Expeditioning in Xinjiang: Agent Warning

Expeditioning in Xinjiang: Agent Warning

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Xinjiang Tien ShanThe Xinjiang Tien Shan is full of beautiful, unknown, unclimbed and often unnamed peaks.

Xinjiang, China's far western province, is an excellent place for
mountaineering in very remote, and -- if you like -- entirely
untouched ranges. See some of the links to this page for the
information available on Summitpost alone. Despite the best
attempts of a lot of local operators, it's even quite cheap and
easy compared with the more traditional high-mountain destinations.

One of Xinjiang's bigger operators (but he's not the only one)
makes periodic attempts to advertise himself on Summitpost. You
can find his latest effort in the Asia Forum
-- user kbc is Kong Baocun,
whose details are right below. Here I reproduce my reply
because it's of interest to a broad spectrum of SPers, from
exploratory climbers to altitude-addicts who want a go at Muztagh Ata.

What Kong writes is true. Xuelian is a fantastic area with lots
of potential on big, hard, beautiful, untouched mountains; also,
the approach from the north, which was our idea not his, is easy.
Look out for an article in the 2009 AAJ.

However, don't deal with Kong. He is a liar, cheat and extortionist.
He expects to make a 200% profit off every trip he runs, and he does
this all the time on Muztagh Ata. His technique is to keep you
completely ignorant of the true costs. If you ask, he lies. If you
know, he reverts to extortion, threatening to cancel your trip. Once
he had our money (5000EUR on actual costs of 1600EUR + fee) he cheated
us further, cancelling one of the staff we'd paid for. He also underpaid
the other staff member. Ours is not a unique case -- I have heard
from people he has cheated on Muztagh Ata and on other peaks. An
``endorsement'' for him in the 2008 AAJ reads ``dishonest, difficult
to deal with, and manipulative,'' and we will write something similar
in the 2009 edition. Many agents in Xinjiang behave this way, and
most Chinese are shocked and ashamed if they learn how foreign
climbers are being treated in their country.

Look out for Kong Baocun in lots of guises, including Xinjiang Tourism
International, China Xinjiang Mountaineering Organization (not to be
confused with the governmental China Xinjiang Mountaineering Association,
whose name he often invokes), China Alpine Organization, run by his
nephew Kong Genping, and websites including www.chinalpine.org,
www.7546m.com and www.muztaghata.com.

So you know, the cost of a permit for 6000-7000m in Xinjiang (Xuelian)
is 10000RMB. For 7000-8000m (Muztagh Ata) it is 15000RMB. See China News
This number is for up to 11 climbers, and beyond 11 there is a supplement
of 1000RMB per person. There is a huge additional fee for unclimbed peaks.
The regulations say that the CXMA will provide a liaison officer and you
will have to pay his salary in addition. Salary for guides is usually
200RMB per day. In China there are many options for transport, food,
equipment and horses or camels to transport gear. In general it is
completely unnecessary to arrange these things in advance, and you can
do them all yourself on the spot. Even when the agent tells you it is
necessary, and you pay a lot for the advance treatment, you will find
your guide winging it when you get there.

(China Daily June 5, 2008) Source

For anyone who really wants my own official "endorsement" of Kong,
it's here in the three languages over which I have some shaky grasp.

The one thing you can say for Kong Baocun (Xinjiang Tourism
International and China Xinjiang Mountaineering Organisation,
a private company not to be confused with the governmental China
Xinjiang Mountaineering Association) is that he will probably make
sure your trip happens - he is not a fly-by-night operator who will
leave you standing at a checkpoint somewhere with a worthless piece
of paper. However, the price is very high, as he is a deceitful,
dishonourable, greedy little man, who has to make a massive profit
(in our case 200%) off every trip he operates. He lied to me about
the price of the permit, about the costs of the staff, about their
insurance, if indeed he bought any, and about accepting the generous
profit margin I insisted upon as a sign of good faith on both sides.
He cheated me on the staff, insisting that 2 members were necessary
for safety and then cancelling one of them as soon as he had my money.
And, his standard business method is extortion: if you question any of
the costs his reaction, knowing that you have no choice by the time
you are in China, is "well, organise it yourself" - the grossest abuse
of the client's trust.

La seule chose positive qu'on peut dire de Kong Baocun (Xinjiang
Tourism International et China Xinjiang Mountaineering Organisation,
une societe privee pas a confondre avec le departement du gouvernement
China Xinjiang Mountaineering Association), c'est qu'il assure,
probablement, que votre expedition ait lieu -- il n'est pas un des
(plusieurs) operateurs qui vous laisseraient quelque part a une poste
de police sans les papiers necessaires. Cependant, on paye cher : il
est un homme malhonnete, deshonorant et d'une avidite etonnante, qui
doit faire un benefice enorme (de nous 200%) de chaque expedition
qu'il opere. Il a menti au sujets des frais pour le permis, pour le
personnel et pour leur assurance, si meme il l'a payee, et en
acceptant la marge beneficiaire genereuse pour laquelle j'ai insiste
comme signe de toute bonne foi sur tous les deux cotes. Il m'a
escroquer avec le personnel, en exigeant d'abord 2 membres pour
leur propre securite, mais il a retire le deuxieme au moment qu'il
a recu notre argent. De plus, son usage habituel des affaires est
l'extorsion : si vous remettez en cause ses frais, sa reponse, bien
connaissant qu'une fois en Chine vous n'ayez pas de choix, est ``bien,
faites-le vous meme'' - l'abus le plus grand de la confiance du client.

Die einzige gute Sache, die man ueber Kong Baocun (Xinjiang Tourism
International und China Xinjiang Mountaineering Organisation, eine
Personengesellschaft nicht mit der staatlichen China Xinjiang
Mountaineering Association zu verwechseln) sagen kann, ist, dass
Deine Expedition wahrscheinlich ueber die Buehne gehen wird: Er ist
nicht einer unter den (vielen) unverlaesslichen Agenten, die Dich mit
nur wertlosen Papieren an einer Kontrollstelle stehen laesst. Man
bezahlt aber einen hohen Preis, weil er ein betruegerischer,
unehrlicher, geldgieriger, kleiner Mensch ist, der einen riesigen
Gewinn (von uns 200%) aus jeder Expedition kriegen muss. Er hat mir
ueber den Preis der Erlaubnis gelogen, ueber die Personalkosten
gelogen, ueber die Versicherungskosten des Personals gelogen (wenn
er sie ueberhaupt bezahlt hat) und ueber seine Annahme einer
grosszuegigen Gewinnmarge gelogen, worauf ich als Zeichen des guten
Glaubens auf beiden Seiten bestanden habe. Er hat mich mit dem Personal
betrogen, in dem er in Gespraechen stoerrisch behauptet hat, es sei
fuer ihre eigene Sicherheit 2 Leute notwending, aber im Augenblick,
dass er unser Geld bekommen hat, hat er einen zurueckgezogen. Und,
seine uebliche Geschaeftspraxis ist die Erpressung: wenn man einmal
an seinen uebertriebenen Preisen zweifelt, weil er weisst, dass Du
keine Wahl mehr hast, wenn Du schon in China bist, sagt er nur
``geh alles selber organisiern'' -- der groesste Missbrauch des
Vertrauens der Kunde.