China’s television and film regulator – often referred to by the dispiriting acronym SAPPRFT – has been typically busy in recent weeks, cracking down on content that mocks traditional culture. So WiC wonders what the regulator made of the case of Liu Qianzhen, a middle-aged man accused of defrauding a wealthy Shenzhen resident by pretending to be the eighteenth century Qing Dynasty emperor, Qianlong.
Liu first met his victim Zheng Xueju in 2012 via a middleman Wan Jianmin, who claimed to know George Soros. Posing as Qianlong, Liu told Zheng that he had been drinking an elixir of life since his birth in 1711 and that he needed cash to unlock imperial assets that had evaded nationalisation in 1949.
Over the next two years Zheng gave him Rmb40 million ($5.98 million) in the highly implausible hope of huge financial returns.
The scam only came to a head when Liu and Wan were caught spending the cash on houses and cars.
In reality the Qianlong emperor died in 1799, after abdicating in 1796 in a filial act to ensure that his reign didn’t surpass that of his illustrious grandfather, Kangxi. (Qianlong’s rule was regarded as stable and prosperous, producing one of the four classic Chinese novels, The Dream of the Red Chamber.)
Amazingly, this is not the first time that scams like the one in Shenzhen have come to light. Last year a farmer from Henan defrauded some local idiots out of Rmb2.3 million by pretending to be a Qing prince and in 2011 a man in Sichuan gave a Qing princess Rmb30 million to bribe guards that she said were stopping her getting to her ancestral treasure.
The case in Shenzhen has been one of the most viewed topics on social media this week with many netizens asking how a woman this stupid could be so rich.
“What an unfair world we live in that an idiot like her could have Rmb40 millon,” one person complained on weibo.
“This story proves that being rich has nothing to do with IQ,” wrote another.
Others joked that they were the real Qianlong and asked for Liu’s email address.
The newspapers took a moral tone, blaming greed and superstition for her gullibility. “Scammers often succeed where there is human weakness,” said the Information Times.“It’s not how clever the swindler is, it’s how blind your greed makes you. Pies do not fall from the sky,” agreed the People’s Daily. “Success does not come easily, there are hardships but slow and steady is the only way to do well.”
On a more serious note, some swindles have more deadly consequences. Two students in Shandong province were recently reported to have killed themselves after falling victim to phone scammers. In the first case, a high school student handed over her savings in the belief it would get her a university scholarship. In the second, a student had been told the police were after him for a credit card debt.
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