Lai's return expected to worry corrupt officials
The return of China's top fugitive, Lai Changxing, has everyone on the mainland talking; in the media, on internet forums and in the streets.
Most mainland media carried Xinhua reports on Lai's deportation from Canada, hailing the move as victory in the fight against corruption. Some also published interviews with experts reassuring the people that China would not execute Lai.
However, Sichuan Daily went further by saying Lai's return would give many corrupt officials cause to be worried.
'When Lai Changxing was in Canada, he told reporters that if he returned to China to face trial, he would take many officials to prison with him,' the article said.
'Although he might have exaggerated, his return will definitely give some people insomnia, anorexia and depression.
'The authorities not only need to watch out for Lai's personal safety, but also be prepared for mental illness or suicides to soar in certain official circles.'
Lai was also the most popular topic on Weibo, China's version of Twitter yesterday, and many shared the views that Lai's return would make corrupt officials uneasy.
Li Lin, owner of a newspaper stand in Beijing's Chaoyang District, said the Canadian government should not have kept Lai for so long and he did not think the deportation was a diplomatic victory.
'The Canadian government played with the Chinese government like a cat with a mouse and made China the loser at the end of the bargain,' he said.
Lai had taken an enormous fortune with him when he fled to Canada, Li said.
The money enabled him to live comfortably and hire the most expensive lawyers. With Lai in custody, the Canadian government had one of the most valuable cards with which to deal to China in a decade.
Xia's smuggling empire was based in Xiamen, one of the biggest ports in Southeast China. His business had interests in many sectors from real estate development to petrol stations.
In an internet forum about Xiamen on Baidu.com, the mainland's biggest internet portal, Lai's return was the hottest topic with the largest number of comments.
Ironically, an appraisal of Lai's contribution to Xiamen's economy dominated the discussion. Many people from the city believed that while the central government regarded smuggling as a crime, the business had brought lots of benefits to the local economy.
Back then, Xiamen residents had a cheap petrol supply.
Imported cars and electronic goods in department stores were more affordable than now.
Lai even bought the city a soccer team to play in the China Super League, according to people's comments in the forum.
When government investigators arrived at Lai's birthplace in Jinjiang, a county-level city under Quanzhou City, farmers blocked roads to protect his relatives. 'Fat Lai is not bad. People in Xiamen do not think of him badly,' said a comment sent from a mobile phone with an IP address in Fujian province.
'Smuggling is not a big deal. It is not like making fake milk powder or fake medicines to kill people!'
Only a small number of those in the discussion seemed to know or care about Lai's other crimes, such as trading arms, drug dealing and bribing government officials. Criticism of Lai often drew fierce counterattacks.
The Fujian provincial government told local media to play down the topic of Lai's return.
Also, it only rated a brief mention in the Fujian Daily newspaper while in other provinces there was a lot of coverage in many publications and on television programmes.