Officials in Chinese online fraud blackspots spray-paint suspects’ homes to shame them into surrendering
- Cultural Revolution-style denunciations aim to pressure suspected internet scammers into handing themselves in to the authorities
The authorities in China’s internet fraud capital have admitted to spray-painting suspected scammers’ houses in the hope of shaming them into surrendering to the authorities, Chinese media reported.
The authorities in Binyang county in the southwestern region of Guangxi have started spraying the characters for “home of suspected fraudsters” onto people’s doorways and in some cases cutting power and water supplies to their homes.
The action has proved controversial, possibly because of its echoes of the Cultural Revolution.
In that era dazibao – or “giant character posters” – which often contained accusations or denunciations would be plastered all over the homes of suspected counter-revolutionaries or members of the bourgeoisie.
An official from the Binyang County Propaganda Bureau confirmed the practice on Monday, telling the news portal Red Star News that the “shocking effect was obvious”.
The official added that many fraudsters had already surrendered, and most of the spray-painted homes were in the towns of Binzhou and Xinqiao.
Binyang county took the top spot on a list of telephone and internet fraud hotspots across China released by the Ministry of Public Security in 2016.
Officials in both Xinqiao and Binzhou said that most fraudsters were young unmarried people.
“Spray-painting words on their home shocks the suspect and also teaches a lesson to the other villagers,” Red Star News quoted an unnamed government worker in Xinqiao as saying.
“For local economic development and social stability, we cannot help but do this.”
Officials started spray-painting homes in Binzhou last month, according to another local government administrator.
“In the past few years we have repeatedly targeted fraud, but the surrender rate is now over 50 per cent since we started spray-painting their homes,” the government worker said.
According to the official, the number of wanted suspects has almost halved from 180 to 90 or so since the government began spray-painting homes.
Officials in Xinqiao said they had been stepping up their campaign against fraud suspects since March, and were also cutting power and water supplies to their homes – greatly increasing the pressure on those who live with their parents.
“When children are not filial to their parents, the parents have an obligation to educate and advise them,” the official in Xinqiao said.
Binyang county officials did not say what action, if any, had been taken against those suspects who surrendered. Nor did they explain how they identified suspects and why they did not just send the police round to their homes.
Internet and telemarketing scams are very common in China.
The number of reported cases jumped 70 per cent between 2016 and 2017, according to a report released by the Supreme People’s Court in September.
Telephone and SMS fraud were the most common types reported, followed by Trojan viruses, phishing websites and scams conducted via the instant messaging platform QQ.