China launches campaign to 'name and shame' its ill-mannered tourists

If Chinese travelers open an aircraft exit door before takeoff, they might land on a new national tourism blacklist. Rectification for the nouveau riche?

Mark Schiefelbein/AP
A couple uses a selfie stick to take a photo of themselves outside the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City in Beijing, May 3, 2015.

China's government has just unveiled a “name and shame” blacklist of its own badly behaved tourists, part of a bid to make the country’s increasingly peripatetic holidaymakers less of an embarrassing nuisance. 

China is the world’s largest source of tourists. While most of the 107 million Chinese who traveled abroad last year do their shopping and sightseeing harmlessly enough, their rowdier compatriots “make the Chinese people blush with shame,” the National Tourism Administration said on its website.

This week the official agency put the first four tourists on its public “bad behavior” list. The most heavily punished was a domestic offender – a teenage boy whose friends had posted a photo of him sitting on the head of a statue of a Chinese revolutionary heroine.

The picture went viral on social media and drew vitriolic criticism. The young man, Li Wenchun, was condemned to 10 years on the blacklist.

The authorities have not specified exactly what it will mean to be on the list, beyond saying that the names will be passed on to the police, immigration authorities, transport companies, and banks “as necessary.” That suggests offenders might be prevented from traveling either within China or abroad.

Anywhere other than China (or perhaps North Korea), Mr. Li’s disrespect for revolutionary martyrs would likely be considered less serious than the crass and violent behavior of three other offenders. They only got 24 months on the list.

Two were punished for brawling with flight attendants on a flight from Thailand. One poured boiling water down the back of a stewardess and the other threatened to set off a bomb. The third was a passenger on another flight who displayed his impatience at a long delay by opening an emergency door as his plane was taxiing to takeoff.

Behavior that will get you on the blacklist includes violating local customs, damaging cultural relics, and indulging in gambling or pornographic activities, as well as disorderly conduct on public transport, according to the new tourism administration regulations, published on its website.

Chinese tourists have drawn attention to themselves in recent years, and not just because of their rapidly growing numbers. One young man was photographed scribbling graffiti on an ancient Egyptian temple in Luxor, and Chinese parents are notorious in many parts of the world for allowing their young children to defecate in public.

But that doesn't mean they are unwelcome. Chinese tourists now spend $164 billion a year. But by 2019 they are estimated to spend $264 billion a year, according to a report in March by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.  

America expects more than seven million Chinese visitors a year by the end of the decade, spending $85 billion. It is no surprise, perhaps, that when President Obama visited Beijing last November, he announced that Chinese tourists would now be eligible for 10-year visas.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to