In the hit AMC show Mad Men, Don Draper lies about his identity and rises through the ranks of a Manhattan advertising agency to become its wildly successful, womanising, creative director.
In some ways the story of Lu Enguang, a former deputy justice minster now on trial for paying bribes, is not all that different.
Lu, just like Draper, is accused of being a fraud. According to the prosecutors he lied about everything from his name, his age, to his educational background.
Every time Lu went up a rank he paid someone off to turn a blind eye to the inconsistencies in his story.
He told CCTV: “I was so obsessed with being an official. Looking back at the paths I walked over the last 20 years, it feels like a dream, a nightmare. I was crazy.”
The story of his rise has led many to question the integrity of the Communist Party’s vetting system. “If one or two fish die in a fish bowl it might be problem with the fish, but if a fish dies every day there is a problem with the water and the bowl,” one person wrote on weibo.
The Party has punished more than a million officials for corruption since 2012. Yet Lu’s story stands out for his all-consuming desire simply to be “an official” and the sheer number of lies he told.
The fibs have earned him the nickname “the ultimate fake official; while his passionate attachment to officialdom has even caused a few to dub him a hero.
“All he wanted to do was to serve. We need more people like him,” claimed a sympathiser on weibo.
Lu only had a high school diploma and initially worked as a school teacher in the early 1990s. He then moved into business but he craved the respect that he felt only government officials received.
He applied to join the Party but didn’t want to wait for two years for approval – as is mandatory. So he backdated his application and paid the local Party secretary to accept it. It was this document that in 2016 caught investigators’ attention. It was dated 1990 but referred to events in 1992.
His bureaucratic career then progressed from a township-level role to provincial level, eventually arriving in Beijing as president of the China Times, a state-run newspaper.
Along the way he bought an undergraduate degree certificate and a doctorate, before finally becoming a senior official within the justice system.
But the higher Lu climbed the more scrutiny he received. When Xi Jinping’s graft crackdown began he was among the first to be reviewed. His story quickly fell apart – he had said he was seven years younger than his real age and he’d even changed his name to make it sound more ‘reliable’.
But perhaps his biggest transgression was his home life. In spite of China’s strict population limits, he had seven children – two of which he admitted as his own, and five of which he had registered as the offspring of various relatives.
In his defence: he was apparently pretty good at his job, in spite of the lies he told. His trial continues.
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