Shanghai's Cycling Thug

Saturday Show

Saturday Show Hosts

My ChinesePod co-worker Colleen, new co-host of The Saturday Show and outstanding Canadian, is a very sweet girl. I was shocked to hear that she recently fell victim to violence on the streets of Shanghai.

She was walking along the side of a downtown street in broad daylight. Bicycles were going by, as usual. Suddenly an oncoming cyclist stuck out his arm and intentionally clotheslined her, knocking her to the ground. As she lay on the street, stunned, she heard her attacker laughing as he rode away.

It was really hard for me to believe this story. Shanghai is usually so free of violent crime — especially against foreigners. I can’t imagine what possessed the guy to do that.

I’ll resist the urge to try to start a Chinese-style internet witch-hunt for “a Chinese guy on a bike in a jean jacket.” This kind of thing really is rare.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. That sucks, hard.

    As for motivations, well: 1) the guy is pretty obviously an asshole for even thinking that. 2) Probably emboldened by the fact that there’s almost no way he’s going to get caught. He’s on a bike, his victim is on foot, and there’s almost no chance of some passerby even stopping to see if she was alright, let alone confronting the guy.

    A Chinese friend of mine once told me that he thought 95% of petty crime in China could be eliminated if people just cared a little bit about one another. But, they don’t, and that’s sad.

  2. That’s awful! I keep telling people that I felt safer in China than in the US (except for a few homicidal cabbies, of course) but this story shows that some people are just jerks.

  3. Exsqueeze me Says: January 8, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Maybe he thought Colleen was Jean Grey from the X-Men, and being worried she might use her telekinetic powers to hurl him of his bike, decided to go on the offensive.

    Go shorty, it’s your birthday

  4. With that artificial hair, she sure sticks out. The laughing indicates that the thug knew exactly what he was doing, and was gratified by the result. Maybe some Professor Zhang type just didn’t like the looks of her, and decided on a little impromptu street justice.

  5. Disgraceful. If that went down in my ‘hood I’m sure someone would have chased him down. Disgusting. Contrary to an earlier post I think that it’s not indicative at all of Shanghai. I know many a grubby security guard who would have chased that bastard until their legs gave way.

  6. Ive seen those Shanghai boys – I’m surprised when he close lined her he didn’t get ripped from his bicycle.

    Pretty shocked that happened to be honest. Could it be attributed to the its ‘soon to be Chinese New Year’ when all the nuts and scammers come out in droves usually to earn a quick buck?

  7. Am I a bad person for laughing when I read that?

  8. I’m just visiting my aunt in Shanghai this winter, and I’d never have imagined this type of cruelty towards a foreigner (if indeed, that was the one reason why she was attacked) in any major Chinese city. Granted, I moved to America as a toddler, I still visit family frequently enough in China, and the closest thing to violence subjected to foreigners I’ve ever seen are the slightly alarming, grabby sales people.

  9. In Hainan, purse snatching was quite common when I was down there. I used to clutch my european man (no offense to yerps or men) purse tightly when I was in the busier sections of Haikou. However, I think the fact that you are “surprised” by this means that, for a big city, Shanghai really is quite safe.

  10. Once, in Chengdu, someone dropped a lit cigarette into my coat pocket. It caused a small fire and some alarm, but mostly embarrassment. I guess maybe the thug was teaching me a lesson though, because in that same pocket was my wallet, and he didn’t steal it, although he could have. There was lots of pick-pocketing of foreigners going on in GuangHau Village when I was there.

  11. How’s Colleen? Is she alright?
    (Well nobody else asked…)

  12. Kris,

    Yeah, she’s fine. So are you back now?

  13. I was just surfing the net and by chance I came across this thread. China in general is very safe country, more so for foreigners and locals. If there is a victim of street crime, chances are, the thugs will pick out the Asian looking faces as their victims over the western faces. This is hard to explain why. I have been living in the US for many years now. When I went back to Hong Kong or China to visit, I feel very safe, if I don’t stray into the neighborhoods plagued by thugs. No matter where you go in the world, there is always “bad elements” lurking around for victims. The fact that this thug “clotheslined” your friend in day light is rare in the crown-jewel city like Shanghai. This type of hit-and-run heinous crime is typically carried out by thugs from other provinces.

  14. What a pity. I’ve just returned from Sanya to Shanghai where I’ve lived for four years and and felt pretty safe. In Sanya for four days I witnessed two probably fatal road accidents and just managed to hold onto my bag when a man tried to snatch it. I was sitting in the back of a sanlun che, he was on the back of a motorbike. I was taken completely by surprise, there was a struggle and he gave up – luckily no violence, but I’m revising my opinion about safety here.

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