Should we get involved? A question that has plagued foreigners living in China since time immemorial. Do we step in when we see some gross injustice, or simply let it pass as “not our fight?”

It’s a tough question, and one not easily answered — unless you’re a rollerblading laowai in southern China’s Guangzhou. Being called “Rollerman”, the foreigner has been caught on traffic cameras around the city animatedly pointing out traffic violations to cars sporting government plates who no doubt thought they were above such petty laws.

According to The Independent:

He is an unlikely superhero – more Clark Kent than Superman, in a red T-shirt, often wearing his backpack or clutching his shopping in a brown paper bag as he points at the signs being flagrantly ignored by the cadres.

In an atmosphere of growing hostility towards perceived abuse of privilege by government officials, Rollerman has his fans, although some are concerned that it takes a laowai – a common Chinese expression to describe a foreigner – to intervene to stop the cadres breaking the rules.

“In the evening I always see cars doing this on that road, and I give them an angry star (gesture),” said one web commentator. “We should call this foreigner a hero. If we all acted like this on the road, we’d be charged with disrupting state security! But that it takes a laowai to help us sort out the business of the road is shameful.”

Officials can frequently be seen whizzing down the breakdown lane, horns honking, in black Audi limousines and, increasingly, in large Porsche SUVs. Many ordinary Chinese question whether they are indeed on official business.

“There’s no way that we could behave like Rollerman,” wrote the web commentator. “(The police and government) take bullying us citizens as their right … Only foreigners can do this, not us.”

As residents here, do we have a right to stand up to abuses of power like this? Can we use our Foreigner Card to champion those who cannot afford to risk being stomped on by folks with more influence and power than them? Or should we just keep our heads down stay the frak out of things? What do you think?


  1. Kudos to the foreigner. We live here and are as affected by the idiots who drive like they own the road as any Chinese person is. I’d do it myself but I’m afraid the driver would just gun it and run me over.

  2. I wouldn’t feel bad for one second for doing this. Chinese people are unfortunately too non-confrontational and afraid to stand-up to anyone unless they know they can win. Most foreigners do not feel this way. Allowing people to get away with this is dangerous for the safety of myself and others.

    This is only news because he’s doing it to a car with government plates (who are exempt from traffic rules because traffic police don’t have authority over them and there is no military traffic police). These things happen EVERYDAY by people with government plates and regular cars. I’d guess 99% of the time it is impatience and stupidity of drivers that makes them think they can just do whatever they want on the road.

  3. “As residents here, do we have a right to stand up to abuses of power like this?”

    As a resident ANYWHERE, I have the right to stand up to abuses of power. Why would residency status matter?

    • “As a resident ANYWHERE, I have the right to stand up to abuses of power. Why would residency status matter?”

      Because in China you stand up to abuses of power and residency status may not be your only concern, no matter how trivial playing amateur traffic cop may seem…it takes serious guts to stand up to those in power here. Moreover, when it comes to automobiles people in cars think they are better than pedestrians because they have this status symbol. I can not tell you how many times I have nearly been taken out by someone in a car running a light or swerving right towards me with no regard for the peasant pedestrian while their horn blast a chorus of “make way for the nouveau riche” the whole time my much nicer car sits in a garage in America collecting dust and depreciating in value.

    • Depends on how we’re defining “right”. I meant it in a rather cliched general sense, but I think you’re going more the “human” sense… but ultimately I think it’s a stretch to say traffic violations are fighting the good fight, and so really I guess it’s in the “legal” sense that matters most in relevancy — particularly with how it relates to residence.

  4. One of my favorite things to do when I need to vent a little steam is to find someone clearly doing something wrong that they know is wrong and that everyone around them knows is wrong and to point at them while yelling at the top of my lungs about how (insert adjective here) they are.

    My personal favorite is “uncivilized” but I’ve also been known to use “dirty”.

    Best phrase used multiple times is “you must have just arrived from the countryside, otherwise you would know about X”.

    Best phrase used only once (so far) is “5000 years of history and you need a foreigner to teach you what civilized means”.

    All in Chinese, of course.

    I’ve forced people to pick up their litter, had a parent pull up the pants on a still urinating child (about 8 years old) and take them to the nearby (clean, free) toilet, and had the officials at Passport Control tell the line jumpers to go back where they belong.

  5. Pingback: Foreigners driving badly: laowai hits truck in bike lane with his Ferrari - Lost Laowai

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