Getting ripped off in Yunnan

This can happen anywhere and is not unique to China. But surely as China develops and people make more money, we’ll be seeing more of it. I am posting briefly about it here because the victims of this particular story are people very important to me.

Yesterday one of my closest friends in Beijing sent me an email that was obviously written in a state of panic: his naive father had been tricked by con artists who managed to walk away with his life savings. This is a man in Yunnan with no job whose wife sells vegetables in a local market. The amount that was stolen sounds negligible to Westerners, but it was all the security they had.

We spoke on the phone and exchanged several emails, but there was little I could say to make the situation any better. Today, he told me his parents have adjusted to their new reality and are altering their lives accordingly.

This accident is too terrible to believe, like a nightmare. My parents still went to vegetable market to sell this morning. My mother planned to sell her few stock to other vendors, then stop this business which he worked hard for 15 years. I told my parents that I hope they take good care of themselves, nothing could be more valuable than their health. I also tried to ask my brother-in-law to stay with my parents as long as possible, I do not let them alone at this special time. My brother-in-law planned to take my mother to another town which he is teaching in.

All my family including me should learn the lesson from this accident. We should be more cautious and choose proper personal finacial management model that could reduce risk. Maybe for my parents, they are too old and traditional. But for me, this will be a lesson I must learn from. I plan to buy an insurance for my mother, she never worked for any corporate and isolated from social security system. (My current security status is the same with my mother, but I will change it in few month).

I will take my parents to visit Beijing, it is their dream even for my dead grandmother. My parents are almost 60 years old, they worked hard for more than 40 years, but they never lived in any star-hotel for one night……for my mother, she never be out of Yunnan. All this will become my motivation to work hard to let them experience best life, they deserve it!

Apparently this sort of story is not that unusual in China, and there’s no mechanism in place to stop or prevent it. That’s not a criticism; it’s just one more thing China will need to learn to deal with as it progresses. I hope that as the leaders focus more attention on its poor citizens in the countryside that they will help educate them and protect them from the exploitation and trickery that have plagued them through the centuries. This example drove home to me just how tragic the consequences of ignorance and naitvete can be.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

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