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Pickpockets from China targeting flights to, from Southeast Asia: diplomat

Professional mainland Chinese pickpockets have been targeting flights to and from Southeast Asia, a member of Taiwan's representative office in Indonesia said, urging Taiwanese travelers to remain alert.

An Indonesia-based Taiwanese businessman, surnamed Chang, recently discovered that his money had been stolen while on a flight to Hong Kong from the Southeast Asian country.

When Chang boarded the flight, he discovered that his seat had been taken. When confronted by flight attendants, the person in the seat claimed that he was traveling with family members and that he would like to sit next to them.

The flight attendant asked Chang if he would mind taking another seat, but left Chang's carry-on luggage in the overheard compartment above the original seat.

After arriving in Hong Kong, Chang discovered that 6,000 yuan and a specific amount of New Taiwan dollars had been taken from his carry-on luggage. After reporting the situation to the airline's ground staff in Hong Kong, he was told to contact the airline's headquarters in Indonesia.

The airline's headquarters personnel told local reporters in a telephone interview that the airline has to wait until it receives a complaint and establishes contact with the passenger in question before it can look into the situation.

According to local reports, professional mainland Chinese pickpockets have increasingly been targeting Southeast Asia-mainland China and Southeast Asia-Hong Kong flights. The pickpockets tend to travel on budget airlines to cut back on costs.

An R.O.C. Criminal Investigation Bureau liaison in Indonesia told the Central News Agency that there has indeed been an increase in similar cases.

The liaison explained that since overhead compartments tend to be large, flight attendants frequently move carry-on luggage in the compartments to ensure optimal storage; afterward, pickpockets will then get up and re-open the compartments, pretending to be checking their own luggage.

This is when money in other passengers' luggage tends to be stolen, the liaison said, adding that the pickpockets usually don't take cellphones or laptops.

The liaison further urged Taiwanese travelers to keep luggage containing cash in sight and within reach to avoid getting their money stolen.

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