The Men in Leather Coats - the photo permission mafia at the Jingpeng pass

With the appearance of so many foreigners having money, some local criminals saw their chances to earn money. The way to do it was the same asmany other places in China: Selling "photo permissions". They got local politicians and police to cooperate, probably by paying them part of the income. The deal was to frighten foreigners who do not know to pay a fee.

They started in 1997, and this went on until the end of steam service on this line, about end of 2004. This is the history.

Until 2002 they extracted 50 RMB per day, after that they increased to 100. At first, they had no car, then a Santana, at the end an expensive SUV. Thus, there must have been a lot of money in this "business".

Most foreigners travellin gindividually refused to pay. This sometimes led to confrontations, even small violence, but finally the mafia let tourists alone. However, they went to pressure the Chinese guides. Chinese guides are scared of bad reports about them, thus they rather paid the fee. However, this fee was object to negotiation. The mafia would get information about foreign groups from the hotels, or they patrolled the road, and then they would come in the evening to collect money from the guides. Since January 2002, they have hired a lady speaking English. They got rich they could pay for an interpreter!

The boss of the operation and the first person collecting money was Mr. Liu Shu Shan 刘树山 who did this business since 1997 at least. He ran the money extraction business until November 2001. Reports tell that he was even imprisoned for a short period because he did not pay the share to the local police, but got freed after paying some corruption money. He has started his own travel agency and guide bureau, called "Keqi Foreign Affairs and Tourist Bureau"and guides especially Japanese groups on the pass. At the same time he is trying to extract money from everyone who is travelling alone or using other guides. His company may have relations with Chifeng Foreign Affairs and Tourist Bureau (something else than CITS). He was known to be a quite polite man, reported not to speak foreign languages.

He has hired two "leather jackets" of the less polite type, who collect the money from other visitors. They are:

E Erdun , inChinese 额尔敦
Zhang Wenzhong, in Chinese 张文忠

There were a few very good avoidance strategies

(1) Taking photos of them: The grippers were extremely scared if you took photos of them. They definitely did not like you documenting their activity!
(2) Physical resistance. Some foreigners even beat them. They were never approached after that.
(3) The don't understand game.



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