Over at the Telegraph, Malcolm Moore and Valentina Luo have the incredible story of Zhao Xiyong, who posed as a high-ranking Communist Party official for almost three years.
Zhao claimed to local officials in Yunnan that he was the head of China’s State Council Research Office, a role which carried with it the rank of vice-minister. Local cadres were so overawed by Zhao that they didn’t dare to question his credentials.
He was allowed to give keynote talks at important conferences, seated with pride of place at the banquet table, and grovelled to by local officials.
He would also frequently tour the province, delivering vague and empty speeches and greeting local Communist party chiefs.
A local radio station dutifully reported one of his visits, to a vegetable farm to the city of Yuxi, where he met the county’s agriculture officials and led a delegation of 89 people on a tour of drought-affected areas.
“The government should make full use of its economic advantage, actively learning from other’s experiences, and explore a new path that incorporates scientific research, production and marketing,” he said, without any obvious meaning, to polite applause.
A chubby and jovial figure who often dangled a cigarette, Mr Zhao was an adept politician. In one speech, he praised the Yunnei car engine company as a well-loved brand in Europe and claimed it would “open a UK manufacturing base in January 2013”.
Zhao’s downfall came in November 2012 when he promised delegates in Kunming that the central government had approved a new free trade zone to boost Yunnan’s economy.
Unsurprisingly, this dramatic announcement received considerable press coverage, and numerous reporters contacted the State Council for confirmation. On March 8 this year, the State Council released a statement:
“We have recently received reports that Zhao Xiyong is pretending to be the head of the State Council Research Office and an official of vice-minister level. We announce that he does not work for the State Council, and that no research team has ever been sent to Yunnan province.”
Zhao Xiyong, most likely a pseudonym, is now on the run. If caught he faces up to ten years in prison.
On Weibo, one netizen joked darkly:
He performed his official duties without a secretary, he organised events, made speeches, handled social activities, wrote calligraphy and cut ribbons, he successful cheated the State Council and provincial officials. He is in no way different from a real official!