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July 31, 2012

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5 vendors held in Qipu Road expat beatings

POLICE said yesterday that they have caught five vendors suspected of tailing foreigners to sell knockoff goods and beating them if they don't buy along the popular wholesale market on Qipu Road, commonly known as the "Cheap Road."

But while police and mall management officials say they plan to act against the crime, officials add that the assaults have long been a problem and, even if they are caught, the vendors cannot be punished severely if the victims do not have serious injuries.

The five men were caught after Shanghai Daily reported on Thursday that Steven Bateman, an expat from England, and his wife encountered an "unprovoked physical attack" by two vendors who tailed them at the Qipu Road market on July 1.

According to Bateman, the two vendors followed the couple for about 30 minutes trying to persuade them to buy cheap and fake "Armani" jeans on the afternoon of July 1. The couple ignored them but the two vendors assaulted them in a shady place at the shopping mall.

Bateman told Shanghai Daily that he rushed to the police station in the morning to check on the suspects' photos, but the two attackers were not among the five suspects.

"But still I'm very glad that the police are taking action to seize those vendors, as we learned from security guards and passers-by around the street that we are not the only foreign victims beaten by them," said Bateman.

Police said they would tighten up vigilance of the unlicensed fake good vendors to insure customers' safety on Qipu Road.

But police also said they could not be seriously punished under Chinese law if victims aren't seriously injured.

Meanwhile, an official surnamed Yang with Shanghai Xingwang International Fashion Shopping Mall, where the latest assault took place, told Shanghai Daily that they are asking security guards to block unlicensed vendors at the entrance or drive them out.

"As soon as we see the vendors following customers in the shopping mall via cameras, the guards would ask them to go out," said Yang.

But Yang said the vendors have long been a headache for the mall's management as well as local police.

"Many of the vendors formed different groups that wandered around the street forcing customers to purchase fake goods, which often led to beatings, gang fights, stealing and other crimes," according to a market management plan on the shopping mall's website.

The plan suggests shopping mall guards join with police to keep the vendors out of the mall and catch them if involved in assaults.

"But the problem is they are always hiring new faces, who are dressed in clothes just like other customers," said Yang.


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