Locals want foreigners to feel safe, welcome in Beijing

8/11/2008 - Olympic Sports

BEIJING -- They are sad, and a little worried, and their hearts go out to the family of Todd Bachman, the father-in-law of U.S. men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon who was murdered by a Chinese citizen in Beijing on Saturday.

But a few everyday residents here also want Americans to know that the crime shouldn't stop them from feeling welcome, and that their country is generally safe for, and open to, foreigners.

Mr. Li and Mrs. Chen, who did not provide their full names, are a married couple who run a small print shop in a traditional alleyway neighborhood in the old center of the city. They asked, through an interpreter, that Americans not hold the crime against their city or their nation.

"We are sorry it happened," Li said. "But in a country of 1.3 billion people, you could have some people who would do these things."

They stressed that such incidents are rare in China, where crimes against foreigners are punished more harshly than crimes against Chinese.

"Normally, these things don't happen," Li said.

He said he wants Americans to keep visiting.

"Americans are very great," Li said. "They make a lot of contributions to the world. We hope this doesn't have a bad effect on the U.S. and China." The China he wants the world to know is the one that showcased its history and technology at the opening ceremony Friday night.

A pair of 20-something Beijing residents agreed.

A man who identified himself as "Max," and his friend, who did not give his name, said they wanted to stress how the Olympics have improved their city, with massive developments in transportation and parks in the past seven years. They say they know this not just because they've observed improvements, but also because they've worked on them as systems managers at Beijing's new airport terminal.

They were out on a day off, walking in their alley neighborhood near Tiananmen Square, as local streets teemed with sightseers from all parts of the world, but mainly from China.

They hadn't heard many details of the stabbings, but they were quick to add that the crime was unusual.

"These things don't happen very often," Max said. "Beijing is a capital city, and there is so much security here."

But the security couldn't stop everything.

"The man who did this, I don't know what he was thinking about," Liu said. "We want to see foreigners. We want to talk to them and learn about them and show them China."

Luke Cyphers is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.