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Chinese police are patrolling the streets of Italy to protect mainland tourists as part of a groundbreaking program – the first time China has sent officers to Europe to look after visitors there.
But under local law, the officers would have fairly circumscribed powers, according to an expert.
Four Chinese officers received special training in Beijing before their assignment, and spoke Italian as well as English, Xinhua reported. Each has been paired with a local partner and they have been deployed at the busiest tourist attractions in Rome and Milan.
It was the first time China had sent officers to Europe to protect tourists, Liao Jinrong, the head of international cooperation at the Ministry of Public Security, said during the launch of the program in Rome.
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The teams can offer language help and explain local laws and procedures to visitors who run into trouble.
Professor Simon Young Ngai-man, of the law faculty at the University of Hong Kong, said the Chinese officers might primarily serve as mediators alongside Italian officers. "But under local law, they should not be allowed to conduct arrests or searches or investigations without permission of the Italians," he said.
Similar initiatives had been rolled out by Italian police in cooperation with the United States, Poland and Spain during peak tourism seasons.
A plan to have Chinese police officers deployed in Paris was scrapped in 2014, reportedly over concerns they might have difficulty operating in a legal environment that was so different from the mainland's.
Some also raised worries that the presence of foreign police forces in France might diminish national sovereignty and undermine people's confidence in domestic law enforcement agencies.
Liao, of the Chinese ministry, said the latest move reflected mutual trust cultivated through past collaborations.