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CORONAVIRUS - FRANCE

Coronavirus criminals pose as police to 'fine' Chinese visitors

Many visitors and locals have taken to wearing face masks in Paris during the coronavirus outbreak.
Many visitors and locals have taken to wearing face masks in Paris during the coronavirus outbreak. STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

The coronavirus has sparked a new type of crime in France, with Chinese visitors wearing protective face masks finding themselves targeted by people posing as police and health officials and forced to pay fines of up to 150 euros, according to the Chinese embassy. 

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"Warning for Chinese citizens in France against criminals posing as police," is the headline on the Chinese embassy in Paris website, published on 7 March.

The statement says that several “Chinese students in France reported that they were fined 150 euros for wearing face masks in public,” allegedly in violation of the “face mask law”.

The Chinese embassy in Paris warns against "fake policemen" fining people wearing face masks against the coronavirus
The Chinese embassy in Paris warns against "fake policemen" fining people wearing face masks against the coronavirus Chinese embassy Paris website screengrab

According to the embassy, the students were informed of their alleged infringement by people posing as “policemen”.

According to a 2010 “law prohibiting the covering of one’s face in public places”, wearing a mask concealing one’s identity in public is forbidden, and doing so can carry a fine of up to 150 euros.

Health reasons

The law, passed under then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, made France the first European country to impose a ban on full-face Islamic veils and niqabs, as well as masks, helmets, balaclavas and other face covering garments in public places.

But the law does not apply if wearing a mask is “justified by health concerns”.

Currently French health authorities encourage people who are affected by the coronavirus, to wear face masks.

The latest figures from the French Ministry of Health, on 9 March, said there were 1,126 Covid-19 cases in the country, with 19 deaths.

The Chinese embassy statement also said that people pretending to be government health officials “entered the houses of Chinese people” living in France, to “carry out robberies”.

“We have verified with the French police and judiciary that this is criminal behaviour by fake policemen,” writes the website, advising people who face similar problems to phone the consular help desk.

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