Chinese police will be patrolling the streets of Paris this summer alongside their French counterparts to help combat a surge in attacks against high-spending Chinese tourists.
The French authorities are determined to improve security for more than a million Chinese tourists who visit the capital for shopping and sightseeing each year.
Their habit of carrying large amounts of cash has made them a "prime target for muggers and pickpockets", a police source said. Chinese visitors to Paris are estimated to spend an average of €1,470 (NZD$2360) each on shopping, mainly buying designer brands, according to Global Blue, the Swiss-based duty free services company.
An interior ministry official said the number of Chinese police to be deployed in Paris was still being decided. "Their role will be preventative and they will carry out patrols with French police at tourist sites," the official said.
In an incident that caused alarm in Beijing and received wide media coverage, a group of 23 Chinese visitors were robbed of cash and passports last year as they left a restaurant only a few hours after landing at Charles de Gaulle airport.
"That was the tipping point," said Tang Lu, the manager of the travel agency Chine Tourisme. "There had always been pickpockets, but last year physical attacks started happening along with the thefts."
The Chinese are the biggest buyers of duty free goods in Paris. The department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps employ hundreds of bilingual staff to help Chinese customers find their way around, but say they are powerless to protect them as they leave the stores.
Galeries Lafayette in Paris. A lot of Chinese tourists have been mugged in luxury department stores across the city. Photo / Thinkstock
"We've witnessed a lot of muggings," said a Chinese saleswoman at a luxury goods store. "The thieves are usually on motorbikes. They ride up on to the pavement and grab the tourists' bags."
More Chinese tourists are expected this summer because of a series of events marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between France and Communist China.
In an indication of the importance Paris attaches to encouraging Chinese visitors, Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, personally welcomed tourists arriving on a flight from Beijing last week.