.


Another video published a few days before shows an altercation between a Chinese woman and a foreigner, once again on a street in Beijing. It has received over 854,000 hits.


In the video, the woman accuses the man on the scooter of having knocked her over and demands compensation. But the young man tells the gathered crowd that she is lying and begins to insult her in Mandarin. After the video was published online, viewers initially supported the man’s version of events, suspecting the woman of having orchestrated the accident to claim compensation. However, surveillance footage was later unearthed, showing the man driving his scooter right through a crosswalk and hitting the woman.



This provoked a stream of online criticism aimed at Chinese media outlets, which were accused of systematically siding with foreigners in these types of situations. Quoted by China Smack, one Internet user called people who suggested the woman was out to swindle the scooter driver “slaves to foreigners”.


Recently, some foreigners who have lived in Beijing for a long time have spoken out about what they view as a climate of increasing hostility. In June, Julien Gaudfroy, a French artist and restaurateur, explained on social networking site Sina Weibo that foreigners in his neighbourhood of Beijing were increasingly being provoked.


Screen capture from Sina Weibo.


In Chinese, he writes:


Individuals often attack foreigners in the neighbourhood of Sanlitun. Four people I know were beaten up in one month; one of my friends was even hit in the face with a brick.


My friend and his attacker were taken to a police station. The attacker told the police that my friend had stolen his mobile phone, which was false. The officer told my friend that they had better find an amicable solution, or else he would have to place both of them in detention. And that would have put my friend at risk of being thrown out of the country.


The issue of foreigners’ behaviour in China first came to the fore in May 2012, when a drunk British national was beaten up after having sexually assaulted a Chinese woman. The incident sparked a campaign by Baidu and Sina Weibo, two Internet giants in China, to “expose bad behaviour by foreigners in China”.