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.
- In 1997 the sold photo permits reading "Chifeng Tourist
Bureau". No reports of this permit are known from after 1997.
- Later, in 1999 to November 2001, they sold photo permissions
reading "Aodu Travel service". These photo permissions were fake
copies of the permits given to visitors at Daban depot.
- Since late 2001, they even started their own business, "KeQi
Tourist Bureau", and started guiding foreign customers, but
tried to extract money from everybody else.
- They operated so openly that they even constructed a signpost
at Simingyi bridge. Here is a photo of this sign, which contains
some unintentionally hilarious "Chinglish", similar to the
"photo permit". Check out:
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
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.
There were a few very good avoidance
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
(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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