Planet China

Taking the peace

China’s fraudsters have shown ingenuity in the past by impersonating powerful figures (PLA officers and anti-corruption investigators have been favourites). But when it comes to the most creative shanzhai (or fake) enforcement unit, the “United Nations Peacekeeping Command” takes some beating.

Last month two farmers turned up at a prison in Hunan province. Showing a special pass supposedly issued by the UN (it suggested their mandate was to maintain world peace), the two demanded the release of a prisoner. When officers were called to the scene, the pair produced photos of themselves with late leaders such as Deng Xiaoping (mocked up on a computer, of course). Under pressure, one of them even made a phony call to China’s centre of political power, Zhongnanhai.

It didn’t wash: both were arrested and thrown in jail.

The story doesn’t end here. The fake UN officials turned out to be members of a con group set up four years ago. Beijing News reports that the organisation has already recruited several hundred followers. Its founder Yu Sigao, also a farmer from Zhejiang, claims to be a reincarnation of Mao Zedong but to be disguised in this lifetime as the head of the UN Peacekeeping Command. Members of the group are said to be mostly older people from rural areas, recruited if they show signs of being good at deception. It isn’t known if Yu, the shanzhai commander, has been arrested.

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