Theft with Integrity


I love the Chinese movie 老炮儿 ‘Lao Pao-er’ (In English it’s called “Mr Six”). It is named after the sort of person who spends regular time in prison. Set in quintessential Beijing, anyone who has spent time in this enigmatic city will enjoy its familiar scenes. More than scenery, however, I love the way it has much to say about traditional Beijing culture. 

In the opening scene the main character, Mr Six (played by the famous Chinese director, Feng Xiaogang), witnesses a petty thief at work. He approaches the thief and demands that he take the cash but post the victim’s Identity Card back to him (to save him the trouble of applying for a new one). I find this is representative of Beijing’s high moral standards. In all my time here, I have often marvelled at the morality of the true Beijinger. They are truly unique people of honour.

Teacher Wang, senior teacher at 1on1 Mandarin, is a Beijinger – born and bred. She is always ready for a conversation about Beijing culture. So today I asked her about the movie ‘Lao Pao-er’. And she confirmed that, yes, Beijingers are proud of their moral standards, even down to the petty thieves.

Teacher Wang says that when she was a new graduate, in the early 1990’s, she herself had her purse stolen. This purse was no ordinary purse. In fact it was a genuine Louis Vuitton purse. At the time she had only 100 yuan inside. While that sounds like just a small amount, in fact it was 1-2 months’ salary at the time.

Sure enough, true to Beijing principles, a few days later Teacher Wang’s purse, together with her Identity Card and all of her important documents, BUT minus the 100 yuan, arrived at her home in the post. I asked her if someone had found the purse. “No, it was definitely the thief”.

Alas… if only the world’s thieves could learn from the morality of the Beijing petty thief!!