By law pedestrians have the right of way when crossing a street in a zebra. Recently there has been a campaign to ticket drivers for not yielding to pedestrians.

At a zebra close to my house the police set up a camera trap to catch people not yielding to pedestrians. They had a camera strategically placed on a tripod aimed at the zebra.

I asked the police if I could photograph them. They said yes. I went across the street and ordered a cold lime fizz where I could sit and cool off while I watched.

Within a couple of minutes they bagged their first scofflaw. I got up and took my camera across the street. A small crowd, maybe 15-20 quickly gathered. As I reached the scene I steadied my camera arm on a yellow safety pylon when, crash!

One of the police had put his camera atop the pylon. I had knocked it to the pavement. He picked it up and turned it off. The lens didn’t retract properly.

I have never had any interaction with Chinese police, but I’ve heard rumors and horror stories about them. I had visions of myself disappearing into a jail cell surrounded by non-English speakers for weeks, if not months. I imagined being tortured and forced to sign papers I didn’t understand. I saw myself being beaten and expelled from the country.

I immediately apologized many times. I also made it clear that I would be happy to pay for the camera. The policeman and a couple of his friends kept turning it off and on. The lens moved, but never retracted properly. There was more attention paid to me by the onlookers than to the driver who had been stopped. I broke out in a sweat.

Fortunately one of the civilians in the crowd spoke English, and relayed my apologies and offers to reimburse to the officer. After a couple of minutes, the bystander told me the police said I should go on home. Thankfully, I did.