It’s Hard to be Good in Shanghai

Reportedly, traffic law enforcement officials (交通执法人员) in Shanghai’s Minhang District (上海闵行区, central-western Shanghai) and in Pudong (上海浦东新区) acted as pedestrians in urgent need of help and asked private car owners or drivers of company vehicles to give them a ride home, or to other destinations. When the drivers agreed, they were accused of earning money as “black cabs” (黑车).

The trapping practise has apparently been a topic since 2008, and currently, the stories are emerging in China’s foreign-language press, too. Shanghai Daily reports the case of Sun Zhongjie (孙中界), a 18 or 19-year old migrant worker from Henan Province, working as a company minibus driver who reportedly reacted to the charges of illegally transporting passengers by cutting off part of a finger.

Shanghai’s authorities decline to disclose the identities of the officials – or their contractors – who act as hitchhikers. In September, a division captain told television reporters that  the tactic in cleaning up illegal cabs were job secrets that could not be divulged. A journalist with Southern Metropolis Daily (南方都市报), Zhou Junsheng (周俊生) writes today that all it would take to clarify the cases is a fair and completely transparent investigation. He also sees an improved (but still ambiguous) attitude from the Shanghai authorities, compared with the previous arrogance shown by the traffic enforcement division.

But so far, the authorities still seem to reverse the burden of proof on the accused. The number of cases to date isn’t really clear, but according to a EastSouthWestNorth translation, Zhang Jun has contacted several other private car owners who have encountered the same experience.

While Sun is a migrant worker from Henan, another accused, Zhang Jun (张军, name apparently made anonymous), who drove a car with a license plate from Anhui Province, works for a foreign-invested company.

Zhang reportedly chose an Anhui license plate because it was much cheaper than one from Shanghai. But according to Anhui Radio (安徽广播网), he is a New Shanghairen (新上海人), a newly-registered permanent resident (现拥有上海户口).

People from outer province are probably more inclined to help others (or more reluctant to deny a request) than Shanghai natives. That makes them easier victims.

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