Planet China

Diving Queen

In China the term pengci literally means “bumping porcelain”. It refers to a scam in the antique industry where a cheap vase is strategically placed so that shoppers may easily brush it and thus knock the object over. The owner will then demand an outrageous compensation for the broken ‘antique’. More recently pengci has come to mean scams that see perpetrators throw themselves fearlessly in front of cars and inveigle compensation money out of unsuspecting drivers. In Zhejiang, an enterprising crook named Chen Xuemei is so good at pengci that she decided to open a training school to recruit apprentices to expand her scam. Her team of 18 would pour fake blood on their bodies as they lay by the wheels of reversing trucks, and derived considerable success from their shakedowns. And if their mark became reluctant to pay the demanded compensation they’d call a fake emergency services number, where yet another scamster pretended to be a policeman and urged the victim to settle there and then. Chen was only arrested this month.

Their undoing came when a real policeman turned up at the scene, leading to the arrest of all 18 and leading one netizen to comment “with such clever brains, why don’t they do legitimate things?”

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