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.