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China offers travel advice: don't shout, don't fight

BEIJING — Chinese travelers headed overseas now receive a brochure of behavior tips upon departure. Among them: Don't talk loudly. Blend into crowds. Avoid spats.

Some 34 million Chinese are expected to travel abroad this year, enjoying their rising affluence or seeking jobs overseas, and a few of them are running into danger in hotspots like Pakistan, Nigeria and Iran, a sign of China's growing global engagement.

So Foreign Ministry employees began last week handing out the brochures at international airports in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou with tips on how to avoid trouble, behave appropriately and seek consular help when needed.

Some critics lambasted the campaign on the Internet, saying Chinese should be free to behave badly overseas since many foreigners visiting China also behave poorly.

The brochure, though, highlighted the broader issue of the rising number of Chinese in trouble abroad.

The China Daily newspaper last week quoted Wei Wei, China's director of consular affairs, as saying that more than 30,000 Chinese get into trouble abroad every year. The paper said that 675,000 Chinese now work abroad and 10,000 Chinese companies have operations overseas.

So far this year, groups of Chinese workers have been kidnapped — and freed — in Ethiopia and Nigeria. On July 8, three Chinese were slain in Peshawar, Pakistan, and 11 days later a suicide bomber targeted Chinese engineers in Pakistan's southwest, although all escaped unharmed.

Early this month, the Foreign Ministry acknowledged that two Chinese had been arrested in Iran for taking photos near the site of a heavy water reactor under construction.

"Don't take random pictures in the street to avoid creating trouble," it warned citizens in a short separate statement.

China evacuated scores of its citizens twice in 2006 from Pacific Island nations — the Solomon Islands and Tonga — when looting of Chinese-owned stores erupted.

The Foreign Ministry said it is doubling the size of its consular services to protect Chinese living overseas or traveling abroad.

In the new brochures, and a Website the Ministry has set up, travelers are warned to keep a wary eye out for strangers, respect local customs and don't overstay their visas. They also are urged to read newspapers and stay abreast of events in countries where they temporarily reside.

"Don't talk loudly. Avoid standing out. Don't get involved in the quarrels of others," the website suggests.

On China's most popular portal, Sina.com, some users sassed back.

"The foreigners talk even louder than us," said one user, who didn't offer his name. "English has to be spoken loudly to be understood correctly."

"Does the Foreign Ministry have the right to demand people (not speak loudly)? Isn't it overstepping its authority?" asked another user.

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