Johannesburg - “Hello!” “How are you?” and “I love you!” echo from the voices reading in Chinese at the SA Chinese Community and Police Co-operation Centre in Joburg.

Yes, a group of South African police are reading Chinese.

Even with the rapid development of the Chinese economy, one would hardly expect to find a group of local police engrossed in the language.

Last week saw the opening of the first police Chinese training course, sponsored by the Chinese embassy and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.

The centre hosts the class, with 18 students in attendance. “You are the first group of police on the continent to learn Chinese; you are making history,” officials said.

“We hope local police who regularly deal with Chinese people can master some Chinese and improve their work performance,” Wu Shaokang, director of the centre, said.

In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in cases involving Chinese people, partly due to differences in language and culture. In some instances, the efficiency of the police has been questioned.

The teacher is Cong Lin, who came to South Africa in 1992. “The class will help the local police to understand and respect Chinese people. I hope these officers don’t only learn the language, but also learn something of Chinese culture.”

“Sometimes we encounter Chinese people who cannot speak English,” said a police officer, who works at OR Tambo International Airport.”

Classes are planned for Durban and Cape Town and the Chinese government will soon subsidise officials from police headquarters and the immigration office to study Chinese for a year in China.

Saturday Star