Story highlights

Jaywalkers are being asked by Shenzhen police to either pay a fine or wear a green hat

In China, the expression "to wear a green hat" means a man is being cheated on

The World Health Organization has estimated that more than 200,000 people die on the roads of China every year

Beijing CNN  — 

Police in southern China just came up with a colorful idea to deter jaywalkers: a green hat for those who run a red light.

And it may just work – thanks to the humiliating cultural implications of donning this particular color of hat, especially for men.

The authorities in Shenzhen, a metropolis of more than 10 million residents bordering Hong Kong, have been cracking down on traffic violations by pedestrians since the beginning of August.

Deploying some 1,000 officers across the city every day, police aim to improve traffic conditions during and after its month-long campaign, a Shenzhen police official confirmed to CNN on Wednesday.

Caught jaywalkers face the choice of a fine between $3 and $16, and a brief stint as traffic cop assistant on the streets, said the police official, who declined to be named.

If violators select the latter option, they are given a hat and a vest – both in bright green – to wear while playing their part in educating other pedestrians to obey traffic rules.

Hat trick

The hat color has caught the attention of both local media and Internet users.

Originating from an ancient Chinese tale, the expression “to wear a green hat” means a man is being cheated on by his wife or girlfriend.

Unsurprisingly, in an online poll of 534 people conducted by the local Southern Metropolitan Daily newspaper on Tuesday, respondents overwhelmingly opted to pay the fine rather than wear green.

Shenzhen police have told local media not to read too much into the meaning of the green hats. Having staged previous “green vest” campaigns targeting jaywalkers, officials said that hats in a matching color to the vests were added this time to shield people from the strong summer sunshine.

As part of their “name and shame” strategy, Shenzhen police have also been posting photos of jaywalkers – including men sporting green hats – on Chinese social media. Repeated offenders will even see their personal credit scores negatively affected, the authorities warn.

Traffic troubles

The World Health Organization has estimated that more than 200,000 people die on the roads of China every year. The law of the jungle often seems to rule the streets across the country as motorists, cyclists and pedestrians fight for space.

Despite the controversy, Shenzhen police’s anti-jaywalking campaign may be creating its desired effect. In the local newspaper poll Tuesday, almost 60% of the respondents said they would now pay more attention to traffic lights when crossing the streets.

When it comes to traffic safety in China, it may be a good idea after all if having someone wear a green hat makes him or her see red (light).

CNN intern Anna Hsieh in Beijing contributed to this report.