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  Beijing Scene

The Living Dead
A group of Chinese senior citizens got the surprise of their lives recently when they discovered that they were officially dead. The case came to light when a 68-year-old man was shown his own death certificate by an employee at a government insurance office, the Shandong Evening News reports. The document, and others like it, had been falsified by local officials in an insurance embezzlement scam.

Zhang Xirong, a farmer from coastal Shandong province, was supposed to receive a lifetime annuity in compensation for the loss of a hand in an industrial accident more than 20 years before. But in 1998 the payments suddenly ceased. In March of this year his inquiries led him to the district government insurance department, where he discovered that he had been fraudulently declared dead and over RMB10,000 in insurance payments had been misappropriated. Upon learning of his falsified "death," Zhang filed a complaint with municipal authorities.

Mainland Murder Mystery
A recent case of an unusually short man who was poisoned, then choked to death and buried by his wife and her lover eerily imitates the plot of a classical Chinese novel.

A real-life love triangle murder was solved earlier this month by police in the Sichuan province city of Chongqing (formerly Chungking), the Chongqing Evening News reports.

The case shares a number of parallels with the famous tale of Pan Jinlian in the classic Chinese novel Water Margin (Shui Hu Zhuan), a collection of stories written during the Song dynasty (A.D. 960-1279). The infamous Pan Jinlian was a beautiful adulteress who plotted with her lover, Xi Menqing, to kill her short and homely, but devoted and loving husband Wu Dalang.

The Chongqing case involved a woman known for her beauty named Shi Menqin and her diminutive husband Liu Bangcai. Liu, 40, measured a mere 1.4 meters (4 ft. 7 in.) in height, and was sarcastically nicknamed "Wu Dalang" (after the character in Water Margin) by villagers both for his height and his faithfulness and devotion to his wife. Every morning Liu served his wife breakfast in bed, and refused to let her do any hard labor.

But a few years after they were married, another man, Huang Changlin, a 60-year-old father of four, began taking an interest in Shi, watching her as she tended sheep in the hills. The two became lovers and started to plan a way to get rid of the husband.

On Dec. 14 last year, the wife slipped rat poison into her husband's Chinese herbal medicine drink as the lover stood by feigning concern for the man's health. While the husband writhed in bed, the wife and lover choked him to death and then buried him in a cabbage field. Neighbors quickly realized that their own lovable "Wu Dalang" was missing and called authorities. Eventually, the two lovers were arrested, confessed to the crime, and led police to the body. The two were formally charged with murder on March 16.

A cat burglar was arrested after getting stuck in the ventilation shaft of a house he was trying to break into. After the would-be thief realized he couldn't get out he began to cry for help. Neighbors called the police, who promptly arrived to fish the man out, the People's Security Daily reports.

Caught in the act with the tools of his burglary trade, the thief confessed to committing this and over twenty other crimes in the Hunan province city of Jin. Stolen goods included jewelry, mobile phones, and cash totalling more than RMB200,000. The thief reportedly readily acknowledged his crimes because he considered his embarrassing capture a form of retaliation from the heavens for his illicit livelihood.

Monkey Business
Over 40,000 endangered and protected animals and animal products have been
uncovered in south China. The sweep is part of the State Forestry Department's ongoing crackdown on illegal hunting, the New China News Agency reports. The results have confirmed fears that poaching of endangered species is on a rapid rise in China.

Local police authorities in Fujian, Guangdong, Guanxi and Yunnan-hotbeds of animal trafficking-launched a15-day campaign involving more than 50,000 police officers. In total, more than 8,000 markets and restaurants were raided, and more than 250 cases of illegal possession of protected species uncovered. Live animals including monkeys, reptiles and endangered birds as well as animal products including snake skins and anteater meat were found.

Out of the 40,000 specimens retrieved, more than 16,000 were protected species. In one factory in Fujian alone, authorities snatched nearly 1,500 animals intended for sale to zoos around China. Of these species, 76 were on the government list of protected animals.

The mild climate and lush greenery of China's southern regions makes a comfortable home for wild and exotic animals, several of which, like bears and rare snakes, are protected. Illegal hunting has been a serious issue in these areas for many years. The animals are slaughtered chiefly for their fur and skin. The southern appetite for rare meat is another main cause of animal poaching.

Villain or Victim?
An employee who prevented robbers from making off with RMB250,000 during a bank raid was fired and expelled from the Communist Party, the China Youth Daily reports. Yao Li, a teller at the China Construction Bank, was accused of negligence and carelessness although she tried to call the police and set off the alarm after thieves stormed the bank where she worked as a teller.

Employees at the bank's Daqing city branch were eating lunch when two men suddenly started battering the front door with a sledgehammer. Yao attempted to set off the alarm, only to find it was not operating. She then tried to call the police, but the phone lines were dead. In a moment of panic her co-workers, who had been cowering behind the counter, opened the door to the robbers and allowed them behind the counter. The thieves emptied the tills, then demanded that Yao open the safe. She convinced them that it was empty and they fled. In fact, it held over RMB250,000.

The following day, Yao took RMB13,000 of her own money to replace the cash stolen from her till. However, she was later denounced by the bank director for neglecting her duties and not acting in the true manner of a Communist Party member. Yao was consequently fired, fined and expelled from the Party. After presenting her case to the trade union and courts, she was allowed to return to work, but the fine stood and her plea to be reinstated as a Party member rejected.

Copy Cat Kidnappers
Two 15-year-old boys from Shaanxi province who kidnapped a 12-year-old boy for RMB100,000 ransom say they were just mimicking their favorite gangsters on television, the Beijing Youth Daily reports.

The boys began planning the kidnapping on March 19 when they bought watermelon knives, masks and tape for gagging their victim. Then, early the next morning, they sat outside the local middle school scanning the incoming students for a victim. The kidnappers saw a 12-year-old boy on his way to school whose parents owned the local convenience store, and chose him as their victim. The kidnappers then followed the boy to the front gate of his school, tied up his hands, gagged him and threatened to kill him if he screamed.

At noon that same day the victim's parents found their son's pencil box and a ransom note requesting RMB100,000 from the family on their doorstep and contacted the police.

Hours later, after a violent chase, the kidnappers were arrested just outside of town, and the boy was returned safely to his family.

The kidnappers were not hard to spot because they wore white masks and carried knives. They say their favorite pastime is watching cops-and-robbers videos and that they were just imitating their heroes.

The two 15-year-olds now regret the kidnapping and have been placed in a juvenile reeducation center.


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