Chinese-speaking tourists attack swan by Swiss lake ‘over missed photo’

Widely shared video shows woman teasing bird then grabbing it by the head and neck

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 3:55pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 10:49pm

A group of Chinese-speaking tourists have caused a stir after they were seen teasing and rough-handling a swan in Switzerland in a video that has been widely circulated online.

The footage – shot near the iconic Schwanenplatz, or Swan Square in German, in the scenic lakeside city of Lucerne – begins with the tourists surrounding a large swan.

A woman is seen teasing the bird with what appears to be a piece of paper. When the swan snatches the paper from her hand, another woman steps in and grabs the bird around the head and neck, trying to pry the object from its bill.

The video first surfaced on Snapchat, Swiss news outlet 20 Minuten reported on Monday.

While the news site did not comment on the nationality of the tourists, whose faces were not shown, they could be heard communicating in Chinese.

The video was quickly picked up and circulated by Chinese media outlets and social media platforms.

Chinese reports suggested that a missed photo opportunity had prompted the woman to grab the swan. Right after the swan gets hold of the paper, a member of the group can be heard in the background exclaiming in Mandarin, “Wait, I haven’t got the shot yet”, according to Sina News.

The English-speaker taking the video can be heard expressing his shock at the animal’s treatment.

At one point, the camera pans towards a small sign nearby with a photo of a swan that reads “Please don’t feed us”.

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Online, the video has also been met with outrage. A comment on 20 Minuten’s website that received more than 1,200 likes from other viewers read: “The best tourist is the one who stays where they come from.”

On Chinese social media, internet users expressed dismay at the tourists’ “disgusting” behaviour, referring to it as another case causing “Chinese people to lose face”.

Others came to the defence of the woman who grabbed the swan, pointing out that she might have been trying to save it from swallowing the paper.

“The aunt went out to pick the thing out of the swan’s mouth. Can the person filming not just follow foreign media in smearing the Chinese?” one person wrote.

“This suspected Chinese aunt acted courageously to save the swan,” another said.

Several commenters also focused on the tourists’ nationality, accusing the media of attempting to smear Chinese.

Surrounded by mountains, majestic Lake Lucerne and the luxury watch trade draw more than 9 million visitors to the city each year, and the tourism industry has caused controversy in recent years for its impact on the small population of 80,000.

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The swan video comes on the heels of a diplomatic incident over the treatment of Chinese tourists in another European country. Earlier this month in Stockholm, a Chinese family was forcibly removed from a hostel lobby after arriving hours ahead of check-in time. Footage of a man screaming at police officers outside the hostel was later posted online.

After a Swedish television show mocked Chinese tourists, the Chinese embassy in Sweden issued a statement accusing the programme host of “spreading and advocating racism and xenophobia outright”. Chinese travellers also threatened to boycott the country.

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International tourism accounts for 10 per cent of the European Union’s gross domestic product, with some US$438 billion in tourism receipts rung up last year, according to official data. More than 500 million international travellers visited member countries last year. While tourism from China is growing rapidly, Chinese tourists accounted for only 6 million of those visitors to Europe last year, according to Chinese state media.