Manhole covers can bear a passing resemblance to supersized coins. And sometimes they can be worth something, especially the ones that are made from easily recycled metal.
Which is probably how a twenty-something surnamed Fan from Nanjing had the idea of nabbing 500 of them over four months, making more than Rmb40,000 ($6,167) by selling them to scrap merchants, according to the Nanjing Cyber Security Department.
Fan used the proceeds to fund his addiction to female livestreamers – also known in local parlance as “cam girls”.
There are now more than 600 million livestream users in China and over 150 platforms that are hosting livestreams. The majority of viewers are simply shopping or watching people playing eSports online. But another chunk of the multi-billion yuan business is made up of ‘cam girls’ and ‘cam boys’ who chat, flirt, read out messages and do their best to look good.
These livestreamers earn money by promoting products or by getting their fans to send them money or gifts. In Fan’s case, he spent Rmb10,000 in a month on one cam girl, more than he could afford on his monthly salary as a construction worker.
The livestreamers are adept at manipulating the affections of their followers, encouraging them to prove their devotion by sending compensation or even by making their fans compete against one other to show who is the most loyal to their idol.
The government has tried to restrain the worst of the excesses in the sector on several occasions, including earlier this year when seven departments and agencies issued “guiding opinions” to cap the amounts that fans could gift.
“A reasonable upper limit should be set for a single virtual consumer product and a single reward… and if necessary, set up a cooling-off period and the option for delayed payment,” the National Internet Information Office had proposed.
Some netizens supported the suggestions, saying that more should be done to curtail dubious practices online. “Livestreamers asking for rewards is no different from begging online,” wrote one.
The regulatory proposals came after a young mother in Wenzhou threw herself and her baby into a river because her husband had squandered all the family’s money on chats with cam girls.
In another case a livestreamer known as “Your Highness Qiaobiluo” was unmasked as a 58 year-old who had been passing herself off as a twenty-something with the help of online filters (see WiC463). The trickster, who had been getting gifts worth more than Rmb100,000 in a single session, was only caught out when a technical glitch suddenly revealed her to be a middle-aged woman and not the glamorous beauty her fans had believed her to be. “The extreme behaviour of some platforms and livestreamers obviously violates public order and good customs, as well as challenging people’s values and encouraging bad habits,” Xinhua warned.
Meanwhile it was also reported that manhole-thief Fan has been arrested by Nanjing’s authorities.
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