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4/09/2004 6:12pm,
I thought you guys might be interested in this article from the Washington Post...

In Chinese City, Kung Fu for Hire
Martial Artists in Demand as Bodyguards
By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, April 9, 2004; Page A12

SHENZHEN, China -- Squat, with coiled muscles and a Marine's buzz-cut, Wu Chuan Wu looks the part: kung fu master for hire. His tight, powerful build and can-do attitude are comforting attributes for the Chinese and foreign businessmen who pay him for close protection in this crime-infested boomtown in southern China.

"Just give me a call," he said in an interview at the martial arts school where he teaches as a day job. "I can arrange it. Any time. Any place."

Wu, 21, and fellow kung fu experts have become hot property as bodyguards in Shenzhen, which in just over two decades has rocketed from a town of 30,000 to a manufacturing metropolis of 6 million and counting. Laissez-faire economics have brought the city sudden wealth, but also crime, including kidnappings and holdups that make security a concern among legions of businessmen who make deals in the flat, endless expanses of assembly plants that surround the city.

Although celebrities from neighboring Hong Kong have long employed private bodyguards to ward off overenthusiastic fans, hiring muscle to protect businessmen is a relatively new phenomenon in China. The country's authoritarian government and extensive security forces traditionally have kept the streets comparatively safe, even if white-collar crime and corruption have flourished during economic liberalization.

But Shenzhen, officials here acknowledge, has become something different, a pioneer in economic reform during the 1980s and now in the downside of boom. The freewheeling and risk-taking atmosphere that fostered a surge in prosperity, gaining Shenzhen a reputation as the richest city in China, has also encouraged crime. Many of the new criminals, the officials say, emerge from a floating population of nearly 4 million people drawn from their home provinces by hope of employment in a city whose gross domestic product was $34 billion last year.

Shenzhen authorities reported the number of criminal cases here rose by 57 percent in 2003, to more than 100,000. Kidnappings jumped by 75 percent, while assaults and murders increased by more than a third, they said. In response, the national government deployed 500 members of its paramilitary People's Armed Police, or PAP, to aid local officers.

Aware of public concern, acting mayor Li Hongzhong recently told Shenzhen reporters the city also has allocated funds to hire 3,000 more policemen. "The government has to bear the responsibility for the security problem in Shenzhen," he said at a news conference. "We have not done a good job."

Authorities have reported a drop in the crime rate in the last several months because of their crackdown and the PAP deployment. But signs abound that Shenzhen's people are still worried.

A street hustler warns a visitor against going into some downtown neighborhoods, for instance, and a friend cautions that pickpockets patrol the central train station. A busboy at one of the city's best hotels declines to accept a laptop computer for a few hours of safekeeping, explaining, "It's valuable, isn't it?" The Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce in February issued an advisory to members traveling here that they should avoid wearing jewelry, carry only as much cash as necessary and check carefully through peepholes before opening hotel room doors.

The worries seem easy to understand. A gang of 29 people was tried in February on charges of robbing or kidnapping for ransom more than 30 people, many of them Hong Kong businessmen, according to Shenzhen newspapers. Hong Kong police told reporters there that they received 30 reports a month of Hong Kong residents being kidnapped in Shenzhen during the first nine months of 2003.

Another kidnapper, not part of the gang, made Wu Yande, 11, his victim two weeks ago outside the elite Shenzhen Experimental School in the city's comfortable Nanshan neighborhood. Witnesses and news accounts said Zhou Li, 27, a laborer from Hunan Province, grabbed the boy and put a kitchen knife to his neck just after Wu's mother, We Peigin, 36, picked him up in a sport-utility vehicle.

Zhou demanded 50,000 yuan, a little over $6,000, in exchange for Wu's safety, Shenzhen newspapers reported. The witnesses, parents of Wu's classmates who declined to be identified, said We, the boy's mother, jumped from the vehicle and, using a remote control key, locked her son and the kidnaper inside behind smoked windows.

School security officers quickly surrounded the car and called the police. For an hour, police officers tried to talk Zhou out, using cell phones. Finally, a policewoman posing as a teacher pretended to deliver the ransom money and, as she opened the door, several policemen who had been crouching unseen behind the vehicle burst through and freed Wu unharmed, the witnesses said.

In this atmosphere, the kung fu master Wu said, he and other martial arts masters get frequent calls for assignments to protect visitors or from security company recruiters seeking to hire bodyguards. According to Chinese law, he said, they are not allowed to carry weapons. And according to martial arts ethics, which Wu said he learned at the fabled Shao Lin Monastery, he and his colleagues refuse to attack anybody except to defend a client under attack.

The bodyguards for hire have a smattering of English and most speak Mandarin Chinese in addition to their own dialects, he said during a break in his training routine at the Shenzhen City Dexiu Martial Arts Institute. But elegant language is not really what Wu offers his clients.

"We don't speak too much anyway," he said. "Our job is to protect you. So we don't drink alcohol and things like that. We just stand back and protect you."

In theory, Chinese law forbids private bodyguard companies. As a result, security companies here generally do not advertise that part of their business.

But one firm, Shenzhen Security Services Co., had no trouble making its services known. Within 25 minutes of a telephone call from a friend, the marketing manager and martial arts coach, Chen Zewu, showed up to explain the firm and provide a brochure with photos of its martial arts experts and black-clad commandos carrying lightweight automatic weapons.

For a price that depends on the length of the contract and the duties required, Chen said, his men can be hired to protect celebrities or businessmen visiting Shenzhen. Most employees are retired special operations soldiers or kung fu trainers, he said.

Asked about weapons, Chen said Chinese law forbids them. But he pointed to a photograph of commandos with rifles and said, "If you have a large amount of money to transport, or some other special assignment, they can be provided."

The company, he explained, is owned by Shenzhen city's public security department, a branch of the police.

The silk road is gone but the gong-fu escort business is back.

4/09/2004 6:46pm,
Crouching Tiger!

4/09/2004 10:26pm,
damn it, now everyone's going to know!

4/09/2004 10:43pm,
And the beat goes on.

4/17/2004 9:41am,
Yojimbo returns.

4/18/2004 1:05am,
Have sash, will travel.

4/18/2004 1:33am,
Im eager.

4/18/2004 4:53am,
Lone Wolf. . .and Client.


(oh, that's Japanese. . .how about Jet Li's Bodyguard from Bejing?")

4/21/2004 3:08am,
I worked in Shenzhen for 6 months, for a joint venture company. I met lots of great people and never had any problems. Sometimes I had to work late at night and was wandering around the streets looking for various businesses. One of the other guys I worked with was robbed while visiting a construction site. He came back to the apartment wearing nothing but his underwear because two guys with machettes took him for everything he had. But at the time I thought it was a freak thing. And there are LOTS of extremely cute girls in Shenzhen :-)

4/21/2004 4:46am,
Originally posted by Meex
Lone Wolf. . .and Client.

Lol, now that was an okay manga... until they licensed it anyhow. :(

4/25/2004 1:56am,
LOL own3d

Wounded Ronin
5/06/2004 10:22am,
So, are people not allowed to own firearms in Shenzhen? Is that why their selling point is kung fu?

5/09/2004 3:07am,
what do the cops carry?

5/09/2004 4:07am,
Lol, for some reason when I saw this thread again I thought KFColin had started up a business. :)

5/10/2004 4:02pm,
Originally posted by Hats
what do the cops carry?

A stick and some rope. I am not joking.

Hong Kong police told reporters there that they received 30 reports a month of Hong Kong residents being kidnapped in Shenzhen during the first nine months of 2003.

Versus the last 9 months of 2003 right?

Where did you find this? And who else finds it funny that a bunch of 20-something people are running around claiming to be martial arts masters and playing bodyguard? Makes me wonder how many of these masters have ever fought before, and how many have died protecting there client.

6/05/2004 2:52am,
I rather hire a bodyguard with a bulletproof vest and a submachine gun before I look for the best fighter in the world.