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Top Police Stories of 2018

Keeping China safe is their full-time job; becoming memes is just a bonus

As 2019 approaches, so does the usual array of lists and round-ups for the dwindling year. In the spirit of variety, The World of Chinese has endeavored to chronicle the countdowns that others don’t. Try elsewhere (or, indeed, everywhere) for your everyday 2018 listicles—here you will find the stories, characters and pratfalls that the rest of the English-language media has largely overlooked.

Love them or loathe them, police are an inescapable part of life. Whether keeping streets safe, giving directions, going to great length to recover your stolen bicycle (only if you’re foreign, apparently), or asking patrons to pee in a cup during a “drug raid” on your favorite family restaurant, the lot of China’s finest has created many viral or bizarre moments on social media this year. Here are the ten of the best:

1. A practical guide to surviving a knife attack

In a country where guns are scarce, knives are the weapon of choice for wannabe pandemonium instigators. Although knife attacks are no laughing manner, a 12-second video by the Longyang police department went viral for its comedic portrayal of a typical assault. In it, a stern-looking police officer runs screaming at the first sign of danger.

2. Falling SWAT stars

Police departments are increasingly social media savvy. When the “Falling Stars” challenge went viral on social media—initially, as a way to flaunt one’s wealth by showing designer goods that “fell” out of one’s car—cops quickly jumped on board, posing for their own viral photos.

3. Accidentally undercover 

Chinese police made some big busts this year, but the most exciting tended to happen outside their shifts. Recall, for example, the boastful fugitive at a late-night diner in Wenzhou, who was unaware of his captive audience of 11 off-duty officers at the next table. Or Zhang Hongyi, the Hangzhou cop who went on vacation in Chongqing, and identified a woman on the lam from a single glance in a hot pot restaurant.

4. Lassie, go home

One police dog named Lao San got too friendly with a Zhejiang couple while off-leash, and went home with them, leading police to slap the couple with a 15,000 RMB fine. It was then revealed that the same dog had been mistaken for a stray and “rescued” before. Charges against the couple were later dropped.

5. The polyglot policeman

Yi Yang, a traffic police office in Xi’an, enjoyed brief fame after a CGTN video featured his unusual linguistic talents in English, French, Russian, and Japanese. While Yi claims that his job allows him to introduce “the history and culture” of Xi’an to foreigners, TWOC suggests that making him direct traffic at the Silk Road International Expo Center is a waste of his talents.

6. No shoes, no shirt, no problem

When a Guizhou motorcyclist was stopped by a shirtless man claiming to be a police officer, the skeptical cyclist dared the man to arrest him for not wearing a helmet. The officer promptly took his badge from his swimming trunks. It turned out he was conducting an undercover sting to stop illegal fishing.

7. Dummy gets assaulted

In lieu of human officers, some intersections use statues of officers to remind drivers to follow the rules. This backfired one night in Gansu, when a drunk passerby became so inflamed that he beat up a dummy. He was later arrested for provocation—turns out he couldn’t be charged with assault on an actual officer.

8. Good Samaritans

Police not only are expected to enforce the law, but also mediate disputes. In some cases, local officers have gone above and beyond. One officer in Zhejiang used his own personal WeChat to help a farmer sell his pigs, so he could pay back a neighbor over a dispute. Another off-duty officer in Sichuan stopped the attempted theft of an electric bike—only to see his own bike stolen instead.

9. Interpol chief arrested

Meng Hongwei, former vice-minister of public security, was taken into Chinese custody for bribery in September. The only problem? At the time, he was the Chief of Interpol, the international organization for police cooperation. His detention and subsequent resignation sent shockwaves across the world.

10. Face it, you’re busted

Western and Chinese media were abuzz with news of China’s new sunglasses—equipped with facial recognition technology to police find criminals they cannot simply identify over a spicy meal (see #3 above). However, there have been many stories of AI-induced mishaps, including when a camera mistook a woman in an advertisement on the side of a bus for a jaywalker.


Emily Conrad is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.