Over the past decade we have occasionally reported on the phenomenon of fake officials in China. These bluffers take on a formal title and exploit it to gain benefits from gullible people, often those who think they can buy influence with a local government.
Earlier this month a case from a district court in Chengdu made plain that these frauds are still happening, when Li Jianming was jailed for a year for a piece of audacious fakery.
His ruse began in 2016 when he posted on his WeChat account that he had been appointed as ‘Director of the Standing Committee of Sichuan Province’. The grandiose (but entirely invented) title attracted the attention of a local businessman surnamed Tong who, according to Chongqing Daily, was keen to get a city government’s approvals for his proposed electric vehicle factory. Li told Tong he could arrange for him to meet a deputy governor and was put up in a luxury hotel by Tong with all his expenses covered. Li continued to act the impostor for another year, before being undone in November 2017 when he joined a meeting of a Sichuan branch of the China Writers Association. That session was televised, and senior Sichuan officials watching it were soon wondering who this ‘colleague’ really was. On July 6 the court jailed Li for forging official documents and swindling. Aside from his jail time, Li was landed with the remarkably small fine of Rmb1,000 ($145).
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