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How China’s New Anti-Crime Policy Made a Hunt for Two Jailbreak Fugitives Go Viral

The CPC actively involves and rewards citizens in their new policy on combatting crimes.

Gabi Verberg

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In early October of 2018, a major manhunt on two jailbreak fugitives from a Liaoning prison dominated the news for days and caused a sensation on the Chinese internet. With the 100,000 yuan (US$14,500) reward notice going viral, it marked the first grand online exposure of the Chinese government’s policy to involve its citizens in combatting crime actively, but many netizens question how safe it is for citizens to meddle in criminal affairs.

News about a prison escape of two convicted criminals captured the attention of netizens for days in the first week of October, with the fugitives’ background information, the thrilling chase, and the 100,000 yuan (US$14,500) reward notice all turning out to be the perfect ingredients to keep people hooked on the story, that also happened to occur during the National Day holiday.

The incident was extra special because it was the first major case in which the Chinese government’s ‘new’ method on battling crime by actively involving the public, received massive attention.

 

Timeline of the Chase

 

* Thursday, October 4th, morning:

News comes out that two prisoners have managed to escape from Lingyuan Third Prison in Liaoning province. According to the Beijing Youth Daily, the two criminals stole prison guards’ uniforms and used the attached security cards to get out of the building.

The fugitives, two men by the names of Zhang Guilin (33, 张贵林) and Wang Lei (39, 王磊), were both sentenced to life imprisonment for, respectively, armed robbery and the involvement in kidnapping and murder of an 11-year-old child. Zhang, also nicknamed “Flying Zhang,” gained a reputation for previous prison escapes in 2011 and 2012; the October jailbreak marks his third successful prison escape.

Fugitives Wang (l) and Zhang (r).

*October 4th, morning:

Soon after the criminals escaped from prison, the Lingyuan Municipal Public Security Bureau issues a notice sharing the identity of the fugitives, asking the public to provide clues about their whereabouts. They also announce the clue leading to their arrest will be rewarded with a staggering US$14,500.

The news quickly spreads on Chinese social media, and within no time, the hashtag “Two heavy criminals escaped from prison” #两名重刑犯逃脱# goes viral and receives 170 million views.

*October 4th, 11 am:

The first tip-off: Beijing News publishes crucial surveillance camera footage that was given to police by a small shop in Songzhangzi, only 20 kilometers away from Lingyuan Third prison. It shows the two fugitives buying some food, beverages, and cigarettes, just hours after their escape from prison.

*October 4th, 5 pm:

Wang is spotted at another shop in a village in Pingquan County, in neighboring Hebei province, where he stays for about 10 minutes to buy liquor, beer, mineral water, and sausages.

Police rush to the kiosk shortly after. According to China Daily, about 800 police quickly arrive and nearly 1,000 villagers assist in the manhunt, searching the area from north to south.

*Friday, October 5th:

On the second day of the nationwide manhunt, a fatal crash occurs with a police car involved in the chase for the fugitives. The police car, with four police officers from the Hebei Police Department, was on its way to catch the breakers when it crashed into a tree. Two police officers did not survive the crash.

On Friday night, 430 officers are dispatched to Pingquan, along with 100 prison guards.

*Saturday afternoon, October 6th:

Within 50 hours of their escape, Wang and Zhang are captured. Police in the Hebei city of Chengde dispatch drones to scour the area and spot the convicts in the village of Taitoushan.

According to news reports, Zhang is arrested when he stops to ask a villager for directions. His fellow escapee is caught 20 minutes later.

The hashtags “Two escaped criminals from Liaoning are caught” #逃犯落网视频曝光# and “Video showing arrested fugitives” 逃犯落网视频曝光 are viewed millions of times.

Authorities in Liaoning launch an investigation, and the warden of Lingyuan Prison is dismissed from his position.

 

“Public Reporting on Crime”

 

The Lingyuan jailbreak fugitive case is the first example of a reward notice going viral since the PRC government launched a new trial policy in combatting corruption and other illegal practices earlier in 2018.

The ‘new’ policy is called “Public Reporting on Crime” (群众举报黑恶势力违法犯罪), and aims at actively involving and rewarding citizens in providing information about the whereabouts of criminals.

A state media illustration that propagates public reporting on criminal affairs.

The policy was featured in various media reports in summer of 2018, as a method introduced by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, the Supreme’s People’s Court, Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Justice.

The policy defines 11 categories in which citizens can report illegal practices, including the misuse of (political) power, illegal gambling practices, fraud in various industry sectors, and extortion.

“Reporting is Awarded” (image via sohu.com).

The official document in which the role of the public in the combat of illegal activities was especially stressed, was already issued by authorities in February of 2018 (“关于依法严厉打击黑恶势力违法犯罪的通告”, see Pkulaw.cn).

Amongst the first provinces to experiment with the police are, among others, Henan province, Hainan, and Liaoning province, where the method seems fruitful. In August, the Hainan Police department issued a notice asking for the public’s help in finding 17 fugitives. Attached to the notice where their names, addresses, and photographs. Within two days, 11 of these 17 fugitives were caught by the police.

Award ceremony in Henan for people providing clues to police (https://www.henan100.com/news/2018/805020.shtml).

In Liaoning province, the police started a campaign providing digital and non-digital information about the new policy and the criminals they were looking for. According to local media, they soon received 300 clues and 158 fugitives who turned themselves in.

Possibly as a result of the first successes of the trial policy, the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China, wrote an extension on the policy concerning drugs. On the official website of the Ministry, they published a list of rewards for providing information about ‘drugs practices’. On the list, it says precisely what people can earn for providing clues about several kinds of drugs, where clues relating to soft drugs such as marihuana will receive a lower reward than those relating to hard drugs such as heroin.

Award ceremony (http://sc.people.com.cn/n2/2018/0706/c345167-31785050.html).

State media have been actively propagating the measure in 2018, also reporting on occasions where people are rewarded for giving clues to the police. To protect their identity, these people will commonly wear masks – sometimes even cute panda ones.

 

Scepticism on Safety

 

Wearing panda masks or not, there is ample skepticism online on whether or not providing information to the police is a dangerous move for those involved.

In the case of the Liaoning fugitives, many worried about the identity of the shopkeepers who provided the police with clues and security footage after the fugitives had visited their shops.

After the first sighting of the two criminals in the small store in Songzhangzi, Chinese media reported details on the shop and its owner, which led to much criticism on Weibo. Some commenters wrote: “You brain-dead media, how can you bring out information like this, and who is going to take responsibility when people retaliate against this man?”

Many others expressed their worries, saying: “Isn’t is dangerous to expose the boss [of the shop] like this?”, and “Please do protect this shop owner, thank you!”

Other netizens wrote: “After seeing this news, I know for sure, I will never report on crimes. It’s too dangerous, I don’t want to die.”

The public reporting policy states that the personal safety and confidentiality of ‘whistleblowers’ is guaranteed and that those who turn against these people will be punished severely. According to a post on Weibo by Beijing News, the small shopkeeper in question also received 24-hour police protection in front of his shop.

Concerning the case of the two escaped prisoners, so far, it is not yet clear if the main reward has been given out to citizens for giving the main clue that led to their recapture.

What does seem evident in this case, is that people, despite some worries about their safety, are more than willing to report illegal practices to the police when they know there might be a big reward waiting for them.

By Gabi Verberg and Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Gabi Verberg is a Business graduate from the University of Amsterdam who has worked and studied in Shanghai and Beijing. She now lives in Amsterdam and works as a part-time translator, with a particular interest in Chinese modern culture and politics.

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China Insight

Noteworthy Weibo Moment: Qingdao Government Account Shows Support for LGBT Community

“The best official account post I’ve ever seen on Weibo.”

Wendy Huang

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First published

Some netizens are moved to tears to see an official government account making a public statement in support of the gay community.

Just a day ahead of the 2019 International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (May 17), a Qingdao government social media account has attracted the attention of Chinese netizens for showing support to the gay community.

On the night of May 15, the Information Office of Qingdao Municipal Government published the noteworthy post on its official Weibo account Qingdao Fabu (@青岛发布), which has over 3,8 million followers.

“In a world of equality, let all people turn away from homophobia” (“在平等世界里,让所有人不再恐同”), the post said, commenting on the recent trending news of a 15-year-old boy who came out as gay and posted a suicide note on his Weibo account.

The incident shows us the difficulty and hopelessness homosexual people are suffering. The world should be equal and free, and as the International Day Against Homophobia (#517不再恐同日#) is nearing, let’s call on the people around us to express our love of equality and kindness,” the post said.

Within a day after it was published, the Qingdao Fabu post was shared over 30,000 times and received more than 23,000 likes.

 

A Weibo Suicide Note


 

The Weibo user referred to by the Qingdao local government account had posted a lengthy letter on the night of May 14. Using an anonymous Weibo account (@用户7138253812), the author, identifying himself as a 15-year-old boy from Qingdao, came out as gay and shared his pain and grievances over the pressure he faced.

Because the boy wrote he wanted to “leave this world forever” and ended his post with a farewell, many people became worried about the boy’s mental state and whereabouts.

In the early morning of May 15, the official Weibo account of Qingdao Police (@青岛公安) posted an update, stating that the boy was found safe after running away from home.

Later that day, another post was published on the same anonymous account saying: “Thank you everyone, everything is fine.” The farewell note has since been deleted. See a full translation of the text below this article.

 

Qingdao Official Account Receives Praise


 

With its post supporting the young gay man and the LGBT community at large, the Qingdao Government official news account is receiving hundreds of comments praising them.

Besides their original post, the Qingdao government account also posted a total of nine different quotes relating to LGBT issues, including one from Taiwanese film director Ang Lee saying “There’s a Brokeback Mountain in everyone’s heart.”

Another one stresses the fact that homosexuality is not a mental illness, with yet another quote mentioning that the Netherlands became the first country in 2001 to legalize same-sex marriage.

The reposted quotes were originally published on the Weibo account of Sina Shandong (@新浪山东), the official Weibo account of Sina’s Shandong Province Branch.

As the Qingdao Weibo post is gaining more popularity on Weibo at time of writing, these are some of the popular comments below:

  • “This is so awesome for an Official Weibo account!”
  • “That an Official account would post this.. seeing this makes me tear up. I will always support equal rights.”
  •  “I’m crying, this was really sent out by an Official account.”
  • “This must be the best Official account post I’ve ever seen on Weibo.”
  • “Let’s give it up for Qingdao!”
  • “This means progress!”
  • “I’m not from Qingdao, but I will follow this account from now on. This [post] shows you have guts.”
  • “I feel proud to be from Qingdao.”
  • “I am so moved by your post. Thank you for your support. I hope your light will shine on all the people.”

Over the past few years, Chinese social media have seen many times when gay content was censored.

One important moment occurred in 2017, when the China Netcasting Services Association (CNSA, 中国网络视听节目服务协会) issued new criteria to strengthen regulations over online audio-visual content on Chinese platforms. One of the new regulations regarded the removal of online content that “displays homosexuality” (“展示同性恋等内容”), grouping homosexuality together with incest and sexual perversity as “abnormal sexual behavior.”

Although it is very noteworthy for an official government account to publish social media posts that strongly support the gay community, it is not the first time it has happened.

In July of 2017, the official account of the Communist Youth League of Fujian published a post that stated “Being gay is no disorder!” Many netizens at the time, like today, said the unexpected support moved them to tears.

Sometimes on Weibo, it’s the little posts about big matters that seem to matter the most – especially when they come from a government-run source.

 

Full Translation of Suicide Note


 

The suicide note in question has been deleted from Weibo, but The Beijing LGBT Center translated the text and posted it on its Facebook page.

Please note that the following translation is not a What’s on Weibo translation and that all credits for this translation go to the Beijing LGBT Center. Follow them on Facebook here:

I am from Qingdao and am a 15-year-old student from Laoshan No.8 Secondary School.

I am a homosexual. I never expected I would be able to utter this word.

Growing up a frail and meek boy, I am that ‘fem’ everyone is referring to. An easy target, bullied, assaulted, teased, abused, and shunned by classmates and teachers alike. This is how I grew up, and so did many other gay children. Naive as I was, I did not fight back or told anyone about my feelings. I was afraid, and am still afraid of this world. I acted strangely and they called me lunatic, but I know that was my only way to protect myself. After I tried in vain to fit in, I chose to close myself from this world, and this is how I lived my childhood.

By sheer luck, I had a short childhood. I started to realize what’s ‘strange’ with me in grade 5 or 6. I remember how I exulted when I first read about affirmative answers about gay on Zhihu (Chinese version of Quora). But I was soon overwhelmed by those derogatory, abusive, and hurtful answers. I cried the whole night and yet I put my mask back on the very next morning. What people saw as maturity in me was in fact avoidance and isolation.

Things got a little better in secondary school because I am a top student. There was less bullying but I reminded that fem guy teased and mocked at by everyone. Among the worst was my class teacher, Chen Feng. For two years he inflicted me with corporal punishments. Listening to him indoctrinating his banal views was pure suffering. I’ve got enough of his so-called masculinity values, his genders have their fixed roles, his homosexuals are modern perverts. Yet he is not alone among his peers and colleagues. I have had enough of my teachers’ cursing, smearing, ridiculing, and insulting anything related to gays. All their rubbish made me sick and isolated.

Gradually I become irritable and violent. I came out to my mother rather abruptly. Though she seemed to have acquiesced it, I was giving in to the pressure and thinking about ending everything. I have no idea what happened to me and I know choosing death is not courageous, but rather an act of cowardice. I chose to avoid my family and I knew my indifference and avoidance hurt them, especially my mom, the one person who loves me the most.

My father is a weak and arrogant scum and inflicted my mother her whole life. He broke down my door when I was most vulnerable and isolated and banged my head on the wall. At that moment, I only wished he could kill me. But he was stopped by my sister.

Just now, my so-called “family” once again stormed my room and hurled their most insulting curses at me. I realized that my mom might be the only person who can accept me in this world. Or maybe she was just pretending too.

This is not the first time I’ve thought about dying to end it all. Just a few days ago, I scaled high trying to leave all these sufferings. When I called my mom to hear her voice one last time, I hesitated, climbed down and wandered for miles away from home.

Now I have once again escaped from home with that scum’s phone in my hand. Yes, this account is my father’s. I want to tell the world what I’ve always wanted to say and to do. And then leave this world forever.

I understand living on might be the better choice. I could have a bright future and watch this world getting more open and inclusive. But I have had enough. I am sorry to have vented everything on here, and I am sorry to be so weak my entire life. I wanted to do something for this world but in reality, I can do nothing. I know, China will not have its own Stonewall; its people can put up with anything. I am losing control of emotion…

I apologize for my cowardice. To be honest, I am not innocent. But even if I had the courage to change the world, a stab in the back could have easily killed me. I have chosen to solve the radical question with the radical way.

I love you all, the kind and beautiful people of conscience, I trust you to make the world better. If there were a heaven, I will send my blessings…I wish my story will be a faint voice to your fight.”

Also read:
* Communist Youth League: “Being Gay is No Disorder!”
* Why the Gay Kisses in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Won’t Make It to Chinese Cinemas
* Weibo Administration: “We’re No Longer Targeting Gay Content”
* China’s Online Gay Revolution and Rainbow Warrior Geng Le

By Wendy Huang and Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Insight

Zhejiang Movie Theatre Displays Blacklisted Individuals in Avengers Movie Preview

A special ‘trailer’ before the Avengers movie premiere showed the audience blacklisted individuals.

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A local movie theatre in the city of Lishui, Zhejiang province, showed a noteworthy ‘trailer’ before the Avengers: End Game premiere on April 24.

Chinese state tabloid Global Times reports that the sold-out premiere had a ‘surprise’ moment just before the movie was about to start: a short Public Service Announcement by the Liandu district court of Lishui displayed people who are currently on a ‘debt dodging black list.’

The short film also informed the cinema audience of potential consequences of being on a blacklist, including no traveling abroad, and no traveling by air or on high-speed trains.

According to Global Times, the local district court has registered a total of 5478 people on its blacklist since 2018.

The names and faces of more than 300 people on this list have reportedly been displayed on cinema screens, public LED screens, and on buildings. Allegedly 80 of them have since complied with court orders.

As part of China’s emerging Social Credit system project, there are public court-issued lists of ‘trust-breaking enforcement subjects’ (信被执行人名单), referring to people or companies who have failed to comply with court orders.

Individuals on the judgment defaulter blacklist system run by the court system, whose information is publicized, can risk having their photos and names displayed on local LED screens on courthouses or other buildings (Dai 2018, 26).

Blacklisted individuals on a Wuxi building (via Phoenix News).

Beyond that, they will face restrictions in various ways, from being denied bank credit to being restricted from staying in high-end hotels or traveling by air.

On Weibo, the Global Times post on the noteworthy cinema preview received over 4000 shares. The same news was also reported by CCTV and Phoenix News.

Some commenters joke about the Public Service Announcement, saying: “Blacklisters [can now say]: Mum! I was on TV! On a big IMAX screen! Together with the Avengers!”

Others leave comments in support of the measure, calling it “creative,” and saying: “This is good, we should implement this all across the country.”

“Blacklisters should be displayed on all kinds of platforms.”

“This is for people to lose on their social credit,” another commenter writes: “If you don’t want to ‘socially die’ then just fulfill your duties.”

But not everyone agrees. “People are buying a movie ticket to see their film,” one person says: “They suddenly get exposed to this kind of content that has nothing to do with them, what about their rights as a consumer?”

By Manya Koetse

References

Dai, Xin, Toward a Reputation State: The Social Credit System Project of China (June 10, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3193577 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3193577 [5.3.19].

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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