SHANGHAI -- A Chinese teenager who posed for a photo sitting on the head of a statue of a female revolutionary soldier has become the first tourist to be put on the nation’s new ‘tourism blacklist.’
Li Wenchun, a hotel worker, was visiting the ‘Red Army Memorial Garden’ at the Victory Mountain Scenic Area in Yan’an in northwest China, when he decided to climb on the statue to take a picture. According to China’s National Tourism Administration, the photograph aroused “public condemnation” after it began to circulate on social media.
The fact that Yan’an is an old revolutionary base area, renowned as the place where the Communist Party’s Red Army sought shelter after its famous Long March of 1934-1935, may have added to the level of criticism. The tourism administration announced on its website that Li had been placed on the “National List of Uncivilized Tourist Behavior,” and would remain blacklisted for 10 years.
It also said the Victory Mountain Scenic Area would not be considered for China's official Grade 'A' Tourism Area status for the next two years because of lax management, according to a Shanghai-based news website. Li was reported to have gone voluntarily to the local tourism bureau to apologize after the online criticism began, and later wrote a letter in which he apologized to “the citizens of the whole nation,” the website said.
The Chinese government recently pledged to ‘name and shame’ tourists who behaved badly at home or abroad, in an attempt to improve order at domestic tourism sites, and to reduce damage to China’s image internationally, following a series of incidents. These have included a number of cases involving Chinese passengers behaving badly on planes, and an incident in 2013 when a young Chinese tourist was found to have carved his name on a 3,500-year-old temple at Luxor in Egypt.
Chinese media have this week also reported on the case of another tourist who carved his name on the wall of a temple in Chengdu -- leading to another man with the same name being mistakenly subjected to abuse by angry Internet users.
State media have said that being included on the tourism blacklist, normally for one or two years, could have a “negative influence” on citizens’ ability to obtain bank credit, and on their applications for foreign visas, as records may be passed on to banks, police, customs and other authorities, though tourists are allowed to appeal against their punishment.
Under the new rules, tourists can be punished for “disrespecting local customs, damaging the environment and facilities [and] sabotaging historical exhibits,” as well as “interrupting public transportation, engaging in gambling and taking part in pornographic activities,” according to the China Daily newspaper.
The rules also specify that tour guides “have the right to monitor and report misbehaving or troublemaking travelers.” However, the other person named by the National Tourism Administration for bad behavior following last weekend’s May Day holiday in China was herself a tour guide.
Chen Chunyan, a guide in southwestern Yunnan province, was filmed cursing a busload of Chinese travelers as “cheapskates” for not spending enough money on souvenirs at shops and tourist sites they had visited. The tourists had taken advantage of a bargain offer to join the four-city package tour. Such cheap offers in China often come with pressure to buy at shops selected by the tour guide or travel agency, though this is not officially permitted. The company Chen worked for has since been fined and ordered to suspend its operations.
Analysts say the blacklisting system reflects two of the Chinese authorities’ current concerns: to assuage public anger by cleaning up corruption, not only in the political system but also in the service industry, and also to rein in some of the more extreme aspects of citizens’ behavior, as President Xi Jinping seeks to promote a more sober social atmosphere.
Some online commentators did defend the Yunnan tour guide, saying the tourists should have spent more money since their trip was virtually free. However a commentary in the official People’s Daily newspaper said on Wednesday that while the tourists might be cheapskates, “cursing people infringed both tour-guides’ professional ethics and also social morality.” It said guides should “provide good service, however hard it is to do so.”
The article also said that harassing innocent people, as in the case of mistaken identity over the Chengdu carving incident, was as shameful as the original misdemeanor. It called for “deeper reflection,” saying that only when people controlled their behavior and could agree on shared ethics of mutual respect “could civilization be seen to have made a small step forward” in China.