China: Around The Nation

Elderly Chinese thief refuses to give up mediocre criminal career

Although lonely and sick, 79-year-old says he can’t give up stealing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 12:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 12:48pm

A 79-year-old man in Southern China who is believed to be the oldest thief in his town, refuses to retire despite appearing to be poor at stealing away unnoticed.

Chen Zhenjie from Changsha, Hunan province, started stealing after he ran away from home at the age of 19, The Beijing News reported.

He was quoted as saying he had been sent to penal labour camps three times, for a total of 13 years, and was most recently caught stealing a mobile phone last month.

Chen, who was recently diagnosed with tuberculosis, was penniless and unable to afford to pay the about 160 yuan (US$23) for medication. He said he usually gambled away any money he made stealing.

“If I can’t make a living any other way, I will steal,” he was quoted as saying. “I just can’t give it up.”

The elderly man is single and childless, and has lived his life alone.

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He said when he was younger, he was introduced to a girl he was fond of but did not dare to pursue. He felt he didn’t deserve such a partner, who was developing a career in teaching and was much more respectable than him.

Chen said he never regretted stealing from his victims, but was sad he had not saved any money or formed a family.

His age has made him less agile, which made it easier for him to get caught while stealing.