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Chinese police to join Croatian patrols

By JULIAN SHEA in London | China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-19 07:11

Chinese law enforcement officers join Croatian colleagues on the streets of the capital Zagreb, July 13, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

Chinese tourists in Croatia will be in for a surprise when they see police from their homeland patrolling the streets this summer.

For the second year running, Chinese law enforcement officers will be joining their fellow professionals in the popular Balkan tourist destination on the streets of the capital Zagreb, the historic walled city of Dubrovnik, tourist resort Zadar and Croatia's biggest county, Lika-Senj.

Croatia has been running the Safe Tourism Season project since 2006 when officers from Hungary became the first foreign law enforcement officials invited to take part. Since then, more than 800 officers from 19 countries have come to assist their Croatian counterparts at the height of the tourist season, undergoing special localized training before starting patrols.

In addition to the helpful presence of fellow Chinese officers on the streets, Chinese tourists will also be able to benefit from special telephone support lines set up in the regions where the visiting police are deployed, with compatriots answering calls.

In 2018, there were six officers from China and this year there will be eight.

Croatia, which was part of the former Yugoslavia, is proving an increasingly popular destination for Chinese visitors.

In the first half, there has been a 53 percent year-on-year rise in the number of Chinese visitors to the ancient Roman port of Split, and a 20 percent increase in numbers going to Zagreb.

"Chinese tourists are mostly interested in historical and cultural monuments and sightseeing," said Zagreb Tourist Board spokeswoman Darja Dragoje.

International police organization Interpol has praised the Safe Tourism Season initiative as an example of the best international police practice, and China's ambassador in Zagreb, Xu Erwen, said the inclusion of Chinese police in the project confirms the two countries' traditional friendship and cooperation.

A generation on from the brutal war that broke out in the aftermath of the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, the countries of the Balkan Peninsula are proving to be of increasing interest to China in a variety of ways.

Chinese tourists can travel visa-free to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and have become an important part of the country's tourism industry. In 2018, the number of Chinese visitors to the capital city, Sarajevo, rose 118.7 percent and overnight stays increased 114.5 percent compared with the previous year, said the city's Institute for Informatics and Statistics.

Earlier this year, a museum and walking tour dedicated to the 1972 film Valter Brani Sarajevo (Walter Defends Sarajevo), which is hugely popular in China, were opened.

A similar visa-free arrangement between China and another of the former Yugoslav states, Serbia, has seen a steep increase in the number of Chinese students choosing to study in the country's universities.

Croatia and Slovenia are the only parts of the former Yugoslavia that are currently members of the European Union, but the wider Balkan region is of increasing interest to China economically because of the Belt and Road Initiative, and its proximity to the frontier between Europe and Asia.

Over the past two and a half years, Premier Li Keqiang has had five meetings with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, most recently in April when he attended the meeting of the Heads of Government of Central and Eastern European Countries and China in Dubrovnik.


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