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China: Around The Nation

Chinese student who wanted an iPhone racks up loan shark debts of US$34,000

Woman, who says she just wanted to fit in on campus, became suicidal after lenders sent ‘nude’ photos of her to her parents

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 July, 2017, 2:10pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 July, 2017, 2:20pm

A university student in northwestern China ran up debts of more than 230,000 yuan (US$33,800) after turning to loan sharks to help pay for a smartphone, local media reported.

The 19-year-old, who is studying in Xian, capital of Shannxi province, said she borrowed 12,000 yuan late last year to buy an iPhone 6S Plus, Shaanxi Television reported on Saturday.

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Though she received only 8,000 yuan – 4,000 yuan was immediately deducted as a “service fee” – the sharks told her she still owed them 12,000 yuan. When they came looking for their money, the woman soon realised she couldn’t make the repayments. In desperation, she turned to a second lender, then a third, and very quickly her debt spiralled out of control.

“I really wanted to buy a mobile phone,” she was quoted as saying. “I was influenced by the other students around me. They all had [phones], so I bought an iPhone.”

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But her joy at being part of the crowd soon turned to anxiety and depression.

She said the loan sharks would call her several times a day demanding their money. They even sent images of the young woman – manipulated to make them look like nudes – to her parents.

This was distressing for the family as the woman was her parents’ pride and joy after passing the national college entrance exam and winning a place at university last year.

Seeing little hope of a solution she even considered committing suicide, the report said.

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Her father, a farmer from Xianyang in Shannxi, was quoted as saying that he found his daughter with a bottle of sleeping pills in her hands. She reportedly told him that if she was dead the debt would be gone.

Despite earning only 20,000 yuan a year, the family was able to pay off 170,000 yuan of the debt using every last penny of their savings. They still owe more than 60,000, but after contacting the local media, are working with a lawyer to help resolve the situation.

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Under Chinese law, loans that carry an annual interest rate of more than 24 per cent are illegal. The family might, therefore, be able to take the loan sharks to court and retrieve some of their life savings, the report said.

The story of students falling prey to ruthless loan sharks is not a new one. Just last year, a student in Henan province jumped to his death from a building after getting himself into huge financial difficulties, while a woman in Fujian committed suicide by charcoal-burning in a hotel room.