A Chinese police officer speaks to Geoffrey Sant of Slate.com on the practise of hiring “replacement convicts” to do prison time. Naturally, it’s only the rich and powerful that are able to afford this. Writes Sant:
“America has the rule of law, but China has the rule of people,” the police officer told me. “If somebody is powerful, there’s a good chance they can make this happen. Spend some money and remain free.” According to the police officer, hired stand-ins are “not common but not rare either.” As examples, the officer listed several high-ranking mafia figures whose underlings serve time in their stead. The mafia cares for the substitute’s family and pays a bonus for the time served.
Sometimes, family members cover for each other. This is especially true in cases of traffic accidents, where the police may be able to identify the vehicle involved in the crime but not the driver. In one case, as seen in this highly graphic television segment showing a drunk driver plowing through an old man, the driver’s son admits he falsely “confessed” to the crime to prevent police from testing his father’s blood-alcohol level. The police officer told me that in cases of drunk, unlicensed, or uninsured drivers, it “often happened” that a slightly more sympathetic substitute—someone who has insurance, a license, or is at least sober—would confess in the driver’s place. An adopted daughter stood in for her father after a deadly accident; in another case, because witnesses took down the license plate of the car involved in a drunk-driving hit-and-run, the deputy director of the Xuchang County Forestry Bureau sent his wife to appear as his substitute.
Where photographs or video of the criminal at the scene of the crime have been widely circulated, however, it is necessary to use a body double. “The most successful instances are the ones nobody ever knows about,” the police officer said. “You need a powerful trick to pull it off.” Even the wealthy and influential may be unable to cover up an outrageous public crime—such as a horrific traffic accident—where there is widespread public outrage and online cries for criminal charges.