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Cellist case reflects skewed attitude to foreigners

By Yu Jincui (Global Times)

13:22, May 19, 2012

Not long after last week's incident involving alleged sexual harassment by a British man, a Russian has now stirred another round of online uproar for his rude behavior toward a Chinese woman.

Oleg Vedernikov, the man behind the outrage, is the principal cellist at the Beijing Symphony Orchestra. In a video more than four minutes in length posted on Sina Weibo Tuesday night, Vedernikov was seen resting his feet on the seat in front of him on a high-speed train. In the ensuing quarrel with the woman, Vedernikov didn't make any apology, but instead poured scorn on the irritated woman. The train staff later stepped in but only tried to appease both sides.

The Beijing Symphony Orchestra released an apology letter from Vedernikov Thursday in its official Weibo account. The letter is coupled with a video in which Vedernikov personally apologizes.

The late apology apparently didn't ease the public's anger. Web users left comments questioning the weak response of the train staff and asked for a tougher punishment for Vedernikov.

We don't know whether the principal cellist really reflected on his mistake or only made the apology under public pressure.

Spats on public transportation happen frequently, but train staff apparently lack experience in dealing with such a matter involving a foreigner. They hoped to end the matter in a "friendly" way, which only made things worse by not stopping Vedernikov's rudeness immediately.

Subtly, governance over foreigners often involves another set of sentiments, especially among China's grass-roots agencies. For example, when police stations in some places receive a report involving a foreigner, the police need to notify the local entry-and-exit administration, instead of starting a proper investigation at once.

In February, police in Wuhan found a Japanese tourist's lost bike in three days, something that rarely occurs in China in such a short time.

Today, giving special privileges to foreigners is still accepted by some Chinese. But at the same time, many foreign residents have complained about convoluted regulations regarding their residence permits and proper documents required for work.

As China opens up, there will be more foreigners coming into the country.

Regulating foreign residents should be done with a fair attitude, without granting preference, but also without excessively profiling them.


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