PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 April, 2013, 12:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

I thought I could do a better job, says man arrested for impersonating official

Shenyang native Zhao Xiyong won't plead guilty to fraud charges, his lawyer said


Patrick Boehler has published on China and Southeast Asia in four languages for publications in the US, Europe and Asia. After stints with Austria's ministries of defence and foreign affairs in Vienna and Beijing, he began his reporting career in Kuala Lumpur with the Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini and, later, The Irrawaddy Magazine, a Myanmar exile publication in Thailand. He holds a doctorate in political science and has taught journalism at the University of Hong Kong. Follow him on Twitter: @mrbaopanrui

It took Zhao Xiyong, a 58-year-old Shenyang native, three years to rise from being a nobody to the position of vice-ministerial level civil servant. Having inspected six Chinese provinces, held countless meetings and given speeches, Zhao was arrested for impersonating a national official in March.

On Wednesday, his lawyer said Zhao would plead not guilty to charges of fraud, because his client had not profited financially from them. He said Zhao just thought he could do better than China’s real officials. 

In 2004, Zhao unsuccessfully applied for a position with China’s highest executive organ, the State Council.

He then returned to work in his family’s business in Liaoning until 2009, when at a local meeting he was mistaken for a State Council researcher, his lawyer Kuang Jimei told the Dongfang Daily. “At this point, he realised the kind of influence such a position could give him,” Kuang said.

In 2010, he left his home province for Luodi in Hunan impersonating a State Council researcher, where the local government made him a member of the "Expert consultation and deliberation committee for major administrative decisions," the Changjiang Evening News reported.

"It's such a pity to see such a talented person not taking the right path," a local official told the daily in reaction to Zhao's arrest. They had enough money, his wife told the paper. Her husband's actions did not bring any financial benefit to the family, she said.

After two years in Luodi, he “promoted” himself to the position of department head within the State Council Research Office. By that time, he had been hired as a consultant of a Kunming-based car-parts manufacturer.

He toured Yunnan as a “vice-ministerial inspector.” At every stop, his visit was welcomed by county leaders anxious to impress the central government briefing him on development projects.

In Yuxi, a small town south of Kunming, the vice mayor showed him around the construction site of a “national defence” theme park. Wearing a western suit and a construction site hard hat, he praised the construction company for its contributions to education in national defence, according to a profile in the Southern Metropolis Weekly.

In early March, the State Council Research Office, the Chinese government’s most influential think tank, sent a letter to the Yunnan provincial government:

We have recently seen online that since the beginning of last year a man called Zhao Xiyong has pretended to be a department head at the State Council Research Office […] He has inspected Kunming, Yuxi, Yingjiang, Tonghai and other places and given speeches. We solemnly declare there is no Zhao Xiyong in our work unit, and that we have not organised any so-called delegation of experts to visit Yunnan.”

By March 19, Kunming police issued an arrest warrant for Zhao. Three days later, he was arrested in his home province, Liaoning, and charged with fraud and impersonating a state official for the sake of personal benefit. If convicted, he will face a prison sentence of between three and 10 years.

Zhao is not the first public case of a person impersonating an official. In 1995, Liu Heping, after forging a background in the People’s Liberation Army in his personal file, became the deputy Party Secretary of Liuzhou in northern Guangxi. His deceit was uncovered a year later when local officials praised his work to the central government. Many other impersonators followed.



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